Zero lash is when you go from having slack between the lifter, pushrod and rocker arm, to the exact point of no slack. The lifter needs to be on the base of the lobe when setting valve lash. When a cylinder is at TDC, both lifters should be at the bottom of their travel (base of the cam lobe).
Gauging zero lash by hand is not an exact science. When setting the valve lash with the engine not running, you can get close enough by doing the "spin the pushrod" method. Loosen the rocker arm until you can feel slack in the pushrod to rocker arm. Spin the pushrod with your fingers while tighening the rocker arm back down. When you BEGIN to feel drag while spinning the pushrod, you are at zero lash. Once zero lash is reached, stop and add your preload. DO NOT go back and try to feel the adjustment. The lifter will immediately begin to bleed down a little. Tension on the pushrod will relax and this will make it seem like your adjustment did not work. If you want to recheck zero lash, you must loosen the rocker arm nut and tighten it down again while spinning the pushrod as before. At that point you want to set the preload and LEAVE IT ALONE.
this info is from www.shbox.com
hope it helps