One of the most iconic Golden Era bodybuilders

When you think of the Golden Era of bodybuilding, names like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Franco Columbu, but have you heard of Frank Zane? Frank Zane, also known as “The Chemist”, won the Mr. Olympia title three different times, and is considered to be the original aesthetic bodybuilder, known for his low body fat combined with a great amount of muscle mass, untouchable muscular symmetry, and the fact that he could hit a vacuum pose like no other.

Below is a breakdown of Frank Zane’s biography, diet regimens, and training regimens.

Full Name: Frank Zane (Golden Era Bodybuilder)

Weight Height Date Of Birth
185-200 lbs 5’9″ 6/28/1942
Division Era Nationality
Men’s Bodybuilding 1970s American

Frank Zane Biography

Frank Zane was born and raised in the small coal mining town of Kingston, Pennsylvania. He describes himself as an introverted, self-conscious youth who was “brought out of his shell” by the discovery of weightlifting magazines in his early teens. He began training at his local YMCA and pursuing weightlifting despite the fact that many in his community thought it was an unusual career choice and discouraged him from pursuing it. He persevered and had a successful career in bodybuilding spanning two decades. He has won the Mr. Olympia title three times and is one of only three IFBB-certified pros ever to defeat Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Zane graduated Wilkes University in 1964. He earned his nickname “The Chemist” for his college degree and his use of amino acids and other bodybuilding supplements, which was highly unusual for the time. He made his pro debut in 1961 at the Mr. Pennsylvania contest and went on to win the Olympia title three times, from 1977 to 1979. He also won IFBB Mr. Universe in 1965 and is a two-time winner of the IFBB Mr. America title. He was inducted into the Joe Weider Hall of Fame in 1994.

Frank Zane Workouts

In order to look the way he did and step on stage with some of the greatest bodybuilders of all time, holding his own against larger bodybuilders such as Mike Mentzer, Frank Zane had some intense workouts. Utilizing the push/pull/legs split some high volume, Zane managed to sculpt a great physique. Let’s take a look at his workouts.

Back, Biceps, Forearms, and Abs

Though he followed a push/pull/legs routine, Frank Zane would switch up the order, and the first workout of the week for him was a pull-day. Utilizing good volume and pyramid sets, he completed the following exercises:

Exercise Sets  Reps
Wide Grip Deadlifts 3 15, 12, 10
Wide Grip Deadlifts (From Blocks) 3 10, 8, 6
T-Bar Rows 3 12, 10, 8
Front Pulldowns 3 8-10
Dumbbell Row 3 8-10
Dumbbell Concentration Curls 3 8-10
Alternating Dumbbell Curls 3 8-10
45-degree incline dumbbell curls 4 8-10
Barbell Reverse Curls x Seated Barbell Wrist Curls 3 20

Frank Zane did not leave a stone unturned, making sure to hit every part of the back and biceps he could, even making sure to hit his forearms.

Legs and Abs

The leg training of Frank Zane was no different, making sure that he activated every muscle fiber in his lower half. Check it out.

Exercise Sets  Reps
Leg Extension 2-4 Warm up
Back Squats 6 15, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8
Leg Press 3 15, 12, 10
Lying Leg Curls 3 12, 11, 10
Leg Extensions 3 12, 10, 8
Standing Calf Raise 3 15-20
Donkey Calf Raise 4 20-25
Seated Calf Raise 20

Calves are something that many lifters tend to overlook the importance of. However, you do not want to have big quads and hamstrings, then toothpick calves. The calf muscles truly complete the lower half and Frank Zane made sure to keep them proportionate to the rest of his body.

Chest, Triceps, Shoulders, and Abs

Finally, the last piece of Frank Zane’s workout routine are all the pushing movements. Let’s take a look.

Exercise Sets  Reps
Barbell Bench Press 6 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2
70 Degree Incline Dumbbell Press 1 28 (Drop Set)
10 Degree Dumbbell Flye 3 12, 10, 8
Cross Bench Dumbbell Pullover 3 12, 10, 8
Close Grip Bench Press 3 12, 10, 8
One Arm Overhead Tricep Extensions 3 12, 10, 8
V Grip Tricep Pushdowns 4 12, 10, 8
Seated Bent-over Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 15, 12, 10
Side Cable Raise 3 12, 10, 8

One thing worth noting is that Frank Zane left presses out of his shoulder movements, which is because on a push day, he would get enough front deltoid activation from other chest pressing movements like the bench press.


As far as the cardio that Frank Zane did, he would make sure to do it even when he was trying to bulk up. Usually, his cardio was done 4 days per week for 15-20 minutes at a time, helping to keep him healthy overall and keep his body fat levels low. However, he would not do cardio on leg days, only on upper body training days.

Frank Zane Diet

Frank Zane

Weighing around 200 lbs in the offseason, the diet of Frank Zane may shock you, as he hardly ate any carbohydrates all day. He would consume only around 50 grams of carbs per day, with 150 grams of carbs a day on a high day. He would consume around 200 grams of protein each day (1 gram per pound of bodyweight). The sources of his protein came from steak, fish, and chicken.

Frank Zane stated that his metabolism was not necessarily slow, but it was not fast either. He would follow a strict diet year round to stay in shape, then tighten it up around eight weeks out from a contest, and it certainly worked. From there, he would carb up before stepping on stage just to help the muscles fill out and really pop.

Another thing to note regarding Frank Zane’s methods, is that he used sunbathing to dry himself out leading up to a competition, rather than using diuretics, as these would make him lose too much water if he did that. So, instead of diuretics Frank Zane would sunbathe and sweat out the water weight he needed to.

Life Outside of Bodybuilding

Zane retired from bodybuilding in 1983. Together with his wife Christine, he opened a fitness center in San Diego, California called the Zane Experience. He currently works as a performance coach and fitness expert, and has his own line of exercise videos. Even in his 80s, he still trains, often seen with Sadik Hadzovic.

Wrap Up

Though Frank Zane’s time in bodybuilding was decades ago, his training methods and principles can certainly be utilized by competitors today. Sure, the competitors today are much bigger than he was, but Zane’s dedication to the sport is something that can be used by anyone. Also, his attention to symmetry and aesthetics are certainly something that could be applied today.

What do you think of Frank Zane?

For more news and updates, follow Generation Iron on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Dylan Wolf
I work mainly in content writing, focusing my free time on bodybuilding and strength sports. I was introduced to fitness in high school and after watching Generation Iron movies. I love to train. I have competed multiple times, even winning a junior title in classic physique. I have a bachelor's in criminal justice and business obtained through Alvernia University. When I am not focused on work or training, I enjoy watching films or reading about anything and everything.