Frank Zane aka The Chemist
- Name: Frank Zane
- Date of Birth: 28 June 1942
- Height:175 cm (5 ft 9 in)
- Off-season Weight: 100 kg (220lbs)
- Competition Weight: 91 kg (200lbs)
- Arm size: 46 cm (18 in)
- Waist size:74 cm (29 in)
- Calf size: 42cm (16.5 in)
- Chest size: 130 cm (52 in)
- Hip size: 66 cm (26 in)
- Championships: 3x Mr. Olympia
The Story of Frank Zane: THE CHEMIST
“Being weak is a choice, so is being strong.” Frank Zane
Frank Zane's emphasis on mental training, optimism, and meditation is what made him such a famous athlete. He highlights the value of taking your time and concentrating on what will serve you the most.
He persisted and kept changing his approach and nutrition until he was successful in becoming Mr. Olympia. After 15 years of preparation and perseverance, he was able to win this.
In a rough coal mining community in Pennsylvania, Frank was nurtured. When he was younger, he was a meek, quiet kid who frequently found himself trying to end a quarrel that his younger brother had started, only to get hurt. At the age of 14, Frank became interested in bodybuilding after entering his high school math class and spotting a muscle-building magazine in the trash. He began working out at the local Wilkes-Barre YMCA weight facility after reading the magazine. Additionally, he purchased a set of 30 pound dumbbells and started working out at home. When he should have been completing household chores, his father was upset with him for spending time training.. He was urged to:
“Build yourself up by cutting the grass”
This only made Frank all the more determined to succeed and he worked out with weights for three years in high school, with two four month lapses during football season. He grew from 130 pounds at age 14 to 160 pounds at age 17 and felt great because he could actually see the visible results from his workouts.
Frank worked hard in the gym and drank a lot of milk while working as an archery teacher at a Boy Scout camp in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains during his junior and senior years of high school. On weekends, Frank would hitchhike 20 miles home, carrying 55 pounds of weights so he could exercise even though his weights were all at camp. He ensured that he never missed a workout in this way.
When his parents learned how committed he was, their views on bodybuilding started to change. Frank's mother supported him greatly in his training.
Frank received a partial scholarship to Wilkes College, graduated first in his high school class, and was awarded his first two academic awards. He received a BS in secondary education in 1964. He kept up his training and started competing in bodybuilding physique contests during this time. Frank weighed 185 pounds at this point and had over two dozen trophies to his name.
He relocated to Tampa, Florida in 1966 after spending the following two years in Pennsylvania and New Jersey teaching math. Taking his preparation for competition extremely seriously, he won every competition he entered and believed he was destined for greater things. Frank wanted to move to California, but because doing so would mean breaking up with his East Coast friends, he decided to settle in Florida.
Zane began his tough training regimen at the age of 14, using only dumbbells and an ambition to build one of the finest bodies in history. He began to working out at local gym.
The Chemist found time to develop that lean figure that his rivals both feared and envied despite working as a full-time Math instructor. One of the best lightweight bodies in the sport belongs to Frank Zane.
“Numbers are an abstraction, especially to muscles. Your body doesn’t know the absolute weight of what you lift; it only recognizes how heavy it feels. The secret is to make lighter weights feel heavy.”
Throughout his career, Frank Zane adopted a number of different training philosophies. Because of his adaptability and willingness to attempt new things, he was able to be so successful.
Zane used a light lifting technique when he first began his training. He focused on doing plenty of repetitions to achieve the best tone and sculpture, but while this made him exceptionally slim, it wasn't the best for winning competitions.
He needed to gain size, and Joe Weider advised him that the best way to do so was with hard sets and lower volume. As a result of implementing this new strategy, Zane won three Mr. Olympia events in a row.
Zane learned to lift independently; therefore he wasn't always a fan of the bodybuilders' practise of rotating particular muscle parts every day. He somehow succeeded in streamlining things even further by dividing his entire workout into just two sessions—upper body and lower body.
According to rumors, Zane would put in up to three and a half hours every Upper-body training.
Zane only changed his programme to be more in line with the other bodybuilders after relocating to California. This required being more concentrated and exercising opposing muscles each day.
Zane gave the following description of a typical week:
- Chest and Back – Mondays & Thursdays
- Legs – Tuesdays & Fridays
- Arms and Delts – Wednesdays & Saturdays
- Rest – Sundays
He would execute 10–12 sets on smaller muscle groups and 15–20 sets on larger muscle groups, progressively adding weight as the sets went on. Later on in his career, this was adjusted to a 3-day split with a rest day on the fourth day. This exercise worked supporting muscles rather than antagonistic ones, which was the exact reverse of his previous routine:
- Back, Biceps and Forearms – Day 1
- Legs – Day 2
- Chest, Shoulders, Triceps – Day 3
- Rest – Day 4
Zane was another big abb man. Every training day, he would put the most volume into his abs workout. To maintain them looking and feeling ripped, perform 400–1000 reps every day. Due to how taxing this was, Zane frequently finished his workout only to go back to the gym hours later to work on his abs. Zane may have a lifetime of success if he had always paid attention to his physique and welcomed change.
“Being weak is a choice, so is being strong.”
Zane was dubbed "the Chemist" for good reason. He enjoyed researching and experimenting with supplements in order to find the ideal supplement stack that would propel him to victory.
Pre-workout nutrition was one of Frank's nutritional priorities. Interestingly, unlike most bodybuilders, Zane didn't mind eating before or after a workout - it was all about before.
He would sometimes wait hours after the gym before eating, whenever it was convenient for him - not his body.
Frank ate a relatively low number of calories. Zane would never consume more than 3000 calories per day, given the amount of energy and size required to compete (and win) Mr. Olympia. He never put too much emphasis on carbohydrates and instead focused on protein, while also ensuring that healthy fats accounted for at least 25% of his diet.
“Dream more than others think practical. Do more than others think is possible.”
Frank's physique is highly regarded by many. It is deemed as one of the most remarkable physiques in bodybuilding history. Zane is frequently depicted as one of the "poster boys," as seen on gym walls. A modified front double biceps pose is the foundation of the famous Frank Zane Pose. His arms are extended above his head, displaying the size and definition of his muscles. His broad shoulders and slim waistline combine to create the stunning V taper that many trainees desire.
Frank Zane is one of 14 men to have won a Mr. Olympia title, and his legacy is in more ways than one. Zane was the fifth bodybuilder to win an O title (he actually won three), and he had a 190-pound masterpiece of a physique that became the standard of aesthetics. His combination of presentation, symmetry, and conditioning was enough to defeat several Golden Era heavyweights, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom he defeated at Mr. Universe in 1968.
Frank is also successful in his personal life. He is married to Christine Zane. Christine, his wife, is a former bodybuilder as well. They met at a body-building competition, and their love story began there. They married in 1967. They have been together for 53 years and are still doing well. They will never file for divorce until the end of their lives.
His previous relationship history is unknown. Christine, on the other hand, appears to be his first and final love. He has not mentioned his children.
Frank Zane and his wife also own and operate Zane Heaven in Palm Springs, California. He also appeared in the documentary "Challenging Impossibility" in 2011.
Frank had won the Olympia three times in a row when he suffered a life-threatening injury eight weeks before his fourth appearance.
Zane suffered severe blood loss as a result of a freak accident involving slipping on a poolside edge. He was in critical condition when he arrived at the hospital and remained there for several days.
Zane explained what happened in the following manner:
“I sat in this lightweight chair by the pool, and as I did it, slid on the wet Astroturf by the side and I fell onto the lip of the pool, which hit me right between the legs and smashed my bulbous urethra. Blood was gushing from my penis. I was rushed to hospital and was in for four days with a catheter attachment … it was horrible.”
After the accident, Zane required frequent hospital visits as the wound reopened. It took him two weeks to get things under control, resulting in a total loss of about 15 pounds of muscle mass.
When Zane asked Arnold Schwarzenegger if he should still compete in the Olympia despite his injury, his friend assured him that he should, despite the lack of recovery time.
Zane recalls the conversation as follows:
“Since his competitive retirement Arnold was the go-to guy before contests. Everyone went to him for advice. They’d do their posing routine and he’d point out every little thing that was wrong. I called him and he said, ‘Yeah, the word is out at Gold’s that you took so many steroids your dick started to bleed.’ I asked him what he thought I should do. He told me, ‘You should go to Australia and defend your title.’”
Regretfully, the athlete would eventually lose to Arnold at the same event, when the Austrian Oak decided to throw in a surprise entry. Zane finished third behind Chris Dickerson.
Because of his accident just weeks before the event, Zane knew he was unlikely to win, but he boycotted the competition the following year, believing Arnold wasn't in top shape and didn't deserve to win. The Oak took unplanned poses, playing only to his strengths and refusing to highlight his flaws.
Another Accident that Leads to Retirement
The icing on the cake was Zane's shoulder damage from a bicycle accident in 1983, which was another devastating injury. Zane refused to withdraw from the Olympia and instead trained through the discomfort all the way up to the competition. Zane finished fourth, and major shoulder surgery was required to cure the damage.
Zane's final competition would be the 1983 Olympia as he and his wife focused more on their new business, Zane Haven, a bodybuilding education facility.
Since then, Zane Haven has grown his company and even produced an exercise machine of his own creation called the Leg Blaster. He is presently a San Diego resident.
“Live your life by the hour, not by the day. What will you achieve in the next hour?”
Frank Zane is well-known for three times winning the prestigious Mr. Olympia title (1977–1979). He did, however, win Mr. Universe three times, Mr. World once, and Mr. America once.
He was known for his slim waist and aesthetically pleasing physique, which embodied the classic physique look. During his reign as Mr. Olympia, he also competed at a bodyweight of less than 190 pounds.
Zane was one of the few competitors to defeat Arnold Schwarzenegger, the legendary 7-time Mr. Olympia champion. He defeated him in the 1968 Mr. Universe competition, in which Zane admitted that Schwarzenegger was not in good shape and that he was simply large and showed up eating cake.
Schwarzenegger was displeased with his defeat to a much smaller Zane. However, they trained together from 1969, when Zane arrived in California, until the early 1970s.
Zane went in with a very impressive resume, and the 1980 Olympia marked the end of his top-tier career. He boycotted the 1981 Olympia due to the 1980 contest, but returned to compete in 1982, finishing second. After suffering another injury that necessitated shoulder surgery, he finished fourth in the 1983 Olympia.
Zane teaches us an important lesson: you must take your time and play to your strengths. He admitted that he lacked the genetics to grow to the size of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Serge Nubret but he simply wasn't built that way.
Instead, he took his time, continued to train, and changed his style in order to determine what his body should look like and what worked best for his frame. He was never going to be big, so he focused on proportion - a far more difficult journey.
The key word here is patience. Zane had been training for over 15 years before winning the Olympia - and then winning it three years in a row. Zane was willing to take his time and was more concerned with the long-term goal than with quick wins. It was applaudable, but more importantly, it worked.
In my opinion Zane resembled Greek Gods more then any Chemist.
Follow Frank On Instagram