At his peak, bodybuilding legend Frank Zane had the most aesthetic, perfectly-proportioned muscular physique of all time – and he still holds the status of a personification of the ultimate masculine physical beauty to this very day. Most recently, Zane (74) shared some surprisingly honest advice for chest training for all lifters out there who are looking to increase the width and thickness of their pecs. In his article, he claims that “as you age, ditching the bench press isn’t such a bad idea”. What gives? Read below to find out!
Early in Zane’s career, when leanness was his primary objective, his training consisted of light weights and high reps. However, in his most glorious days, he implemented a combination of both light and heavy training to build a complete physique and maximally accentuate his muscularity while retaining his clean lines and efficiency of size.
After decades of experimenting and learning about the best way to train, Zane came to the mature conclusion that how much you bench matters only during the early stages of one’s development, and – brace yourselves – it might not be such a great idea to build the biggest pecs possible.
While we get that the sole idea of toning down your chest growth aspirations might sound unbearable, the three-time Mr. Olympia actually makes a solid point there.
“With aging, muscles invariably shrink, and bigger muscle masses can shrink more, leaving behind tissues that do not shrink as much as the skin. Any part of the body that gets too big and then shrinks will leave loose skin in its wake”, explains Zane in his article for Muscle & Fitness, adding that inevitable age-related skin changes worsen the problem even further. “The skin literally becomes thinner, revealing all sorts of minor imperfections that you might have gotten away with as a younger man. The problem is obviously compounded by shrinking muscles.”
Nobody could ever possibly get excited about replacing his once-impressive pecs with sagging man boobs, so what can be done to prevent this from happening?
Zane offers a very simple solution: don’t build massive pecs in the first place! That sounds reasonable enough, but it’s not really going to help the army of lifters who’ve already invested countless hours into increasing their chest size. His advice for them is equally categorical: unless you believe you’ll be able to handle the less-than-unpleasant sight of man boobs on the place of your rock-solid pecs, keep on regularly training your pecs with the right set of exercises as long as you’re able to move. But which exercises are most suited for this task?
Over the course of his rich bodybuilding career, Frank Zane found out that machine exercises that don’t put too much strain on the shoulders are ideal for keeping your pecs in great condition in the long term. He now trains his chest once or twice per week with peck decks, dips and incline presses, keeping the reps in the 6-12 range and working up in weight and down in reps for three sets.
To better isolate his upper chest fibers, he uses dumbbells for incline presses with a neutral grip; and to effectively train his outer and inner pecks he loads his peck deck machine with rubber bands that increase the tension at the end of the movement. “If you don’t have access to a good pec deck, then dumbbell flyes on a slight decline are best. It may be better than the pec deck if you do it right, stretching deep down each rep”, adds Zane. The third staple of his chest routine are parallel dips on a pin-loaded drip machine, which he does in his usual way, working up in weight and down in reps for three sets.
And his best advice for everyone who would like to eliminate the possibility of ever developing man boobs? Use these three moves in supersets or circuits. According to Zane, that’s the optimal way to maintain your chest in great shape as you enter the mature years of your life.
You have to take his words seriously – after all, this is the guy who had the best-looking body of all time and still looks pretty amazing at age 74! Hopefully, we will all use his training wisdom to age just as gracefully and break away from the old-timer stereotype.