The Dorian Yates Training Split!


Dorian Yates was one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. He won the Mr. Olympia title six times in a row from 1992 – 1997 and is considered the first true “mass monster” in the sport of bodybuilding.

Dorian Yates was known for his high-intensity training style but that wasn’t the only unusual thing about the way he trained. Dorian invented his own bodybuilding training split and used it to build muscle mass faster than anyone else ever thought possible.

If you want to learn more about the Dorian Yates training split then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Optimal Training Frequency
  • Part 2: The Importance Of Recovery

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you everything you need to know about the training split of Dorian Yates.

Dorian trained each body part once every 6 days using the following body part split:

  • 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!

This may look like a typical bodybuilding style training split where you train each body part once per week with lots of sets, reps and exercises. In my opinion Dorian’s split is an improved version of the old-school bodybuilding split.

Here are just a few of the reasons why Dorian’s split works so well:

  • Improved direct training frequency
  • Improved indirect training frequency
  • More total rest days
  • Rest days after the heaviest workouts
  • Optional rest days when you are feeling beat up

Dorian’s training split works so much better than the old-school “bro-split.” It’s not even a fair comparison! By the end of this article you will understand exactly why this training split works so well and how to start using it in your own training. Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Optimal Training Frequency

Most professional bodybuilders train each body part once every 7 days or once per week. This works well for a lot of gifted bodybuilders. However, I believe Dorian’s approach works even better.

Dorian trained each body part slightly more often with a once-every-6-days training frequency. For example:

  • 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!

As you can see every body part is trained directly once every 6 days. This may not seem like a big deal. After all, how much of a difference can there be between training body parts once every 7 days vs once every 6 days? In reality this makes a very large difference for most people. 

Training body parts once every 7 days is just not optimal for most people. This is true for beginner, intermediate and even most advanced bodybuilders. or most individuals there is a slight detraining effect taking place by the seventh day.

This means that although some muscular hypertrophy took place earlier in the week, the gains start to dissipate by the end of the week. There is just too much time in between workouts for each body part to make optimal progress.

Personally I really like Dorian’s moderate training frequency. He simply shaves off a rest day from the typical “bro-split” so that he can train each body part every six days. This means he is training body parts 14% more frequently than his competitors!

Over the course of a year Dorian is performing 61 workouts per body part vs the 52 workouts per body part that everyone else is performing In other words he trained each body part 14% more often than his competitors. This is one of the reasons Dorian was able to build muscle mass so much faster than his peers.

Dorian’s Indirect Training Frequency

Dorian trained each body part once every 6 days. However, if you look closely you will see that Dorian actually trained each body part directly OR indirectly once every 3 days! No, I am not kidding! Take another look at the training split:

  • 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!

Each body part is actually trained twice in the 6 day time period. For example Dorian trains his triceps directly in his shoulder / tricep workout and indirectly 3 days later in his chest / biceps workout. 

Here was Dorian’s Tricep workout:

  • A1: Standing bilateral cable push down (straight bar, pronated grip), 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • B1: Lying Ez-bar extension (to forehead), 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure
  • C1: Standing unilateral cable push down (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

You can click right here for Dorian’s training video for this workout.

And here was Dorian’s chest workout:

  • 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**

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

You can click right here for Dorian’s training video for this workout.

Dorian was indirectly training his triceps with things like incline bench presses and flat machine presses on his chest day. This means that he was stimulating his triceps twice every 6 days or more than twice per week! Talk about training frequency!

The same thing is true for other body parts like his hamstrings. Dorian trained his hamstrings directly with exercises like leg curls and stiff-legged deadlifts on his hamstring day. He then went on to indirectly stimulate them 3 days later on his back / rear delts day with exercises like bent over rows and deadlifts.

Here was Dorian’s hamstring routine:

  • A1: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet neutral / dorsiflexed), 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • B1: Romanian deadlift (to mid-shin height), 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure
  • C1: Kneeling unilateral leg curl (feet neutral / dorsiflexed), 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

You can click right here for Dorian’s training video for this workout.

And here was Dorian’s back routine:

  • 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

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

You can click right here for Dorian’s training video for this workout.

For example:

This high-frequency approach is an awesome way to build muscle mass. I really like how each body part is hit directly or indirectly only once every 3 days. This means you never have to worry about “overlap” between different body parts.

For example you really don’t have to worry about your triceps being too sore and negatively impacting your chest workout etc. It really is hard to think of any other training split that takes advantage of overlap between body parts as well as Dorian’s routine.

The bottom line is if you want to use a smarter approach to training frequency then Dorian’s unique training split is one of your best choices.

Part 2: The Importance Of Recovery

The Dorian Yates training split does a wonderful job of helping you to recover in between your workouts. In my experience there are three reasons why this split helps you to recover so well in between workouts:

  • Limited back to back training days
  • Rest days after your toughest workouts
  • Flexibility to take a day off when needed

Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.

Recovery Factor #1: There Are Limited Back To Back Training Days

This is one of the biggest problems with the typical bodybuilding “bro-split.” There are not enough rest days in between workouts. Take a look at the following normal looking training split:

  • Monday: Chest
  • Tuesday: Back
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Shoulders
  • Friday: Arms
  • Saturday: Off
  • Sunday: Off

One of the biggest problems with this type of split for most people is that there are not enough rest days in between workouts. Your muscles will have plenty of time to recover between workouts. However, your central nervous system will not.

Your central nervous system is kind of like a battery. Every time you lift weights you are draining the energy stores from the battery. It does not matter if you are training chest, back, legs, or arms. Every weight training workout places a toll on your nervous system.

Most trainees cannot handle more than 2 heavy workouts in a row. Some gifted bodybuilders and strength athletes can handle as many as three workouts in a row but that is usually the limit. Your nervous system NEEDS rest days in order to properly recover.

The typical bodybuilding bro-split just doesn’t have enough rest days for most people to recover and make progress.

Take another look at the Dorian Yates training split:

  • 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!

With this split you get an off day after every second workout. These off days help to prevent you from overtraining so that you can make consistent strength gains week after week. I think you will be surprised at how much these off days help you with your own workouts!

Recovery Factor #2: You Get A Rest Day After Your Toughest Workouts

Not all workouts are created equal. Most bodybuilders know that it is harder to recover from a heavy back or leg day than it is a heavy chest, shoulder or arm training day. Exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bent over rows and other exercises that tax your lower back are very difficult to recover from.

One of the advantages of the Dorian Yates training split is that you always have a day off after your leg or back training days. Let’s take another look at Dorian’s split:

  • 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 always has an off day after his leg and back training days. This is one of the reasons that Dorian was able to make such consistent progress throughout his bodybuilding career. He never over trained his central nervous system so he was able to make consistent strength gains over time.

Just take a look at Dorian’s 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

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

Dorian was known for his low volume / high intensity training style but that looks like enough volume to kill a silverback gorilla! If Dorian were to try and train the day after this back workout it would not go well. He would be so tired that it would not be a productive workout.

If you find that you are having a hard time recovering from your leg or back workouts then Dorian’s split may be just what you need to recover properly.

Recovery Factor #3: You Have The Flexibility To Take A Day Off When Needed

Many bodybuilders and powerlifters find that they need to perform a “deload” after a few weeks of heavy training. A deload is a short period of time where you decrease the volume, intensity or frequency of your training.

Deloads are used when you start to feel really beat up from training so that you can fully recover and be ready to attack the weights again. There are many different ways to perform a deload but Dorian’s deloading strategy is one of my favorites.

Dorian would just take an extra rest day whenever he felt like he needed it. Usually this extra rest day would fall after his leg training day. For example:

  • Day 1: Chest / Biceps
  • Day 2: Quads / Hamstrings / Calves
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Off
  • Day 5: Shoulders / Triceps
  • Day 6: Back / Rear Delts
  • Day 7: Off
  • Day 8: Repeat!

In my experience this deloading strategy works best if you are training body parts more than once every 7 days. That way you can take a day or two off and you are still hitting body parts at least once every 7 days. This is the exact deloading strategy that Dorian Yates used with his novel training split and his results speak for themselves!

If you are hitting body parts once per week like a lot of bodybuilders do then it’s much more difficult to make this deloading strategy work. There would be too many days in between training days for each body part and you may even go backwards with your progress.

Conclusion

There are many effective training splits. Personally I am a big fan of the following splits:

  • Upper / lower splits
  • Push / pull / leg splits
  • Poliquin splits

The Dorian Yates training split is a little unusual but it easily belongs on the list of the greatest training splits of all time. Dorian’s split works so well because it combines a slightly higher training frequency with plenty of emphasis on rest and recovery.

In my opinion it is a significantly improved version of the traditional bodybuilding “bro-split” where you train each body part once per week.

The only drawback of the Dorian Yates training split is that you have to be able to train every day of the week. You only perform about 4-5 workouts per week but the days that you train on rotates from one week to the next.

If you are a bodybuilder and have a more flexible training schedule then I highly recommend you give Dorian’s split a shot. You won’t be disappointed!

“If I listened to my instincts, I’d be down at the pub chasing women, not under a 400 pound bar squatting.”

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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