Are you curious about the Dorian Yates workout routine?
Do you want to know how Dorian Yates trained to become one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time?
Then you’ve come to the right place.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll teach you how to use the Dorian Yates workout routine to take your training to the next level!
- Part 1: Dorian’s Chest And Biceps Routine
- Part 2: Dorian’s Leg Routine
- Part 3: Dorian’s Shoulders And Triceps Routine
- Part 4: Dorian’s Back And Rear Delts Routine
- Part 5: Beat The Logbook!
Dorian Yates is one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time.
He won the Mr. Olympia contest 6 times in a row from 1992- 1997 and set a new standard for size and conditioning in the bodybuilding world.
So what did his workout routine look like?
The Dorian Yates workout routine is a low-volume, high-intensity bodybuilding program designed to help you build muscle as fast as possible.
Dorian Yates performed one working set per exercise to total muscular failure.
Here is Dorian Yates himself describing his training style:
“A lot of people have misconceptions about my training.
People think it’s just about throwing heavy weights around in the gym. We’ll use heavy weights, but it’s really about technique.”
“With bodybuilding, it’s about using the weight as a tool to put maximum stress on the muscle to trigger muscle growth.
It’s all about the intensity of the workout.”
After his warm-up sets Dorian put everything he had into his 1 working set to failure per exercise.
Take a look at this video of Dorian performing the flat hammer strength machine for his chest:
Talk about an intense set!
Dorian performs 5 hard reps on his own with a very heavy weight.
Then Dorian’s training partner comes in and helps him through the concentric or lifting portion of the exercise so he can perform another 3 reps after reaching failure.
This is what Dorian calls “forced reps.”
He trains to failure and then his training partner gives him a little bit of help to lift the weight so he can perform an extra 1-3 reps beyond failure.
These forced reps are so effective for building muscle mass because they extend the time under tension of the set and help you to overload the eccentric or lowering phase of the exercise.
Dorian performed forced reps on machine and isolation exercises or whenever he felt it was safe.
He never performed forced reps on exercises that involved the lower back like deadlifts or barbell rows – that is just asking for an injury.
Dorian is known for his “low-volume / high-intensity” training style but he used a traditional bodybuilding training split and trained each muscle group with many different exercises.
Here is the exact training split that Dorian used during his bodybuilding career:
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!
As you can see, Dorian trained with a modified version of the traditional bodybuilding bro split.
Dorian trained each muscle group once every 6 days.
He only performed 1 set to failure per exercise but he actually trained each muscle group with many different exercises. Check it out:
Dorian Yates’ Weekly Training Volume
- Chest: 4 Exercises
- Shoulders: 5 Exercises
- Triceps: 3 Exercises
- Back: 6 Exercises
- Biceps: 3 Exercises
- Quads: 3 Exercises
- Hamstrings: 3 Exercises
- Calves: 2 Exercises
As you can see, Dorian trained each muscle group with a good amount of volume.
He used 6 different exercises just to train his upper back!
If you want to use Dorian’s exact training program then you have to make sure your nutrition, sleep and overall recovery program are locked in.
Otherwise this program will eat you up and spit you out alive!
Now let’s take a closer look at the actual workouts that made Dorian Yates one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time.
Part 1: Dorian’s Chest And Biceps Routine
Dorian’s first training day focused on his chest and biceps.
These were Dorian’s two weakest muscle groups so this was a very important training day for him.
Dorian believed that training your weaker body parts with more volume or training frequency is a waste of time.
Instead he says you should train them with more intensity!
Here are Dorian’s exact thoughts on training lagging body parts:
“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.”
“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.”
This is the exact approach Dorian used when he trained his chest and biceps: he picked the exercises that worked best for his structure and he trained them to failure and even beyond failure with techniques like forced reps and extra negative reps.
Here is Dorian’s exact chest / biceps routine. Check it out:
Dorian Yates’ Chest / Biceps Routine
Dorian’s 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**
Dorian’s Biceps Routine
- Exercise #5: 60 degree incline DB curl, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
- Exercise #6: Standing ez-bar curl, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
- Exercise #7: One-arm machine preacher curl, 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 / biceps training video:
Talk about a brutal chest / biceps workout!
Dorian trains his chest and biceps with 3-4 exercises each.
Dorian trains to failure on every single exercise and almost always performs 1-3 extra forced reps to further overload his muscles.
Dorian says the key to bringing up his chest and biceps was picking the best exercises for his structure.
Here is Dorian talking about his 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.”
“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 why Dorian is called the “mad genius of bodybuilding.”
He was not a slave to other people’s belief systems.
Instead, he was willing to experiment and experiment until he found the chest exercises that worked best for him!
Dorian says that his biceps were the body part he struggled with the most during his bodybuilding career.
He had to experiment with many different exercises before his biceps really started to grow.
Here are Dorian’s thoughts on the best bicep exercises:
“Originally I was doing heavy barbell curls, heavy barbell curls because that is what most people were doing. My shoulders and forearms were growing but my biceps were still lagging.”
“I was able to improve my biceps by doing a very isolated exercise first.
My favorite bicep exercises were dumbbell concentration curls, cable curls and any type of machine curl that really isolated the biceps.”
“Again the key is controlling the negative, holding the peak contraction, perhaps using extra negative reps if possible.”
Dorian found the biceps exercises that worked best for his body and then he hammered them home until he got the results he wanted.
I absolutely love this stuff!
How many bodybuilders do you see slaving away at the so-called “mass-building” biceps exercises like seated dumbbell curls or standing barbell curls with lagging biceps?
I’ve seen too many to count!
If you aren’t getting the results you want, then you must be willing to experiment like Dorian Yates to find the best exercises for your structure.
One of the things I really like about Dorian’s biceps routine is he uses three exercises to overload different parts of the biceps.
The incline dumbbell curl targets the long head of the biceps and overloads the stretched position of the strength curve.
The standing ez-bar curl targets both heads of the biceps and overloads the mid-range position of the strength curve.
Finally the machine preacher curl targets the short head of the biceps and the shortened position of the strength curve.
If you are looking for a great all-around biceps routine then you have to give the Dorian Yates biceps routine a shot!
Part 2: Dorian’s Leg Routine
If you hate the barbell squat then you are going to love the Dorian Yates leg routine!
Dorian never performed the barbell squat in training.
He says that the squat is a great exercise, but it was a poor choice for him and his structure.
Instead Dorian relied on a variety of machine exercises like leg extensions, leg presses and hack squats.
Here is Dorian talking about why he never performed squats in his leg workouts:
“I didn’t do any free weight squats as a professional bodybuilder. Not one single squat and I won 6 Mr. Olympias.
You have to figure out what works for you. I got better quad development with leg extensions, leg presses and hack squats.”
“If I do hack squats or leg presses I’m lifting everything with my quads. There’s no lower back, no glutes. So I can go to absolute failure on these exercises.”
I’m not saying that you have to drop squats from your routine.
But for Dorian Yates, the squat was an over-rated exercise.
He got better overall leg development from machine exercises where he could really isolate his quads.
Here is the exact leg routine that Dorian Yates used during his professional bodybuilding career. Check it out:
Dorian Yates’ Leg Routine
Dorian’s Quadriceps Routine
- Exercise #1: Machine leg extension, 1 working set of 8-10 reps to failure**
- Exercise #2: 45 degree leg press, 1 working set of 10-12 reps to failure**
- Exercise #3: Machine hack squat, 1 working set of 8-10 reps to failure**
Dorian’s Hamstrings Routine
- Exercise #4: Lying leg curl, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
- Exercise #5: Romanian deadlift, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure
- Exercise #6: Kneeling leg curl, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
Dorian’s Calf Routine
- Exercise #7: Standing calf raise, 1 working set of 10-12 reps to failure**
- Exercise #8: Seated calf raise, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
**Perform 1-3 forced reps after reaching failure with the help of your training spotter.
Here is the training video for Dorian’s leg workout:
Talk about a brutal workout!
Dorian performs 8 exercises for his legs:
- Quads: 3 exercises
- Hamstrings: 3 exercises
- Calves: 2 exercises
Dorian performs leg extensions first in his routine to pre-exhaust his quadriceps.
The real goal with the leg extensions is to pre-exhaust your quads so they work even harder during the rest of your workout.
Next Dorian moves onto leg presses and hack squats.
For both of these exercises Dorian performs one working set to absolute failure. He even has his training partners help him perform 1-3 forced reps at the end of his set.
Here is Dorian describing how you should feel at the end of your 1 working set to failure on hack squats:
“You should have a very difficult time standing up, breathing and knowing what your name is.”
“If you don’t then you’re not training hard enough!
If you don’t feel like you’re going to puke then you’re not training hard enough!”
The rest of Dorian’s leg routine is somewhat easier to perform.
Don’t get me wrong – training to failure on hamstrings and calf exercises is still very difficult to do.
But it is nothing compared to training to failure for quadriceps.
Dorian performs 3 “meat and potatoes” exercises for his hamstrings:
- Seated leg curls
- Romanian deadlifts
- Kneeling leg curls
Dorian trains to failure and performs forced reps on his two leg curl exercises.
However, for the Romanian deadlifts he stops just shy of failure.
Trying to perform forced reps on Romanian deadlifts is just asking for an injury.
Finally Dorian finishes off his leg workout with some direct work for the calves.
If you have the guts to perform Dorian’s full leg workout then you can expect some of the fastest leg growth of your entire life.
Just make sure you are ready to train to absolute failure!
Remember – you only get to perform 1 working set to failure per exercise and you have to make it count!
Part 3: Dorian’s Shoulders And Triceps Routine
Dorian’s shoulders and triceps were always two of his stronger body parts.
When Dorian hit his “side tricep” pose on the bodybuilding stage it was game over for his competitors!
Dorian’s shoulders and triceps were just too massive from this angle.
Here is the exact shoulder / triceps routine that Dorian used to become the Mr. Olympia champion. Check it out:
Dorian Yates’ Shoulder / Triceps Routine
Dorian’s Shoulder Routine
- Exercise #1: Seated smith overhead press, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure
- Exercise #2: Seated DB lateral raise, 1 working set of 8-10 reps to failure**
- Exercise #3: Standing cable lateral raise, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
- Exercise #4: Standing DB shrugs, 1 working set of 12-15 reps to failure
Dorian’s Triceps Routine
- Exercise #5: Two-arm cable pushdown (overhand grip), 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
- Exercise #6: Ez-bar skull crusher (bar to forehead), 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure
- Exercise #7: One-arm cable pushdown (underhand 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 muscular failure.
Here is the training video for this workout:
Dorian’s shoulder workout is very interesting.
He performs one overhead pressing movement followed by a bunch of smaller isolation exercises for his side delts and traps.
One of the things that I really like about his shoulder routine is he uses exercises that overload different parts of the strength curve.
In other words Dorian uses exercises that are hardest at the bottom, the middle and the top of the range of motion. For example:
Dorian Yates’ Shoulder Exercises
- Overhead press: overloads the mid-range of the strength curve
- Dumbbell lateral raise: overloads the top of the strength curve
- Cable lateral raise: overloads the bottom of the strength curve
Using different exercises to overload different points in the strength curve is an awesome strategy that you can use with any training routine.
Of course, Dorian performs all of these exercises with mind-blowing intensity.
Dorian trains just shy of failure on the overhead press and throws in plenty of forced reps and negative-only reps on the shoulder isolation exercises.
Here are Dorian talking about the importance of training to absolute failure:
“I’m talking about absolute failure, guys.
A lot of people come to train with me and they think they’ve failed and then I’m getting them to do another 2-3 reps.”
“So failure is sometimes just in your mind – I’m talking about true physical failure!”
Dorian’s triceps routine is also pretty simple. He performs 1 working set to failure on 3 separate exercises.
Dorian chooses his 3 exercises very carefully to make sure he is overloading all 3 heads of the triceps.
Dorian’s first exercise is the straight bar cable pushdown.
Dorian is so strong on this exercise that he has to use a dipping belt with extra weight to keep him anchored to the ground!
Dorian performs this exercise as a power pressing movement with a little bit of chest and front delt involvement to drive the weight down to lockout.
Dorian’s second exercise is everyone’s favorite tricep exercise: the ez-bar skull crusher.
Dorian says the skull crusher is a great exercise but it should be performed later in your routine after your elbows are warmed up.
The bodybuilding coach John Meadows uses a similar approach in his workouts.
Finally, Dorian finishes up with another variation of triceps pushdowns to finish off whatever is left in his triceps.
Here is Dorian talking about how to pick the best exercises to train the triceps:
“I believe you need at least 2 triceps exercises: one with the arm by the side to target the lateral head and one with the arms overhead to target the long head.”
“You can use barbells, dumbbells or cables – it doesn’t really matter.”
One interesting thing about Dorian’s triceps routine is he never performed compound pressing exercises like dips or close grip bench presses.
These are great exercises but Dorian got his best results with isolation exercises like cable pushdowns and skull crushers.
Part 4: Dorian’s Back And Rear Delts Routine
Dorian Yates was known for his unbelievable upper back development.
His upper back was so wide and so thick that he didn’t even look human. Instead he looked like an alien sent from another planet!
In my opinion Dorian’s back routine is just as difficult as his leg routine.
Dorian trains his upper back with 8 different exercises including pullovers, pulldowns, rows, back extensions and deadlifts.
All of these exercises were performed in a very specific order to help Dorian stimulate as much muscle growth as possible while avoiding injuries.
Here is the exact back workout Dorian used to become the Mr. Olympia champion. Check it out:
Dorian Yates’ Back / Rear Delts Routine
Dorian’s Upper Back Routine
- Exercise #1: Pullover machine, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
- Exercise #2: Hammer strength pulldown (supinated grip), 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
- Exercise #3: Standing barbell row to knees, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure
- Exercise #4: Seated 1-arm machine row, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
Dorian’s Rear Delt Exercises
- Exercise #5: Bent-over rear delt machine, 1 working set of 10-12 reps to failure
- Exercise #6: Bent over rear-delt DB flys, 1 working set of 8-10 reps to failure
Dorian’s Lower Back Exercises
- Exercise #7: 90 degree back extension (BB on back), 1 working set of 8-10 reps to failure
- Exercise #8: Conventional deadlift, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure
**Perform 1-3 forced reps after reaching failure with the help of your training spotter.
Here is the training video for this workout:
Talk about a high-volume back workout!
Dorian performs 4 exercises for his upper back, 2 exercises for his rear delts and 2 exercises for his lower back.
This is an insane amount of volume but it worked like magic for Dorian Yates.
The first thing I notice about Dorian’s back routine is he likes to pre-exhaust his lats with the Nautilus pullover machine.
Dorian believes that this is the most important upper back exercise you can perform in the gym.
Here is Dorian talking about this incredible piece of equipment:
“We can’t talk about back training without talking about the nautilus pullover machine. I always started my back routine with that exercise.
I like it because it isolates the lats with no involvement of the biceps. There is no other exercise that does that.”
“So the idea with the pullover machine is that you are isolating the lats and pre-exhausting them so they work harder during your other pulldown or rowing movements.”
After the nautilus pullover machine Dorian performed 3 other upper back exercises including machine pulldowns, barbell rows and one-arm machine rows.
Dorian strongly prefers underhand grip pulldowns over the more popular wide / overhand grip pulldowns.
Dorian says that the underhand grip puts your biceps in a stronger mechanical position and gives you a bigger range of motion.
Dorian’s next two exercises are for his upper back.
Dorian keeps things simple by using 2 good-old-fashioned “meat and potatoes” rear delt exercises: machine rear delt flyes and dumbbell rear delt flyes.
Finally Dorian finishes his back workout with 2 exercises for his lower back: 90 degree back extensions and barbell deadlifts.
It may look strange performing deadlifts at the end of your routine.
However, Dorian believes this is the way to go for bodybuilders.
Your upper back is already pre-fatigued at this point in your workout so you can get better upper back stimulation while lifting less weight.
Part 5: Beat The Logbook!
Dorian Yates recorded all of his workouts in a training logbook.
I’m not kidding – Dorian recorded every single workout from his professional bodybuilding career in a small notebook!
In my opinion this is one of the biggest reasons why Dorian dominate the sport of professional bodybuilding in the 1990’s.
I know some of you reading this article will laugh at the idea of using a training logbook.
Aren’t they just for beginners? And if they’re so important, why doesn’t everyone else use one?
Let’s look at the facts.
Dorian knew that he wouldn’t become the Mr. Olympia champion just by accident. He had to get stronger over time on his key exercises such as the incline bench press, the nautilus pullover machine and so on.
And the best way to get stronger is to use a training logbook.
Here is what Dorian’s logbook looked like before his chest and biceps workout:
Dorian’s Chest And Biceps Logbook
Exercise #1: 30 degree incline bench press
- LT: 405 x 8
Exercise #2: Hammer strength flat machine press
- LT: 165 / side x 6 (+3 forced reps)
Exercise #3: 30 degree incline DB fly
- LT: 90s x 7 (+2 forced reps)
Exercise #4: Cable crossover
- LT: 150 x 6 (+1 forced rep)
Exercise #5: 60 degree incline DB curl (supinating grip)
- LT: 75s x 5 (+2 forced reps)
Exercise #6: Standing ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip)
- LT: 150 x 6 (+1 forced rep)
Exercise #7: Unilateral preacher machine curl (supinated grip)
- LT: 85 x 5 (+3 forced reps)
Before every workout Dorian wrote down the 6-8 exercises that he planned to do that workout.
He also wrote down his performance from the previous workout next to the “LT” symbol. The “LT” symbol stands for “Last Time” and the “TT” symbol stands for “This Time.”
Dorian’s goal for each workout was to beat his previous best performance on that exercise.
He didn’t always beat the logbook. On some weeks he only tied his previous best performance. However, the act of trying to beat the logbook meant he was building strength and muscle mass as fast as possible.
The logbook also helped Dorian to train with maximum intensity on all of his working sets.
The LAST thing Dorian wanted was to drive home knowing the logbook kicked his ass!
If he got 6 reps on an exercise last week then he was going to push through the pain until he got 6, 7 or even 8 reps with the same weight this week.
If you don’t have the “guts” to wage the never-ending war against the logbook then the Dorian Yates training program is not for you. It’s as simple as that!
Conclusion | The Dorian Yates Workout Routine!
Dorian Yates will go down in history as one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time.
He invented his own high-intensity training program to dominate the sport of bodybuilding for 6 years in a row.
I must warn you: the Dorian Yates training program is not for everyone. You need to have an extreme personality to train this way!
You have to love training to failure and love pushing yourself to your absolute limits on every set.
This is a true story: a doctor took an X-ray of Dorian’s head when he was training for the 1993 Mr. Olympia competition. The doctor found a stick of dynamite ready to explode!
People often ask Dorian Yates why he trained so hard in the gym.
Was it anger? Was he trying to escape a troubled past? Or did he push his body and his mind to absolute failure just for the sheer joy of it?
Even Dorian Yates isn’t 100% sure what motivated him to train this hard.
He sometimes looks back at his old training videos and says “wow – that doesn’t even look possible!”
The bottom line is the Dorian Yates training program is one of the fastest and most effective ways to build muscle mass.
If you are a bodybuilder who loves training to failure and beating the logbook then I highly recommend you give it a shot.
Dorian shared his genius with the world and helped to raise the collective consciousness of mankind. I hope his incredible story inspires you to do the same!
Before you go, check out my other world-class articles:
- The Ronnie Coleman Training Program!
- The Jay Cutler Training Program!
- The Phil Heath Training Program!
- The Arnold Schwarzenegger Training Program!
- The Lee Haney Training Program!
Trust me – you won’t find this cutting edge information available anywhere else!
Here is one more quote by Dorian Yates to pump you up even more:
“Everyday is the first day of the rest of your life.
Don’t dwell on your past mistakes, nor judge others for theirs.
Never let those who lack belief in themselves rob you of yours!”
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!
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