Legendary bodybuilder Frank Zane shares why you shouldn’t stay in peak conditioning and explains why he never took his shirt off in the gym. 

Three-time Mr. Olympia Frank Zane is regarded as supporting one of the greatest physiques in bodybuild history. This can be credited to his meticulous focus on symmetry and portion — which he urges current competitors to focus on. Although it’s been decades since we’ve last seen him on stage, Zane gives back to the bodybuilding world by sharing the wisdom he gathered over the years. In this week’s episode of Generation Iron and BarBend’s The Mike O’Hearn Show, Frank Zane reveals hows to live a healthy and fulfilled life as a bodybuilder. 

This week’s episode is a bit different than our typical podcast format. While visiting Frank Zane at his home – Mike O’Hearn and Clark Bartram has the incredible opportunity to have an off-the-cuff conversation with the Golden Era legend. In what is to be part one of a multi-part conversation – this week we provide a “fly on the wall” glimpse into a hangout with legendary bodybuilder Frank Zane.

Frank Zane had an ultra-successful bodybuilding career garnering three Mr. Olympia titles from 1977-1979 (and a Mr. Universe and Mr. America title in 1968) while battling it out with other elite contenders, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger

Zane competed in the Men’s Bodybuilding division at 190 pounds during his career. To put things in perspective, this is 100 or more pounds less than this era’s Men’s Open competitors. 

Zane is decades out from his last show and jokingly admits his prime is overdue.

“I’m 80 years old, so I’m just going to sit back and take it easy and watch other people do stuff.” 


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Frank Zane on Staying Healthy at 80

Zane pointed out to O’Hearn, age 52, that he’s in good shape for his age and said he was in good shape in his 50s too, but it gets harder as you age.

“I was in decent shape in my early 50s too. But the older you get, the harder it gets. And I was less motivated to keep doing it because there’s no good reason to.”

Zane said he was 41 during his last show in 1983 — ironically, O’Hearn noted it was his first year on stage competing. Zane says he did things similar to five-time Mr. Universe champ Bill Pearl’s to end his bodybuilding career and expressed his opinion on him.

“I always had my complaints about him because he was always pretty smooth. He was never really cut. But he knew how to work that and did well.” 

Mike O’Hearn recognized Zane’s good health for his age and asked him what younger folks should know that they couldn’t comprehend. Zane responded:

“Don’t stay peaked. Stay less than your best. Always stay under at like 94% [of your best]. It’s too much sacrifice to keep doing what you must do with the dieting and mental framework. It eats away at you. You’re not meant to do that.” 

He said things have never come naturally to him, but he’s always put in the work. For example, he says he averaged a 94 grade in high school, which puts him at the top of his class. 

O’Hearn asked Zane how important it is to have a healthy and balanced mind and to help people relative to sets and reps in the gym. Zane stated:

“It’s what sustains you. I realized I could only peak one time a year. Even doing it twice was too much.”

Training With No Shirt on in the Gym 

Frank Zane would always keep his shirt on during his contest prep

“I never exposed myself in the gym. It’s like the great unveil. You have to shock people. The unveiling is that they should be astonished when you go up on stage.”

Frank Zane is one of the best bodybuilders to live. So if you’re a bodybuilding fan or want tips on longevity, this Mike O’Hearn podcast episode is for you. 

You can watch Mike O’Hearn and Frank Zane talk in full on our latest episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show above. Visit the Generation Iron Fitness Network or wherever podcasts are downloaded every Friday for new episodes of The Mike O’Hearn Show.

As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.