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Zane, Zen and the BIG Six-Zero

Frank Zane, Three-time Mr. Olympia, Turns 60 and Shatters the Age Barrier

Olympia’s penis is bleeding. Not a drip, not a drizzle, but a full-bore throbbing spray of supplement-fortified blood. It’s the summer of 1980, and what began as an early-morning sunbath in the California desert has turned into, well, a bloodbath. One minute Frank Zane was sitting in a patio chair next to the pool, and seconds later he’s crawling from the water, moaning for help, watching blood spread across his torso. This can’t be happening to me, the three-time and current Mr. O thinks to himself, not eight weeks before my next contest. But it is happening, and by the time his wife finds him, the blood had already begun to crack and dry around his ankles. By then, he’s lost a quart of the precious fluid.

But I don’t care. I don’t care why he didn’t win his fourth Mr. O title’wasn’t three enough? I’ve come to talk with him because I saw his newsletter, a stapled quarterly that reads like a lab experiment in anti-aging science. I’m convinced that when it comes to creating a champion’s body and maintaining it throughout the silver years, Zane’s got the goods. Before he can talk about the future, though, he has to confront the past.

Zane started training at 14 and began to compete at 18. Yearning for the greatest possible control over his body, he took up yoga, meditation and Shin Buddhism. Although he never did achieve the magical powers promised him by his yogis, he did develop the ability to focus like a laser. Combining mass and never-before-seen definition, he set the standard for aesthetics in physical culture. He had a 28-inch waist and the body lines of an Arabian stallion; he introduced the vacuum pose and was the first to have eye-stabbing abs. Between competitions he pursued three college degrees, including a master’s in experimental psychology.

Today, at age 60, Zane lives in a big white house with his wife of 35 years, Christine. Nestled in a mountainous suburb, the house has a sweeping view of downtown San Diego.

Zane greets me at the front gate wearing a gray sweater, khaki shorts, white socks and beige Mephistos. If you ignore the bracelet of lapis prayer beads on his wrist, you might think he was a Yuppie or even retired military. Neither his ears nor his nostrils have been pierced, and his skin is pale because he doesn’t sunbathe anymore. There are scars now, too, one on his left shoulder from rotator cuff surgery and another on his legendary midriff where a piece of plastic mesh was installed to fix a hernia. We move to his office, and I can’t decide which of two other post-60 celebrities he most resembles: Paul McCartney or Dustin Hoffman.

Zane says he’s a ‘lifer’he will bodybuild until the day he dies. ‘I’m in pain every day, whether I train or not,’ he adds, ‘so I might as well train.’ He gets up, and I follow him into the gym, which is in the next room. The walls are papered with magazine covers of him positioned in classical poses. I count at least 50. ‘I used to be Frank Zane,’ he chuckles, adjusting a weight stack on a cable pulley.

Zane gets a pump on his first set of preacher curls, then quickly crosses the room to rummage though a pile of musical instruments. He pulls out a vintage harmonica, presses it to his lips and blows a soulful rendition of ‘Summertime.’ ‘Playing the harp sharpens my abs,’ he says. ‘I play between sets and an hour afterward for cardio.’

Now he’s at the shoulder machine, to which is taped a photo of Flex Wheeler’s delts. He gives the machine a squirt of WD-40 and rubs the excess into his knees. Noting my surprise, he tells me that it’s good for lubricating human joints too.

At the end of the demonstration workout he thoroughly pumps his calves. ‘After 45 years I finally figured out how to train them,’ he says joyfully. He then briskly logs some notes into a journal, which contains frequent bursts of poetry. ‘I don’t force anything anymore,’ he says, ‘especially poetry. It comes when it comes.’

But Zane hasn’t always been so hip, cool and seemingly in the groove with his body, mind and soul. No, sirree, Bob. There’ve been times he didn’t listen to his ‘inner voice’ at all’times when his ego ran the roost. Take the morning he started preparing for his fourth Mr. Olympia contest. Although his mind was willing, his spirit was not.

‘I really wanted a fourth title, but it pissed me off that I’d have to sacrifice so much of my life to get it.’ Brooding, he went outside and sat in a metal chair near the pool. Like some wild carnival ride, the chair slid into the pool and struck him in the crotch. The blow severed a network of blood vessels called the bulbous urethra.

‘What I find most fascinating about that event is that all morning I’d been telling myself how pissed off I was, and moments later I was actually peeing blood. I slowly became aware of how powerful the subconscious mind is and that I had acted out my anger on myself.’

According to Zane, the effect of negative body metaphors is that if you repeatedly tell yourself that you’re ‘sick’ of this or ‘tired’ of that, your body will respond accordingly. ‘Our bodies listen to us when we talk about them,’ he says. ‘What you have to say about your physique is definitely more important than what anyone else says, including the judges.’ By the same token, Zane believes that ‘going to failure leads to failure,’ particularly in the gym.

Back in his office he puts on a pair of trifocals and flips through a pound of mail. ‘I need glasses just to find my glasses,’ he grins boyishly, keenly aware of the changes in his senses. Suddenly, a revelation comes over him. ‘When I die, I’d like to be prepared,’ he says carefully. ‘When it happens, I want it to be the greatest day of my life.’

Zane’s Smashing-60 Training
After he completes this three-day cycle, Zane takes a day of rest before starting with day 1 again, and he never trains his upper body two days in a row. For him, less is more.

Day 1: Torso
Front pulldowns 2 x 12, 10
Machine pullovers 2 x 12, 10
Close-grip pulldowns 2 x 12, 10
Dumbbell pullovers 2 x 12, 10
One-arm machine rows 2 x 12, 10
One-arm lying side raises 2 x 12, 10
Overhead shoulder presses 2 x 12, 10
Machine rear-delt flyes 2 x 15, 12
25 degree incline dumbbell presses 2 x 12, 10
Pec deck flyes 2 x 12, 10
Krusher 2 x 10
Hanging leg raises 2 x 30
Elevated leg crunches 2 x 70
One-arm cable crunches 2 x 20
Treadmill 3.5 mph x 12 minutes

Day 2: Legs
Donkey calf raises 2 x 20
Seated calf raises (drop set) 1 x 5(5)(5)(5)
Lying leg curls 2 x 12, 10
Leg extensions 2 x 12, 10
Single-leg contractions on extension machine (partial movements) 1 x 20
Horizontal leg presses 2 x 15, 12
Leg Blaster squats 2 x 15, 12
Abs/cardio same as day 1

Day 3: Arms
Machine dips 3 x 12, 10, 6
Overhead rope extensions 3 x 20, 15, 12
Cable preacher curls 3 x 12, 10, 8
Panatta machine curls 3 x 10
EZ-curl-bar reverse preacher curls 1 x 10
Wrist curls 1 x 30
Gripper 1 x 20
Abs/cardio same as day 1

Zane’s Smashing-60 Diet
6 a.m. (upon rising)
6 free-form amino acid caps
1 multiple vitamin
Half grapefruit
Carbonated water

7 a.m.
3 soft-boiled eggs
Half grapefruit
Vitamins and minerals
6 ounces black coffee

8 a.m.: workout or work

11:30 a.m.
15 amino acid capsules (including 500 milligrams L-tryptophan)
250 milligrams niacin
1 vitamin-mineral cap
1 aspirin
4 glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate caps, swallowed with carbonated water
1 apple ‘shared with my dog’

2 p.m.
Mixed green salad
12 ounces chicken, ground turkey or 7 percent-fat lean ground sirloin broiled on George Foreman grill with 2 slices Swiss Alpine Lace cheese melted on top
Vitamins with carbonated water

5 p.m.
2 tablespoons egg white protein powder mixed with 3 frozen strawberries
6 ounces peach diet Snapple (24 grams protein and 10 grams carbs)

7:30 p.m.
Whatever’s left over from lunch, about half the portion size, usually no vegetables
Vitamins and minerals

11 p.m. (before bed)
Small piece of whatever fruit is in season (no dried or high-glycemic fruit like pineapple or bananas)
Melatonin or tryptophan

Zane’s Competition R’sum’
During his 22-year career as a competitive bodybuilder, Frank Zane entered hundreds of shows, starting with the AAU Teenage Mr. America contest in 1961, in which he placed third. Here are some of the shows he won:

’63 Mr. Keystone State ’65 Mr. North America ’68 Mr. America ’68 Mr. Universe ’69 Mr. International ’69 Mr. World ’70 NABBA Amateur Mr. Universe ’72 NABBA Pro Mr. Universe ’77 Mr. Olympia ’78 Mr. Olympia ’79 Mr. Olympia


Editor’s note: To contact Frank Zane for public appearances or personal training, call 1-800-323-7537 or send e-mail to IM

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