Bodybuilding legend Frank Zane is now sharing the training split that led him to win three Mr. Olympia titles. In a recent YouTube video published on December 26, 2023, Zane detailed his split, discussed his favorite workout equipment, and revealed his ideal movements for a leg day routine.
As one of the most calculated bodybuilders to ever compete, fans are still captivated by Frank Zane decades following his retirement. Heralded as the ‘Godfather of Aesthetics,’ Zane’s ability to marry different factors of the sport together is what made him such an imposing champion.
From sunbathing, stretching, and visualization, to meditation, Zane commanded a one-of-a-kind career. He is one of the few men who managed to defeat Arnold Schwarzenegger and garnered experience competing against other icons including former three-time Mr. Olympia Sergio Oliva and Robby Robinson.
At 81 years old, Zane hasn’t slowed down physically or mentally, often taking to podcasts to share never-before-heard information about his career. This time, the former bodybuilding champion walked fans through the training split that resulted in massive success as an IFBB Pro.
Frank Zane Details Training Split Used as Mr. Olympia, Opens Up on Various Movements and Leg Exercises
When it came to his physique, Zane underlined that he followed a ‘three-way’ training split for his entire career. Day one consisted of back, biceps, and forearms, day two focused on legs, and day three was comprised of chest, shoulders, and triceps.
- Day 1 — Back, Biceps, Forearms, abs
- Day 2 — Legs, abs
- Day 3 — Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, abs
- Day 4 — Rest
Zane emphasized that he trained abs every day and performed aerobic activities for approximately 12 minutes daily, which would usually take place on a treadmill, rowing machine, or stationary bike.
“I wouldn’t do full body workouts in one workout. It’s just too much to attend to. I would generally, it was basically, I would follow a three-way split. It would be pulling muscles that’s back, biceps, forearms day one. Legs day two. Chest, shoulders, triceps day three. Rest day four. And then I’d do abdominal work every day.”
“I’d do some aerobics too which you know, was basically 12 minutes or so on the treadmill at the end of my workout or the stationary bike or the rowing machine. There’s a series of stretches that I do. After I do a set, I immediately do a stretch, hold it for 10-15 seconds,” explains Frank Zane.
For Zane, he always wanted to train body parts that worked in tandem with each other.
“I work a part of my body. What works best for me is the three-way split. Body parts that work together.
Like back, biceps, and forearms, when you work your back, you’re also working your biceps and forearms. Chest, shoulder, triceps, when you work your chest, you’re also working your shoulders and triceps.”
Next, Zane shared his thoughts on the barbell press behind the neck, a movement that has been labeled unsafe by some.
“It’s not that it’s bad for you but if you have some kind of pre-existing injury you could aggravate it. It depends on how you do it. It’s a good exercise but you have to do them right. I always did a slower negative than positive. I didn’t go really heavy.”
“Well I always had good form in my exercises. Basically, my idea was to make lighter weights feel heavier by using good form. That’s what I did.”
As for lat pulldowns behind the neck, Zane mentioned he used this exercise but not often.
“I think it’s good, you have to warm up with that. I didn’t do much of that, but I always did the front pull down, not so much behind the neck.”
Zane also used a parallel bar dip machine which he said worked ‘very well for him.’
“I do do them per se but I have a dipping machine. A parallel bar dip machine, which I sit down and do dips that way that way I can regulate the weight. So that worked very well for me.”
Another obscure exercise Zane talked about was hanging lat rows:
“That’s probably hanging upside down wearing a pair of gravity boots that I clip into an overhead bar and hang straight down and then pull the barbell upside down like that. I’ve done those, I don’t do them now but I’ve done them. It’s pretty good.”
While Zane always had a powerful lower body, he didn’t like to squat heavy as it wasn’t healthy. He specified that his go-to leg workouts were leg extensions, leg curls, squatting, and the leg press.
“Yeah I could handle poundage, but you know, it’s not healthy [squatting].”
“They did, they were always a strong point for me [my legs]. I did a three-way split and squatting was always a part of that. It was basically leg extensions, leg curls, squatting, those are the three things, and then leg press.”
Lastly, Zane opened up about all of his exercise equipment he still uses today.
“I have a horizontal leg press but anyway it’s really good. I have a pulldown machine and low cable row that’s made by the same company. They are really strong. They are made out of 3X3 metal. I’ve got dumbbells up to 60s starting at 25s and a beauty Bell set that goes from 2 and a half to 25.
I have a Nautilus multi-purpose machine that I do donkey calf raises on, I could do dips on it too if I wanted to. I have a pec deck. I have a rear deltoid machine which I can get in and just push back like this. I have a Nautilus pullover machine which I like a lot. I go in the back of it and I do triceps extensions with it. That’s what I really like and what I use it mostly for. That’s about it.”
This wasn’t the first time Frank Zane has discussed the efforts and measures he took to become a three-time Mr. Olympia. In addition to his three-way training split, Zane revealed that he would often train twice a day in his prime. This type of training schedule was common during Zane’s era, as Arnold Schwarzenegger also admitted to training twice a day on multiple occasions.
Even in retirement, Zane’s knowledge of exercise mechanics makes him uniquely qualified to offer advice to aspiring bodybuilders. Having always used a three-way split, Zane underlines the importance of sticking to a routine bound by simplicity.