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ARTICLE FROM FLEX MAGAZINE
The Legend and the Apprentice
Physique champ Sadik Hadzovic learns under the guidance of aesthetics icon Frank Zane.
The two had to meet. Just look at the resemblance. Sadik Hadzovic, owner of arguably the most aesthetic male physique in the world after winning the men’s physique title at the 2015 Arnold Classic, and Frank Zane, the man who set the bar for aesthetics during a bodybuilding career that saw him win three consecutive Mr. Olympia titles from 1977–79. No doubt Zane, now 73, could teach Hadzovic a thing or two considering his perspective and reputable wisdom for all things developed, chiseled, and symmetrical.
“What’s funny is, the past 10 years of my life, no matter what gym I went to, everyone has been comparing me to this guy Frank Zane,” says Hadzovic. “And I had no idea who he was. I literally thought that he was somebody my age who went to the same gym as me at different hours. Everyone kept telling me, ‘You look like Zane,’ and I’ve never even met this guy. I’m like, ‘What time does he train? Where’s he at?’ It wasn’t until a few years ago when I was on the Internet that I stumbled across some bodybuilding footage and saw Frank Zane. And I was like, ‘Holy crap, this guy is a former Mr. Olympia. That’s a f—ing compliment.’ And here I was thinking this guy was a normal dude.”
Finally, this past summer, Hadzovic flew out to the San Diego area to visit Zane’s personal gym for an impromptu physique evaluation and accompanying training tutorial courtesy of his aesthetic predecessor—all captured by FLEX photographer Per Bernal.
“It was incredible,” says Hadzovic. “To me, that was better than meeting the president of the United States. Frank Zane to me is like God. I daydreamed and thought about meeting this man, and not only did I get to meet him, but he’s also giving me his honest opinion and advice. I’m still in disbelief that it actually happened. I’m lucky.”
Zane praised Hadzovic’s blend of fully developed muscles, a tiny waist, and astute symmetry, but he also had constructive criticism. “Sadik has some great strong areas, but he’s got some weak points, too,” said Zane following the photo shoot. “And he needs to address those if he wants to make it to the top. You can’t just be wearing Bermuda shorts all the time. I mean, he’s at the top of the physique division now, but he’s a ways away from having what we would call a ‘classic physique’ as far as old-school standards go.”
Hadzovic doesn’t mind some critiquing, but he also understands the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it concept.
“I’m a very receptive person,” he says, “and I went into this experience like a sponge. I wanted to absorb as much as possible. The stuff that worked, I kept it and implemented it. The stuff that didn’t work, I just left it alone. I’m the best guy in the world at what I do, and I did it without Frank. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t learn new things. I’m constantly looking to improve. He’s someone I respect, so I know that if I implement 50% of what he taught me, it’s going to make me that much better onstage. I know the stuff that I like, I know the stuff that he likes, and I put them together and make my own little formula.”
Here, we break down all the pointers Zane gave Hadzovic. If the prodigy can translate his elder’s insight into an even more impressive stage presence, the men’s physique division could see an Olympia three-peat of its own.
Here’s an exercise that beginners and advanced bodybuilders alike think they have down pat. Not much to it, right? You lower the weight down until just before the plates rest on the stack, then you extend your knees all the way and hold the contraction for a count or two at the top of each rep. Zane has a different idea about how to perform leg extensions for carving in maximum quad detail.
FRANK SAYS: “Sadik needs to do a lot of leg extensions and basically learn to show cuts in his quads without having his knees locked all the time. That was one of the things we worked on. And then one-leg extensions is something he can do before competition using, like, four sets of 25 reps per leg with a limited range of motion—just from halfway up to locking out. Because that’s how you get the quads to come out, by tensing them a lot. I told him to do this every day.
But you don’t try to hold the top of the extension on each rep and squeeze. I see people push the weight all the way up and then try to hold it at the top, but you can’t do it. They catch it on the way down and then they drop it real fast. What I told Sadik was, push it up as hard as you need to, and then let it down slow. Always a slow negative.”
SADIK SAYS: “Frank said that I need more detail in my quads, and he said that I could accomplish this in a matter of four weeks time. He wants me to go into the 20– to–25-rep range. And he also wants me to do my leg extensions one leg at a time. And then I do 20 reps with both legs after we targeted each leg.”
DONKEY CALF RAISE
You’d expect to find a few classic machines from yesteryear in Zane’s personal gym. The donkey calf raise is one such piece that caught Hadzovic’s eye as he perused the weight room. But this machine is anything but a relic in Zane’s mind; he still considers it one of the best calf developers there is. Makes you wonder why so many gyms got rid of them.
FRANK SAYS: “They still make these Nautilus donkey calf raise machines. I have one of the originals from 1978. Donkeys are one of the best exercises for working your calves.”
SADIK SAYS: “Frank likes this exercise a lot. For me, I just saw that donkey calf raise machine and said, ‘Bro, that’s an awesome calf machine. Can I try it?’ I liked the way these felt.”
ONE-ARM DUMBBELL ROW
This is another exercise, like the leg extension, where Zane goes against the grain on technique. In this case, he tweaks the form to hit one common weak area of the lats.
FRANK SAYS: “Sadik needs lower lats. His upper body looks great. His upper lats are great. He has tremendous deltoid development and width and a small waist. But as the lats go down, they just sort of go straight down. They don’t sweep. They don’t curve around at the bottom.
“If you do dumbbell rows correctly, you can really get that lower, outer lat, so that’s why I showed him this exercise. I had him standing on a block to get a lower stretch. With this exercise, I got the best results when the upper body was parallel to the floor or slightly downward to the floor. A lot of times you see people doing this exercise with a knee on the bench and the upper body at a 45-degree angle to the floor. And they’re pulling it up and basically working traps and rear deltoids and they’re not getting lower lats. But Sadik still has to work on his form. He has a tendency to arch his back. What he has to do is round his back out as he gets into the low-stretch position.”
SADIK SAYS: “Frank said I can bring out my lower lats a little more, so that’s why I’m standing on that wooden platform. And I used to bring the dumbbell down a little lower to my waist and navel area, but he wanted me to bring it up to where I’m actually touching my chest. So I found that a little unique.”
The pullover isn’t as popular these days as it was in the ’70s, but plenty of physique athletes are still doing it. But are they doing it correctly? Zane had a few pullover pointers for Hadzovic on this day.
FRANK SAYS: “As far as exercises that develop the serratus muscles, dumbbell pullovers will do it, and pullovers in general, really. If you have a Nautilus pullover machine, that can get it, but really the best thing is the dumbbell pullover. Who had a good vacuum pose? Well, not many people. Bill Pearl had it, and he did a lot of dumbbell pullovers. Mike Mentzer had a pretty good vacuum, too, and he did a lot of Nautilus pullovers. And then I had a good vacuum, and I did a lot of pullovers.
“Range of motion here is important. First thing to do is lie across the bench, and the base of your neck, right under the skull, should be exactly at the edge of the bench. And then you want to hang your head down as far as possible. You lower the dumbbell with your arms slightly bent as low as you possibly can—very, very low, try to touch the floor. And then, with your arms bent at the same angle, you pull it over so it stops right over your nose or your mouth. Don’t go past that, because if you do, you relax the areas you’re working. It’s not like a pullover machine where you have stress the whole way. You only have it from all the way back until over your face, and that other portion you can’t get with the pullover; you have to get it with the straight-arm pulldown. If you do, you have a superior combination. That pullover/pulldown superset is great for popping out the serratus.”
SADIK SAYS: “I’ve been doing pullovers for a long time, but one thing Frank told me is that I have a tendency to hyperextend my back. So he wanted me to keep my lower back in more of a neutral position.”
The straight-arm pulldown is an exercise that requires a high degree of mind-muscle connection to hit the desired target. It’s an isolation move that can easily cease to isolate when you use too much body English. Most people consider this a dedicated lat exercise, but not Zane.
FRANK SAYS: “With any exercise, you have to discover if you’re doing it right by, first of all, feeling the pump in that area while you’re working it, and then getting sore there the day after the workout. That’s how you find out what’s working what. With this exercise, you should feel it in the serratus and also the posterior head of the triceps, just as you do with pullovers. I would work that combination as the last exercises in my chest routine, and then traditionally I work triceps right after that, since my triceps are pumping up somewhat. The last exercise on the body part sort of has a transition into the next body part.
“We’re using what’s called a Tri-Bell attachment. If I did these with a straight bar, it would be with a closer grip.”
SADIK SAYS: “Frank didn’t want me to squeeze and hold at the peak of the contraction. He’s all into tempo and movement, so he doesn’t want any holding or contracting at the peak.”
ONE-ARM & TWO-ARM LAT STRETCH
Traditional stretching techniques are a lost art in modern-day bodybuilding as well as in the fitness community at large. But Zane still swears by it, placing as much emphasis on stretches as he does on lifting sets.
FRANK SAYS: “The way we train here at my gym is, immediately after we do a set we do a stretch that works the body part we’re training. So if you’re doing, let’s say, front pulldowns or low cable rows, you do a two-arm lat stretch to keep the blood in the area, to keep it warmed up, and to enhance flexibility. The one-arm lat stretch is just hitting one lat at a time, and that’s what we do right after one-arm dumbbell rows to pop out the lats.
Enhanced flexibility will help your posing, but it will help in your workout, too. You’ll get a better pump, you’ll stay warmed up, you’ll lessen the chance of injuries, you may even be stronger on your next set. So it helps everything. I think if you don’t stretch enough and you just train heavy and slow all the time, you will lose your range of motion to some extent. You’ve got to train that too.”
SADIK SAYS: “In between every set, Frank had me stretch. And I’ve been doing that religiously on back days ever since.”
HADZOVIC’S TRAINING SPLIT
DAY 1: Chest
DAY 2: Back
DAY 3: Legs
DAY 4: Delts
DAY 5: Cycle repeats (no rest days)
“I do HIIT cardio every single morning in a fasted state,” says Hadzovic. “I train abs every other day, and I don’t train arms anymore because I don’t want them to get too big. I like training arms, but we have to cater to the judges.”
ZANE’S TRAINING SPLIT
DAY 1: Back, biceps, forearms, abs
DAY 2: Abs, thighs, calves
DAY 3: Chest, shoulders, triceps, abs
DAY 4: Rest
DAY 5: Cycle repeats
BONUS TIPS FROM BODYBUILDING’S ZEN MASTER
ONE-ARM DUMBBELL OVERHEAD TRICEPS EXTENSION “This is one of the best, if not the best, exercise for the posterior head of the triceps—but only if you get a deep stretch,” says Zane. “I encourage people to lean back a little bit and hold the upper arm close to the head, go way down behind the neck with the dumbbell and don’t quite lock out at the top. Stop just a little short of lockout. With a lot of exercises, locking out is resting the area we’re working. We don’t want that. We want to go right to the point where the tension is increased to the max, and then go back down with it.”
OVERHEAD TRICEPS STRETCH Zane advises, “The best stretch after pullovers is the one-arm shoulder stretch where you pull your elbow back with one arm at a time. You want to pull your elbow back as far as possible. If you can’t get it back real far, you’re not really going to get maximum serratus development.”