In this comprehensive guide I will teach you everything you need to know about Dorian Yates’ chest and biceps workout and how he built up his unbelievable upper body.
Dorian Yates was easily the best bodybuilder during the 1990s and one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. Dorian was one of the first true “mass monsters” in the sport of bodybuilding. His entire upper body including his chest and biceps were simply massive!
Dorian trained his chest and biceps with a low-volume / high-intensity workout where he trained to failure or even beyond failure with forced reps on every exercise. Dorian believed that performing 1 all-out set per exercise was the key to building as much muscle mass as possible.
If you hate the traditional bodybuilding workouts where you perform endless sets and “chase the pump” then you will love Dorian’s chest and biceps workout.
Here is the exact chest and biceps workout that Dorian used when he was the Mr. Olympia champion. Check it out:
Dorian Yates’ Chest And Biceps Routine!
- A1: 30 degree incline bench press, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure
- B1: Flat machine press, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
- C1: 30 degree incline DB fly, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
- D1: Standing cable crossover, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
- E1: 60 degree incline DB curl (supinating grip), 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
- F1: Standing ez-bar curl, wide supinated grip, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
- G1: Unilateral machine preacher curl (supinated grip), 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 are Dorian’s chest training videos:
And here are Dorian’s bicep training videos:
This may look like a typical bodybuilding style chest and biceps workout. After all, Dorian performed multiple exercises per body part to hit each muscle group “from all angles.” Nothing could be further from the truth! Dorian’s training style was completely different from what his competitors were doing in the 1990s.
Let’s take a closer look at Dorian’s chest and biceps workout to see why it was so different and effective for him. Here is an outline for the rest of the article:
- Part 1: Dorian Trained His Chest And Biceps With Intensity!
- Part 2: Dorian’s Chest Routine
- Part 3: Dorian’s Biceps Routine
- Part 4: Dorian’s Training Split
Now let’s take a closer look at the training principles that Dorian used to build his unbelievable upper body.
Part 1: Dorian Trained His Chest And Biceps With Intensity!
Most professional bodybuilders during the 1970s and 1980s trained with high-volume training programs. Just think about Arnold Schwarzenegger: he used to train 6 days per week and 4-5 hours per day!
Dorian Yates learned that he couldn’t make progress with these traditional high-volume programs. Instead Dorian got his best results with a lower volume but higher intensity training program where he performed 1 all-out set to failure per exercise.
Of course Dorian didn’t just perform 1 set per exercise. He did as many warm-up sets as he needed to stay safe. But he only counted the 1 all-out set where he trained to failure. This were the sets that really mattered because these were the ones that made him grow.
On most chest and bicep exercises Dorian actually trained beyond failure with forced reps. Just take a look at the following video:
Dorian performs 6 perfect reps on his own on the hammer strength flat machine press. Most bodybuilders would stop their set here but Dorian liked to push himself beyond failure with forced reps.
His training partner helped him to lift the weight all the way to lockout. Then Dorian had to lower the weight back down all on his own. This counts as 1 forced rep. Dorian performed 2-3 forced reps on most chest and bicep exercises.
Forced reps are so effective because they help you train beyond muscular failure and because they overload the eccentric or lowering phase of the exercise.
Just think about it: even though Dorian’s partner is helping him lift the weight on the last couple of reps he still has to lower the weight all on his own. Dorian believes that most bodybuilders would be more successful if they emphasized the lowering parts of their reps.
Here is Dorian talking about this concept:
There is also a lot of research showing that the lowering phase of the rep is what actually builds muscular hypertrophy. When you train all the way to failure and used 2-3 forced reps per exercise then you really don’t need to perform more than 1 working set per exercise.
With Dorian’s routine 1 set is more than enough! One of the challenges with Dorian’s chest and biceps workout is that it’s very difficult to push yourself all the way to failure on exercise. It’s just so hard mentally to train this way.
One of the reasons that Dorian was able to handle this mentally is that he always wrote down his workouts in a training logbook. Dorian calls the logbook the single most important tool a bodybuilder can use. Before every workout Dorian would look at his logbook to see how much weight he lifted at the previous workout.
He knew that if he incline bench pressed 405 pounds for 8 reps at the previous workout that he had to shoot for 410 pounds for 8 reps at his next one.
The logbook was the ultimate training tool because he had to push himself to his limits at every workout. There is no way Dorian was going to let his logbook get the better of him! If you want to try Dorian’s chest and biceps workout then I strongly recommend you use a training logbook. It will boost your training intensity to new heights!
Part 2: Dorian’s Chest Routine
Dorian was known as the “mad genius of bodybuilding” because of his thoughtful and intelligent approach to training. It’s easy to see why when you look at his chest workout. Dorian uses a wide variety of chest exercises to overload his muscles in unique ways.
Dorian always liked to start off his chest workout with a barbell pressing exercise. Early in his career Dorian focused on the decline bench press to train his chest. Dorian likes the decline bench press over the flat bench press because it does a better job of overloading the chest and it places less stress on your chess tendon so your risk of injury is much lower.
Unfortunately Dorian tweaked his shoulder on the decline bench press and switched to the incline bench press for safety reasons.
The incline bench press is the only exercise in Dorian’s entire chest routine where he does not perform any forced reps. Check it out:
Dorian trains right to the edge of muscular failure. It’s unclear if his training partner helped him a little bit on the last rep or if he completed it on his own.
After the incline bench press Dorian moves onto a variety of easier chest exercises including hammer strength flat presses, incline dumbbell flyes and standing cable crossovers. On each exercise Dorian performs 1 all-out exercise beyond failure with the help of 2-3 forced reps.
Just take a look at this video of Dorian performing incline dumbbell flyes in this video. Dorian performs 6 picture-perfect reps and then an extra 2 reps with the help of his spotter. Even on the forced reps Dorian is controlling the negative phase with perfect form.
If you use Dorian’s chest routine then it is critical that you give everything you have on your 1 working set. This is your only chance to grow from that exercise so you have to make it count!
Part 3: Dorian’s Biceps Routine
I absolutely love the way Dorian designed his biceps workout! Dorian understands the importance of using exercises that overload the different heads of the biceps and exercises that overload different points in the strength curve.
Dorian’s first bicep exercise is the 45 degree incline dumbbell curl. Incline curls are probably the most underrated bicep exercise of all time. They are great for overloading the long head of the biceps. The long head is located on the outside of your upper arm and makes up the “biceps peak.”
Here is Dorian performing 60 degree incline dumbbell curls:
The key to this exercise is to keep your elbow BEHIND your body during the entire set. When your elbow is behind your body you work the long head much harder. Dorian’s second bicep exercise is the standing ez-bar curl.
I love that Dorian uses the ez-curl bar rather than a regular barbell. The ez-curl bar is MUCH easier on your wrists and allows for a more natural movement pattern.
I have personally worked with many patients as a physical therapist who injured their wrists performing too many barbell curls. Even on this exercise Dorian performs his trademarked forced reps. This just shows you how much he believes in this high-intensity bodybuilding technique.
Finally Dorian finishes off his biceps workout with some 1-arm machine preacher curls.
Preacher curls are great for isolating the short head of the biceps. This is the part of the biceps located on the inside of the upper arm. Your short head works harder any time you perform curls with your elbows in front of your body such as with preacher curls.
The machine preacher curl is a great exercise for Dorian because it is very easy for a partner to help him perform some forced reps. You can just see the pain in his face as he performs those last few reps. Talk about intensity!
Even on these forced reps Dorian does an awesome job of lowering the weights under control.
Part 4: Dorian’s Training Split
If you want to copy Dorian’s chest and biceps workout then you should probably copy his overall training split as well. Here is what it looks like:
- 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 each body part once per week using a modified bodybuilding training split. The big difference between Dorian’s split and most other bodybuilding splits is that he trained each body part once every 6 days. This is actually a big deal!
Dorian was training body parts 17% more frequently than most of his competitors. This adds up to a lot of extra muscle mass over time.
This frequency is also great because most trainees have a hard time making progress when they only train body parts once every 7 days. Dorian’s one every 6 days training frequency is a nice compromise between ultra-high and ultra-low training frequencies.
If you perform Dorian’s chest and biceps workout then I highly recommend you use his training split as well.
Dorian Yates deserves his title as one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. He wasn’t as genetically gifted as some other bodybuilders such as Flex Wheeler or Kevin Levrone so he had to rely on an unconventional training program and his unbreakable willpower to become a champion.
Dorian broke all the rules when it came to training his chest and biceps. Most people in the 1990s were still training like Arnold Schwarzenegger with tons of volume and endless sets in the gym.
Dorian took a different approach and trained with out-of-this-world intensity on every exercise to blast his chest and biceps into growth. If you are stuck at a hypertrophy plateau for your chest and biceps then I highly recommend you give Dorian’s chest and bicep routine a shot.
If you want to learn more about Dorian’s unique training style then check out the following articles:
- The Dorian Yates Training Program!
- The Dorian Yates Leg Workout!
- The Dorian Yates Shoulders And Triceps Workout!
- The Dorian Yates Back Workout!
- The Dorian Yates Training Split!
These articles are the best resources available anywhere in the world on Dorian Yates’ unique approach to training.
You probably won’t surpass Dorian in his prime just by copying his routine. There is a reason they called Dorian “The Shadow,” after all. However, if you can summon the in-human intensity levels needed to train like Dorian then you might experience some of the fastest gains of your life.
Let’s wrap things up with one of Dorian’s most famous quotes:
“I’m not really good at knowing where 85 or 90 percent is. I only know where zero and one hundred percent is.”
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training journey!
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