Franco Columbu

Franco Columbu

Born: August 7, 1941
Age: 81
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Francesco Columbu (born August 7, 1941 in Ollolai, Sardinia), is an Italian actor, author, former champion bodybuilder and World's Strongest Man competitor.[2]

Columbu was born in Ollolai, Sardinia (Italy). Starting his athletic career as a boxer, Columbu progressed into Olympic Weightlifting, powerlifting, and later bodybuilding, winning the title of Mr. Olympia in 1976 and 1981. At 5'4", though shorter than most of his competitors, his height did not prevent him from achieving widespread success.[3]

In 1977, Columbu competed in the first World's Strongest Man competition, placing fifth in overall points; a remarkable outing, considering Franco weighed much less than the other competitors. He was forced to drop from competition due to an injury. While leading the "refrigerator race", a downhill race while wearing a heavy, unwieldy refrigerator strapped to the racer's back, Franco stumbled and collapsed with a grotesquely dislocated leg, and aired on national television. After a court settlement, he received a reported $1 million in compensation for his injury.[4] After Arnold Schwarzenegger's comeback victory in the 1980 Mr. Olympia, Franco followed suit and won the 1981 Mr. Olympia.

Columbu is a longtime friend of Schwarzenegger,[5] whom he met in Stuttgart in 1965 and against whom he competed in several international-level bodybuilding competitions. For the Mr. Olympia competitions however, he competed in the under-200 lb (90.7 kg) category, whereas Schwarzenegger was in the over-200 lb category. The IFBB has since abandoned weight classes. Arnold and Franco were inseparable friends and training partners during the late 60s to mid-1970s. Columbu served as Schwarzenegger's best man at his wedding to Maria Shriver in 1986.[6] Columbu and Schwarzenegger had been encouraged to come to America by bodybuilding guru Joe Weider in 1969; Weider sponsored them with an $65/week stipend. They arrived in America and began a bricklaying and patio business called European Brick Works in 1969.[7]

Since 1969, Franco Columbu was considered one of the world's strongest men. He held a number of powerlifting world records. He performed a strongman act of breaking a hot water bottle by inflating it orally, lifting vehicles onstage while another performer changed a tire, and deadlifted over 320 kg (700 lbs).

He designed a comprehensive men's workout in 1988 to flatten the stomach, narrow the waist, and eliminate love handles.[8] As a chiropractor and a weightlifter, his career parallels Karyn Marshall using chiropractic therapy to train for competitions.[9][10][11]


Acting career

His TV appearances include The Streets of San Francisco (1977), and Dead Lift with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and TV commercials, most notably Vitalis ("the pump"). In the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Last Action Hero, the words "A Franco Columbu film" appear on the screen at the beginning of Jack Slater IV (a film within the film) as a tribute to Columbu. The "Columbu Terminator" features as a boss character in the Terminator 3 video game.


Year Film Role
1976 Stay Hungry Franco Orsini (Uncredited)
1977 Pumping Iron Himself
1980 The Hustler of Muscle Beach Himself
1980 The Comeback Himself
1982 Conan the Barbarian Pictish Scout
1984 The Terminator Future Terminator
1984 Getting Physical Himself
1986 Don Rickles: Rickles on the Loose Himself
1987 The Running Man 911 Security Officer #2
1987 Last Man Standing Batty
1988 Big Top Pee-wee Otto the Strongman
1993 Il ritmo del silenzio Nerescu
1994 Beretta's Island Franco Armando Beretta
1995 Taken Alive Enrico Costa
1997 Doublecross on Costa's Island Enrico Costa
1998 Hollywood Salutes Arnold Schwarzenegger: A Cinematheque Tribute Himself
2002 Raw Iron: The Making of Pumping Iron Himself
2003 Ancient Warriors Aldo Paccione
2008 Why we Train Himself
2010 Muscle Beach then and Now Himself
2011 Dreamland La Terra dei Sogni


Columbu is a qualified chiropractor, with a DC (Doctor of Chiropractic) from the Cleveland Chiropractic College in 1977.[14] In 2004, Columbu was ordered by the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners to stop claiming he had a Ph.D. in nutrition on his letterhead.[15]

In February 2006, Columbu was appointed to the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in what was later described as a "coup".[by whom?][16] Columbu's tenure on the Board ended in January 2014.[17]


Bodybuilding titles

  • 1966: Mr. Europe, 4th
  • 1968: NABBA Mr. Universe (Most Muscular)
  • 1969: IFBB Mr. Europe (Medium)
  • 1969: NABBA Mr. Universe (Most Muscular)
  • 1969: NABBA Mr. Universe (Short)
  • 1969: IFBB Mr. Universe (Short)
  • 1970: IFBB Mr. Europe (Short & Overall)
  • 1970: AAU Mr. World (Pro Short)
  • 1970: IFBB Mr. World (Short)
  • 1970: IFBB Mr. Universe (Short & Overall)
  • 1971: IFBB Mr. Universe (Short & Overall) *Disqualified for selling bodybuilding booklets - considered as a professional*
  • 1971: IFBB Mr. World (Short & Overall)
  • 1974 Mr. Olympia (Lightweight)[8]
  • 1975 Mr. Olympia (Lightweight)[8]
  • 1976 Mr. Olympia (Lightweight & Overall)[8]
  • 1981 Mr. Olympia [8]

Powerlifting titles

  • Champion of Italy
  • Champion of Germany
  • Champion of Europe

World's Strongest Man competition

  • 1977: World strongest man, 5th place (after becoming injured)

Powerlifting best lifts

  • Bench press 525 lbs / 238 kg
  • Squat 655 lbs / 297 kg
  • Deadlift 750 lbs / 340.2 kg (in some training sessions he was reported to have lifted over 780 lbs / 353.8 kg, all at a bodyweight of 185 lbs / 83.9 kg)


  • Amateur Boxing Champion of Italy


  • 2009: Arnold Classic Lifetime Achievement Award


  • Columbu, Franco (September 1985). The Bodybuilder's Nutrition Book. McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN 978-0809254576.

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

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