The following extract comes from Frank Zane’s excellent bodybuilding work: The Workouts -Personal Training Diaries, which is available from his website. Zane, a three time Mr. Olympia, is one of the few bodybuilders to defeat Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime and is possibly the most aesthetic man to win an Olympia. The polar opposite to the ungainly Bodybuilding’s current mass monsters, Zane’s training approach focuses on progressive overload and pumping the muscles with blood in order to sculpt a defined and proportional physique. What’s more Zane has used variations of this workout throughout his training life, making it one of the most effective programs for both novice and advanced lifters.
Check it out below.
This is a three-way split, emphasising pulling muscles on Day One, legs on Day Two, and pushing muscles on Day Three:
Day 1 – Back, Biceps, Forearms, Abs.
- Wide Grip Deadlifts: First 3 sets (15 reps, 12 reps, 10 reps) from the floor and remaining 3 sets (10 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps) from blocks. Occasionally do a 7th set for 6 reps.
- T-Bar Rows: 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps using 7-foot Olympic Bar
- Front Pulldowns: 3 sets x 8-10 rep. Stretch the lats between sets.
- Dumbbell Row: 3 sets x 8-10 rep. Stretch the lats between sets.
- One Arm Dumbbell Concentration Curls: 3 sets x 8 -10 reps. Hold the Dumbbell at the top of the movement, squeeze the biceps and lower the dumbbell slowly.
- Alternate Dumbbell Curls: 3 sets x 8 -10 reps
- 45 degree Incline Dumbbell Curls: 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps
- Barbell Reverse Curls 12 reps
- Seated Barbell Wrist Curls 20 reps. Perform twice and after each set stretch out the forearms.
- Crunches super-setted with leg raises, performing 50 reps each.
- Hanging knee-ups and seated twists, performing 50 reps each. As many sets as necessary. When training for Olympias, Zane did as much as 1,000 reps for Abs.
Day 2 – Thighs, Calves, Abs.
- Leg Extensions: Just a few warm up sets to get blood pumping to the thighs.
- Back Squats: 6 sets (15 reps, 12 reps, 11 reps, 10 reps, 9 reps, 8 reps). Go parallel with slower negatives than positives.
- Leg Press: 15 reps, 12 reps, 10 reps. Concentrate on going deep on the negative and not locking out at the top.
- Lying Leg Curls: 3 sets (12 reps, 11 reps, 10 reps). Stretch hamstrings in between sets.
- Leg Extensions: 3 sets (12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps). Stretch Quads in between sets.
- Standing Calf Raise: 3 sets x 15-20 reps. Stretching the calves for roughly 15 seconds in between sets.
- Donkey Calf Raise: 4 sets x 20-25 reps
- Seated Calf Raise: One four part drop set i.e. without rest do 120 x 5, 110 x 5, 100 x 5 and finally 90 x 5. Stretch the calves for 15 seconds afterwards.
- Anything except hanging knee ups in order to rest the upper body.
Day 3 – Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, Abs.
- Barbell Bench Press: 6 sets (12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps, 6 reps, 4 reps, 2 reps). Use a shoulder wide grip and don’t lock out at the top. Stretch the pecs in between sets and be sure to use slow negatives.
- 70-degree Incline Dumbbell Press: 10 reps, drop angle down, 8 reps, drop angle down, 6 reps, drop angle down, 4-6 reps.
- 10-degree decline dumbbell flies: 3 sets (12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps).
- Cross Bench Dumbbell Pullover: 3 sets (12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps).
- Close Grip Bench Press (Hands about 12 inches apart): 3 sets (12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps).
- One Arm Overhead Extensions (holding onto a support and leaning slightly back): 3 sets (12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps). Stretch triceps in between sets.
- V-Grip Pressdown: 3 sets (12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps). Hold the the contraction for a full second with each rep.
- Bent Over Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 3 sets (15 reps, 12 reps, 10 reps). Stretch shoulders in between sets.
- Side Cable Raise: 3 sets (12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps). Occasionally this would be done 3 x 12 switching from arm to arm without rest.
- The minimum program used was leg raise 4×25 superset with ab crunches 4×25, followed by 100 seated twists and 4 x 25 hanging leg raises.
- Either stationary bike for 15-20 minutes or run a slow mile and a half.
If you wish to learn more about Zane’s nutritional or workout approaches I highly recommend you check out his website, which is a veritable treasure trove of information.
Not a lot of volume huh? How many rest days per week? Thing with Zane is he never trained that heavy, but could express that strength if he needed to and could squat a respectable amount from what I’ve read. Never went to high in the cals either. Very holistic approach to training overall that would best serve anyone looking to cover all the basics of health, longevity as well as an obviously great physique. Great article Connor
Its remarkable isn’t it given his physique? Regarding rest Zane generally seems to have done something along the lines of Back/Biceps – Rest – Legs – Chest/Triceps – Rest and repeat. From what I hear he could squat upwards of 400lbs when he wanted so you’re right about possessing strength. Definitely agree that Zane had a more holistic bodybuilding approach than many of his contemporaries. The fact he still works out is testament to that! Glad you enjoyed it and hope the competition prep is coming along well.
What about resting periods? How long were they between sets?
Hi Arturs, I don’t have it to hand but I’d imagine somewhere between 90 to 120 seconds. Zane is an advocate of stretching the muscle groups in between sets to get blood pumping into that area.