Oak & Iron: Frank Zane Talks Training With Arnold

Check out this archive interview with Lara McGlashan to find out what it was like training during the golden era… when bodybuilding was bodybuilding.

Three-time Mr. Olympia Frank Zane reflects on what it was like training and hanging out with “The Oak”

By Lara McGlashan, MFA, CPT

“Arnold is a tremendous force — a very gregarious people person. He draws energy from being around others; he’s like a magnet, drawing people close to him in a very personal way.”

– Frank Zane

Ask any guy in the gym whose physique they admire most in the history of bodybuilding, and nine times out of 10 they’ll say “Frank Zane.” His is an iconic shape — incredibly lean and perfectly balanced with clean, beautiful lines. Thousands have entered into the sport with aspirations of approaching the corporeal perfection Zane possessed in his heyday — he owned a physique that won him such titles as Mr. America, Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia several times over. Here, Zane reveals what it was like in that Golden Era, with Arnold Schwarzenegger as a training partner, friend and worthy onstage adversary.

When did you first meet Arnold?

FZ: I met him at the 1968 Mr. Universe competition. I’d won Mr. America the previous week and the promoters talked me into coming to the Universe. And there was Arnold — white and big and bulky with no legs, wearing white sneakers, seersucker pants and a Hawaiian shirt! [He laughs.] I was in shape, had a good tan and was cut, so I beat him and won that show pretty easily. I was one of the only guys ever to beat him in competition, and that show was mine to win. Right after the Universe, I went to California for a photo shoot and stayed with Arnold in his apartment, sleeping on a cot for two weeks. We trained at Gold’s in Venice, which was brand new — a big, bright space full of new equipment and serious, competitive guys. We’d get up, eat, go to the gym, eat, go to the beach, shoot, eat, go to the gym, eat, go to sleep, and I thought, “This is the life!” I was getting into really great shape and realized that California was where I needed to be. I relocated soon afterward.

Once settled in Cali, did you continue training with Arnold?

FZ: We all trained together, me and Arnold and Franco [Columbu], and Dave Draper, too. We were all part of the circle. I worked as a math teacher, so during the year I trained in the afternoons with everyone, but over the summers I would do two-a-days, morning and evening. In 1970 Arnold and I trained together intensely for the NABBA Mr. Universe in London. Winning that show was a big feather in your cap in those days, so we wanted to capture those titles.

What was your training like for that competition?

FZ: Our regimen was very focused, which I loved, because that was how I’d trained alone for so many years. The workouts were very well-paced without much rest between sets, a high-intensity volume training system with a three-way split routine six days a week: chest and back on Mondays and Thursdays, legs on Tuesdays and Fridays, and delts and arms on Wednesdays and Saturdays with Sundays off. It was grueling, but it worked remarkably well. We got into really great shape, and Arnold won the Pro Mr. Universe and I won the Amateur.

When you say “volume training,” what sort of volume are you talking about?

FZ: We did lots of sets. Lots. Lots. For example, we did full squats, going well below parallel, on leg day. We started with 135 pounds, went up to 185, then 225, 285, 315, 365, and 405. For each set I did 10 reps — Arnold only did eight. (I was better at squatting because I had shorter legs than he did.) So if you’re doing the math that’s 70 squats per workout, 140 per week, using heavy weight. Brutal.

Did you use any advanced training techniques?

FZ: We didn’t go to failure a lot; sometimes we’d do forced reps before a contest to push past a peak, but mostly we’d pyramid up for 6–7 sets. Surprisingly, Arnold didn’t use very heavy weights for a guy his size, but his form was great and he really knew how to isolate his muscles. He’d do curls with only 35-pound dumbbells, but because his form was so great and he’d squeeze each and every repetition, he got great results.

Did you learn any lessons from Arnold about training?

FZ: We learned a lot from each other. For example, he showed me how to get a biceps peak by supinating my wrist as I curled the weight. In return, I showed him how to develop triceps by introducing him to the one-arm dumbbell triceps extension, which he’d never done before training with me.

What about posing — did you practice that together as well?

FZ: We used to have mini posing clinics, me, Arnold and Franco, in his apartment and we’d critique each other. Later, when Arnold retired, we’d go to him and pose, and he’d tell us every little aspect we needed to work on. Once in 1977, Robby Robinson, Boyer Coe and I went to him before a competition and posed, and he said, “Tonight, Frank, you would have been third. You lost your balance three times, your foot placed was too far forward and you need to twist a bit more to the side for this.” He shared all this stuff in incredible detail that could make or break a routine. He was one of the best posing coaches ever.

Did you and Arnold hang out socially?

FZ: All the time. We’d go to Tijuana and buy souvenirs, or practice archery at the local high school. It was funny because Arnold would always hit the very first arrow right in the center of the target, but after that he could never hit the center again. I’d been shooting a long time so I would beat him regularly. I could also beat him pretty handily at bowling [he laughs]. I liked to do activities with Arnold that I could beat him at!

Arnold, Franco, Frank

Arnold and Frank’s Bodypart Split

Monday & Thursday – Chest & back

Tuesday & Friday – Legs

Wednesday & Saturday – Shoulders & arms

Sunday – Off

Five Little-Known Facts About Frank Zane

Frank Zane

  • He is a master archer
  • He plays the harmonica and the guitar, sings and makes his own flutes out of bamboo
  • He once bought a used BMW of Arnold’s for $1,500
  • His first job was setting up pins in a bowling alley at age 15
  • He wrote and performed a song for Arnold at the Arnold Classic:


In my life, been fortunate enough
To know Arnold Schwarzenegger, and that’s no bluff.
Training with him, best workout partner ever had,
Showed me how he’d win, and for that I am glad.
Before a contest my biggest thrill I think,
Was showing him my posing and watching him blink
He’d say ‘Wow, you’re looking really fine,
Now do that vacuum pose one more time!’
To learn more about my training workouts and read some awesome training stories from the golden era –  check out my Ultimate Bodybuilding Bundle which includes my 3 best-selling books (over 900 photos total) and my Train with Zane DVD.  ON SALE NOW with 30% off and FREE SHIPPING>>>https://www.frankzane.com/shop/ultimate-bodybuilding-bundle/
In his book Symmetry, Frank Zane shares how the “Legends of Muscle Beach” – himself, Arnold, Dave Draper, Franco Columbo, and photographer Artie Zeller used to hold mock competitions and pose for each other to determine which areas they needed to focus on for their next competition.
Frank Zane is resurrecting this old school tradition by offering his own Posing Clinic and Training Seminar at his Private Studio in the San Diego California area on June 24th and 25th.  A few spots remain – check it out here…https://www.frankzane.com/seminars/

Training Specialization in Winter by Frank Zane

Winter is the best time to take stock of your physique and ask yourself what needs the most improvement. Start with your symmetry. The question here “Is one side more developed than the other?” Symmetry or bilateral symmetry as it occurs in humans infers that one side of your body is a mirror image of the other. But it never is, and through sports or your occupation (check out the one big forearm on carpenters and tennis players) one side will be more developed and even shaped differently than the other. The best way to improve asymmetry is by using dumb-bells as much as possible.

Spring ‘Building The Body’ Quarterly Magazine is Now Available!

BuildingTheBodyThe Spring 2016 issue of Building the Body quarterly just arrived and we will be mailing it out all this week.  We have a new printer and I’m very happy with the quality of this issue, photos are sharp and the articles interesting.  Here’s what’s included:

  • Engaging the Mind in Bodybuilding explores internal versus external focusing during a workout.  What do you think about while you train? Mind Muscle Connection claims that there is no need to make the mind muscle connection because it is already established.  Learn how and why.
  • Vince’s Secret Locker reviews a new book by Karl Coyne which includes Vince Gironda’s training ideas in detail.  This blast from the past is full of interesting information.
  • A Stronger Rotator Cuff gives a training program to strengthen an area that often troubles bodybuilders, me included.  Good idea to do this kind of training before a shoulder injury occurs.
  • The One Arm Triceps Extension is my favorite triceps exercise and the best movement for developing the long posterior head of the triceps.  Here’s the best way to do it.
  • Mr. America competition is coming up July 1st and 2nd at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Washington D.C. I will be conducting a ‘Bodybuilding – From Womb to Tomb’ seminar from noon to 2 pm on the 2nd.
  • 91 Day Wonder Body is being proofed right now and we are planning a publication date around the end of May.  You can get an autographed copy by ordering now.
  • Egg White Perfection new batch has arrived and it is better than ever.  I’ve been having the protein drink on my YouTube channel and it is my favorite quick meal replacement.
  • Repetition is the basis of learning.  How do we best remember things and what is the best rep range of certain exercise movements are questions answered.
  • Why Stretching? It’s a question that need answering because you can stiffen up if you don’t stretch.  We do it between sets of an exercise. Learn all the benefits.
  • Entrainment with the Mind Muscle Meditation Machine tell how you can get stress management and the positive effects of meditation with this wonderful device and how to get one.
  • Introducing Lou Roehn MS, CSCS – He is a bodybuilder, cardiac rehab specialist and our new science editor.
  • Muscles of Old – Learn why mature bodybuilders keep their strength better than non- exercisers even though their muscle tissue isn’t much different from those the same age who don’t work out.
  • Email – We get many emails and in this issue we share some of our favorites.
  • Frankly Speaking describes our new eBay Store and gives a little background on the artist who created the drawings on the front and back covers, Dennis Parrish.

Subscribe now if you aren’t already a paid subscriber, and receive a 10% discount on food supplement orders.

All the best in your training,


Frank Zane’s – HARDEST HITTING Protein Powder!

Want to take your workout to the next level?

Here is one of the most important parts of your daily rituals  – DAILY PROTEIN POWER SMOOTHIES made with Frank Zane’s Egg White Perfection Powder.  Order yours today and drink right before your workout for a burst of energy and to build your High Def Body.   Check out my favorite recipe below and order yours today here…  www.frankzane.com/supplements/protein_egg.html


Here is one of my favorite recipes…


1 cup of spinach or power greens

1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk or water

2 scoops of Frank Zane’s Egg White Perfection Powder

1/4 cup frozen blueberries

1/2 fresh banana

2 to 4 ice cubes

BLEND in Nutribullet or Blender just until all ingredients are mixed.

FRANK ZANE’S EGG WHITE PERFECTION POWDER – The HARDEST HITTING PROTEIN POWDER ON THE MARKET!  https://www.frankzane.com/supplements/protein_egg.html

Two scoops (50 grams) of my delicious Egg White Perfection has no fat or cholesterol, trace of carbs, only 150 calories and provides 36 grams of highest quality pure protein. This makes it easy to get an ample amount of protein in your diet for growing and maintaining lean muscle mass while minimizing carbohydrates, fats and calories.

My Egg White Perfection formula contains L-Glutamine in free form to fuel brain and body, boost immune system*, plus digestive enzymes papain and bromelin, sunflower lecithin, vanilla flavors and sweetening (stevia). It is flavor engineered to enhance the taste and mix easily with your favorite liquid in seconds. My formula with all FDA approved ingredients including free form L-Glutamine, helps me train harder and feel my best. For a quick protein fix pour 8 ounces of juice in a shaker, add one scoop of protein, and shake for 10 seconds. As a delicious dessert take ten strawberries, add yogurt, two scoops of protein, mix with a spoon, add handful of walnuts, and eat. Or sprinkle on top of freshly cooked oatmeal and sweeten with agave. My secret of great muscle tone and definition is to maintain an optimum protein to carbohydrate ratio while you keep fats in check.

Frank Zane’s MOST POWERFUL Secrets to Body Building Success

Hi everyone,

A few years ago I was interviewed by BodyBuilding magazine about my quest for muscle and the things that I did – and continue to do on a regular basis to ensure my success.

The article below outlines my approach and the philosphies that I promote in my books and in my one-on-one training sessions at my studio here in the San Diego area.  Check it out and I hope it helps you in your quest to achieve your Hi Def Body!

Find more tips, tools and nutritional products – such as my popular Egg White Perfection Protein Powder at www.FrankZane.com.



Bodybuilding legend Frank Zane teaches his disciples how to achieve physical perfection through one-on-one training at The Zane Experience. Bodybuilding.com makes the pilgrimage to Zane’s retreat to give you an inside look at his philosophies.

The Zen Of Zane

The ideal modern male physique has shifted from the wasp-waisted men of the past to 5’9″ behemoths who tip the scales at 250-plus pounds with 3 percent body fat. This superhero mentality has even found its way into our kids’ plastic toys–GI Joe and other action figures now look more steroidal than baseball’s all-star game.

Yet, most American guys prefer a more natural, smaller-yet-muscular look. So where did it all change? And how can you achieve the physique you really want?

The answer to both questions may reside with Frank Zane. It’s hard to find a guy, straight or gay, who doesn’t want Zane’s body from the late 1970s in one way or another. In 1968, a young Frank Zane achieved one of his most important bodybuilding milestones: He not only won the 1968 Mr. America and Mr. Universe titles, but he also beat Arnold Schwarzenegger.

zen-of-zane_asmWho doesn’t want Zane’s body from the late 1970s in one way or another?

Zane was a throwback to Steve Reeves–and the Greeks before that.

“Arnold wasn’t ready to win, yet,” Zane says. “He was just a big smooth guy without a tan. I didn’t see him as competition in that show. “But Joe [Weider] was all over Arnold,” Zane says. “Everyone could tell he was destined for greatness.” Zane won that battle, but he would lose the physique war.

“I just got beat by a chicken with 17-inch arms,” Zane says Arnold said of him at the time. Zane was 5 inches shorter and more than 50 pounds lighter than Arnold, but he was also better proportioned and in better condition. “Arnold’s comments fueled me, but you couldn’t stay mad at him. He’s such a diplomat.”

Arnold would go on to win six Mr. Olympia titles and then retire before Zane would win his three. Then, in a typical outflanking maneuver, Arnold came back in 1980 to snag a seventh win in Australia, where Zane was expecting to pick up his fourth. Game, set, match to the Terminator.

That helped set the stage for today’s bodybuilders, whose size often rivals that of blue-ribbon winners at the state fair.


Zane cites Steve Reeves, who would go on to star in numerous Italian Hercules films in the 1950s, as his role model. “Everyone can relate to the way he looked,” Zane says. “Who can relate to Jay Cutler?” Cutler, the current reigning Mr. Olympia is nose to nose with Zane, but outweighs him by upwards of 70 pounds at their Olympia-winning weights.

img_32051285476293Who can relate to Jay Cutler? 

Judging standards have shifted to favor athletes like Jay Cutler.

If your goal is to achieve a muscular physique with excellent conditioning, but without any sort of enhancement, Frank Zane may be the man with the answers you seek.

The good news is that today Zane leads one-on-one training seminar sessions through his business “The Zane Experience.” You can go directly to this font of physique wisdom.

That is, if you can find him.

The Quest For Muscle

Frank Zane is considered by many to have been the most Greek God-like bodybuilder, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that The Zane Experience seminars are held at his personal gym in his home atop a Greek-monikered mount. Mt. Helix and a nearby peak jut from the California desert suburbs east of San Diego.

They look a bit like mismatched breasts: imagine a gigantic Tara Reid sunbathing nude on her back and you have a pretty good idea of what the landscape looks like from a distant vista. Zane’s abode is near the top of the larger mount, about where the aureole might start.

To get Experienced, you must complete a series of semi-mysterious tasks that are the requisite of any worthy quest. “I’ll give you directions to my house after you get to the hotel,” Zane says. No further information is imparted until you have successfully completed the first assignment of a long night in a third-rate hotel (you learn patience, Grasshopper).

In the morning, Zane provides complicated (but extraordinarily clear) directions to the location of The Zane Experience. Test Two: Can you follow directions? When you pull into his driveway, you feel like you’re beginning to feel the power of The Force. You’re starting to see the point of “paint the fence.”

Zane himself remains in great shape. He is approaching his 70th birthday, but at a first glance, Zane doesn’t look that much different from any other healthy Southern Californian in his age bracket. But, with Zane dressed in street clothes, you begin to notice his proportions are much better than those of a typical 69-year-old-bigger chest, smaller waist, thicker thighs.

Inside Zane’s equipment-heavy gym, he explains why getting to The Zane Experience is so complicated: “I never write down directions to my house or send them by email. I only deliver them over the phone.” Cool. It enhances the mystique, the legend. Ultimately, it would be a letdown if you could Google Earth Obi Wan Kenobi’s place in the Hamptons, wouldn’t it?

zen-of-zane_bLet’s Get Frank

“At its inception, bodybuilding was the yoga of the West,” Zane says. “Back when I first started competing it was about camaraderie; there was no money. It was about community.” Even back in his day, though, Zane was considered somewhat of an outsider.

In addition to poesy, Zane’s other endeavors include playing harmonica (he considers himself quite good), playing guitar, (he’s learning but still a neophyte-see “wife opinion”, below), fashioning wooden flutes, and studying the algorithms of math. He asks if I want to play a math game, and, despite the challenges of the third-rate hotel and a lack of sleep, I’m pleased to accept the challenge.

“No one’s ever beaten me,” he intones ominously. It’s hard not to envisage Alec Guiness wrapped in a chocolate-brown cloak. We play about ten games, and I beat him only twice. “You’re starting to see the algorithm,” he says, but explains that I haven’t understood it fully. (He’s right). I’m still trying to blow up the Death Star with my goggles on.

Zane speaks about the importance of effort. “Christine [Zane’s wife] tells me I’m terrible at the guitar. So, I don’t play when she’s around. I wait for her to go to the gym. But I try to play almost every day.” This is one of the most impressive takeaways from a day at Zane-adu: Embrace the things that you aspire to be good at but understand that you never will be.

So much of our culture rewards the honing of innate talent, but today, Zane celebrates improvement over natural proclivity. That’s an inspiring shift in perspective from a personality who was the world’s best at what he had once dedicated his life to.

Embrace the things that you aspire to be good at but understand that you never will be.

Zane was never satisfied with his physique, even when it was the world’s best.

The Zane Experience

Today, Zane makes the bulk of his income from his books and the quarterly mag “Building the Body” and from The Zane Experience. So, what does Frank offer at his personal fitness retreat? First, the opportunity to bask in the company of a man who developed one of the world’s best physiques in the history of humankind; second, the opportunity to learn.

The Zane Experience may not be for all tastes-Frank has training philosophies that speak to certain training mentalities more than others. Here’s a smattering of what you’ll be taught at one of his individual sessions:

At its inception, bodybuilding was the yoga of the West,” Zane says. “Back when I first started competing it was about camaraderie; there was no money. It was about community.


  1. Learn the Zen/Zane of the set.

“When you’re performing a weight set, there is nothing else.” Zane says that you must learn to get in touch with the sensation of performing the exercise. “Don’t focus on anything but the sensation, not even the breathing. When you’ve advanced to a state where you are one with the set, your breathing will be in sync with the movement.”

Zane recommends that you focus on feedback sensations against the background of counting reps. “It’s analogous to a meditation process.”

  1. Focus on quality.

Zane says that an over-emphasis on the number of reps or weight undercuts the quality of your set. This is kind of the Western-negative to the Eastern-positive of the previous point, but it’s important to grasp it from both perspectives. “Don’t work to a pre-set number of reps. Don’t work to failure. Who wants to fail?

Improving your body has nothing to do with failure. I only work to success.” Zane explains that you should conclude your weight set with a rep that you know you can complete with perfect form. Then stop. Rest no more than 90 seconds and perform your next set.

  1. Use the proper range of motion.

Back to Zen: Is the full range of motion best for you? Are partial reps better? “When you’re performing a set, you should work through the range of motion that helps you achieve the results you want,” Zane says. He explains that this is physically intuitive. “If you want to improve a particular part of your body, then you should perform a weight exercise that allows you to feel that part of your body working.

It’s about isolation and focus.” If you’re trying to build your pecs, and full-range benches pump up your tris or front delts, then switch to a range of partial reps that tax your pecs to the max. Can’t do as many reps? Can’t press as much weight? That’s muscle-building bliss–use the range that works your pecs most effectively.

When it comes to flyes, Zane recommends getting a deep stretch, but stopping at the point where your hands are about a foot apart above your chest. Taking your hands closer together allows your chest to rest rather than working it optimally.

  1. Picture yourself

“No one has an accurate assessment of themselves, not even champions,” Zane says. “You need external feedback.” Pictures are a very neutral form of feedback because they are not filtered through other people’s psyches. And you can view yourself more objectively in pictures than you can in the mirror, he says. Plus they have the advantage of comparative advantage.

If you take frequent shots of yourself from the same vantage point (lighting and all other variables being relatively equal), you have a much more objective place from which to judge yourself. And don’t be too harsh (or flattering) about the way you look; be as objective as you can. While this is an old bodybuilding maxim, Zane explains that it’s one of the most important tools for anyone striving to improve the way they look.

This is one of the most impressive takeaways from a day at Zane-adu: Embrace the things that you aspire to be good at but understand that you never will be.

  1. Learn appreciation

“When I was at my peak, I was never satisfied with the way I looked. I always wanted more. Now, I look back at pictures of me from the past, and I think, That wasn’t half bad.” Okay, guys, that’s an important lesson: FRANK ZANE wasn’t happy with the way he looked at his peak in that moment when he had the best physique in the history of the world! Here’s the lesson: celebrate your improvements; don’t beat yourself up for what you can’t achieve.

  1. Take the long view

What’s the most important personal attribute in perfecting your physique? Genetics? Drive? Testosterone? “Continuity is how you build a physique,” Zane says. Follow his other philosophies with discipline and continuity and you’ll have the best physique your genetics allow for. A lot of guys (the hares) have better genes but if you work hard and consistently, you (the tortoise) can outperform them.

Zane And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance

When you work out with Frank Zane, you gain a deep understanding that your body truly is a machine. A more shallow reading might view Zane as a series of contradictions–that he has been excessively focused on the exterior while speaking about the importance of the interior.

But–and this is highly interpretive–one could say that Zane transcends that, believing that perfecting your exterior comes from within. Without the existential connection between your inner being and an understanding of the universe itself, it’s truly impossible to build a better, more beautiful body, however deep or shallow that goal may be.

Suck It Up

Frank Zane is famous for his “vacuum” abs pose, confoundingly difficult for many modern-day bodybuilders to perfect. To perform the pose, Zane, would lift his arms over head, dropping the forearms below the elbows (basically the start position of a two-arm dumbbell extension).

Then, he would pull in his abs so that they collapsed under his rib cage, giving his abs that impressive hollowed out look. To perform this pose, you need impeccable midsection control. Zane recommends the following abs routine to work up to it:

Dumbbell Pullovers: 4 sets of 15 reps

Roman Chair Sit-Ups: 1 set of 50-500 reps