3 Habits of Highly Muscular Legends

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
February 20, 2016

Guest Post By Luis Diaz

Looking back into the history of bodybuilding is fascinating. The men of the Golden Era of Bodybuildinghad way less technology, drugs or resources available to us today but were able to develop extreme feats of strength and get ripped.

The truth of it all is that they didn’t do anything special; they just found the right fitness and nutrition habits and practiced them consistently. Today this kind of practical wisdom gets lost in noise unfortunately…

However, in this article I am going to share with you some of most successful habits of the greatest bodybuilders of all time and how you can put them into play. Its not rocket science and you can apply them right away, the question true test lies in your ability make them stick.

Lets find out.

franco columbo

Franco Columbo, former 1976 and 1981 Mr. Olympia had much more than just show muscles…

He was an absolute beast accomplishingmind-blowing feats of strength such as a 525lb bench press, 400lb clean and jerk, 655lb squat and 750lb deadlift.

Not to mention a Guinness world record for the highest lung power, bymaking a hot water bottle pop in just 55 seconds (which is 28.5 lbs/square inch just so ya know)!

He racked up over 12 titles in powerlifting and bodybuilding collectively and also got a DC (Doctor of Chiropractic) degree from Cleveland Chiropractic College along the way.

However, behind all the accolades in the gym and on stage were a few simplenutrition habits that werebig key to his success.

His nutrition habits are backed by both science and flat out amazing results.

Combine that knowledge with his diligencein the weight roomday in and day out and you have a brutally strong, lean and jacked physique.

During his career Franco was avid about experimenting with different diets and figuring out which energy/protein sources provided the best energy for training and recovery response for muscle growth. To do this he would survey all his competitors back stage during shows. His quest for finding what nutrition habits would yield the perfect body had no limits. Franco and Arnold would survey all of their fellow  competitors to find commonalities, pattern, and insight.

When looking at Franco’s nutrition as described in The Bodybuilders Nutrition Book these three things were staples and part of his daily ritual almost everyday of his amazing career.

The 3 Staples of a Super Strong Italian

In his book The Bodybuilders Nutrition BookFranco shares some insight from one of his idols Reg Park, the man who taught him to the first habit.

Backstage at during a bodybuilding competition a young Franco ColumboaskedReg Park “What did you eat to get so muscular and become a champion?”

The answer he received wasn’t the typical answer he expected.

Regreplied “very high quality protein” Unlike most competitors,Regplaced a key  emphasis on very high quality protein; due to their high biological value these protein sources have a higher amount of essential amino acids and are typically easier for the body to absorb. He note the first two (eggs and fish) specifically for their high quality.

Franco made this a habit, to focus on the consumption of QUALITY proteins year round from only a handful of quality protein sources. He stuck to these guidelines and went on to get ridiculously jacked and strong.

Habit #1

Focusing on Very High Quality Protein Sources

  • Fish (Salmon, Tilapia, Grouper)
  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Very lean cuts of meat

Though it may not seem like anything new, take a good look at your main protein sources? Are they these sources?

Or are they things like peanut butter, over cooked foods and processed meats. Not all protein is created equal. Finding the purest for of these foods is very important simply because the farther away you get from them the less EAA’s the protein sources has.

Without adequate amounts of leucineyour chances for maximum muscle building is greatly reduced. This study notes leucine’s critical role in building muscle.

Take Away

Aim for your 80-85% of your daily protein sources coming from these sources and in the purest form possible.

The reason why you don’t see dairy on this list is because Columbo didn’t believe it was a good choice since many adults lack enough renin to properly breakdown dairy products.

(NOTE: I do disagree, with this point, I believe two additions to add to this list would be grass fed whey and grass fed casein protein)

Never the less Columbo’s nutritionhabits gave him results. Can’t argue with that.

Here is a sample Meal Plan built around Columbo’s protein source habits.

High Quality Protein Meal Plan


Knee Health Score 2
  • Fish oil
  • 3 eggs (organic)
  • 2 cups leafy green veggies
  • 1 slice toast (no butter)

Snack (pre workout)

  • Can of Albacore Tuna(or grass fed whey protein shake)
  • 1lb grapes


  • Pink Salmon
  • Sweet Potato
  • Cantaloupe
  • leafy green veggies


  • Chicken Breast
  • Russet Potato
  • Broccoli/ Tomatoes/ beets

Pre Bedtime Snack

  • Strawberries, pears, apples (2 servings of fruit)

Franco also had two other things (in the above meal plan) he would eat all year round for performance and aesthetics, whether he was trying to lean down for a show or add muscle during the off-season. The only thing that would vary was the amounts.

  • Egg to start the day (whole, fresh, organic)
  • Fruit prior to training (30 to 60 minutes 1 to 2 servings) (Franco carried a pound of grapes with him to the gym)

These three habits along with his ability to train hard, heavy and consistently, helped him growth a world class physique with uncanny strength.

Pick up these habits for a freakishly strong and lean physique.

  1. 85% of your protein coming (fish, eggs, chicken)
  2. Start the day with fresh farm raised eggs
  3. Fruit prior to training (grapes were his go to) skip the pre workout supplement when possible. Only use it when you really need it.

Habit #2

Develop a warrior’sattitude… The Mike MentzerWay

This may be the best and most effective way to 10x your results. But its not easy and requires a lot of practice.

In his book High Intensity Training the Mike Mentzer Way

Mike Mentzer the former Mr. Universe and Mr Olympia explains why so many

people don’t reach their fitness goals and achieve levels of strength and conditioning their capable of.

Its simply their attitude.

After a long day at work people come into the gym already exhausted and defeated. That kind of sheepish, wishy washy sluggish attitude will not deliver results. Approach the gym with a warrior going into battle, super charge your mindset and go into your workouts with muscle building intentions. Mentzer explains that the right intensity and attitude can drastically increase the ROI on your workouts.

Simply put, your workout is the war mission. Plan, prepare, execute and conqueror the enemy.

The Mindset for Muscle

“Siege Mentality” is what Mike Mentzer defined as “an attitude befitting a hero one full of fury.”  This is theattitude neededto bring out the best workouts of your life.

How to Cultivate a Warrior Like Attitude- (and making it a habit)

“I always considered preparing for a contest my equivalent to war”-Mike Mentzer

In his book High Intensity Training the Mike Mentzer WayMike provides some examples of the various ways he and his brother Ray would psych themselves up the night before and day of their training sessions for massive results while going to the gym less than 3 days week.

Here’s a short list:

Knee Health Score 2
  • Reading books such as The Will to Power– Friedrich Nietzsche and Will by G Gordon Liddy prior to training.
  • Listening to stirring classical music or hard driving rock night before and day of training.
  • Deliberately cultivating an aggressive attitude before training. (Through visualizations of the workout session and preparing like your going into WAR)

How to do it in today’s world:

Thanks to technology we have a number of resources to bring out the beast in us. I can attest from personal experience, that practicing your warrior like attitude is n not easy BUT  doing so will SUPER CHARGE your training energy and intensity.

The incredible effects it has on focus, strength, and endurance are better than any supplement you can take guaranteed.

However, to get the true benefit of this you need to make it a habit here’s the ritual I use to cultivate the Siege Mentality.

Pre Training Siege Mentality Ritual

  1. 5 -10 minutes of planning the workout and visualizations (Feeling the sweat, hearing the clanking of the weights, seeing myself push through the workout with success and smile.)
  • Pre training mental focus cocktail
    • 3 oz black coffee
    • L Carnitine (500 to 1000 mg)
  1. 10 minutes driving to the gym visualizing anger evoking memories (enemies, betrayals, angering situations, sad but motivating moments in my past.)
    1. While playing to one of the following videos:
      1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R8gBnhyMSA
      2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXw3ZfCy8_8
      3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iF322bsmgbY
  1. 5 minutes of remembrance of my deep driving whys and goals.

A few questions I ask myself.

  1. Training Goals?
  2. Who do you do it for?
  3. What success look like?

I usually have tears starting to form by this point, any a lot of anger built up ready to explode as soon as I grab the weights.

The energy and focus you get from this is beyond anything you have ever felt. Take your emotions and channel them into your workouts.

  1. TRAIN!

The more you practice your ritual the better you will be at developing aggression for your workouts. Practice,practice,practice, find a ritual that works for you and practice it. Use memories, visuals, written quotes, role models, music and whatever else brings out the beast in you, channel that energy into the weights and GROW!

A Closer Look A Habit Formation

Behind this ritual (above) are the fundamentals of every habit let me explain.

The trigger: The time of day, which is usually 8 pm at night sets the ritual in motion. This is the signal to begin the process of cultivating my aggression and channeling it into the weights

The Action:This is the habit/ritual you set out to do.

The Reward: A an extremely focused, intense and FUN workout. And a great post workout recovery meal.

Figure out your trigger, action and reward. These are the three components to every habit good or bad. Whether you know it or not.Use this to knowledge of developing habits that enhance your body and life and eliminate bad habits.

Habit #3

Frank Zane’s Secret to Amazing Abs All Year Long:

Three time Mr. Olympia Frank Zane, aka Mr. Symmetry know for his amazingly perfect balanced physique within the bodybuilding world. But most people outside of the sport would probably recognize him as the guy arguably the most amazingly lean and muscular midsections of all time.

His entire physique was some thing to marvel at however his amazing midsection and the routine he used to get throughout his highly successful career was one of his secret weapons.

In many interviews Frank is asked about his abdominal training, specifically what exercises and how many reps/sets he typically does. The usual bite sized answers reporters are looking for.

While yes these details are important many people fail to realize one key thing about Zane’s approach training abs.

To sum it up in world its consistency.

Sickening consistency.


It wasn’t something he only did while training for shows and then dropped in the offseason, it wasn’t a 30 day insane rush to get a better midsection. It took years of work but it paid off.

Moral of the story he chipped away day by day and he was not an overnight success.

Frank specifically notes the tremendous amount of volume and frequency he would for his abdominal workouts. Nearing competitions he would get up to 1000 reps per training session!! But every day he would train his abdominals.

Frank Zanes abdominal routine:

  • Roman Chair Sit Ups
  • Incline knee Ins
  • Hanging Knee Ups
  • Seated Twists

Yes that’s extreme…and I wouldn’t that recommend starting there.

But in the end he credits his amazing midsection to the high amount of attention he gave his abdominals.

Now, obviouslywithout the right diet all the abs exercises in the world wouldn’t help you. (side note)

Key Habit to Take Away

Developing consistencyand building habits is like building muscles. Day in and day out slug it out and you will get you results. Learning how to slug it out day after day is something the creates champions that withstand the test of time.

Better abs take consistency, so the focus on building consistency and the abs will come.


Starting too big will lead to abysmal failure. Start EXTREMELY small to build any habit, so easy its laughable and inexcusable as to why you can’t do it everyday. The goal is to cultivate a routine. From there once your comfortable you can scale up.

How to start:

Set a daily or weekly quota for you ab training, for example 5 roman chair sit ups every morning before breakfast and after your brush your teeth is a easy way to work it into a bullet proof habit. You can slowly progress the total volume over time. BUT remember that once you’ve hit that small habit (the 5 sit ups) is achieved the rest is extra credit.

This builds that habit muscle. The real muscle that all of these men built bigger than everyone else. That’s the power of habits and that’s why there were great.

Summing Up

All three of these incredibly impressive hall of fame bodybuilders earned their stripes with consistency and practicing the right things day in and day out.

They had a goal and found a habit or behavior to support that goal, then practiced it over and over. Eventually it became automatic.

Week by week, month by month they chipped away and were able to accomplish a tremendous amount with their bodies. Their fitness habits were fairly simple but extremely effective, combine that with a hungry mindset and you have a winner.

Find the cues, find the ritual (START EMBARRASSINGLY SMALL!), find a reward and your will succeed at building any habit you wish.


·         Leucine Regulates Translation Initiation of Protein Synthesis in Skeletal Muscle after Exercise1 (Norton & Layman, 2006)

photo, photo, photo

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