The Zane Way

Olympia legend Frank Zane talks about his strongest bodypart: his brain.


Courtesy of Weider Health & Fitness

Long before he began marketing “The Zane Experience” as a personal seminar in which one could train with and learn from a bodybuilding legend at his personal gym in Southern California, three-time Mr. Olympia Frank Zane had a less formal “Zane Experience.” It was all in his head, literally.

We’re talking about Zane’s mental approach to training. Nothing was random; everything he did had a purpose. His focus was intense, and, consequently, so were his workouts. The results spoke for themselves: arguably the most aesthetically pleasing physique of all time and a legacy carved in stone.

We recently got Zane on the phone for a question-and-answer session that had very little to do with sets, reps, posing, or even his famed six-pack abs. Rather, we asked him what went through his head when building his iconic physique back in the 1960s and 1970s. His responses were every bit as insightful as we’d hoped for. Enjoy this exercise for your brain.

FLEX: Athletes talk a lot about “taking it one game at a time” or “one practice at a time.” Did you approach your training in a “one workout at a time” sort of way?

FRANK ZANE: No, I didn’t. One workout doesn’t lead to anything. It’s continuous workouts, and how that goes depends on my motivation. You’ve got to have a reason for doing any kind of hard training. That’s what it takes to get in shape. It’s not just going to the gym three times a week. It’s more of a dedicated thing, and the only way you can get that maximum motivation, I think, is through competing. That’s why I did it for so long, for 23 years.

Did you follow a strict program?

I did everything on schedule. I kept journals, and I planned my peaking out in advance. I generally allowed six months to get into top shape. Some people call it periodization, but I like to refer to it as seasonal training because there are four distinct emphases in what I did. My hard training was always spring and summer, peaking in the autumn for competition. After that, basically what I would do is go into maintenance training and just work weak points. That lasted a couple of months, then I’d come back in early spring and start building strength. And then after building my strength and size up to the level I wanted in the springtime, by about July I was already going into training for definition by increasing intensity. Also, my workout spacing was closer together. I would be training for a competition three days in a row and resting on the fourth day, whereas before that I would train three out of five days.

That’s pretty much how I did it all the time. And then after I retired my whole concept was basically to work out with my clients, and I still do that. When I don’t have clients, at my age two workouts per week is all I need to stay like this. I train upper body one day a week and legs another day, and that’s it. Simple.


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