Frank Zane: The Golden Age Of Gains

There are legends in every sport and Frank Zane represents the upper echelon of lifters, an anomaly who many agree created the best-looking body ever.

Unlike today’s 250-300lb bodybuilding champions, he never tipped the scales at more than 200lb in his competitive prime yet remains one of the few who snatched a victory off of Arnold in a career that saw Zane earn three Mr. Olympia titles. This is a large part of his appeal because when you look at the modern stock of competitive GOATS like Heath, Coleman or Cutler, they had or have physiques, which are just too outlandishly big to relate to.

Conversely, Zane sported the proportions of a Greek statue because he wrote the book on symmetry, literally (check it out at frankzane.com). He’s the everyman who shifted the bodybuilding paradigm away from sheer mass, gently steering it toward pure aesthetics.

With the emergence of the competitive physique category, where athletes are lighter, it’s clear he has always been a man ahead of his time. One of the best things about Zane is that he’s one of the nicest and genuine human beings you’ll have the pleasure of meeting.

Taking a break from his personal coaching business, he kicked back with TRAIN to impart some of the valuable knowledge he earned over the course of a lifetime of lifting. Use it in your routine today to earn yourself both a timeless and ageless physique.

 

World beating foresight

Back in the 1970s I was already using amino acids; taking large amounts of stuff like tryptophan and arginine that only now is becoming popular. The whole low carb diet craze was also something I used to do and that’s finding a lot of popularity. If I had one regret it would be that I took more time to build up in weight, rather than train excessively heavy when I was building towards a competition. This strategy always left me with too many injuries that I still suffer with today. There are two kinds of lifters: those who want to get big fast and those who want to do it slowly so they last longer. The latter is a far smarter choice.

 

 

The most effective training split

The split I’ve had the most success with is a three way split where day one is upper body pulling exercises, day two is legs and day three is pushing exercises. You should do in train, rest, train, train rest format. You should never train upper body two days in a row or you’ll wear out your shoulders, because too much upper body work is going to get to you. You might get away with it when you’re young but it will eventually get to you.

 

The king of symmetry sets the record straight

What most people talk about is not symmetry, it’s bodybuilder symmetry. There is no such thing as pure symmetry between upper body and lower body. That’s not symmetry, that’s proportion. What you see with the bigger guys is that they present themselves in a symmetrical way because they pose straight on. If you cut down the middle of their body you can compare left to right. I never did that and avoided poses where left and right were doing the same thing; yet people would always say I’m very symmetrical. In fact, my left and right side were never even and they definitely don’t match symmetrically. Everyone said I had it, so I only presented my strong points and didn’t do a lot side poses. I learned that from Bill Pearl.

 

Perfection is unattainable

You’ll always run into problems if you try to assign a number to any part of your body. Even in contests, they don’t assign numbers to things. Instead, I took photos and studied them, but all that other crap where the size of your neck, arms and calves should the same is just ridiculous. If you want, you can write some numbers down but, at the end of the day, it’s what people see that counts. Be sure to present the perfect illusion to them.

 

No magic fix

People always ask me to make them a program, as if there’s a magic routine I’ve been keeping secret. Truth is, everything works if you take the time to let it. So I like showing people how to do things correctly because using perfect form and developing the ability to isolate areas is crucial. Blood flow needs to get to the muscles for there to be growth. I’m 75 years old this summer and may not be training heavy as I’m working around injuries but I still find a way to increase time under tension. A big part of doing that successfully is attaching a rubber cable to the weight stacks so the weights increase, the closer you get to the end point of the move.

 

 

Stretching truths

When training a particular body part you should do roughly ten different stretches for it during the rest periods between your sets. Each should last 15-20 seconds. After a set you want to rest and drop your pulse. This is the ideal recovery tool as you relax into the stretch and saves a lot of time and keeps you warm. While I stretch I encourage people to say quite positive affirmation in their head: I am flexible and can stretch my limits.

 

The advancement of nutrition

I’ve always been aware of what’s going on in the fi eld, and there are no major changes that have revolutionized nutrition. I’ve used an equal mmix of egg white and whey protein for years. Egg albumen is high in sodium and low in calcium, and whey is the exact opposite. I’ll occaisionally use it as a meal substitute if I’m in a hurry.

 

Staying the course

The main reasons people fail to stay motivated to exercise are because they don’t get reinforcement for their progress. Here’s the cycle as I see it. They stuff themselves at Thanksgiving, which continues through December and into the middle of January. This is when they get motivated to get in shape and they’ll often last in the crowded gyms until February and March. This is the point when the weather starts to warm up so they get out of the gym and do other stuff outside, mixing in a little bit of training while never getting true feedback on their progress.

The only way most people can get motivated is through deficiency, and that’s not how you stay motivated. You will always be unhappy. You will go backwards. You’ll worse, not better. The answer to this problem is to become motivated through success. Progress and feedback is product of effort multiplied by attitude multiplied by recuperation multiplied by nutrition.

Go ahead and give yourself a score on all those variables. Let’s say you get 90% on each one, which amounts to just 64% – you still have 36% you can still achieve. Your first step should be to take that nutrition and put it first because you’re not going to make progress unless you pay attention here.

 

My routine

Nowadays I do upper body one day a week and legs the other day. I also walk a lot and shoot archery while training little bits with clients as it’s not so much about me now.

 

Arnold memories

During the 1980 Olympia, Arnold only presented one side of his body and defied the judges’ requests. In the end they allowed him to do that and he eventually became the winner, so if you’re able to call the shots then you deserve the win.

 

For more legends and a 12 month free digital subscription, sign up to the TRAIN newsletter.

TRAIN

Written by

You may also like...