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When Frank Zane won the last three Olympia titles in 1979, the 5'9" champ’s body weight was in the neighborhood of 190 fat-free pounds. With the proportions of a Greek god and an abundance of finely faceted muscles, Zane sported the kind of physique that would have left Homer (not Simpsons) agape. With wide shoulders, narrow hips and sinewy libs that flowed gracefully from socket to digit, the guy looked like Michelangelo’s David come to life, except for the posing trunks.
Fast-forward to the 2004 Mr. Olympia, a quarter century of bodybuilding progress since Zane’s final pro victory.
Ronnie Coleman, the contest's winner, tipped the scales at a reported 296 pounds at 5'11", weighing a good Mary-Kate Olsen more than Zane. Transported in time and dropped into the 2004 Olympia lineup, Zane would have looked like a little kicker huddling with his offensive line. Even Kris Dim, who at 5'6" and 206 pounds was the contest’s lightest competitor, easily would have been able to hold Zane atop a seesaw.
In a number of bodybuilding Internet forums, where myriad “what if” scenarios abound, mere mention of the name “Zane” will elicit a slew of posts about the mortal sin of competing at a bodyweight of less than 200 pounds. Zane has been labeled as the Swimmer, as if to imply his heavily muscled body more closely resembles Michael Phelps’ than Big Ron’s.
Yet, as ridiculous as such assertions are, they are telling of a sport whose vision has turned increasingly myopic over the past decade or so. Those who bow only at the altar of size have effectively put on blinders, not just to the nuances of bodybuilding, but to the essence of what made Frank Zane’s body a true wonder in the history of physique development.
In this virtual posedown, the 2004 Coleman is pitted against his 2001 Arnold Classic Self, the 1979 digitally enhanced Zane represents our guesstimation of what he might look like were he to compete today.
Although we are confident the Zanemaster would not have succumbed to the temptations of unmitigated mass, he probably would have kept up with the Joneses and the Cutlers and bulked up to 220 pounds or so at 5'9".