How To Sculpt A Classic Physique – Tips From the King of Aesthetics

On June 3, 2017 by Physical Culturist

By: Fitness And Power

There’s no doubt that Frank Zane had one of the best-looking bodies ever, and even many of today’s 300-pound bodybuilding beasts agree with this. If any man has ever succeeded at sculpting an almost ideal male physique, it would be him – so it’s about time we took some advice about acquiring perfect aesthetics from the poster boy of the Golden Age of bodybuilding himself.

Sure, the sheer size of your muscles can do much for your look, but creating a well-proportioned, awe-inspiring physique is another skill altogether, and it has little to do with size. And Zane is its ultimate master. When guys focus too much on making a certain muscle group grow, they usually end up looking very unbalanced and… just plain weird.

During his peak years, Zane never weighted more than 200 pounds and yet he won three Mr. Olympia’s, snatching one of them from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even though modern bodybuilding pro’s focus a lot more on getting as big as possible than on developing perfect proportions, Frank Zane’s physique from the 70’s is still an ideal for many. As it turns out, most American guys prefer a more natural, smaller-yet-muscular look.

At 75 years old, Zane is still going strong and looking very lean and muscular, unlike other past champions whose bodies quickly deteriorated into saggy mess as they approached older age. How does he do it? And what’s the key to Zane’s impressive achievements – is it freakish genetics, or perhaps some unbelievable training secret?

Luckily, he has always enjoyed sharing his valuable knowledge with the younger generations and as you can imagine, he’s full of great practical advice gained from four decades of hard work, experiments, dieting and making mistakes.

Here’s what Zane told Train Magazine about the best way to build a timeless physique and keep it strong and ripped for the long haul. Read carefully!

Always Ahead of His Time

Frank used huge amounts of amino acids, like tryptophan and arginine back in the 1970’s, when no one really knew about them. And he was a hardcore believer in low-carb diets, which rose to prominence decades later. Still, he claims that nutrition-wise, nothing is radically different from how it was back in the day, with the exception of certain advances in amino acids and antioxidants.

“A supplement I’ve used for years is an equal mix of egg whites and whey protein, because egg albumen is higher in sodium and lower in calcium, while whey is the opposite”, he adds. “These are the two most biologically available proteins, which I’ll occasionally use as a quick meal substitute if I’m in a hurry.”

Create the Perfect Illusion

“What most people talk about is not symmetry; it’s bodybuilder symmetry. There is no such thing as pure symmetry between upper body and lower body. That’s not symmetry, that’s proportion”, explains Zane and adds that bodybuilders learn how to pose and present themselves so that it’s not obvious that the left and right side of their body are nowhere close to being even and symmetrical.

“I avoided poses where left and right were doing the same thing, yet people would always say I was very symmetrical. In fact, my left and right side were never even, and they definitely don’t match symmetrically” he says. He knew how to emphasize his strong points and avoided side poses as much as possible – he actually learned this from Bill Pearl.

Zane advises bodybuilders to avoid becoming obsessed with the numbers they’ve assigned to their body parts. Aiming to achieve impossible feats such as trying to make your neck, arms and calves be the same size, or simply focusing too hard on getting the perfect number is downright ridiculous and only leads to frustration. Why? Because perfection is unattainable, period. “At the end of the day it’s what people see that counts. Be sure to present the perfect illusion”, soberly reveals Zane.

There Are No Magic Tricks

One of the most annoying things about being a top-level athlete is that people will often approach you wanting to know about your secret magic routine or asking you to make them a program that will transform them into upper class physique competitors in a couple of weeks. Zane says that there were no miraculous routines behind his bodybuilding success. In fact, he says: “Everything works if you take the time to let it. I like showing people how to do things correctly, because using perfect form and developing the ability to isolate areas is crucial. Blood flow needs to get to the muscles for there to be growth.”

Time under tension is another vital part of making continual progress. Although he’s 75 years old and working around old injuries, Zane frequently attaches a rubber cable to the weight stacks in order to increase his TUT. What’s your excuse?

Frank Zane’s Favorite Training Split

Zane cautions us against training the upper body two days in a row because that will only serve as an invitation for shoulder injury. He’s right when he says that you will probably get away with it for a while, but it will eventually get to you. As he says, “You might get away with it when you’re young, but it will eventually get to you.”

In fact, the one thing he would do differently if he was to go back in time is avoid training excessively heavy before a competition, as this strategy earned him many injuries that he still suffers from today. “There are two kinds of lifters: Those who want to get big fast and those who want to do it slowly so they last longer. The latter is a far smarter choice.”

To build his amazing physique, he mainly used three-way training splits. The one that worked best for him was a split where day one involves upper body pulling movements, day two is all about legs and day three focuses on pushing exercises. “You should do this in train, rest, train, train, rest format”, he explains.

Stretching is an often neglected part of bodybuilding routines, but Zane is quite rigorous about it. According to him, regardless of which body part you’re training, you should do about ten different stretches that target it, each lasting 15-20 seconds, during the rest periods between your sets. “After a set, you want to rest and drop your heart rate. This is the ideal recovery tool as you relax into the stretch; it saves a lot of time and keeps you warm”, he adds.

And how does his routine look like today?

“Nowadays, I train twice a week. I do upper body one day and legs the other day. I also walk a lot and shoot archery, while training little bits with clients.”

Stay Motivated Through Success

New Year’s resolutions can be very easy to make, but incredibly difficult to follow through, and this is perhaps nowhere as true as it is in the case of training goals. At the beginning of every year, millions of people get the primary impulse to improve their shape and condition, but their motivation tends to dwindle by late March and then they return into the cycle of overeating and guilt-tripping.

Zane seems to think that people lose their motivation mainly because they never get true feedback on their progress, and also because they’re typically motivated through deficiency, constantly thinking about everything their physique lacks and how terrible they look.For many people, focusing strongly on their flaws can be useful for getting through the first phase of the training process, but this attitude will usually fail to propel long-term lifestyle changes. The motivation to start and the motivation to keep going are two completely different things.

In Zane’s opinion, if your motivation comes only from awareness of all the things you hate about your body, “you will always be unhappy and you will go backwards; you’ll be worse, not better.”

So how can we keep our motivation stable and long-lasting so that real gains can be made?

To him, the only answer to this problem is to become motivated through success. That’s a powerful attitude shift that can immediately push you in the right direction.


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