Frank Zane workout and diet
Frank Zane was born in Pennsylvania. His interest in bodybuilding developed as a teenager after reading Muscle Magazine. Zane earned a college degree in science and taught high school math and chemistry. He also earned a bachelor’s and master’s in psychology. Zane won the Mr. Olympia 3 years in a row (1977-79). He is one of only 3 men to have ever beaten Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bodybuilding contest. He is also a rare Mr. Olympia winner who weighed less than 200 lbs. Zane retired from bodybuilding in 1983, and in 1985 opened a personal training business Zane Haven, later renamed Zane Experience. He has written several books on bodybuilding and runs a commercial site selling supplements, training equipment and books. He also teaches seminars and does book signings. Zane founded Zane Gallery in Laguna Beach, CA, an art and photography gallery dedicated to the Golden Era of bodybuilding. Zane appeared in the 2011 documentary Challenging Impossibility, and in 2020, he began filming a documentary on his own life. He has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. Zane is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighed190lbs. when competing and 220 lbs. in the off-season.
Frank Zane’s Diet
Zane’s approach to nutrition when he was competing was simple: high protein, low carb, and medium fat which translates to lots of meat, eggs and veggies. When training, he would have 1 gram of protein and 0.5 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight. Pre-contest, he would cut all carbs for 5 days and have a potato on the 6th. Gold Era bodybuilders didn’t have anywhere near the resources modern bodybuilders do in the area of supplementation. Nonetheless, Zane earned the nickname ‘The Chemist’ for his avant-garde approach to fitness which included supplements like amino acids and protein powder. These days, Zane eats less red meat, but he still gets plenty of protein in the form of fish and eggs.
- Low Carbs 20% 20%
- Medium Fat 30% 30%
- High Protein 75% 75%
Mr Universe Diet
While training, Zane would have 4 meals per day. Meal 1 was 3 soft-boiled eggs, 8 oz calf liver and a baked yam. Meal 2 was 8 oz steak, cottage cheese and vegetables. Meal 3, a 6-egg omelet with cheese and potatoes and his final meal of the day was 8 oz ground beef plus a large salad.
Power Up With Protein
Pre-contest, Zane would drink 3 protein shakes a day made with 2 oz of heavy cream, 6 oz water and 1/2 cup protein powder.
The Camera Doesn't Lie
Zane’s approach to his physique differed from others of his era. While many would focus on body fat percentage and weight, Zane would take dozens of photos of himself to see how his body was responding to his diet, and then tweak accordingly.
Zane noticed his body got leaner if he went longer between meals, and so rather than eating every few hours, he would space out his meals. He discovered that a hungry body is a fat-burning machine, which is a main reason why intermittent fasting is such a popular weight-loss method today.
Zane avoided alcohol while competing because it is known to impair recovery, weaken muscles and reduce endurance.
What to Eat
What to Avoid
Zane on His Eating Habits
‘My diet was always very good.’
Zane on His Early Supplementing Routine
‘Back in the day, I took a lot of supplements and tons of amino acids. Still do. But back then, it was pretty unusual. That’s how I got the nickname “The Chemist.”’
Zane on his Current Diet
‘I don’t eat nearly as much as I used to, but what I do eat is very nutritionally dense.’
Frank Zane’s Workout Routine
Quality Over Quantity
Zane paid special attention to symmetry rather than just getting as big as he could.
Mix It Up
Zane did a combination of high and low reps with impeccable form to create his incredible physique.
Train Like a Legend
Prior to the 1979 Mr. Olympia contest, Zane trained with legend Doug Young, and credits the master with helping him to win his third title.
Zane’s routine has changed over the years. As a teenager, he worked out every other day. In his 20s, he upped it to 6 days a week, alternating upper and lower body by day. These days, he walks his dog daily for 1 1/2 hours and only lifts a few days a week.
Zane’s training schedule mimicked Arnold Schwarzenegger’s: chest and back on Monday and Thursdays, legs on Tuesdays and Fridays, and delts and arms on Wednesdays and Saturdays. He’d do 10-12 sets on smaller body parts and 15-20 sets for bigger body parts.
Zane’s upper body workout took 3-3 1/2 hours and his leg routine was about an hour and a half. He used this routine right up until winning Mr. America in 1968.
Six weeks out from a competition, Zane would switch to a split schedule. His routine was Day 1: chest, triceps and del-toids. Day 2: legs. Day 3: back, biceps and forearms. Rest on day 4.
Zane worked his abs every day. He was known to do 400+ per day, and up to 1000 reps before a contest of leg raises, hanging knee-ups, Roman-chair sit-ups and oblique twists.
A Frank Zane Routine
Do 10-12 sets on small body parts; 15-20 sets on large ones.
Close-grip bench press
Pushdowns & other extensions
Behind the neck press
Front dumbbell raises
Bent over lateral raises
Leg curls & leg lunges
Donkey calf raises
Bent over row
Single-arm dumbbell row
Biceps & forearms
Standing barbell curls
Zane on Strength
‘Being weak is a choice. So is being strong.’
Zane on Fitness
‘I think it’s best not to get out of shape! …The older you get, the harder it is to get back.’
Zane on his Training in the 60s
‘In those days, I did what was necessary for me to win. This included training with heavy weights, a precursor to injury.’
Zane on Volume Training
‘Volume training in itself really conditions you…To this day, I still practice volume, except now I will train 3 days a week or so.’
Zane on Regrets on Overtraining
‘If I could do it over again, I’d train with lighter weights, higher reps, no sets below 10 reps, with negatives slower than positives…If I had done that, my physique wouldn’t have been quite as bulky, but with more definition and with less pain.’
Zane’s Approach to Fitness as a Mature Adult
‘I now subscribe to the parsimony principle. I no longer want to carry that much mass on me…It’s easier to carry around less weight and I’m more comfortable. It also doesn’t require as much training, which equals less stress on the joints.’
Frank Zane’s Supplements
Before a competition, Zane would stop the protein and double down on the amino acids instead because they made his muscles pop. He still takes them today.
Pancreatic Digestive Enzyme
Zane likes his amino acids, especially tryptophan which is used by the body to produce serotonin, a hormone that reduces carb cravings and improves sleep.
Frank Zane’s Lifestyle
Sleep Is Key
Even though Zane is no longer competing, he still makes sure to prioritize sleep as part of his health regimen.
Zane got his start with training because his younger brother was always getting into fights, and Zane would end up de-fending him. He discovered that by working out, other kids didn’t want to fight anymore.
Zane is one of only 3 men to ever defeat Arnold Schwarzenegger in a competition. Zane credits it to being fresh off the Mr. America contest and his muscles popping whereas Schwarzenegger’s muscles were smooth. He says Schwarzenegger didn’t take the loss too well, but they became friends later and even trained together.
Power Lift Flirtation
Early in his career, Zane tried power lifting, not least of all because it was very popular in his home state of Pennsylvania. He could deadlift 425 lbs. and bench 285 lbs., but says if he could go back, he wouldn’t do it because it led to injury.
Zane appeared in the documentary entitled Challenging Impossibility about Indian spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy who advocated athleticism including weightlifting.
Student of Buddhism
Zane does not have a spiritual teacher, but he has studied Buddhism for decades and has over 300 books on the subject. He meditates every day, and has a mantra that he uses to stay focused.
Zane on Sleep
‘I don’t…need to sleep as much, although I do make sure to get plenty of rest.’
Zane on Training For Enjoyment vs. Competition
‘For me, it’s a matter of living as long a quality life as I can. It’s more a matter of health and longevity…than trying to impress people.’
Zane on the Downside of Powerlifting
‘You’re just focusing on the weight and often ignoring the subtle signs your body is giving you.’
Zane on The Trouble Areas of the Body
‘Shoulders are very susceptible to wearing out.’
Zane on the Benefits of a Lifetime of Fitness
‘I don’t have to train that much anymore to stay in decent shape.’
Zane on Inspirational Leader, Sri Chinmoy
‘For someone who is approaching 70 years of age, training every day with such ponderous weights to inspire humanity is the real world record.’
Zane on his Buddhist Leanings
‘I practice things like right speech, right livelihood and…being an honest person.’
Zane on The New Generation of Bodybuilders
‘I’m comfortable with the idea of passing the torch, helping others to aim for the same kinds of goals I once aimed for.’