During the late-'70s, in the pre-Grand Theft Auto/TapouT/Jose Canseco-tell-all/Jackass days, there was one particular bodybuilder who embodied the ancient gods like no other before, or since. Indeed, he himself would ascend to the top of Mt. Olympia on three consecutive occasions - 1977, '78, '79 - and almost singularly defy a trend in his sport toward the kind of unadulterated mass that some believe has tainted bodybuilding in the years since his retirement.
Standing 5'9" and tipping the scales at around 190 pounds, Frank Zane was as good as it got in bodybuilding at a time when the sport was about building an ideal physique, not an overwhelming one.
Despite the fact that nearly three decades have transpired since Zane's last Olympia win, his physique remains timeless, as respected by bodybuilding fans today as it was then. His name is still consistently invoked for reference when discussion among bodybuilding fans turns to what an ideal physique "should" look like.
Even his bodybuilding philosophies, which center around the idea of maintaining a holistic mind-body connection (as opposed to the more body-centric impulses of some of his less sentient brethren) is the model by which others are measured.
[ FLEX ] How did you come to formulate your first training routine?
[ Frank Zane ] It was all by people I'd met, things I'd read and trial and error. When I first started out, I was about 18 - actually younger - I was about 16 or 17 when I really got serious. I worked out every other day after school, doing upper body one day, legs the next. I kept that routine for a while and it worked well for me.
Then, in the mid-late '60s, when I was living in Florida, I increased the number of workouts so that I was training six days a week, but it was still upper body one day, legs the next. My upper-body workouts took about three to three and a half hours. The leg workouts were about an hour and a half, and that's how I trained right up until I won the Mr. America and Mr. Universe in 1968.
When I moved to California, we all pretty much trained the same way, like Arnold did. We still trained six days a week, but on a three-way split. A typical routine was chest and back on Mondays and Thursdays, legs on Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays and Saturdays was delts and arms. It was a volume routine.
We'd do at least 10-12 sets for the small bodyparts and 15-20 sets for the large bodyparts. We'd train heavy, working up to the heavy weights. We worked real hard, but what I learned was that as you get older it's better to train a little less frequently but harder. Your body needs that extra time to recuperate.
To read the rest of our exclusive interview with legendary bodybuilder Frank Zane, pick up the August 2008 issue of FLEX, on newsstands now!