Franco also had a strength act where he blew up hot water bottles and bent steel bars as shown here. In 1977, Franco competed in the World’s Strongest Man competition (where just about everyone outweighed him by a hundred pounds) and placed second in the bar bending event. He finished fifth overall.
Franco Columbu won a whole host of top bodybuilding titles including multiple wins as Mr. Universe (1970, and 1971) and Mr. Olympia (1976, 1981). Though a bodybuilder, Franco was also incredibly strong in fact, with a deadlift of nearly 800 pounds (at a bodyweight of around 185), there is a strong claim that he may very well be the strongest bodybuilder ever.
I find that the early strongman contests are a lot more fun to watch than today’s because the events were a lot more varied and interesting. Case in point: the “wrist rolling” event at the 1977 contest. Standing atop a 10 foot platform, contestants had to “roll” a hundred pound weight for time. The apparatus added another 10 pounds (and bonus points for noticing that the weights used were Zuver’s gym plates.)
Strongman Mike Dayton (who did not use gloves like almost everyone else) won a close one against bodybuilder Franco Columbu. Thanks to the wonder of technology, you can watch a clip of the whole event right here:
“Peak Muscle Maker” was a nifty bodybuilding magazine out of the UK. The first issue appeared in June of 1969 and they came on a semi-regular basis for the next few years — there were 28 issues in all, although none but the first one were dated. Here’s the Volume II, Number 3 issue with Franco Columbu on the cover, likely in honor of his 1970 IFBB Mr. Europe contest win.