The Dorian Yates Biceps Workout!


In this comprehensive guide I will show you how to use Dorian Yates’ bicep workout to build bigger, stronger arms.

Dorian Yates is one of my favorite bodybuilders. He won the Mr. Olympia contest 6 years in a row from 1991 – 1997 and beat many legendary bodybuilders including Flex Wheeler and Kevin Levrone.

Dorian Yates was known for his low volume / high-intensity training style where he performed 1 all-out set to failure per exercise. Dorian believed that this was the fastest and most effective way to train for bodybuilding. Dorian says “my training style isn’t pretty but it works!”

Dorian always had a tough time with his biceps. They were one of his lagging muscle groups (the other one was his chest). However, Dorian put his thinking cap on and designed a bicep training routine that helped fix this lagging muscle group once and for all.

If you want to bring up your lagging biceps and hate typical bodybuilding routines where you “chase the pump” then Dorian’s bicep routine is for you! Check it out:

Dorian Yates’ Biceps Workout

  • A1: 60 degree incline DB curl (supinating grip), 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • B1: Standing ez-bar curl, wide supinated grip, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • C1: 1-arm preacher machine curl, supinated grip, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**

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

Here is a training video for Dorian’s bicep workout:

As you can see Dorian performed 1 all-out set to failure per exercise. He even went beyond failure on each exercise by performing 1-3 forced reps with the help of his training partner.

Dorian would train to failure and then his training partner would give him a little bit of assistance so Dorian could lift the weight up again. This is a brutally effective way to train your biceps for size and strength.

Dorian may have performed 1 working set per exercise but that doesn’t mean he just threw a bunch of weight on the bar and went at it without warming up. Dorian performed as many warm up sets as he needed. However, these were just that: warm up sets. Dorian didn’t waste his energy on the warm up sets because the 1 working set to failure was the one that counted.

For example here is what Dorian’s warm up sets might have looked like for his incline dumbbell curls:

  • Set 1: 20 pounds x 8 reps
  • Set 2: 35 pounds x 6 reps
  • Set 3: 50 pounds x 3 reps
  • Set 4: 65 pounds x 2 reps
  • Set 5: 80 pounds x 6 reps + 2 forced reps

As you can see the only set that mattered was Dorian’s final working set to failure. This was the only set that triggered a “growth response” in his biceps.

One of the things that makes Dorian’s bicep routine so effective is he uses three completely different exercises that overload his muscle in completely different ways.

Dorian starts his bicep workout with incline dumbbell curls. According to EMG research incline dumbbell curls are the best exercise you can do to train the long head of the biceps. The long head makes up the biceps peak and is a very important muscle group for any serious bodybuilder.

Incline curls are also great for overloading the biceps in the shortened position of the strength curve or when they are fully contracted.

Dorian’s second exercise is the standing ez-bar curl. This exercise overloads the long and short heads of the biceps equally. It also does a great job of overloading the mid-range of the strength curve. Dorian uses an ez-curl bar rather than a standard barbell for this exercise.

This is very smart! The ez-curl bar puts less stress on your wrists and elbows than the standard barbell because it matches the natural angle of your hands when you perform curls.

Finally Dorian finishes his bicep workout with machine preacher curls. Preacher curls are the best exercise you can do for the short head of the biceps because your elbow is positioned in front of your body the entire time.

Machine preacher curls are an excellent choice for a serious bodybuilder like Dorian Yates because the biceps is under tension through the entire range of motion. His biceps are even working in the fully contracted position when his elbow is completely bent! This makes his 1-3 forced reps at the end of the set more effective because his biceps are still working even at the end of the range of motion.

In case you were curious here is the exact training split that Dorian used during his bodybuilding career:

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

As you can see Dorian trained his chest and biceps on the same training day. This is a great training split to use if you like Dorian’s low-volume / high intensity approach.

If you want to shock your biceps into growth then I highly recommend the Dorian Yates’ bicep routine. He uses a variety of exercises to overload both heads of the biceps and to overload different points in the strength curve.

Just make sure you have a training spotter with you to perform the 1-3 forced reps at the end of your 1 working set. The forced reps are absolutely brutal but they make all the difference in the world!

Here’s a great Dorian Yates quote on the power of the mind:

“Everything’s mental. You create your reality with your thoughts.” 

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

Dr. Mike Jansen

I am the creator and owner of Revolutionary Program Design. I help advanced athletes take their training to the next level and achieve results they never imagined possible.

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