Bodybuilding legend Frank Zane still inspires fans at 81 years old. In a recent YouTube video on Mike O’Hearn’s channel, Zane looked back on competing against Sergio Oliva in 1967 at the Mr. Universe. In addition, he opened up about his best tips for longevity, where he advocated against peaking for long periods of time.
Zane, one of the most iconic bodybuilders of the golden era during the 1960s and 70s, cultivated a strong mental game en route to becoming a three-time Mr. Olympia champion. His unique ability to utilize meditation, visualization, and positive affirmations no doubt assisted him along his journey as a Pro.
Nicknamed ‘The Chemist,’ Zane is celebrated for his calculated approach to the sport. He left nothing to chance in his quest for a perfect physique. From muscle development, skin tone, posing, and workout routines, Zane developed a remarkable body that combined elements of artistry and hard work. During his storied career, Zane went toe-to-toe against legends such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robby Robinson, and Franco Columbu.
While building a successful legacy, Zane maintained low body fat and exceptional conditioning. In an appearance on The Menace Podcast, Zane told Dennis James that he used a low-carb diet year-round during his prime. Additionally, Zane said that he preferred to use sunbathing as a natural diuretic.
In retirement, Zane still offers the bodybuilding community a helping hand from time to time. He recently guided fans who were looking for useful stretching and recovery strategies. In a previous meeting with Mike O’Hearn, Zane also shared some uncommon exercises he used to fuel his Mr. Olympia title reign. Now, he’s back to discuss his career with O’Hearn.
3x Mr. Olympia Frank Zane Looks Back on Career, Competing vs Sergio Oliva: “He Blew Everybody’s Mind”
According to Frank Zane, at 81 years old, ‘all you have left’ is pictures because ‘the body fades.’
“You know that’s all you have [is pictures] in the end. That’s all you have because the body fades. You can hold on. You’re what Mike, 52?” asks Frank Zane.
“Yeah, 53,” O’Hearn said.
“Well, you’re doing good for that age. I was in decent shape in my early 50s too. But the older you get the harder it gets. The less motivated I was to keep doing it because there’s no good reason to keep up keep doing this.
Zane underlined that he modeled his career after the late Bill Pearl. His last competition came in 1983 at the NABBA Mr. Universe.
“My last show I think I was 41, 1983. I sort of looked at Bill Pearl’s career and the way he did things, his last competition he was 41, the NABBA Universe, I was actually in that against him. And of course, I always had my complaints about him because he was always smooth he was never really cut. He knew how to work that. He did that really well,” said Frank Zane.
In another blast from the past, Frank remembered losing to Sergio Oliva at the 1967 Mr. Universe, a show he said he wasn’t quite ready for. Oliva told him that he would one day win the sport’s top title, which later came true.
“That reminds me of a ’67 Mr. Universe contest in Montreal. I went up there. You know I really wasn’t ready for it to tell you the truth. I was saving for you know for a little bit into the future. And Sergio shows up at the last minute and he just psyched everybody out. And he was in shape too of course. But he just blew everybody’s mind. He looked incredible.”
“Oh, I knew what he had looked like. I had seen him before. I was friends with Sergio. He told me, he says, how do I put it, he says, ‘You’re going to win one of the top titles because you know how to do.’ You know how to do, you know, how to pose and all that stuff. So, I put a great deal of stock into that.
Zane Gives Crucial Tip for Longevity: “Don’t Stay Peaked, Stay Less Than Your Best”
Zane’s best piece of advice for athletes aiming for a long and healthy life is not to stay peaked for an extended period of time. As time passed, Zane realized he could only peak at his best one time a year.
“Yeah, I don’t get sick,” said Zane. “I always had this in mind, basically, don’t stay peaked. Stay less than your best. Always stay under. I always looked at the 94% number.”
“If you’re climbing Mt. Everest, you don’t stay up there do you? You can’t stay up there. You come down to base camp. You can live in base camp but you can’t live at the top. It’s too much sacrifice to keep doing that. You know what you have to do with the dieting and mental framework, you’re not meant to do that.”
“I always put in the work, it wasn’t like things came naturally to me. I always did the work,” said Zane. “It’s what sustains you. The thing is, I realized that I could only peak one time a year. Even doing it twice was too much. One time a year in the Autumn. I looked at it this way.
Frank doesn’t believe it’s healthy to sustain low levels of body fat for months or years at a time. Zane also mentioned that it was natural for him to peak in July, August, and September since those months were close to his birthday.
“I was born late June, so my periods of most growth in my life were July, August, September and that paralleled my competitive career. I was always in shape in the fall. That’s what was natural for me. If I tried to do more than that I wasn’t as good. Some of that is physical, a lot of it is mental,” explained Frank Zane.
“Don’t spend it all,” said Zane. “Don’t stay peaked. To be peaked, you have all this gold: if you want to stay deep, you have to keep spending it spending it spending it, you’re going to run out. You got to save some. Keep some in reserve.”
Before wrapping up the discussion, Zane told O’Hearn that bodybuilders need to achieve a ‘great unveil’ to find succes. He believes athletes hinder their chances on stage by offering fans consistent looks at their physiques before contests.
“Yeah, I never exposed myself in the gym. Well, you know, it’s like the great unveil. You don’t walk around that way. The whole thing about it is you have to shock people. When you go into the show, the unveiling should be exactly that, they should be astonished you look so good. The way you do that, is you don’t give it away ahead of time. You don’t do all this publicity where you’re posing in public where everyone sees you and knows what to expect.”
This isn’t the first time Frank Zane has taken a closer look at bodybuilders competing today. In January, the former three-time Mr. Olympia warned that competitors who rush to gain extra weight will ruin their symmetry and proportions in the long run. He also specified that building mass in extremities like the forearms and calves can help a body look more symmetrical.
There’s no denying that Sergio Oliva was a dominant force on stage. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger has looked back on competing against Sergio Olvia, and he described him as the toughest foe of his entire career.