Get inspired by Frank Zane | Profile and workout analysis

Welcome to this new “Get inspired by…” article. While this website is mainly for natural bodybuilders, it’s undeniable that old-school bodybuilders were inspiring and were in great condition on stage, steroids or not. It would be a shame not to get inspired from their stories and work ethic. 

We will go through a quick biography of the athlete presented and discuss their main beliefs and best training advice. Then, we will talk about their program and see what, as natural bodybuilders, we can learn from them.

This article will take you 6 minutes to read! Feel free to leave your questions in the comment section, they will be answered!

If you don’t know who the heck is Frank Zane, then this should tell you more about him.


Frank Zane is an American bodybuilder born 28th of June 1942. As you can see, he has won Mr Olympia 3 times. Frank Zane was the king of aesthetics. His frame was not as huge as some other bodybuilders of his era like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Lou Ferrigno, but his shape and conditioning were brutally impressive.

Frank Zane has been described as someone pretty quiet and calm. He started lifting weights when he was 14 years old after opening a bodybuilding magazine he randomly found at his school. Frank had then started training at the gym and also had bought himself his first pair of dumbbell which he would train with at home.

Frank Zane hitting a vacuum pose

He is one of the only athlete to have beaten Arnold Schwarzenegger during a competition in Florida, Mr Universe. Later in his life, Frank Zane will write many books, 5 in total. His last book was called 91 day wonder body.

Frank Zane 91 day wonder body

His most famous book is his own autobiography which is called Symmetry (no affiliation). Not a surprising title coming from one of the most proportional and aesthetic body in the world of bodybuilding.

Frank Zane symmetry book

What’s impressive about Frank Zane?

What was impressive about Frank Zane was his capacity to beat much bigger bodybuilders by being so physically aesthetically pleasant. His proportions were just perfect. Another bodybuilder with great proportions and aesthetics was Serge Nubret, even though, Nubret was bigger also.

Frank Zane was one of the smallest frame and lightest weight around stage. He never went above 85kg on stage. He admitted he simply did not have the capacity of reaching such sizes like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Zane has admitted in the past that Steve Reeves was his role model. It looks like it has worked well on his own physique. Frank Zane has a similar physique to Steve Reeves. The only difference is that Frank Zane was not natural like Steve Reeves might have been. That allowed him to reach “excellence”!

The last impressive thing we can write down about Frank Zane is his vacuum. Probably one of the best which ever existed.

Frank Zane doing his vacuum pose in the desert

This tells you that if your goal is to get a super condition on stage without using any performance-enhancing drugs, Frank Zane might be your go-to role model. Although he was an enhanced athlete, we get pretty close to what an elite natural bodybuilder might reach one day with the right genetics and hard work.

Here are Frank Zane’s measurements:

Arms: 45.7cm/18 inches

Neck: 44.5cm/17,5 inches

Chest: 132cm/52 inches

Waist: 73.7cm/29 inches

Thighs: 66cm/26 inches

Calves: 41.9cm/16,5 inches

Wrists: 16,5cm/6,5 inches

What can you learn from Frank Zane?

Here are a few quotes from Frank Zane and see how it can appeal us natural bodybuilders in our journeys to build muscle.

“Continuity is how you build a physique”

Frank Zane reminds us that it takes time to build muscle. That might be one hard pill to swallow but it is true. Although we can go much faster by following the right steps, just like in the starting guide for natural bodybuilders written on the blog.

It looks like the rise of PEDs in the fitness industry might be correlated with the fact people want a shortcut. But at the end of the day, it will also give you problems quicker. Learning how to train well as a natural bodybuilder is probably the most important thing to do to improve quickly without taking risks. Patience and good practices it is!

In those days, I did what was necessary for me to win. This included training with heavy weights: a precursor for injury. So 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, and avoid injury. If I had done that, my physique wouldn’t have been quite as bulky, but with more definition and with less pain”

In the world of bodybuilding, we always hear older people tell younger people to be careful and put their ego on the side when it comes to lifting. This is because at a certain point, if you are a normal human being, you will get pain from all those heavy lifts. It looks like heavy weight training is what worked for Frank Zane at his peak as he mentioned. Truth is, you do have to go beyond those limits sometimes to grow.

One thing we would like to emphasise is making sure to warm up very seriously before going onto heavy weights and learning about good form. This way, you can go heavy without taking much risks. On the other hand, you can try going with lighter weight and see if it works for you, after all, you might as well listen to 3 times Mr Olympia, Frank Zane.

How is Frank Zane doing now?

Frank Zane retired in 1983 at 41 years old. He is 78 years old today.

Frank Zane was still showing an impressive physique a decade ago at 70 years old.

Frank Zane posing at 70 years old

He just looks exactly like before but with a bit of age, which is very impressive.

Today at 78 years old, Frank Zane still looks pretty damn healthy!

Frank Zane with Sadik on an interview

Frank Zane’s workout routine analysis

Frank Zane's program

What can we learn as natural bodybuilders from Zane’s split routine?

Frank Zane seemed to have been mixing powerlifting movements with isolation movements. On his website, he mentions:

Frank Zane quote

Frank Zane seemed to have adopted powerbuilding as a method. Although his work-out was not conducted with low repetitions, he still added plenty of coumpound and powerlifting movements in his workouts. Powerbuilding has its benefits in terms of learning how to do proper form and get bigger quicker. You can read the article here.

It is important to try and separate or give some space in the week to the muscles which will be similarly used in a session. Frank Zane would take a day off after his day 1. He mentions that doing heavy deadlifts the day before squat was not a good idea as he would get a sore lower back. He would then do day 1, rest, day 2, day 3, day 1, rest, etc…

He did not seem to have difficulties doing chest/shoulders/triceps followed by back/biceps/forearms. As a natural bodybuilder, doing chest and shoulders with back the next day might be quite exhausting and not give you enough time to recover. As an advanced lifter, this might be ok. If you are starting, try to split your routine in a better way.

Beginners will usually only need 3-4 days a week to make great progress. Therefore, if you are a beginner, utilise all the space you are given in one week to arrange your split routine.

An example following Frank Zane type of routine could be:

Monday: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps

Tuesday: rest/abs

Wednesday: Back/Biceps/Forearms

Thursday: rest

Friday: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps

Saturday: Legs/ (biceps)

Sunday: rest

Alternatively, you could also make a program by days. Day 1, day 2, day 3. Just make sure as a beginner that you will give yourself more rest.

Frank Zane’s routine did not have as much volume as you would find in Arnold’s or Nubret’s routine but it was still impressive. It is possible as an advanced natural bodybuilder to try and follow Zane’s routine without burning out.

Though, you’d have to make training a priority in your life and allow good recovery.

Zane had intense sessions which also means he would try and get a lot done in a pretty short time frame.

You can see his program was smartly made, for example, on his day 3 (chest/shoulders/triceps):

He transitioned his chest work-out to triceps workout by doing some pull-overs. This would contribute to enlarging his thoracic cage and build him monster triceps!

A great variation of the pull over is if you really go far behind and below your head to extend the thoracic cage and come back up doing like a skull crush movement. This way, you can both work on your chest and triceps (great stretch) which makes it a great exercise.

Integrating some close grip bench right after is pretty interesting as it works both chest and triceps. Again, this is a pretty efficient way of doing things. Although the main muscle he works are now his triceps, he is still working on his chest, smart transition.


Key points to keep in mind from Zane’s routine:

  • Give enough recovery in between your sessions which are working similar muscles. The more advanced you are, the less you will be impacted by those principles.
  • Work efficiently, you can make smart transitions like Frank Zane did. This can help you save time if you are busy or simply improve your work-out intensity.
  • If you are someone who easily gets injured or have had injuries in the past, make sure you learn the proper form and trust Frank Zane on his advice to train smarter with lighter weights.
  • Include some powerlifting movements in your session, try power building to get quicker results!
  • Watch Frank Zane’s posing videos from the 80s and get inspired to become an aesthetic freak!