Frank Zane reflects on out-lifting Arnold Schwarzenegger, his contest prep nutrition guidelines, and leveraging magazine covers for success

In a recent episode of Generation Iron and Barbend’s The Mike O’Hearn Show, legendary bodybuilder Frank Zane joined host Mike O’Hearn for a captivating discussion that delved into the world of bodybuilding, training philosophies, and the evolution of the fitness industry. Zane, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time, shared his insights into his training methods, dieting, and the pivotal moments that shaped his illustrious career. Here’s a recap of some key takeaways from this enlightening conversation.

This conversation is the fifth entry in a series pulled from a conversation between Mike O’Hearn and Frank Zane. Unlike our typical podcast programming – this conversation is casual – as if the viewer is simply a fly on the wall during a candid discussion between two bodybuilders from different eras.

In this latest entry, Frank Zane tells a funny story about out-squatting Arnold Schwarzenegger – but also goes in-depth about his contest prep nutrition protocols. And how each contest prep was different as he listened to his body.

He also talks about the moment that pushed him into the direction of taking bodybuilding seriously as a career. As well as the misconception that being on a bodybuilding magazine cover meant that you were paid a lot of money. Let’s dive into it.


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A post shared by Frank Zane (@therealfrankzane)

Training Methods and Outlifting Arnold Schwarzenegger

Frank Zane began by acknowledging that his training style differed significantly from the heavy lifting regimen of the modern era, especially in comparison to how Mike O’Hearn trains today. Zane expressed his inability to relate to the immense weights lifted by O’Hearn. Nevertheless, Zane highlighted his expertise in squats, reminiscing about a remarkable achievement when he completed 10 squats at a staggering 405 pounds. Astonishingly, this feat outperformed the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger, who managed only eight squats.

Frank Zane states that this is a memory that will always live vividly in his head. Even as he tells the story, you can hear his cocky pride kick in. It shows just how competitive these Golden Era icons were – and how that competition helped to drive each other into new heights.

The Drive to Win and Competition

Speaking of drive, Mike O’Hearn steered the conversation towards the motivation to succeed and how competition plays a pivotal role in driving individuals to excel. He suggested that competition is the force behind Zane’s vivid memory of out-squatting Schwarzenegger. Mike also probed Zane about his dietary achievements, asking if there was a particular diet that still stood out in his memory, much like Mike’s own unforgettable 1997 Mr. Universe win.

Frank Zane admitted that he doesn’t retain detailed memories of specific diets, but he did outline his general dieting principles. He typically began serious dieting around three months before a competition, gradually intensifying as the event approached. His diet consisted of a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight and under 100 grams of carbs per day, preferably consumed earlier in the day. Zane also mentioned that he meticulously documented his diets and workouts in journals, even detailing the 190 workouts he completed during his prime.

Carbohydrate Intake and Cardio

Mike inquired about Zane’s carbohydrate intake six months prior to the intense three-month competition prep period. Zane revealed that he likely consumed more than double the carbohydrates during the pre-competition phase compared to the off-season.

Regarding cardio, Zane explained that he refrained from any cardio during the off-season and only introduced jogging as a form of cardio during the final three months of contest prep.

However, Zane admitted that each competition prep was unique. If he achieved exceptional conditioning within the initial three months of prep, he would skip cardio and focus on posing, as there was no need to further enhance his conditioning at that point.

Inspirational Turning Points

Frank Zane shared a transformative moment from his early bodybuilding journey. It wasn’t until he was 18 that he received the encouragement he needed to fully commit to bodybuilding. Bob Hoffman, a prominent figure in the strength and fitness world and the owner of York Barbell, witnessed Zane backstage at his first contest and remarked, “If I had a body like yours, I would keep my shirt off all of the time.” This acknowledgement from Hoffman altered Zane’s mindset and solidified his dedication to becoming a bodybuilder.

Additionally, Zane discussed his relationship with Joe Weider, highlighting how he and other astute bodybuilders often prioritized magazine cover placements over immediate financial gain. They recognized that visibility and recognition in the fitness community through magazine covers would lead to greater long-term success.


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Evolution of the Fitness Industry

Mike O’Hearn compared Zane’s era to the present, noting the dramatic changes in the fitness industry. In the Golden Era of bodybuilding, earning a magazine cover required winning competitions, a process that built character and determination. Today, social media has eliminated gatekeeping, allowing anyone to create impressions and garner attention. This transformation prompted a discussion on whether this shift has removed the “gladiator mentality” from today’s generation of athletes.

Frank Zane isn’t sure about what drives the new generation, but he does believe in the mentality of letting them do what they want and figure it out for themselves. That’s what Zane did back when bodybuilding had less history during his era of the sport.

Perhaps the new generation is figuring it out differently – but the fundamentals will stay the same. What works will always work. What doesn’t – won’t. While the shape of the industry is different today, this generation has their own competition to fight for attention on social media. The magazines may be gone – but the drive, while different, hopefully remains.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, the podcast episode featuring Frank Zane provided a captivating glimpse into the world of bodybuilding, training, and the evolution of the fitness industry. Zane’s journey, dedication, and philosophies continue to inspire aspiring athletes, while also shedding light on how the fitness landscape has evolved over the years. The memorable anecdotes shared during the conversation are a testament to the enduring legacy of Frank Zane and his impact on the fitness world.

You can watch the full conversation with Frank Zane above. Make sure to stick around and catch new episodes of The Mike O’Hearn Show every Friday only on the Generation Iron Fitness Network or wherever podcasts are downloaded!

Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.