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How Much Rest Is Best?

Efficient recovery ability is the question

There’s no doubt in my mind that training less frequently as one gets older works better. Since you don’t work out as often, you have more desire and stamina to train harder. With the hormone slowdown that occurs with age, called andropause, recuperation from hard workouts takes longer and longer.

In my teens and 20s I trained six days a week, working upper body one day and lower body the next. I felt fine, recuperated well and was strong for every workout. In my mid-20s I began training back, biceps, forearms, thighs, calves and abs at one workout and chest, shoulders, triceps and abs at the other. I remember training that way when I lived in Florida’and each workout lasted up to three hours.

Upon moving to Southern California in 1969, I fell into pace with Arnold’s workout at Gold’s Gym, as many did in those days. It was now a three-way split done six days a week: chest and back on Mondays and Thursdays, legs on Tuesdays and Fridays and delts and arms on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We trained abs at the end of each workout. It worked well at first, especially for Arnold, whose nine-to-five job was going to the gym and then the beach, and it worked for me too, especially when I had summers off from teaching school. But training with heavy weights for the ’72 London Mr. Universe left me so drained by the end of the week that I usually had to take the weekend off, squeezing my workout into five consecutive days.

After winning my second Mr. Olympia title in ’78, I switched to a new three-way-split routine, on which I trained three days in a row and rested the fourth day: back, biceps, forearms, abs on day one; thighs, calves, abs on day two; chest, shoulders, triceps on day three; rest on day four. It was the classic three-days-on/one-day-off cycle, or the four-day cycle, as I now call it. It worked well, providing me with a little more rest, and I gained a solid eight pounds of muscle by 1979. I won the Mr. Olympia that year weighing almost 195 in my best ever condition.

I continued to train in that fashion’three days on/one off’taking an extra day off when I needed it right up until a few years ago. I found that my shoulders needed more rest, so I switched to back, delts, chest on day one; abs, thighs, calves on day two; and triceps, biceps, forearms, abs on day three. The only time I do this program three days in a row is when I train with clients as part of my Zane Experience program. After that I take two days off instead of one.

What seems to work best for me now, as I approach my 63rd birthday, is to spread this new three-way split over five days: day one, torso; day two, rest; day three, legs; day four, arms; day five, rest; day 6, begin cycle again. If I feel a bit overtrained, I’ll take two days off after completing the three workouts, thereby training each bodypart (except abs) only once in six days. It’s all on my ‘Train With Zane’ video, a very detailed, informative demonstration of all the exercises and stretches I do arranged according to this most productive three-way-split routine. Try it, you’ll like it.

‘Frank Zane
Three-time Mr. Olympia

Editor’s note: Frank’s three-way-split workout is now available on DVD. Visit for details.

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