Dorian Yates is one of my favorite bodybuilders in the world. He won the Mr. Olympia contest 6 times in a row from 1992 – 1997 to become one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. He even outclassed many bodybuilding legends like Kevin Levrone and Flex Wheeler.
So how did Dorian do it? How did he become one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time? Dorian trained using his own low-volume / high-intensity training program that he called “Blood And Guts Training.”
Dorian’s goal was to annihilate his muscles with one working set to failure per exercise. Dorian used a number of techniques like forced reps, the pre-exhaust method and a higher-frequency training split to make his program more effective for building muscle than other high-intensity training programs.
In this helpful guide we will take a closer look at 8 of Dorian’s best training tips for building muscle:
- Tip #1: Perform 1 All-Out Set To Failure Per Exercise!
- Tip #2: Overload The Eccentric Phase Of Your Reps!
- Tip #3: Perform Multiple Exercises Per Body Part!
- Tip #4: Record All Of Your Workouts In A Logbook!
- Tip #5: Stop Doing Squats If You Want Big Legs!
- Tip #6: Pre-Exhaust Your Back With Nautilus Pullovers!
- Tip #7: Train Both Heads Of The Biceps!
- Tip #8: Train Each Body Part More Than Once A Week!
Even if you do not use Dorian Yates’ full “Blood And Guts” training routine I am confident you will be able to use these tips in your future training programs. Now let’s get down to business…
Dorian Yates Tip #1: Perform 1 All-Out Set To Failure Per Exercise!
Most bodybuilders during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s trained using a high-volume training program. This training approach worked well for Arnold Schwarzenegger and many other world-class bodybuilders. However, when Dorian tried training this way he quickly over trained!
Dorian got his best results performing 1 all-out working set per exercise. He performed as many warm up sets as he needed before his one working set. However, when he got to his heaviest weights he performed 1 all-out set of 6-8 reps to failure. Dorian’s goal was to absolutely annihilate the working muscle with that one set.
Just take a look at Dorian training to failure in the following set of machine preacher curls:
Talk about a high-intensity set! I can feel the lactic acid building up in my biceps just from watching that video!
Training to failure has many advantages for building muscle. Research shows that training to failure helps you to achieve maximum recruitment of the fast-twitch muscle fibers.
Training to failure is also a very effective way for stimulating strength gains so you can apply the progressive overload principle over time. Here is Dorian talking about the benefits of performing 1 all-out set to failure per exercise:
“One set at extreme intensity does the muscle-building job. It must be stressed that the one final, all-out set I do takes me to the very limit of my capabilities. If you feel you can attempt the second set, then you couldn’t have been pulling out all the stops during the first set. It’s not pretty, but it works.”
There is a time and place for higher-volume programs for building muscle. However, Dorian Yates proved to the world that you can build maximum muscle mass with 1 all-out set performed with mind-blowing intensity.
Dorian Yates Tip #2: Overload The Eccentric Phase Of Your Reps!
Dorian Yates believes that you must overload the eccentric phase of your reps to build muscle! Most bodybuilders only focus on the concentric or lifting phase of their reps. According to Dorian this is a big mistake!
The eccentric or lowering phase of your reps is where most of the muscle damage occurs. If you want to build as much muscle mass as possible then you must lower your weights under control on every single rep.
Here is Dorian Yates talking about the importance of emphasizing the negative phase of your reps on a podcast with Joe Rogan:
I couldn’t have said it any better myself! Dorian used a true 1-2 second lowering phase on every single exercise. If you have never controlled the lowering phase of your reps then this will be very challenging at first.
You won’t be able to lift as much weight and you will get very sore from your workouts. Don’t worry – your body will get used to these slower negative reps and your progress will shoot through the roof!
Dorian Yates Tip #3: Perform Multiple Exercises Per Body Part!
Dorian trained using a low-volume / high-intensity training program with 1 working set to failure per exercise. But that doesn’t mean Dorian only performed 1 exercise per body part!
Dorian believed that you had to train each muscle group with many different exercises for optimal results. In fact Dorian trained some muscle groups with as many as 4-6 different exercises per workout! Just take a look at the following table:
Dorian’s Exercises Per Muscle Group
- Chest: 4 exercises
- Back: 6 exercises
- Shoulders: 5 exercises
- Biceps: 3 exercises
- Triceps: 3 exercises
- Quads: 3 exercises
- Hamstrings: 3 exercises
- Calves: 2 exercises
As you can see Dorian trained each muscle group with a wide variety of exercises. Dorian’s back routine alone consisted of six different exercises!
In reality Dorian trained with just as many exercises as the other top bodybuilders during the 1990s. The big difference between them was Dorian trained with 1 all-out set per exercise with mind-blowing intensity while everyone else just went through the motions and never pushed themselves anywhere near failure.
Just take a look at Dorian Yates’ back and rear delts workout:
The Dorian Yates Back Workout
- A1: Nautilus machine pullover, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
- B1: Bilateral hammer strength machine pulldown (supinated grip), 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
- C1: Standing barbell row to knees, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure
- D1: Seated unilateral machine row, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
- E1: Bent-over rear delt machine, 1 working set of 10-12 reps to failure**
- F1: Bent over rear-delt DB flies, 1 working set of 8-10 reps to failure**
- G1: 90 degree back extension (BB on back), 1 working set of 8-10 reps to failure
- H1: Conventional deadlift, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure
I don’t know about you but this looks like a high-volume back workout to me! Dorian proved to the world that you can train with high intensity or to failure and still use a lot of exercises for each muscle group.
Don’t be trapped by other people’s dogma – if you think you can recover from 1 set to failure on many different exercises per muscle group then give it a shot! It worked for Dorian and it can work for you too.
Dorian Yates Tip #4: Record All Of Your Workouts In A Logbook
Dorian Yates recorded all of his workouts in a training logbook. Dorian jokes that every workout he performed as a professional bodybuilder is written down in one of his training journals!
In my opinion this is the single biggest reason why Dorian dominated the sport of bodybuilding in the 1990s. Right before every workout Dorian opened his training logbook and looked at his previous workout. He knew exactly what weights he lifted and how many reps he performed.
Dorian’s goal was to beat the logbook every single time that he trained. He could do this by adding weight to the bar or getting more reps. Of course Dorian didn’t hit a personal record every single workout. However, the act of trying to hit a record on every exercise helped him build size and strength at a very fast pace.
Here is what Dorian’s logbook looked like before his chest workout:
Dorian’s Logbook For Chest Day
Exercise #1: 30 degree incline bench press
- LT: 415 x 8 reps
Exercise #2: Hammer strength flat press
- LT: 320 x 5 reps
Exercise #3: 30 degree incline DB fly
- LT: 90s x 7 reps
Exercise #4: Standing cable crossover
- LT: 180 x 8 reps
The symbol “LT” stands for “Last Time” and the symbol “TT” stands for “This Time.” Before every workout Dorian studies the weights he lifted at the previous workout. If he bench pressed 415 pounds for 8 reps then he knew he had to bump up the weight to 420 pounds and shoot for 7-8 reps in perfect form.
The logbook lit a fire under Dorian’s ass during his working sets. He knew he had to get 7 reps on a specific exercise to beat the logbook and he was going to get that 7th rep come hell or high water! Dorian also used the logbook as a way to see if he was progressing.
Dorian knew that if he was getting stronger over time then his program was working. If his logbook showed that he was not getting stronger then he knew he had to make a change to start growing again.
So what’s the takeaway? If you want maximum results then you have to use a training logbook. It is the single most important tool you can use in the gym. It will motivate you during your working sets and it will tell you if your current program is working or if it is not and you need to switch things up.
Dorian Yates Tip #5: Stop Doing Squats If You Want Big Legs!
Dorian Yates believes that back squats are one of the worst exercises that you can do to build your lower body. When Dorian Yates first started training for bodybuilding he had a lagging lower body. His upper body grew like a weed but his legs were much smaller.
Dorian focused on back squats just like all the other top bodybuilders but his legs wouldn’t grow. Dorian came to the conclusion that squats were a poor fit for his structure and that if he wanted to build massive legs he would have to focus on more muscle-intensive exercises like leg extensions, leg presses and hack squats.
Here is the exact quadriceps routine that Dorian used during his entire competitive bodybuilding career:
The Dorian Yates Quad Workout
- A1: Bilateral machine leg extension, 1 working set of 8-10 reps to failure**
- B1: 45 degree leg press, 1 working set of 10-12 reps to failure**
- C1: Machine hack squat, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
**Perform 1-3 extra forced reps with the help of your training partner after reaching failure.
Dorian performed 1 working set to failure on three different machine exercises for quads. Dorian started his leg workout off with leg extensions. This may seem like a strange choice but Dorian believed it was absolutely essential to isolate and pre-fatigue his quads before moving onto more compound exercises like leg extensions and hack squats.
IFBB pro Stan Efferding is also a big proponent of pre-fatiguing the quads with leg extensions before moving onto more compound exercises.
There are two big takeaways for Dorian’s decision to drop squats from his routine. First of all, Dorian proved to the world that you can build huge legs without using squats.
Dorian’s quadriceps were perfectly proportionate to the rest of his physique. In fact his quads made some of his other body parts like his chest and biceps look weak.
The second takeaway is that you must experiment in the gym and find the exercises that work best for you. It doesn’t matter if everyone else is doing squats or deadlifts or incline bench presses or any other exercise: if that exercise isn’t helping you build muscle then you might want to drop it from your routine.
Dorian Yates Tip #6: Pre-Exhaust Your Back With Nautilus Pullovers!
Dorian had many strong body parts including his massive shoulders and triceps. However, Dorian was best known for his unbelievable back development. Dorian had one of the widest, thickest upper backs the bodybuilding world has ever seen.
Every single muscle group including his lats, traps, rhomboids, teres major and spinal erectors were just exploding off his back!
Dorian says that the single most important exercise for developing your upper back is the Nautilus pullover machine. Here is a training video of Dorian demonstrating this exercise:
Dorian always started his back routine with this exercise because it let him completely isolate his lats through a full range of motion. Here is Dorian himself explaining why he likes this exercise so much:
“You can’t talk about back training without talking about the Nautilus pullover machine. It isolates the lats with no involvement of the biceps. There’s no other exercise that does that. The motion of the lats is to bring the upper arm down and back but you’re involving the biceps in all of these movements.”
“So it could be that the biceps reach a point of failure before the lats reach a point of failure. So the idea with the pullover machine is that you’re isolating the lats and you’re exhausting them so when you go to do your conventional movements (pulldowns, rows, whatever it is) your biceps are still fresh and your lats are still exhausted so therefore you get more out of it.”
As they say, you can’t argue with results. Dorian’s lats were his best body part – in his prime it looked like Dorian could flap his lats and just fly away!
If you have access to the Nautilus pullover machine then you have to give this exercise a shot. If you do not have access to it then you may want to try “Dante rows” as popularized by Dante Trudel.
You can click right here to watch Justin Harris demonstrate this exercise – it is a hybrid cable pulldown / pullover / row which really isolates the lats through a full range of motion when performed properly.
Dorian Yates Tip #7: Train Both Heads Of The Biceps!
Dorian Yates had a couple of body parts that lagged behind the rest of his body. One of those muscles was his biceps. Dorian knew he didn’t have the genetics of an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ronnie Coleman to build massive biceps with the basic exercises.
He knew that if he wanted to bring up his lagging biceps then he had to train incredibly hard AND incredibly smart.
Dorian trained his biceps using three different exercises: incline dumbbell curls, standing ez-bar curls and machine preacher curls. Each of these exercises overloads a different part of the biceps and a different part of the strength curve. Check it out:
The Dorian Yates Bicep Routine
- 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: Unilateral machine preacher curl (supinated grip), 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
**Perform 1-3 extra forced reps with the help of your training partner after reaching failure.
Now THIS is a smart biceps training routine! Dorian knew that he had to use different exercises to target both heads of the biceps:
- The short head of the biceps
- The long head of the biceps
Dorian used incline dumbbell curls to target the long head of the biceps. This exercise targets the long head because it places your elbows behind your body while you curl and it places the biceps under a huge loaded stretch in the bottom position of the exercise.
Conversely Dorian used machine preacher curls to train the short head of his biceps. This exercise targets the short head because it puts your elbow out in front of your body. The machine version of this exercise is a great choice for bodybuilders because it puts tension on the biceps in the stretched position and the contracted position of the exercise.
If you have lagging biceps like Dorian did then you have to start training both heads of the biceps. I recommend you make incline curls and preacher curls the foundation of your biceps training routines.
EMG research shows that these are the best exercises for isolating the long and short heads of the biceps and they recruit more muscle fibers than other popular biceps exercises.
Incline curls and preacher curls worked for Dorian and they will work for you too!
Dorian Yates Tip #8: Train Each Body Part More Than Once A Week!
Most professional bodybuilders train each muscle group once every 7 days using a traditional bodybuilding “bro-split.” Dorian believed that this was a mistake. Why wait 7 days to train each muscle group when you can train them more frequently and grow even faster?
Dorian found through trial and error that he got his best results training each muscle group once every 6 days using a new training split that he invented. Check it out:
The Dorian Yates Training Split
- 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!
Dorian’s training split looks a lot like the typical bodybuilding training split. The big difference is Dorian eliminated one of the rest days so he could train each muscle group once every 6 days. This means Dorian is training each muscle group 14% more frequently than his competitors!
Over the course of a year this extra frequency really adds up. Another one of the things that I really like about this training split is it reduces overlap between different muscle groups.
Dorian’s leg and back workouts are spaced out as far apart from each other as they can be. This is important because it reduces the likelihood that Dorian will overtrain his lower back. The same is true for his chest / bicep and shoulder / tricep workouts.
In both of these workouts Dorian performs some heavy pressing exercises. Dorian’s split has these workouts placed as far away from each other as possible which helps to prevent him from overtraining his chest / shoulder / tricep muscles.
Dorian Yates is one of the smartest bodybuilders the world has ever seen. Most bodybuilders use the “monkey-see, monkey-do” training program. They just do what everyone else is doing without thinking much about it.
Dorian was the exact opposite. He broke things down and figured out what was actually responsible for building muscle mass and what was useless “fluff” that was just eating into his recovery ability. Dorian believed that his high-intensity training style with forced reps and multiple exercises per body part was the best way to train for maximum muscle mass.
Dorian also used a number of tricks such as the pre-exhaust method, controlled negatives and novel exercises to speed up the muscle-building process as much as possible.
If you are a bodybuilder then I highly recommend you give these 8 Dorian Yates training tips a shot. Even if you do not use Dorian’s “Blood And Guts” training program you can use these tips to get better results in the gym.
“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.”
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck with your strength training journey!
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