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Franco Columbu, the two-time Mr. Olympia (1976, 1981), excelled in powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting before finding his greatest fame on posing daises. At only 5’5″ and about 185, his best-reported lifts are a 750 deadlift, 665 squat, 525 bench press, and 400 clean and jerk.
Exact numbers from five decades ago are difficult to verify, but they correspond to photo and video evidence we can marvel at today—including deadlifts of more than 700 without even wearing a belt!
Billed as “the Sardinian Strongman,” he did exhibitions in which he bent half-inch steel bars, blew up hot-water bottles until they exploded, and deadlifted cars. In 1977, he was fifth in the inaugural World’s Strongest Man behind four giants who each outweighed him by around 100 pounds. Pound for pound, Franco Columbu may have been the strongest bodybuilder of all time.