Rich Piana – what was his workout routine, life philosophy and why did he start 5% brand?

Rich Piana – what was his workout routine, life philosophy and why did he start 5% brand?

Rich Piana was and will always be popular personality in the world of body-building. Thanks to his social and media activity, he built his name as a cult figure. His mother was a professional body-builder and that influenced Rich at a young age. As a child, he was going to the gym a lot in which his mother was training, and in astonishment, he was watching men with bulky bodies lifting weights. When he was 11, he was determined to step into body-building world with the goal to build a unique body.

The winning in prestige contest NPC California Championship which he gained when he was 18, was sufficient supposition for reaching the top in fitness industry. Since then, he worked up to the level he hadn’t considered as the real one, whether in body-building, acting, or in inspiration of the other people to reach their goal. His bookstall in trade show was often one of the biggest and his friendly personality split him from stereotype of stupid, arogant or disregarding body-builders. As the real marketing genius, Rich was realizing what his fans across the world want to see – his big house, cars, tattoos and of course, muscles.  [1],[2] 

The basic parameters

Age: 44

Origin: Los Angeles, California, USA

Height: 185 cm

Weight: About 122 kg (competition weight) and 131 kg (off season)

He devoted his time to body-building: for 36 years

Maximum weights: Bench Press: 225 kg / Squats: 265 kg / Deadlift: 265 kg / Biceps lift with two-handed dumbbell 125 kg

Favourite exercises: any exercise on pulleys

Winnings:  2009 Sacramento 1. place in Men’s Bodybuilding (Super Heavyweight) 2009 Border States Classic 1. place in Men’s Bodybuilding (Overall) 2003 NPC Los Angeles in Men’s Bodybuilding (Super Heavyweight)

“There is no shortening. It is hard to be body-builder. If you are not willing to do hard work, then it is not the right sport for you. You must like it. As long as you like it, you will get where you want to be.”

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Rich Piana and his training plan

Training philosophy of Rich was based on listening to the body and its needs. Regarding the nutrition and lifestyle, everyone has different requirements. Rich used to emphasize the need of disrupting the body-building stereotype, which concerns the lifting of the heaviest weight for a certain amount of repetitions and series. His philosophy of training was coming from reality that extreme trainings for building great body are not necessary while you are listening to the needs of your own body and following them the right way. Rich advocated the use of lower weights with higher number of repetitions – how much your body can make. By this type of training, he supported “pumping” of the muscles with minimum tear of muscle tissues. He admitted that he usually chooses muscle parts for exercising in the following training by his intuition, according to feeling.

 “You have to do whatever is necessary when working out hard and when eating the right way, nothing else matters.”

In many videos, Rich assigned the size of his biceps and triceps mostly to training system, so called Feeder Workout (FW). It concerns the exercising of parts which are individual’s weakness, in the night, several minutes before sleeping. In general, Rich recommended to overload certain muscle parts by three series for 100 repetitions with low weight without any rest, in order to prevent enough blood flow of the muscles which is needed for “pumping”. He presented that this recommendation is focused more on psychic, since FW’s role is to get you to sleep “pumped”, and to make you think of that closely before going to bed.

It is important to pose in front of the mirror which is close to you for a while, immediately after finishing the series. Everyone who has been lifting weights for a while, definitely knows that muscle growth happens when our body is in maximum peace (in sleep). Since you fall asleep with knowing that you have gained muscle congestion, and by this the consequential growth, you are mentally in tune for the right way. Rich considered this tune as the key factor for preventing bigger muscle mass growth during sleep. According to Rich, by this way during sleep, you will be thinking of the muscles which lag as they are growing by each serie, which consequently preserves their certain growth.  [1],[3]

After examining some of his videos, we managed to more exactly determine some exercises for individual muscle parts. We are bringing you one of the last training plans which Rich Piana was using. Don’t forget that Rich was very busy and these exercises could have change from week to week.

Monday – Back

During back training, he was using heavier weight than it is common. T-bar Rows were one of the exercises in which Rich was very strong. His training consisted of these variations:

  • Single Arm Dumbbell Rows & Two Handed Dumbbell Rows
  • Bent Over Dumbbell Rows
  • Behind The Back Shrugs
  • Lat Pulldowns
  • T-Bar Rows

Tuesday – Chest

Chest of Rich Piana was one of the strongest muscle group. The chest exercises were changing according to exercising with biceps or triceps. He used these exercises for chest training the most:

  • Incline Chest Barbell Press
  • Flat Bench Barbell Press
  • Lateral Raises

Wednesday – Legs

Rich’s leg training differed from typical body-building training. While majority has the muscle parts of leg divided into two trainings (hamstrings and quadriceps) in order to most effectively exercise each muscle, Rich exercised them in one long training. According to videos, he was starting with hamstrings and finishing with quadriceps. He concentrated on these exercises:

  • Lying Leg Curl Machine
  • Isolated Single Leg Curl Machine
  • Romanian deadlift
  • Leg Extension
  • Legpress
  • Hacken Squat

Thursday – Shoulders

Shoulders were one of Rich’s dominant muscle groups. Despite that during his training, there weren’t high numbers of repetitions or great number of exercises as we would expect. He was different from other body-builders the way he joined shoulder training with trapezes. They are classically exercised together with back. His exercises for these parts looked like this:

  • Dumbbell Lateral Raises
  • Machine Shoulder Presses
  • Reverse Fly’s
  • Machine trap Raises
  • Barbel Front Trap Raises

Fridays – Biceps and Triceps

His dominant muscle part were his arms. The size of his biceps and triceps was attracting you at the first sight. These muscles were built thanks to following exercises:

  • Single Arm Isolation Cable Bicep Curls
  • Dumbbell Bicep Curls
  • Reverse Fly’s
  • Machine Seated Triceps Push Downs
  • Overhead Rope Triceps Extensions
  • Close Grip Bench Press

Rich’s trainings were not extremely hard. Although if you don’t have experiences with training of individual muscle groups separately, we recommend you to use less heavy weights. [4]

“I recommend to eat 8000 calories per day, to exercise 2,5 hours daily and one hour of cardio. You are receiving more calories and your body will definitely grow up.”

In January 2015, Rich published video in which he emphasized the need of protein and carbohydrate receive from common food instead of protein and carbohydrate-protein (so called weight gainer) drinks when you have the option. One sentence: “The nutrition is primary!”, he warns his fans to carefully read the composition of gainer before buying it. According to him, the best carbohydrate-protein drink can be considered drink made of cup of oat flakes, 10 egg whites, 1 banana and 1 teaspoon of natural peanut butter. “All you have are complex carbohydrates from oat flakes, protein from eggs whites, natural fat from peanut butter and banana. Protein can help, it is useful but the real food will always be a better option.” [4]

The most common question which Rich was asked was which protein he uses for achievement of his goal. “I want everyone to know that my secret is food, real food!” [5]

“To spend 8 hours in the gym is not for everyone but I love it.”

The eating plan

When Rich weighed about 130 kilograms, this big monster showed desire to gain at least 13 kilograms of muscle mass in 4 months with the use of strict training program, nutrition and steroid cycle with which he started at the beginning of 2016. This whole process was documented daily by means of videos on his YouTube channel. He added one meal to his eating plan every week. In January, he started with 4 meals per day, however, he insisted that he will reach the number of 15 meals per day in 4 months. He had oat flakes and egg whites in proportion of 50 grams of protein and 50 grams of carbohydrates for breakfast. After training, he had 50 grams of carbohydrates, either from sweet potatoes or from his carbohydrate product Real Food, which he doesn’t count as a meal in his plan. He didn’t reveal more about his nutrition. Although we know from his videos that each meal had 50 grams of protein and 50 grams of carbohydrates, and he tried to keep this proportion in any other meal. [6],[7]

“There is no such thing as overtraining. Either you have a lack of nutrients or sleep.”

Substance abuse

The biggest reason why Rich Piana had more than 1 million followers on Facebook and more than 292 million views on Youtube, was his sincerity thanks to which he brought his fans to the backstage of body-building and fitness industry. The known user of steroids, growth hormone, insulin or even synthol, had never avoided the reality that he had a close relationship to those substances.

In his videos, he was talking about using steroids since 18. These times were dark in his life and he openly admitted that he needed help. His experience with the growth hormone caused the growth of feet in 3 numbers, the growth of head and fists. He was using synthol in contest day, closely before the competition in order to improve the muscle parts which lagged or which needed to visualize. He applied it into triceps or biceps to create biceps and triceps mound. He was expressing his opinions and preferences on different steroids regularly, however, many thought that he had reached too far when he had shared his 4-month steroid cycle on Instagram.

In one video which you can watch below, he is explaining his cycle and choice of steroids but he never advocates it and doesn’t recommend to follow him. He encourages natural body-builers to try his 4-month program which he documents on his Youtube channel but he insisted that they should stay loyal to themselves and not to use any prohibited substances. [8]

“Every night before going to bed, I want you to do 100 repetitions for pumping, then go to bed. As long as you have girlfriend or wife, I don’t recommend sex after that.”

Rich Piana ended his professional body-building career in 2011. Since then, he was concentrating on help to people to break stereotypes in order to lead them the right way of physical fitness with or without using steroids. He warned that these substances can worsen the health condition really fast. By means of his business activities and YouTube videos, his goal was to spread the idea – To train reliably based on the expectations and individual requirements of every person.  [2]

5% Nutrition – Rich Piana’s brand

The last few years, Rich was concentrating on his brand 5 % Nutrition. 5 % concerns all the spheres of life: finance and business, pursuit of happiness and freedom, family, sports, lifestyle, education, personal growth, etc. Of course, it is not easy to choose this way, that’s why only 5 % of people can accept the challenge. 

Why 5%?

5% presents the percentage of people who can really do everything in their power to fulfill their dreams, to reach the goals and kind of life which they have been dreaming about.

What’s message of 5%?

The message of 5% is to provide the best supplements for achieving the best results possible, which can help you to become more perfect version of yourself. Innovative ingredients which are supported by research in combination with high quality made by top technology. [11],[12]

Interesting facts about Rich Piana

  • His mother was body-builder.
  • He started to lift weights when he was 11.
  • When he was 13, he was improving his nutrition and was training 2x a day.
  • The first time on competition stage was when he was 15. [9]

What caused the sudden death of Rich Piana?

The sudden death of Rich Piana who on the10th of August 2017 fainted in his house, and consequently was put into artificial sleep, raises a question of possibility of using anabolic steroids “the healthy” way as he was claiming. Rich suddenly fell down of the chair when his girlfriend Chanel Jensen was cutting his hair. He spent two weeks in coma then and after that, he left forever in the age of 46 years.

In the police report, which was obtained by TMZ Sports company, there is presented that there were 20 bottles of injection testosterone in his house. According to TMZ, Piana’s girlfriend said to police that he was diagnosed with magnified heart and in the past “he fought against addiction on opiates, but she believed he was clean”.

He said in one of his YouTube videos in 2014 that he was using steroids, not abusing. He showed that he had “head full of hair, no scars from acne and slim waist” as proof that he was using steroids the right way without damaging his body. Piana was right that hair loss, acne within adults and gain of weight can be the symptoms of abusing steroids. Or even without these visible symptoms, as the specialists say, long-term use of steroids can cause confusion in many aspects of human health – and can seriously endanger an individual’s life. 

“I want to do body-building in 60 and 90 years of my life”, he said. “That’s what I will be doing till the end of my life”. He added that “never ever in a million years, he would endanger his health or his future because of body-building.”

Recent study in Circulation magazine gives the evidence that using anabolic steroids overloads the right heart functioning. Approximately 70% of users in the study had increased heartbeat; higher probability of blood pressure, clogged arteries and high cholesterol. [13]

After more than two months since the sudden Rich Piana’s death, there was published autopsy report which emphasizes his lungs. They were filled with liquid and swollen. We have chosen a few key findings from this report, which could have contributed to his sudden death:

  • magnified heart by impact of disease
  • mild coronary atherosclerosis
  • liver steatosis
  • congested thyroid gland
  • overloaded kidneys
  • ischemic brain tissue and brain swelling
  • ascites  (accumulation of protein-containing fluid in the abdominal cavity)

The cause of death was never clearly clarified. It is mostly because after the autopsy, there were never any toxicological tests published. The authors on Generation Iron web page are afraid that hospital knowingly destroyed samples despite the request to keep them.  [15]

“We didn’t do toxicological analysis because the input samples were destroyed before the date of his death”, William Pellan, the director of investigative department Six Medical Examiner’s office said. “These samples were able to determine which substances were occuring in the body of person in time of incident.” [16]

You could have seen and heard various hoaxes and claims about Rich’s death on YouTube or social sites. It was talked about the insulin overdose the most and the autopsy cannot exclude it clearly. Insulin is a hormone which regulates sugar level in blood of our body. The persons using injection insulin and who produce it naturally, can find out that the glucose level in blood drops dangerously low immediately after using it. The consequences can be deadly if not using another sugar which would supply glucose in blood. Besides regulation of glucose levels in blood, insulin has also anabolic features which means it helps within muscle mass growth. [17]


As the author of this article, I had the opportunity to meet Rich Piana on Mr. Olympia 2014 trade show, where I took picture. After the short interview with this man, I was very surprised, his naturalness and willingness shocked me. Also, I was shocked by his sudden death which could be warning sign for many people.

I say goodbye with Rich Piana’s quote: “This dream belongs to you. So let’s get into it and transform it into reality” 


[1] Rich Piana "The Mutant" bodybuilder interview –

[2] LeadingMuscles, Mr. Piana The Body Builder who changed the game –

[3] Rich Piana - jak nabrat svalovou hmotu –

[4] Rich Piana - pravda o gainerech na nabírání svalové hmoty –

[5] PricePlow, Rich Piana Workout: 30lbs of Muscle in 3 Months Coming! –



[8] Piana Uncensored! LIVE with RICH PIANA –

[9] J. Keith, Hardcore Bodybuilding Quote - Rich Piana –

[10] QuotesDNA, Rich Piana Quotes –

[11] 5%, The 5% Rundown, 2016 –

[12] 5%, Mission, 2016 –

[13] B. Patel, Rich Piana - charismatic or controversial? –

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