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Dorian Yates’ Favorite Chest Training Tips!

Dorian Yates is known as the “genius scientist of bodybuilding.” He experimented in the gym and invented his own training style that he used to win the Mr. Olympia title an unbelievable 6 times in a row.

Dorian’s chest was always one of his weaker body parts but he was able to bring it up using plenty of creativity and mind-blowing training intensity.

If you want to learn how to bring up your lagging chest like Dorian Yates then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Tip #1: Choose The Right Exercises!
  • Tip #2: Train With Intensity!
  • Tip #3: Emphasize The Negative!
  • Tip #4: Beat The Logbook!

In this comprehensive guide I will show you the exact strategies that Dorian Yates used to bring up his lagging chest. 

Dorian Yates had two lagging body parts when he first started competing in bodybuilding: chest and biceps.

Dorian’s chest was especially weak compared to the rest of his body. It lacked the thickness and density of other famous bodybuilders like the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger.

So what did Dorian do? Did he waste time complaining about how he “doesn’t have good chest genetics” and that “other bodybuilders have it easier than him?”

Of course not! Dorian put his thinking cap on and put together a game plan that would take his chest from point “A” (mediocre) to point “B” (world-class) as fast as possible.

Here is the exact chest routine that Dorian used throughout his career:

Dorian Yates’ 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**

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

Here is Dorian’s chest training video:

At first glance this looks like a normal bodybuilding workout where you perform 4 random exercises for your chest and train for the pump. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Dorian put a ton of thought into the exercises he performed and the way that he performed them.

In the rest of this article we’re going to take a closer look at 4 of Dorian’s best training tips for building a world-class chest.

Dorian Yates Chest Tip #1: Choose The Right Exercises!

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

Let’s take another look at Dorian’s 4-exercise chest routine:

Dorian Yates’ 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**

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

This may look like a random collection of chest exercises. In reality Dorian put a lot of thought into each and every exercise that he used. 

Here is Dorian talking about his all-time favorite chest exercises:

“My favorite chest exercises are the low decline bench press, low incline bench press and dumbbell flyes. So those are the best exercises for me.

When Dorian first started bodybuilding he performed lots of flat bench presses for his pecs. There was just one problem: the flat bench press did absolutely nothing for his chest development!

Dorian found that this exercise put a ton of stress on his front delts and pec tendons so he dropped it completely. 

Here is Dorian talking about the flat bench press:

“For some people flat bench press works very well but for myself it was putting a lot of strain on my front deltoids and pec tendons and I didn’t think it was very efficient for the pecs.

So you have to experiment and figure out which exercises work best for you.”

This is an incredibly important lesson. In bodybuilding there are no exercise that you have to do.

Yes, it is important to use heavy compound exercises in your training program. But if you do not feel an exercise in the target muscle group then it is absolutely worthless!

Dorian got better results when he started his chest workout with more muscle-intensive movements like the low decline bench press or the low incline bench press. 

Here is Dorian talking about the low decline bench press:

“The decline bench press is probably the most underrated chest exercise in the world.

A lot of people think ‘oh, decline, that’s for lower chest, no one needs more lower chest.’ The decline bench press works the whole pec!

So the decline bench press was my main mass builder for many years. I shifted more towards incline bench press later on.

But the decline bench press was my main pec builder for many years. It takes a lot of the stress of the pec delt area.”

Dorian isn’t saying that you have to drop the flat bench press in favor of the low decline or low incline bench press. However, he is saying that you have to figure out which exercises work best for your structure.

This is something that the bodybuilding coach John Meadows talks about a lot. 

Dorian always started his chest workout with the decline or incline bench press. He performed several warm up sets followed by 1 all-out set to failure with a weight he could lift 6-8 times.

After the main barbell exercise his goal was to train hard on several different exercises that overloaded his chest in a unique way.

Dorian eventually settled on the incline bench press, the flat hammer strength press, the incline dumbbell fly and the standing cable crossover as his core chest exercises. 

Here is Dorian talking about the importance of using exercises that overload your chest from different angles:

“There’s no point doing an exercise that duplicates the same thing. If you train to failure on an exercise then you’ve done the job.

Go to a different angle that will emphasize a different area of the pecs a little bit more. Try to have a reason for every exercise that you are doing.”

This is great advice. You should always have a specific reason why you are performing an exercise in your routine.

It does not matter if you are doing a Westside Barbell bench press program or a high-volume bodybuilding chest workout: every exercise must be chosen for a reason!

Otherwise what the heck are you doing in the gym? Throwing together a bunch of random exercises and hoping for the best? Dorian didn’t have time for that nonsense and neither should you!

Dorian Yates Chest Tip #2: Train With Intensity!

Dorian was known for his high-intensity training style. He believed the fastest way to build muscle was to use many different exercises per muscle group and 1 all-out set to failure per exercise.

Take it away oh genius scientist of bodybuilding:

“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.”

Just take another look at Dorian’s chest routine:

Dorian Yates’ 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**

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

For each exercise Dorian performed a few warm up sets followed by 1 all-out set to failure with mind-blowing intensity.

Just take a look at this video of Dorian Yates training to failure on the hammer strength flat press:

Talk about an intense set! There are many different theories on what actually triggers muscle growth. However, Dorian believes the real trigger is the intensity of your sets.

Just listen to him yourself:

“What is it that causes muscle growth? Arthur Jones found the intensity of exercise was the key. And then Mike Mentzer took those principles and he used them to compete at the Mr Olympia.

So I read all this stuff and it was very logical. It made sense. And then I tried it in the gym and it worked in the gym.”

Dorian believed that performing 1 set to failure per exercise was the best way to stimulate chest growth. However, he also believed it was the best way to avoid overtraining your chest.

Dorian found that as he got stronger he had to use less training volume in order to recover. If he performed more than 1 set per exercise he couldn’t recover from his workouts and get stronger.

A lot of bodybuilders believe that overtraining is not something that you should worry about. They say you will be fine if you are eating and sleeping enough.

Dorian had a completely different opinion: he thought overtraining had to be avoided at all costs. He felt that if he overtrained his chest with too much volume or too many compound pressing exercises then he wouldn’t make any progress.

Just listen to Dorian:

“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. You don’t go to the gym and grow, then recover later. That’s not the way it works! If you give your body some stress it’s not used to, it will grow. But before you grow you have to recover.”

Dorian believed that his 1 set to failure training program gives you the best of both worlds: it stimulates maximum muscle growth while minimizing your risk of overtraining.

Even many high-volume bodybuilding coaches like John Meadows advocate performing 1 set to failure per exercise for this same exact reason. I guess great minds think alike!

Dorian Yates Chest Tip #3: Emphasize The Negative!

Dorian trained every muscle group with a variety of muscle-building exercises and mind-blowing intensity. This was a great start but Dorian had to get even more creative than that to bring up his lagging chest.

Dorian believes bringing up lagging body parts has nothing to do with using more frequency or training volume.

Instead he believed you had to crank up the intensity of your sets even more by overloading the lowering phase of the exercise. 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!”

Most people neglect the lowering or eccentric phase of their chest exercises. They lift the weight up and then drop it back down to their chest. According to Dorian this is a big mistake!

Research shows that the lowering phase of the exercise is what stimulates most of the muscle growth and strength gains. I talk about this extensively in my article “The Science Of Eccentric Training!

Dorian actually uses three separate strategies to overload the lowering phase of his reps:

  • Strategy #1: Controlled negatives
  • Strategy #2: Forced reps
  • Strategy #3: Negative-only reps

The first strategy is by far the easiest to use. You just lower the weight under control on every single rep.

Dorian doesn’t think you need to use a 3-5 second lowering phase on your exercises. However, he does think you need to lower every rep under control. Just take a look at Dorian performing the incline bench press:

Every single rep is performed with an explosive positive phase and a slow, controlled lowering phase. Dorian felt this was key to taxing his muscles on the way up and on the way down for maximum growth. 

On machine and isolation exercises Dorian liked to perform forced reps to tax his chest even more.

Forced reps are a high-intensity training method where your training partner helps you perform 1-3 extra reps after reaching muscular failure. Your training partner helps you lift the weight through the concentric range and then you lower the weight on your own through the eccentric range.

These extra forced reps let you exhaust your eccentric strength levels after reaching failure on the positive.

Here is Dorian Yates giving a perfect demonstration of forced reps on the incline dumbbell fly:

Dorian performs 6 reps on his own before reaching failure. Then his training partner comes in and helps him perform extra 2 forced reps.

This is how Dorian can build muscle mass on just 1 working set per exercise. The forced reps increase the quality of the muscle-building training stimulus without impacting his recovery ability too much.

Here is Dorian talking about the value of forced reps for totally exhausting the working muscle:

“So if you did a machine press and you reached failure at 8 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.”

Some people will overtrain with post-failure training techniques like forced reps but for Dorian they worked like a charm.

The last way Dorian overloaded his eccentric strength was with eccentric-only reps. Sometimes after reaching failure Dorian would have his partner lift the weight for him so that he could perform 1-2 eccentric-only reps.

Here is Dorian performing these negative-only reps on the hammer strength flat machine press. Check it out:

If you watch closely you will see Dorian perform 5 reps on his own, 2 forced reps and 2 negative-only reps. Talk about an intense set!

Here is Dorian talking about this kind of triple-whammy set:

“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 Yates built up his lagging chest with a heavy diet of controlled negative reps, forced reps and even eccentric-only reps. If your pecs are flatter than a couple of pancakes then these techniques are worth a shot.

You can learn more about how to overload the negative phase of your reps in the following articles:

If you learn how to overload the negative phase of your reps your chest growth will take off and you will be such the better bodybuilder for it. But don’t believe me: take it from Dorian Yates, the mad genius of bodybuilding!

Dorian Yates Chest Tip #4: Beat The Logbook!

When Dorian Yates started lifting weights he made a commitment to himself: he was going to win the Mr. Olympia contest and become the best bodybuilder in the world.

Dorian was determined to get out of his small town in Birmingham, England which was filled with poverty, crime and drug use. He saw right away that he had a natural talent for bodybuilding and he went 100% all-in on his vision of becoming a professional bodybuilder.

But in order to win the Mr. Olympia contest Dorian needed a battle strategy to bring up his weaker body parts. He needed a gameplan for how to take his chest from point A (flat as a pancake) to point B (absolutely massive) as fast as possible.

Here is Dorian talking about this dilemma:

“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?”

Dorian’s plan was very simple: he was going to beat the logbook. Dorian recorded every single chest workout in his training logbook.

Before every chest workout he looked back at his training logbook and reviewed the weights that he lifted at his previous workout. His goal was to go into the gym for that workout and beat his personal best on every single exercise.

Dorian didn’t beat the logbook every single workout. However, the act of trying to beat the logbook helped him to build strength and therefore muscle mass at an incredibly fast pace.

Here is Dorian talking about this concept:

“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.”

You don’t have to beat yourself up as much as Dorian did when he was 21! However, if you are determined to bring up your lagging chest then you should follow Dorian’s lead and record everything in your logbook.

Here is what Dorian’s logbook looked like before he performed his chest workout:

Dorian’s Training Logbook On Chest Day

Exercise #1: 30 degree incline bench press, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure

  • LT: 415 x 7
  • TT:

Exercise #2: Flat machine press, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure

  • LT: 380 x 5 + 3 forced reps
  • TT:

Exercise #3: 30 degree incline DB fly, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure

  • LT: 90’s x 7 + 2 forced reps
  • TT:

Exercise #4: Standing cable crossover, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure

  • LT: 200 x 7 + 3 forced reps
  • TT:

Dorian wrote down everything: the amount of weight he lifted, the amount of reps he got on his own and the number of forced reps or negative-only reps that he completed.

Before every workout he would review his logbook and review his performance from the previous workout. This gave Dorian a crystal-clear idea of what his goals should be for that workout.

In case you are curious the symbol “LT” stands for “Last Time” and the symbol “This Time” stands for “This Time.”

Here is Dorian talking about the importance of using the logbook to set goals:

“Every workout as soon as I got home I would say, ‘OK decline bench press 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.’

Little goals, you know. Like ‘OK, I’m going to put 5 pounds on my bench press.’ That doesn’t sound like much but it adds up to 60 pounds at the end of the year.”

The logbook is how Dorian took his chest from point A (pathetic) to point B (world-class) as fast as possible.

No one starts out incline pressing 405 pounds for reps on their first workout! It takes years of training to beat the logbook to build up to these weights.

If you aren’t using a training logbook then how do you even know your are making progress? You could be going backwards and getting weaker for all you know! 

Conclusion

Dorian Yates was one of the few bodybuilders who could take a weak body part like his chest and turn it into something respectable.

Dorian used many different strategies like picking the best exercises, training with mind-blowing intensity, overloading the negative phase of his reps and using a training logbook to make this happen.

I strongly recommend you study Dorian Yates’ chest training program and see if you can apply some of his lessons to your own chest program.

Even if you do not adopt his high-intensity training style you can only stand to benefit from using more eccentric training techniques or recording your workouts in a training logbook.

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:

“You write your goals down on a piece of paper and you make a f*cking commitment to yourself. You can do this with anything, your business, whatever.

Every day you can look at that and it just gives you a stronger mental vision of where you want to go.

Are you going to let yourself down? Are you going to be a p*ssy and break your commitment? It’s there on a piece of paper!”

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