Frank Zane mastered his mind, body, and spirit to become a three-time Mr. Olympia titleholder (1977,1978,1979). In a recent appearance on the Rob Fletcher Podcast, Zane reflected on his storied career, competing against Arnold Schwarzenegger, and using visualization to conquer the Men’s Open division.
Zane was a student of bodybuilding who understood how to blend symmetry, proportions, and conditioning into a one-of-a-kind physique. Considered one of the godfathers of aesthetics, “The Chemist” proved himself during the golden era, battling against names like Schwarzenegger, Sergio Oliva, and Lou Ferrigno despite being regularly outsized by up to 40 pounds.
Whether it was intricate posing routines, meditation, or sunbathing for a drier look, Zane utilized every weapon at his disposal to elevate his game. At 81 years old, the Golds Gym Venice standout still brings value to the bodybuilding community. And in his latest venture, he opened up about some of his best-kept secrets for winning championships at the highest level.
Frank Zane Credits Visualization for Mr. Olympia Success: ‘The Key to Winning Is to Win it Ahead of Time’
Zane discovered meditation and visualization at the young age of 14. Elaborating on the techniques he still uses today, Zane said his goal is to “not think about anything” so that the mind is “completely free of pictures, words, and sounds.”
“I discovered a few books on meditation [at 14]. I studied them and adopted the techniques. I continued to practice,” added Zane. “It’s very important to be able to turn off your racing mind and get centered. Empty your mind of distraction.”
“20-30 minutes usually once a day, sometimes twice a day… yep usually [in the morning].”
“My goal is to empty the mind and not think about anything and so that the mind is completely free of pictures, words, and sounds. If I want to focus on something I just bring it in,” Zane shared. “Focusing on a point in your body is very helpful.”
Before becoming Mr. Olympia, Zane envisioned himself with gold, emphasizing that the key to success was to “win ahead of time.”
“Yeah I did [visualize myself winning the Olympia],” said Zane. “I also had an associated mantra with that: I have already won. Which broke down into, already won, four beats, already won. The key to winning I discovered is to win it ahead of time. Go in there with the attitude, of I already won.”
Zane kept things short and sweet for his career highlights and made mention of defeating Schwarzenegger during his tenure.
“Originally, it was winning Mr. Universe in 1968, beating Arnold. Winning Mr. World’s in 1969 in Belgium, winning NABBA Mr. Universe in 1970 in London. Then, the professional Mr. Universe Nabba in London in 1972, and winning the Olympia in ’77, ’78, ’79.”
“The Chemist” Talks Blood Scans, Supplements, Symmetry, and Exercises Per Body Part
As a fitness trainer and coach, Zane says he always encourages his clients to undergo blood workups.
“As much as possible. I always encourage them [clients] to have complete [blood] workups as much as possible for them,” said Zane.
When it comes to supplements in fitness, Zane prefers sticking to a 16 amino acid freeform capsule and taking vitamin and mineral supplements two or three times daily.
“There’s more of everything. There’s more bodybuilders. There’s more coaches. There’s more gyms, more and better equipment. More techniques, more food supplements,” said Zane. “For me, it’s amino acids in freeform. So I take one that is in a capsule, it’s 16 amino acids in freeform and I take a vitamin and mineral supplement and I take them usually in between meals at least twice a day sometimes three times a day.”
For symmetry, Zane stated it’s most important to address “your weak points.” By taking photos over time, he says imbalances can be corrected.
“Take photos and see what you look like. You have to know first, and then work your weak points. Keep taking photos to see how you start balancing out over time. Get feedback from experts and train those areas harder than the rest of you.”
Lastly, the 81-year-old advocated for “rhythmic and slow negatives” and taxing each body part with two to four different exercises when training.
“Both. It should rhythmic with a slow negative. It’ll work even if you don’t do slow negative but it’ll work better if you do. Rhythm is important. Slower negative is important too. Stretching between sets is important. You combine all three and you have the best possible combination.”
“Two to four [exercises per body part]. Smaller body parts like forearms you could get by with two. But body parts like back, probably the best is four.”
Given his health and longevity, fans and bodybuilders alike are curious about Zane’s methods and techniques. In a special sit-down with Mike O’Hearn, Zane touched on some of these practices and underlined that he didn’t like to compromise his health for bodybuilding preps. Zane eventually learned that his physique could only handle one or two peaks per season.
Decades after his retirement, Frank Zane remains a mastermind of bodybuilding, who to this day, is widely respected for his work ethic, and willpower, but especially for the degree of aesthetics he brought to the stage.
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