Franco Columbu: Massive factor in a small bundle

As Arnold Schwarzenegger's best friend, Franco Columbu has learned a lot from "the oak" over the years. One of them was not to wait to be contacted by photographers when you are in your best shape. Instead, it is best to reach out to photographers and organize photo shoots.

This twisted back pose was also a favorite of Franco's good friend Arnold Schwarzenegger Bill DobbinsFranco Columbu sits on a barbell bench at the World Gym in 1981 This is one of the photos taken at the World Gym in 1981. Bill DobbinsBodybuilding legend Franco Columbu poses in front of a dumbbell rack Pound for pound, Franco Columbu was one of the strongest men in professional bodybuilding. Bill DobbinsLegendary bodybuilder Franco Columbu souvenir picture This iconic photo of Franco Columbu was blown up and displayed at his memorial in 2019. Bill Dobbins

"When it comes to photos, there is no point in playing 'hard to come by'," Franco told me. He also learned from Arnold that it is best to take the photos before and not after a competition. “Bending and posing for photographers a few days before the competition just makes you tougher and more defined,” he explained. Too many bodybuilders avoid this, Franco believed, because they are reluctant to take off their shirts and show off their bodies before the competition. That made no sense to him. Either you are in shape or you are not. If you are out of shape, do not pose for photos. If so, you have nothing to hide.

So I wasn't that surprised when I received a call from Franco in 1981 inviting me to shoot him on the deck of the original World Gym in Santa Monica. He was preparing for the Mr. Olympia and wanted photos for Flex magazine to show his excellent condition.

It was a foggy day there near the beach (what they call the ocean layer) but the light was great for black and white training photos. Franco was in great shape, walking around in shorts and shirtless. In fact, he kept asking Chris Dickerson to take off his shirt. Chris had nothing to do with it and soon disappeared downstairs into the locker room.

We got great pictures that day. In fact, a torso photo showing this remarkable split in his upper chest was an explosion at Franco's memorial after that death in 2019. Franco won the Olympic title later that year, which was somewhat controversial because his legs weren't at his best due to an injury sustained while recording the TV show "The Strongest Man in the World" in 1977. The injury occurred during an event that asked participants to walk with a refrigerator on their backs strapped to a metal frame. Since Franco was only 5 & # 39; 5 inches tall, the frame was too long for him, dragging on the floor and causing him to fall – and injure his leg. All of this was stated in the subsequent lawsuit that Franco won.

But despite his short stature, Franco had a history of involvement in sports prior to bodybuilding. He was an excellent boxer and a champion in powerlifter. After years in the weight lifting gym, Franco decided to give bodybuilding a try. “When I told Arnold that I wanted to compete in bodybuilding,” Franco told me, “he tried to talk me out of it. He didn't think I had the right genetics. "

Arnold is not often wrong; in this case it was him.

Franco Columbu, Rachel McLish and Joe Weider Franco Columbu, Rachel McLish and Joe Weider at an event on Muscle Beach, Venice CA. Bill Dobbins

Facts about Franco Columbu

Nickname: The Sardinian strongman

Born: August 7, 1941 Ollolai, Nuoro, Sardinia, Italy

Died: 08/30/2019 (age 78) San Teodoro, Province of Sassari, Sardinia, Italy

Height: 5'5 ″

Weight: 185 pounds

Career gains:

  • 1970 IFBB Herr Welt (short)
  • 1970 IFBB Mr. Universe (short and overall)
  • 1971 IFBB Mr. World (short and overall)
  • 1974 Mr. Olympia (lightweight)
  • 1975 Mr. Olympia (lightweight)
  • 1976 Mr. Olympia (lightweight & overall)
  • 1981 Mr. Olympia
  • 1977 strongest man in the world (winner of fifth place)

Personal records for lifting:

  • Bench press: 525 pounds (238 kg)
  • Squatting: 655 pounds (297 kg)
  • Deadlift: 750 pounds (340 kg)

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