The Mystique Of Rich Piana


At his biggest, Rich Piana was over 300 lbs. He wasn’t just an insanely massive bodybuilder, his persona was just as big. Rich was honest, and he told it like it was with no B.S. Plus, he was a very successful bodybuilder; and just as successful outside the sport. In this article, we will look at a few things that set him apart and helped create the Mystique of Rich Piana.

No Such Thing As Overtraining

One thing that separated Rich from almost everybody else was his views about overtraining. Rich believed overtraining was a myth and a sign of weakness. To say his views were controversial is an understatement. Many bodybuilders used the idea of overtraining as a foundational part of their training philosophies. For example, at the most extreme, Mike Mentzer advocated 1 working set and 7-9 days off before training that body part again. That didn't work for Rich. He believed in a high-volume, high-frequency approach. 

With that said, if you are a natural bodybuilder, recovery is key. You can’t train as hard or as long as lifters getting “help”. Plus, you won’t recover as fast. Therefore, for naturals, Rich believed the idea of overtraining had some merit. Therefore, listen to your body. Rest when you need to, eat well, get enough sleep, and take your 5% supplements.

Mix It Up At The Gym

One enduring concept is the idea of using the same workout and gradually progressing in weight. You’re using compound exercises with the goal of building strength. Rich felt that this approach worked when you’re starting out. He trained that way himself. 

But, he felt that once you’ve built a strength base, rather than continuing to push heavier weights, it was time to switch to moderate weight and higher reps. Rich believed in chasing the pump. He also advocated mixing up your workouts. Change it up every time. If you look at his workouts, they always changed. Variety was his form of progression.


This is another concept that Rich strongly believed in. He was not the only one to advocate the use of feeder workouts, but Rich’s approach was unique. For example, let’s look at a popular version that’s advocated online:

Perform a feeder workout 2 days after your primary workout for a specific body part. Do feeders for the shoulders, lats, and calves only to enhance the V shape. It’s 1 all-out rest-pause set of 6-10 reps to failure, followed by taking 3-4 slow, deep breaths then continuing on to failure a second time. Take another 3-4 slow, deep breaths before going for a final set of as many reps as possible. 

Now that’s an interesting idea, but it’s a long way from Rich’s approach:

Rich felt that pumping blood into a muscle as often as possible helped growth. That’s because you’re “feeding” the muscle nutrients and oxygen. He suggested doing feeders every night before bed. The idea was to do 2 exercises, 2-3 sets x 30-50 reps, or 1-2 sets x 100 reps, done superset style. He usually did feeders for his shoulders or arms, but they could be done for any body part. Rich stated this concept was among his most important tips. 

It’s All About Real Food

Rich was probably the first supplement company founder to advocate real food over supplements. This definitely set him apart. Every other supplement company pushed their whey protein shakes and so on, while Rich pushed real food meals first. He was also one of the first to come up with powders that used real food sources. Every 5% Nutrition carb or protein powder is based on that premise. Real Carbs, Real Carbs Rice, Real Carbs + Protein, and Shake Time use only real food sources of carbohydrates and/or protein. 

There’s No Whey Here!

Don’t search the 5% website for a whey powder, you won’t won’t find one! Instead, you’ll see that our protein is a comprehensive blend of Beef isolate, chicken, chickpea (Real Carbs + Protein), and whole egg. It’s like sitting down to a meal! Also, remember that Rich advocated 8-10 meals a day. These meals should consist of real quality food or 5% shakes. For example, 2 scoops of Real Carbs with 2 scoops of Shake Time. Now you’ve got a complete whole-food meal in a glass!

Have A Life Outside Of Bodybuilding

The mystique of Rich Piana was not only in his innovative ideas about training, supplements, and nutrition. It also included his belief that there’s more to life than just lifting weights. He strongly advocated a life beyond bodybuilding. Start a business, invest your money, and find ways to make money. Get the most you can out of life. For example, Rich invested in day stocks and real estate. He was also an accomplished actor. Of course, he owned multiple businesses, not the least of which was 5% Nutrition, the leader in innovative supplements. 


Rich Piana had a mystique that set him apart from his peers. He was a bigger than life phenomenon. The advice he freely and honestly gave is an ongoing testament to his wildly successful life and never-ending dedicated fan base. He’s just as timely today as he was in his heyday. To use one of his favorite phrases, whatever it takes, goddammit!


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