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by Frank Zane
Zabo Kozewski asked aloud and to himself thousands of times: “What does it all mean?” It was his mantra. He was Zabo the Chief, 44 years old, when I arrived in Venice California in 1969. Zabo and Joe Gold built the original Gold’s Gym in 1965. There’s even a song about it:
Got to Gold’s Gym in 1969
In Venice 1006 Pacific Street
Hand made cinder block design
By Joe Gold and Zabo the Chief
There were solid concrete floor
Rubber mats, no frills
Not many windows, two doors
But there were very, very good mirrors.
Gold’s Gym 1969
Trainin’ here I felt really, really fine.
Zabo worked behind the desk on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I remember once, a new client came into the gym. Zabo was reading his book, so he looked up and asked, “What do you want?” The guy replied, “I want to buy a Gold’s Gym jacket.” The Chief said, “We’re all out,” and went back to reading his book as the client left.
Afterwards, Eddie who also worked there asked Zabo, “What are you doing? We have one in the back.” Zabo said, “I know, but if we sold it there wouldn’t be any left.” For Zabo, the book he was reading was more important than the client. That was Zabo.
What the Chief put his mind to was the most important thing. He was the King of Abdominal Development. Six days a week, from 6 to 7 am, the Chief was at the gym working his abs: 500 Roman chair sit ups and 500 leg raises. His abs were chiseled and deep, which complemented his extremely defined upper thighs. I concluded it was from these two exercises.
“When we trained on Muscle Beach in the 1950s, there were two stumps two feet apart, just high enough off the sand so you could balance on them with your hands and do leg raises. I always did 4 sets of 100 every day,” the Chief confided in me.
I marveled at the shape some of the guys there who were over 40, like Zabo and a guy named Chuck Collras. Chuck had won Mr. California. He was about 5 foot 4, weighed 150 lb, and was ultra defined. Ultra defined was the trend in California at that time. “I want to look like that when I’m 40,” I said to myself.
I studied how these guys trained. Pretty much anybody with any kind of a decent body in the gym trained the same way: 3 to 5 sets of gradually increasing weight, three exercises per body part, three way split, 6 workouts a week. A couple months before a contest, you would go to twice a day training. I could only afford that luxury in the summer when I wasn’t teaching school.
I trained three to five days a week during the school year, from October up to June, and then jumped right in to heavy workouts with Arnold and Dave Draper. Often, I’d end up with a stiff neck or upper back as a result. “What a pain in the neck. I’m sick of getting injured,” I thought to myself. Sometimes I said it out loud and the idea would gain momentum, potentially becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.