The Wrath of Khan

The enduring comeback of bodybuilding’s underground sensation Zack “King” Khan

The Wrath of Khan

You used to squat 550 for 8 reps. Do you think you’ll ever get back there again, and do you even want to get back there again?

I think I will. I know I want to. But it’ll just take time. The doctor told me once the tendons heal they’ll be stronger than before, so there’s no reason my legs shouldn’t be stronger and bigger than before. That’s what I’m trying for.

The last time you trained legs, what did you do?

I did leg extensions for five sets, and I went up to 60 pounds. I did leg curls for five sets, and I’m basically as strong as ever on those. I squatted for four sets with a bench and then four sets without a bench. And then I ended with leg presses on a Smith machine [lying on his back and pressing up on the bar] for four sets with two plates per side [180 pounds total].

Is there anything you do to help your legs other than your weight training and cardio workouts?

I get deep tissue massage, and I use heat therapy. I use these microwave heat bags, and I put them on my knees for like 10–15 minutes at a time to help the recovery of the tendons. I take extra care of my legs now. I make sure when I train I wear Under Armour tights to keep the heat on my legs.

What do your legs look like now?

I’ve been taking pictures, and I think people are going to be surprised by the progress. Everybody wants to see, so that’s why I’m keeping them covered for now, building the suspense.

How is your upper body?

My upper body is as strong as ever. I’m benching four plates [405] for reps. I’m doing 100-pound dumbbell curls, pushdowns, and pulldowns with the full stacks, shoulder pressing 140-pounddumbbells.

Do you still work with Neil Hill?

At the moment, no, because Neil is a contest prep coach, so at the moment there’s not much Neil can do for me. I have to listen to my own body and make my own way back.

Tell us about your gym in Sheffield, England.

It’s called ZKK Underground Gym. [ZKK are his initials.] I had another gym before, but the landlord wasn’t making his payments. So I looked around and found this small space. I can fit the main equipment in there, but it’s so small that I’m very selective about customers. I have about 20 members there, and that’s enough.

I know you’re doing leg presses on a Smith machine because you don’t have a leg press, and you don’t have a hack squat either. With all the emphasis you need to place on rebuilding your legs, why don’t you have more leg equipment?

That bloody hack squat machine [that he blew out his knees while using], I never wanted to see that bloody thing again! [laughs] I got rid of it. For more than a year, I didn’t really need any leg equipment, because I wasn’t training legs, and the gym doesn’t have much room. Now, though, I’m shopping for a leg press. I’ll get everything I need.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I wake up and do 20 minutes of cardio at home on a bike or treadmill. Then I eat breakfast and cook my meals for when I’m at work. I work at the government employment service, helping people get jobs. Luckily, I have breaks that allow me to get my meals in. Then after work, I go home and eat again and go to the gym and train. Afterward, I eat and check my emails and get merchandise orders [from his website] ready to go out the next day before I go to bed.

Everyone is waiting for you to make your pro debut. When are you going to compete again?

I’ll compete once my legs are up to scratch, and I show a picture [of his legs] to close friends I trust, and they say I’m ready. If I have to give it a bit more time, I will. I can’t rush muscle growth. I haven’t really had a proper leg workout since the accident in June 2010. At the moment [January 2012], I’m just training to get my strength back. But I haven’t started training the way I need to train to stimulate growth. I need to use heavier weights, and I need to have at least a few months of heavy training. Hopefully, the latter part of the year I can get onstage. So if I do one of the shows in October, I will have to start dieting in July. So we’ll see how I look in June and see if it can happen this year.

I first heard about you when you were runner-up in the heavyweight class of the British Championships in 2001. Still, you’re only 31. Are you motivated to prove the doubters wrong who say your career peaked and effectively ended in your 20s?

The main reason to get back onstage is to prove to myself that I did what I set out to do in the beginning. There’s no question about it—I will get onstage again. It’s just a question of when. I look forward to making some great progress and sharing that with everyone. Let’s just see what happens this year, but I can say there will be some surprises.

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