Arnold Schwarzenegger Talks 1968 Loss to Frank Zane: A Reflection on Defeat, Ab Definition, and Calf Challenges

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In the illustrious history of bodybuilding, few names shine as brightly as Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Austrian Oak, a seven-time Mr. Olympia champion whose impact transcends the sport. 

In his new book, “Be Useful,” Arnold Schwarzenegger opens a window into the past, sharing insights into a pivotal moment – his 1968 loss to Frank Zane, the nuances of ab definition, and the challenges of calf development.

The Humble Beginnings

arnold schwarzenegger bodybuilding
via arnold schwarzenegger instagram

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s journey began in humble surroundings, and it is this very foundation that laid the groundwork for an extraordinary life.

From his early days, Arnold Schwarzenegger displayed an indomitable spirit and a passion for weightlifting that would eventually blossom into a storied bodybuilding career.

Through hard work and determination, he transformed himself from a young Austrian with a dream into an international icon with seven coveted Mr. Olympia titles.

Arnold Schwarzenegger vs Frank Zane

The 1968 loss to Frank Zane stands out in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s memory, a rare blemish on his otherwise impeccable record. 

Frank Zane, a quieter, more calculated presence on stage, possessed a physique that contrasted sharply with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s

The Austrian Oak, known for his boisterous charisma and massive chest, faced off against Frank Zane, a master of presentation, visualization, and posing conviction.

The Impact of Ab Definition

arnold schwarzenegger the austrian oak
via arnold schwarzenegger instagram

Reflecting on his loss, Arnold Schwarzenegger recognized a pivotal factor – ab definition. 

In the world of American bodybuilding, he found that emphasis on individual muscles of the midsection far exceeded that of Europe. 

Frank Zane’s victory, according to Arnold Schwarzenegger, was attributed to his impeccably defined midsection, resembling muscles chiseled from granite.

In his own words, Arnold Schwarzenegger acknowledges the disparity, “I have a normal six-pack, which looks good, but Frank Zane looked like each one of the muscles in his midsection was traced out of an anatomy textbook and chiseled from granite.”

The Calf Conundrum

Beyond a definition, Arnold Schwarzenegger delves into another aspect that he believes jeopardized his chances of victory – calf development. 

In the realm of bodybuilding, calves are the biceps of the legs, and Arnold Schwarzenegger felt that his 24-inch biceps did not align proportionately with his calves. 

He emphasizes the importance of proportionality, stating, “In my mind that threw my body out of proportion, which jeopardized my chances of winning Mr. Olympia and officially becoming the greatest bodybuilder in the world.”

Frank Zane: The Unique Competitor

frank zane height
via frank zane instagram

While Frank Zane may have emerged victorious in 1968, Arnold Schwarzenegger does not label him as his toughest opponent. 

In a revelation made earlier this year, Arnold Schwarzenegger reserved that title for the late Sergio Oliva, “The Myth.” He described facing Oliva as a monumental challenge, requiring everything he had to secure victory.

Frank Zane Bodybuilding Career

Frank Zane, a legendary figure in the world of bodybuilding, secured his place in history by clinching the prestigious Mr. Olympia title three times consecutively from 1977 to 1979. 

Beyond his dominance in the Mr. Olympia arena, Frank Zane’s remarkable career includes triumphant victories in the Mr. Universe thrice, along with titles in Mr. World and Mr. America competitions.

What set Frank Zane apart was not just his collection of titles but the unique characteristics of his physique. 

Renowned for his exceptionally small waist and aesthetically pleasing build, Frank Zane embodied the classic physique look that has become iconic in the realm of bodybuilding.

Remarkably, he maintained this aesthetic appeal while competing at a body weight below 190 pounds during his tenure as Mr. Olympia.

One of the defining moments in Frank Zane’s career was his victory over the iconic 7-time Mr. Olympia champion, Arnold Schwarzenegger

This triumph occurred at the 1968 Mr. Universe, where Frank Zane acknowledged that Arnold Schwarzenegger was not in peak condition and, in a light-hearted note, mentioned that the Austrian giant showed up seemingly enjoying some cake.

frank zane mr olympia 1977
via frank zane instagram

While Arnold Schwarzenegger may not have been thrilled about losing to the relatively smaller Frank Zane, the two champions forged a training partnership from 1969 when Frank Zane arrived in California until the early 1970s. 

Their training sessions marked a unique camaraderie between two titans of the sport.

Frank Zane’s illustrious career reached its zenith in 1980, which also marked the conclusion of his dominance at the top. In a show of protest against the 1980 Olympia, he boycotted the 1981 competition. 

However, he made a comeback in 1982, securing a commendable 2nd place. The 1983 Olympia proved to be Frank Zane’s swan song, ending his competitive journey with a 4th place finish after encountering an injury that necessitated shoulder surgery.

Following the 1983 Mr. Olympia competition, Frank Zane decided to hang up his posing trunks and retire from the competitive stage.

His legacy, however, endures as a testament to the artistry and grace he brought to bodybuilding, leaving an indelible mark on the sport that will be remembered for generations to come.

Legacy, Reflections, and Future

As Arnold Schwarzenegger, now 76, prioritizes health and longevity, he reflects on the golden era of bodybuilding, reminiscing about testing his physique against formidable opponents like Frank Zane and Sergio Oliva, and his dear friend Franco Columbu

His journey, marked by triumphs and introspective moments, is a testament to the enduring legacy of a man who not only shaped his body but also the very landscape of bodybuilding.

In the twilight of his career, Arnold Schwarzenegger remains a beacon of inspiration, reminding us that even in defeat, there are lessons to be learned, and in every challenge, there lies an opportunity for growth.

The tale of his clash with Frank Zane is not just a chapter in a book it’s a vivid illustration of the complexity, challenges, and sheer artistry that defines the world of bodybuilding.

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Tikkay Khan
Tikkay Khan
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