The former Mr Olympia is known for his bodybuilding prowess but with age, he’s migrated toward combat sports to increase his fitness. Here is the Franco Columbu interview – the latest chapter in this fitness legend’s journey.
Interview by Fiaz Rafiq
Franco Columbu Interview
How I started training
I started boxing when I was a kid in Sardinia aged 16. In boxing you get the best cardio workout because you’re dancing around and hitting at the same time. And if you get in the ring with another person, you cannot slow down or he’d kill you. So that’s why you get an aerobic workout, you’re forced to survive and defend yourself. If you want to slowdown, your opponent hits you.
That’s why Brazilian jiu-jitsu is so good too because one of the things about grappling and the grabbing – the physicality – it takes all the energy out of your body because the guy is aiming to get hold of your neck and squeeze you.
Training for combat sports
Weight training for combat sports shouldn’t be done with heavy weights in my opinion. It should be done with light weights and 20 reps if you want to build endurance. When you do high reps, you build up resistance. If you do heavy weights and only 10 reps, you pump up too much and it gets stiff.
So, you primarily want to aim for endurance because entire grappling and wrestling is about endurance. The bottom line is that the guy who wins now is the one who has more endurance if technique doesn’t kick in earlier. Weights help train weak muscle and strengthen them.
How bodybuilding applies to other sports
You apply bodybuilding to a bodybuilder in order to look muscular but you can also apply bodybuilding to different sports and aspects of life.
So the best exercise for the MMA athlete are the exercises that help train for grabbing and grip strength. When you grab somebody here, it can be the chest or wherever, that strength comes from heavy bench press, chin-ups, the basic exercises like squats, not using little machines in the gym.
Forget the machines. That doesn’t work in this sport. For this sport I want to lift 300 pounds in the bench press, with a 300 pounds squat and 400 pound press overhead so that when you grab me, I know I’ll be okay and can deal with it.
What I do outside of bodybuilding and training
I like to drink more wine and train less now than I used to in my youth.
Train specific to your sport for fitness
For sports like boxing they have people run five miles to condition. Then you do all the wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, everything is about conditioning. Running will not help that sport – forget it. Just wrestle. Spend an hour of fighting together than running and you will get better at your sport. Do more of what you need to do. Running; you know who it is good for? People who run.
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