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When bodybuilding legend Frank Zane talks about training, you should probably listen. The three-time Mr. Olympia winner was a force in his heyday of the late 1970s, and many fans of the sport consider Zane, who retired from competition due to injuries in 1981, as having one of the most aesthetically-appealing physiques of all time.
Now, at age 79, Zane is still active in the fitness community. He’s recently used his social media channels to connect with fans and dole out advice about his favorite exercises like the dumbbell curl. Zane also took some time to talk to Men’s Health for a wide-ranging conversation about his career, the routines he follows now as he’s gotten older, and—importantly for anyone looking to achieve their goals in the gym—his best training tips.
Even though Zane comes from the old school, long before the start of #fitspo and other practices of the modern fitness landscape, he understands the benefits that external sources and techniques can have to motivate you to go to the gym and work hard every day. His advice ranges from using physical tools, as you might expect from someone on the cusp of their eighties, to a more modern trick to keep yourself on the right track.
“Everyone needs a concrete objective,” Zane said. “Before you start going to the gym, write down specific goals. Take a notebook, and draw squares on the page that let you accurately track the information you’re going to be recording.” That’s solid advice for anyone looking to follow a program to get results—if you don’t track it, you can’t follow your progress from Day 1 onward.
But his second piece of advice might sound a little different: get some high quality photo work done. “Get someone to take progress pictures—before, after, and along the way,” Zane advised. “When I say pictures, I don’t mean photos in the mirror or “selfies” on the phone. I mean having another person photograph you, so you can see how you look on camera, in real life.”
While Zane’s experience as a bodybuilder was absolutely focused on his appearance—the competitions are based on scoring how each competitor’s muscles look, after all—his suggestion to keep track of yourself via photos someone else takes isn’t just for vanity’s sake. “When you’re looking at yourself in a mirror, that image is reversed,” he said. “When you’re looking at a selfie, that’s a camera angle you can manipulate to look the way you want. You need objective photographic evidence. Then, as you begin to make documentable progress, you will get more motivated. You’ll see that you’re getting closer to your goals. You’ll have the evidence to back this up.” Since you have a phone at your disposal, instead of needing to develop film as Zane would’ve in his heyday, this should be simple. Just find a workout buddy you trust, and document as much of each other as you can.
Want even more tips from one of bodybuilding’s biggest names? Check out the full interview to see what Zane had to say about training as you age, common gym mistakes, and more.
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