Dorian Yates’ Favorite Bicep Training Tips!

Dorian Yates is one of the smartest bodybuilders of all time. He rejected the mainstream bodybuilding advice and invented his own training program to build muscle mass as fast as possible.

Dorian’s biceps always lagged behind the rest of his body but with enough creativity and even a little bit of insanity he was able to build a pair of world-class arms.

If you want to learn Dorian’s best tips for bringing up lagging biceps then this article is for you!


  • Tip #1: Choose The Best Biceps Exercises!
  • Tip #2: Train With Mind-Blowing Intensity!
  • Tip #3: Avoid Overtraining At All Costs!
  • Tip #4: Beat The Logbook!

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you Dorian Yates’ best training strategies for building a pair of biceps that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger jealous.

Dorian trained his biceps once every 6 days using a modified version of the classic bodybuilding “bro split.” Check it out:

  • Day 1: Chest / Biceps
  • Day 2: Quads / Hamstrings / Calves
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Shoulders / Triceps
  • Day 5: Back / Rear Delts
  • Day 6: Off
  • Day 7: Repeat!

Dorian’s training split may look a little bit weird but it works extremely well for advanced bodybuilders.

So what did Dorian’s bicep routine look like? Dorian trained his biceps using three exercises per workout.

Here is the exact bicep routine that he used during his “Blood And Guts” training DVD. Check it out:

The Dorian Yates Bicep Routine

  • Exercise #1: 60 degree incline DB curl, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • Exercise #2: Standing ez-bar curl, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • Exercise #3: One-arm machine preacher curl, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**

**Perform 1-3 extra forced reps after reaching failure with the help of your training partner.

Here is the training video:

At first this looks like a regular bodybuilding bicep routine where you pick a few random exercises and train for the pump. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Dorian was very careful to pick the best muscle-building exercises for his biceps and performed these exercises in a very specific way to build muscle as fast as possible.

Dorian’s training style will not work for everyone but almost anyone reading this article can learn a thing or two about building bigger, stronger biceps.

Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Choose The Best Biceps Exercises!

If you want to build a pair of world-class biceps then you have to pick the right exercises. There is no other way!

Let’s take another look at Dorian’s bicep routine:

The Dorian Yates Bicep Routine

  • Exercise #1: 60 degree incline DB curl, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • Exercise #2: Standing ez-bar curl, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • Exercise #3: One-arm machine preacher curl, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**

**Perform 1-3 extra forced reps after reaching failure with the help of your training partner.

Dorian picked each of these exercises for a very specific reason. They are the ones that worked best for him and his unique structure.

Of course Dorian didn’t start out using these exercises. He had to learn through trial and error which ones worked best for him. Check it out:

“Originally I was doing heavy barbell curls, heavy barbell curls because that is what most people were doing.

My shoulders and forearms were growing but my biceps were still lagging.”

This is a common problem that many bodybuilders face. They perform the “mass-building” biceps exercises like standing barbell curls and sitting dumbbell curls until they’re blue in the face but their biceps don’t grow.

This is something that John Meadows talks about a lot.

For most bodybuilders the standing barbell curl just isn’t a very good exercise. It is too easy to use your lower back and shoulders to hoist the weight up which takes tension off of your biceps.

Instead Dorian got better results when he started his workouts with exercises that prevented him from cheating the weight up. Check it out:

“I was able to improve my biceps by doing a very isolated exercise first.

My favorite bicep exercises were dumbbell concentration curls, cable curls and any type of machine curl that really isolated the biceps.”

What do these exercises have in common? It is very difficult to cheat the weight up! This is especially important when it comes to training the biceps.

Dorian focused on the biceps exercises that worked best for him. However, there is more to the story than that.

Dorian was very careful to pick biceps exercises that were completely different from each other. He believes it is a waste of time to use 2-3 exercises that overload the biceps in the same way. Check it out:

“There’s no point doing an exercise that duplicates the same thing. After your first exercise go to a different angle that will emphasize a different part of the biceps a little bit more.

Try to have a reason for every exercise that you are doing.”

As you will see Dorian practices what he preaches.

Dorian’s biceps routine did 2 important things:

  • It overload both heads of the biceps
  • It overloaded all 3 points in the strength curve

There are 2 different parts of the biceps muscle: the long head of the biceps and the short head of the biceps.

If you really want your biceps to grow then you need to use exercises that overload both of these muscle heads. You also need to overload the top, middle and bottom of the strength curve using different exercises.

Dorian accomplished both of these things absolutely perfectly with his 3-exercise biceps routine.

Dorian’s first exercise was the incline dumbbell curl. This exercise really emphasizes the long head of the biceps and overloads the bottom part of the strength curve when the biceps is under a deep loaded stretch.

Dorian’s second exercise was the standing ez-bar curl. This exercise equally targets the long and short heads of the biceps and overloads the middle part of the exercise.

Finally Dorian finishes his biceps routine with the one-arm machine preacher curl.

This exercise is perfect for overloading the short head of the biceps because your elbow is fixed in front of your body while you curl. It also overloads the biceps in the shortened part of the strength curve when your biceps are contracted all the way.

As you can see Dorian’s biceps routine overloads both heads of the biceps and all 3 points in the strength curve: the stretched position, the mid-range position and the shortened position.

When you design your own biceps routine you should follow Dorian’s lead and use exercises that overload both head so the biceps and all 3 points in the strength curve.

Part 2: Train With Mind-Blowing Intensity!

Dorian believes the first step in building world-class biceps is finding the exercises that work best for your structure. But what do you do after you find the right exercises?

Dorian believes the next step is to learn how to train with mind-blowing intensity. Check it out:

“Any body part that’s weak or lagging behind, the answer is not to train it more frequently or do more exercises or more sets or more reps.

The answer is to do it with more focus and to use techniques that increase the intensity of the workout.”

This is a concept that I talked about in my article “Training Lagging Body Parts: The Ultimate Guide!

If you have a lagging body part and your current routine is not working then you need to stop what you’re doing and think.

Most bodybuilders try to bring up their lagging body parts by using more volume. After all, some guy on YouTube says that training volume and muscle growth are related to each other.

This strategy works well for some people but Dorian takes a completely different approach: he cranks up the intensity higher than Elon Musk on the Joe Rogan podcast! Check it out:

“On the real sets we’re going to go to absolute failure and even beyond failure with forced reps, with assistance reps, maybe extra negative reps.

My thing is to exhaust the positive phase and the negative phase so the muscle is totally f*cked!”

Just take a look at this video of Dorian Yates performing one-arm machine curls:

This isn’t your Grandma’s set of bicep curls! Dorian is busting out all the stops to absolutely destroy his biceps in one go.

The thing that really stands out about this set is how much Dorian emphasizes the negative or lowering phase of his reps.

Dorian believes the best way to increase the intensity of your bicep sets is to exhaust your muscles on the way up AND on the way down. Check it out:

“This is something most people neglect when they lift weights. They neglect the lowering part or the negative part of the rep. I get people to slow down the lowering phase so they tax their negative strength as well.”

Dorian actually uses three different high-intensity training techniques to eccentrically overload his muscles:

  • He uses controlled negatives on every rep
  • He uses forced reps after reaching failure
  • He uses negative-only reps at the very end of his sets

These three training methods are absolutely incredible for building muscle.

The scientific literature has shown over and over again that the lowering or eccentric phase of the exercise is what builds the most muscle.

Many other world-class bodybuilding coaches like Dante Trudel have said you should think about lifting weights up just so you can lower them down slow and under control.

The Planet Fitness Meathead’s catch phrase should have been “I lift things up and put them down… slowly!”

Dorian’s 3 high-intensity training techniques are such an important part of his biceps training program that I want to take a closer look at each of them right here.

High-Intensity Technique #1: Use Controlled Negatives On Ever Rep

This was one of Dorian’s “bread and butter” training techniques. Dorian used an explosive positive phase and a controlled negative phase on every single rep.

Just look at this video of Dorian performing the incline dumbbell curl:

Dorian is slowly lowering the weight down on every single rep. That is what you want!

Dorian wanted his biceps to flex and contract against the weight as he was performing the negative phase.

This is important to do one very exercise but it is especially important when you are training your biceps. Otherwise other muscle groups like your front delts can easily take over.

High-Intensity Technique #2: Use Forced Reps After Reaching Failure

Forced reps are Dorian’s favorite way to train beyond muscular failure.

On every biceps exercise he would train to failure and then his training partner would help him complete an extra 1-3 reps. His training partner would help him lift the weight through the concentric phase and Dorian would lower the weight down through the eccentric phase on his own.

Here is Dorian demonstrating forced reps on the one-arm machine preacher curl:

Dorian performs 5 reps on his own and 3 extra forced reps. Talk about an intense set! These forced reps allowed Dorian to fully tax his eccentric or lowering strength in addition to his concentric or lifting strength.

Here is Dorian talking about this concept:

“So if you did a bicep curl and you reached failure at 6 reps, I could lift the weight to the top for you and you could lower it down for probably another 3 reps.

So if you just stop at failure you haven’t fully exhausted the muscle.”

Forced reps are a very powerful training technique. Dorian recommends you perform 1-3 forced reps at the end of your sets to stimulate maximum muscle growth in your biceps.

High-Intensity Technique #3: Use Negative-Only Reps At The End Of Your Sets

Dorian trains to failure and performs 1-3 forced reps on all of his bicep exercises. Sometimes he will throw in negative-only reps at the very end of his sets to train his biceps even harder.

Immediately after the last forced rep Dorian’s training partner will lift the weight up for him and then Dorian will lower the weight back down on his own.

This is different from a forced rep because Dorian’s training partner is doing 100% of the work to lift the weight. Check it out:

“So slow down your negatives. If you have a training partner then do 1-2 forced reps at the end.

If you do an exercise on a machine, when you reach failure on the positive you can get somebody to lift it into the end position and lower it down again for a couple of more negatives.”

Dorian sometimes uses negative-only reps to break through bicep training plateaus. Just make sure you assess your recovery ability before performing it on too many exercises.

Tip #3: Avoid Overtraining At All Costs!

Dorian Yates believed that overtraining was the biggest reason most bodybuilders fail to make progress in the gym.

So what is overtraining? Let’s keep things simple: overtraining is when you perform too much work in the gym so you can’t recover from your workouts and you fail to make progress. That’s it!

Dorian believes the 2 hour workouts that Arnold Schwarzenegger and his friends performed were counterproductive. Check it out:

“Overtraining is a big thing. The process for muscle growth is simple: you go in the gym and put stress on the muscle.

If you put stress that it isn’t used to then it will recover and grow. But you have to recover first.”

This is why Dorian performed 1 working set to failure per exercise.

He didn’t want to waste his energy performing multiple sets per exercise because that would just eat into his recovery ability. He just wanted to get in the gym, create a stimulus for muscle growth and then get the hell out of the gym so he could rest and recover.

Most high-volume bodybuilders will do something like this on their sets for each exercise:

  • Set #1: 210 pounds x 8-12 reps
  • Set #2: 240 pounds x 8-12 reps
  • Set #3: 270 pounds x 8-12 reps
  • Set #4: 300 pounds x 8-12 reps

Dorian believed this didn’t make any sense. In his mind the only set that actually stimulates growth is the final working set with 300 pounds. Everything else is a waste of time!

Dorian believed that the only thing the first 3 sets accomplish is wearing you out before your main working set. He believed it was better to perform a few warm up sets with lower reps so you could put maximum effort into your final working set.

Here is some more Dorian wisdom to drive this point home:

“This is not an endurance sport. It’s about training hard, heavy and intense. That’s how you stimulate muscle growth.

And if you do too much training your progress will come to a halt.”

Dorian trained his chest and biceps together on the same training day. Check it out:

Dorian Yates’ Chest / Biceps Routine

Dorian’s Chest Routine

  • Exercise #1: 30 degree incline bench press, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure
  • Exercise #2: Flat machine press, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • Exercise #3: 30 degree incline DB fly, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • Exercise #4: Standing cable crossover, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**

Dorian’s Biceps Routine

  • Exercise #5: 60 degree incline DB curl, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • Exercise #6: Standing ez-bar curl, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • Exercise #7: One-arm machine preacher curl, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**

**Perform 1-3 extra forced reps after reaching failure with the help of your training partner.

Dorian says that this entire workout took him less than an hour to complete.

The quality of the training stimulus was very high because of his high-intensity training techniques like forced reps and negative-only reps. However, the amount of muscle tissue that he broke down was very low. After all, Dorian only performed 4 working sets for his chest and 3 for his biceps!

In fact Dorian says that he performed all of his workouts in 45 minutes or less:

“Forty-five minutes in the gym is all you need. Trust me, if you train with me for 45 minutes you won’t be begging to stay in the gym any longer!”

Dorian’s short but intense workouts made it as easy as possible for his body to recover and grow between workouts.

If you are struggling to make progress with your current biceps routine then you might be performing too much training volume and overtraining.

If that’s true then lower-volume routine may be just what you need to help your body recover and kick-start the growth process again.

Tip #4: Beat The Logbook!

Dorian Yates believes that you must use a training logbook if you want to get the most out of your training.

A training logbook is just a journal where you record all of your workouts. Dorian used to record every one of his workouts in a training logbook.

He would write down which body parts he trained that day, which exercises he used and the amount of weight that he lifted. Check it out:

“I used to make notes. Every week I’d write down my diet. I have every single workout that I ever did from 1991 – 1997 in a training log.

You can see the first one when I was 21 years old. I wrote down things like ‘I felt like shit today, this was a shitty workout, never let this f*cking happen again.”

The training logbook was especially important for his weaker body parts like his chest and biceps.

Dorian believed the fastest way to build his biceps was to pick the best exercises and get stronger on them over time. He knew that if he incline curled the 120 pound dumbbells for 8 reps with perfect form then his biceps would be absolutely massive. There is no other way!

Dorian made it his mission to beat his personal best on all 3 exercises every time he trained his biceps. This was his way of going from point A (small biceps) to point B (massive biceps) as fast as possible.

Here is Dorian talking about this concept:

“Instead of saying ‘right, I’m going to win this contest in 18 months time.’ That’s cool. But how are you going to get theory?

That’s like saying you’re going to sail to Australia. But how are you going to get there? Do you have a plan? Do you have a map?”

This is what Dorian’s training logbook looked like for his biceps workout. Check it out:

Dorian Yates’ Biceps Training Log

Exercise #1: 60 degree incline DB curl, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**

  • LT: 70’s x 6 + 2 forced reps
  • TT:

Exercise #2: Standing ez-bar curl, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**

  • LT: 155 x 5 + 3 forced reps
  • TT:

Exercise #3: One-arm machine preacher curl, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**

  • LT: 60 x 7 + 2 forced reps
  • TT:

Note: the symbol “LT” stands for “Last Time” and the symbol “TT” stands for “This Time.” This is how you should record your workouts in your logbook.

Before every workout Dorian looked at his previous performance. His goal was to beat his personal best on every single exercise for that workout.

That could mean increasing the weight and trying to perform the same number of reps or performing more reps with the same weight.

Dorian didn’t beat his personal best on every exercise for every workout. However, the act of trying to beat the logbook had him progressing very fast. Check it out:

“Every workout as soon as I got home I would say, ‘OK on incline curls I did this’ and so on.

And every month I would make notes and say, ‘OK, this is what I’m doing now and these are my goals for the next 4 weeks.”

Dorian believed that even for a smaller muscle group like the biceps you should try to lift heavier weights over time.

Of course you still have to use perfect form. However, if you are incline curling the 25 pound dumbbells on January 1st and then 1 year later you are still incline curling the same 25 pound dumbbells, did you really accomplish anything?

Or did you perform a year’s worth of wasted workouts?

If you used a training logbook like Dorian Yates then you wouldn’t have to ask this question. You would know right away if you are making progress in the gym or not. It is truly the most important tool you can use in the gym.


Dorian Yates is proof that you can take a lagging body part and turn it into something special.

Dorian used a number of different strategies to bring up his biceps like picking the best exercises, exhausting the muscle with 1 working set to failure per exercise and performing short 45-minute workouts to avoid overtraining.

I recommend you study Dorian’s biceps training routine and see if there is anything you can incorporate into your own training program.

If you are truly determined to bring up your lagging biceps then you can adopt his entire training program.

Dorian’s biceps routine will not work for everyone. But for some bodybuilders nothing else comes close.

If you want to support Dorian Yates then check out his supplement company “Dorian Yates Nutrition.” Dorian makes some of the highest quality supplements available anywhere in the world.

Here is one more quote from Dorian Yates to pump you up even more:

“Small minds just can’t comprehend big spirits. To achieve something different you have to be willing to be mocked, hated and misunderstood.

Use all negative energy to fuel the engine of determination within you and stay strong.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

What's going on! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen, I'm the creator of Revolutionary Program Design. When I'm not writing about some of the greatest minds in the fitness industry - including Charles Poliquin, John Meadows, Josh Bryant, Dante Trudel, Louis Simmons, and more - I can be found lifting pink dumbbells in gyms all over Panama!

Recent Posts