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Frank Zane’s Bodybuilding Workout Routine, Diet Plan & Supplements

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: April 14, 2021

I’ve followed Zane’s career for years, and how he’s maintained his physique at his age is quite impressive.

And for any fan wondering:

“How do you train like Frank Zane?”

Here’s the detailed weekly training and diet plan that resulted in such a top masculine body shape, strength, perfect muscle symmetry, proportion, definition, and physical beauty the bodybuilding legend Zane has achieved.

Let’s dive straight into all the detailed information.

Stats and Body Measurements

  • Born: 1942, Kingston, Pennsylvania
  • Nickname: The Chemist
  • Height: 5ft9in (175cm)
  • Weight: 185-205lbs (84-93kg) - the lower is his competition weight
  • Neck: 17.5in (44.5cm)

 

  • Arms: 18.8in (48.5cm)
  • Wrists: 6.5in (16.5cm)
  • Chest: 51.9in (132cm)
  • Waist: 29.9in (76cm)
  • Thighs: 26.3in (67cm)
  • Calves: 17.3in (44cm) [1]

Frank Zane's Workout Routine

Workout routine of Frank Zane

Frank Zane’s ebook The Workouts: Personal Training Diaries reveals his bodybuilding work, training approach, and one of the most effective workout routines that helped him defeat even Arnold Schwarzenegger.

That’s a three-day split workout that focuses on different lower and upper body muscles each day with rest days in between:

  • Day one – pulling muscles – back, biceps, forearms, abs
  • Day two – legs – thighs, calves, abs
  • Day three – pushing muscles – chest, shoulders, triceps, abs

Zane has used different variations of this insanely effective workout in his career, adjusting it to beginner and advanced lifters and bodybuilders.

When sculpting his proportionally defined physique, Zane’s emphasis was mainly on progressive overload and blood pumping to the muscles.

He mostly avoided lifting heavy weights at the beginning when he aimed at leanness, combining light weights with high reps because he was afraid of injuries.

“Use poor form in a heavy weight exercise and your chances of injury multiply.” Frank Zane, Retired Professional American Bodybuilder

However, after his first Mr. Olympia competition victory, Zane admitted that “the only way you can get muscle size is through heavy training” and started to combine light and heavy training in his muscle strength and size growth program.

Frank Zane’s cardio workout consisted of running a slow mile and a half or riding a stationary bike for 15-20 minutes.

Frank Zane’s typical weekly pre-contest personal training split looked like this [2]:

Calves workout

Monday 

  • Morning – quads and calves (high reps)
  • Afternoon – shoulders, biceps, forearms, and abs

Tuesday 

  • Morning – back
  • Afternoon – triceps, chest (pecs), and abs
Back workout of Frank Zane

Wednesday 

  • Morning – quads and calves (high reps)

Thursday 

  • Morning – back
  • Afternoon – shoulders, biceps, forearms, and abs

Friday 

  • Morning – quads and calves (high reps)
  • Afternoon – triceps, chest (pecs), and abs

And here’s the detailed information on his exercise program for strengthening and developing particular muscle groups in different body parts.

Shoulder Workout

Shoulder Workout of Frank Zane
  • Smith machine overhead shoulder press – 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Seated dumbbell shoulder press – 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Upright cable row – 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Incline bench rear delt fly – 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Bent-over dumbbell lateral raise – 3 sets of 15, 12, 10 reps
  • One-arm lateral cable raise – 3 sets of 12, 10, 8 reps

Arm Workout

Arm workout of Frank Zane

Biceps

  • One-arm dumbbell concentration curls – 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Alternate dumbbell curls – 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • 45-degree incline dumbbell curls – 3 sets of 12, 10, 8 reps

Triceps

  • Close-grip bench press (with hands around 12in apart) – 3 sets of 12, 10, 8 reps
  • One-arm overhead extensions – 3 sets of 12, 10, 8 reps
  • V-grip pressdown (holding the contraction for a full second) – 3 sets of 12, 10, 8 reps
  • Tricep cable pushdown – 3-4 sets of 10 reps
  • Feet elevated bench dips – 3-4 sets of 10 reps

Forearms 

  • Reverse barbell forearm curls – 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Seated barbell wrist curls – 3 sets of 20 reps

Chest Workout

Chest workout of Frank Zane
  • Flat barbell bench press (using a shoulder-width grip) – 4-6 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
  • Incline barbell bench press – 4-6 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
  • 70-degree incline dumbbell press – 4-6 sets of 10, 8, 6, 4 reps
  • Flat dumbbell fly – 4 sets of 10-12 reps
  • 10-degree decline dumbbell fly – 3 sets of 12, 10, 8 reps
  • Standing cable crossover – 4 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Crossbench dumbbell pullover – 3 sets of 12, 10, 8 reps
  • Bodyweight push-up – 5 sets of 10 reps

Back Workout

Wide grip deadlift workout for the back muscles
  • Wide-grip deadlifts – 3 sets of 15, 12, 10 reps from the floor first, then 3 sets of 10, 8 reps from blocks, plus occasional 7th set of 6 reps
  • T-bar rows (using 7-foot Olympic Bar) – 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
  • Wide-grip pull-ups – 4 sets of 5 reps
  • Wide-grip seated front pulldowns – 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • One-arm dumbbell row – 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Bent-over barbell row – 4 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Dumbbell pullover – 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps

Abs Workout

Abs workout of Frank Zane
  • Crunches superset with leg raises – as many sets as you can of 50+ reps/side
  • Hanging knee-ups and seated twists – as many sets as you can of 50+ reps/side
  • Leg raise – 4 sets of 25 reps superset with 
  • Ab crunches – 4 sets of 25 reps  
  • Seated twists – 100 reps 
  • Hanging leg raises – 4 sets of 25 reps

Leg Workout

Leg workout if Frank Zane

Thighs/Quads

  • Leg extensions (warm-up to get the blood pumping to the thighs) – 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Back squats – 6 sets of 15, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8 reps
  • Leg press – 4 sets of 15, 12, 10, 6 reps
  • Lying leg curls – 3 sets of 12, 11, 10 reps (stretch hamstrings after each set)
  • Barbell stiff leg deadlift – 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Leg blaster squat – 4 sets of 6-12 reps
  • Leg extensions – 3 sets of 12, 10, 8 reps (stretch quads after each set)

Calves 

  • Standing calf raise – 3 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Donkey calf raise – 4 sets of 20-25 reps
  • Seated calf raise – one four-part drop set (without rest) – 120 x 5, 110 x 5, 100 x 5, and 90 x 5. (stretching the calves for 15 seconds afterward)

Frank Zane's Training Tips

Training tips of Frank Zane

The most Greek God-like bodybuilding legend has shared his gems of wisdom on achieving great conditioning and a perfectly proportioned, muscular physique.

Here are some of his training philosophies.

  1. Use the adequate range of motion. Full or partial, whichever more effectively targets and isolates a specific body part you’re working on to bring the desired results.
  2. Focus on the quality of your sets instead of the weight and number of reps. Never work to failure but success, striving to perform the last rep in a set with perfect form before you stop and rest for max. 90 seconds before the next set.
  3. Feel the feedback sensation. When performing each weight set, Zane claims you must learn to feel the feedback sensation your body gives and focus on becoming one with the movement instead of focusing on your breathing or counting reps.
  4. Take frequent photos of yourself. This is because those pics can better help you track your progress and objectively judge the way you look than standing in front of the mirror.
  5. Be disciplined and consistent. Zane also claims that the key to building the best possible physique based on your genetics is continuity and discipline. Hard, consistent work enables you to outperform bodybuilders with ideal genes but lazy.
  6. Celebrate your gains. Instead of beating yourself up for what you can’t do, learn to appreciate and celebrate your bodybuilding achievements.
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His Career Accomplishments

All Frank Zane's Career Accomplishments

Some of the most notable bodybuilding titles Frank Zane won include:

  • IFBB Mr. Universe (1965, 1968 – winner)
  • IFBB Mr. America (1966–1968 – winner)
  • IFBB Three-time Mr. Olympia (1977–1979 – winner under 90kg) [3]
  • IFBB Mr. Olympia (1974, 1976 – 2nd place under 90kg)
  • IFBB Mr. Olympia (1980 – 3rd place, after a severe injury)
  • IFBB Mr. Olympia (1982 – 2nd place)
  • IFBB Mr. Olympia (1983 – 4th place, after a shoulder injury)

Frank Zane's Diet Plan

Frank Zane pre workout meals

To stay healthy, maximize lean muscle mass growth, and supply enough energy for his workouts, Frank Zane typically followed a high-protein, moderate-fat, low-carb diet with 2,000-3,000 daily calorie intake, especially before the contest.

Generally, he tried to eat one gram of top-quality protein and half a gram of carbs per pound of his body weight.

“I relied a lot on pre-workout food. Before the training, I always had protein and carbohydrates. After the training, I relaxed and sometimes ate a few hours later. It depended on how demanding my training was. When I got hungry, I just ate. Usually, my first meal after training was a protein drink – some sort of protein-carbohydrate mix.” Frank Zane, Retired Professional American Bodybuilder

He typically ate various natural, seasonal, nutrient-dense food, including:

  • Beef, chicken, and other meat
  • Tuna
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Almonds

Even though Zane usually avoided using dairy products, he ate cheese for calcium.

Let’s take a closer look at his sample diet plan:

Meal 1:

  • 8oz of calf liver
  • Baked yam
  • 3 soft boiled eggs

Meal 2:

  • 8oz of steak
  • Veggies
  • Cottage cheese

Meal 3:

  • Omelet (6 eggs)
  • Potatoes
  • Cheese

Meal 4:

  • 8oz of ground beef
  • Large salad

What Supplements Does He Take?

Supplements that Frank Zane intakes to support his body building workout

As for his supplementation, Frank Zane used:

  • Egg protein powder
  • Liver support tablets
  • Amino acids
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Multivitamins

This stack is used to prevent muscle loss, get enough energy, and ensure proper building blocks for his lean muscles.

Could You Train Like Frank Zane?

After revealing the secrets of the nutrition plan, training philosophy, approach to workouts, exercise intensity and volume Frank Zane followed, you can hopefully figure out whether you have enough inner power and dedication to motivate you to follow his exercise routine.

Or are you going to stay just one of his bodybuilding fans that admire his aesthetics, strength, and career success from a safe distance?

It’s up to you.

Best of luck if you decide to make an effort and work toward your goal without hesitation.


References:

  1. https://en.24smi.org/celebrity/101869-frank-zane.html
  2. https://www.dennisbweis.com/Articles/FrankZane1976Interview.pdf
  3. https://mrolympia.com/mr-olympia

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