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Dorian Yates’ Workout Routine and Biography

Between 1992 and 1997, Dorian Yates was the best bodybuilder on the planet. Nicknamed the Shadow due to his ability to turn up to a competition without anyone expecting him to be there and pull off an unexpected win, Yates perhaps could’ve been the most successful bodybuilder in history if injury had not forced him to retire. 

Depending on how you view bodybuilding, Yates was either an innovator, or the catalyst for the downturn in bodybuilding aesthetics. He was the first bodybuilder to really concentrate on mass over aesthetics. Not to imply that he wasn’t aesthetic, but it is clear where his priorities lay. The massive musclebound bodybuilders of today owe their look to Dorian Yates. 

Dorian Yates Bio

Yates grew up in Birmingham, England and began working out in 1983 aged 21. Within three years he won his first British Championships, winning the Championships again two years later. In 1991 he entered his first Mr Olympia, placing 2nd in Bodybuilding’s most premier competition. He won six consecutive Mr Olympia titles between 1992 and 1997, before retiring due to injury after his final victory. 

Dorian’s training style was very different to any other bodybuilder at the time, prioritising short, high intensity sessions rather than long high-volume sessions. This was based off the work of Mike Mentzer, though Yates definitely made the program his own, with several key changes to suit his own needs. 

Dorian Yates’ Workout Routine

Below is an example of the workout routine that Dorian Yates used to build one of the largest and most impressive bodies in bodybuildingWe can’t guarantee that you will win six Mr Olympia titles if you follow it, but stay disciplined and you should see some incredible results over time. 

As you can see, this workout routine utilises rest days, with only four days training. This is very different to the higher volume training plans that a lot of other bodybuilders use. Consequently, it means that natural bodybuilders can also use this program, as it won’t be as taxing. 

The program splits the muscles into four different days. Shoulders, triceps and abs on day 1. Back on day 2, chest, biceps and abs on day 4, and legs on day 6. You can add some cardio on rest days if you like (depending on what your goals are). 

Workout Schedule

Day 1 – Shoulders & Tri’s & Abs
Day 2 – Back
Day 3 – Off
Day 4 – Chest & Bi’s & Abs
Day 5 – Off
Day 6 – Quads & Hams & Calves
Day 7 – Off

Biceps

Incline dumbbell curls

  • 1×10 warmup set
  • 1×6-8

EZ-curl barbell curls

  • 1×10 warmup set
  • 1×6-8

Nautilus curls

  • 1×10 warmup set
  • 1×6-8

Triceps

Triceps pushdown

  • 1×15 warmup set
  • 1×12 warmup set
  • 1×8-10

Lying EZ-curl barbell extensions

  • 1×12 warmup set
  • 1×8-10

Back & Read Delt

Hammer Strength pulldowns

  • 1×15 warmup set
  • 1×12 warmup set
  • 1×8-10

Barbell rows

  • 1×12 warmup set
  • 1×8-10

Hammer Strength one-arm rows

  • 1×8-10

Cable rows (overhand grip)

  • 1×8-10

Hammer Strength rear-delt machine

  • 1×8-10

Bent-over dumbell raises

  • 1×8-10

Hyperextensions

  • 1×10-12

Deadlifts

  • 1×8 warmup
  • 1×8

Chest

Incline barbell press

  • 1×12 warmup set
  • 1×8 warmup set
  • 1×8

Hammer Strength seated bench presses

  • 1×10 warmup set
  • 1×6-8

Incline dumbbell flyes

  • 1×10 warmup set
  • 1×8

Cable crossovers

  • 1×10-12

Shoulders

Smith machine presses

  • 1×15 warmup set
  • 1×12 warmup set
  • 1×8-10

Seated laterals

  • 1×12 warmup set
  • 1×8-10

One-arm cable laterals

  • 1×20 warmup set
  • 1×8-10

Dumbbell Shrugs

  • 1×12 warmup set
  • 1×10-12

Legs

Leg extensions

  • 1×15 warmup set
  • 1×12 warmup set
  • 1×10-12

Leg presses

  • 1×12 warmup set
  • 1×12 warmup set
  • 1×10-12

Hack squats

  • 1×12 warmup set
  • 1×10-12

Lying leg curls

  • 1×10-12 warmup set
  • 1×10-12

Stiff-legged deadlifts

  • 1×8-10

Single-leg curls

  • 1×8-10

Standing calf raises

  • 1×10-12 warmup set
  • 1×10-12

Seated calf raises

  • 1×8-10

Dorian Yates Biography: The Making of ‘THE SHADOW’

Dorian Yates is one of the most successful bodybuilders in history, winning six Mr Olympia titles, whilst being undefeated between 1992-1997. Dorian is a legendary figure in the sport, as he changed how bodybuilders thought about their training, with his Heavy Duty philosophy becoming a hit. This was the methodology of HIT (high intensity training) using weights.

Dorian’s nickname was “The Shadow“, because in his era all the pro’s were craving the spotlight, being photographed for magazines left, right and center (soaking up the limelight).

Whereas Dorian would do the opposite. He would hide in the SHADOWS year round. You’d never see or hear from him; it was as if he dropped off the face of the earth.

Other bodybuilders’ eagerness to be viewed as stars made them weak. Whilst they were prancing around living their celeb lifestyle on Venice Beach, California in the sun, Dorian was sweating blood and tears in the basement of his gym (which resembled a dungeon). Temple Gym was a no thrills, old school gym with cold-looking rusty weights… just how Dorian liked it. Then when it was competition time, Dorian would come out of the SHADOWS, take home the trophy; then disappear into the darkness again.

It was his tough mentality, and train like Hell attitude, that won Dorian so many admirers. He made his competitors look like vain amateurs, who never fulfilled their potential. No one could take themselves to the place Dorian did when he trained in his dungeon. This is the place you must go to if you are to surpass your genetic potential. Dorian was the antithesis of vain, where he’d remain covered up all year round; wearing baggy t-shirts out of the gym, that only came off when he stepped on stage.

Dorian Training in His Gym

In this article we’ll be looking at the life of Dorian Yates and discovering how he carved out such a successful career and life.

Early Years

Dorian Yates was born in Sutton Coldfield, England in 1962, but grew up in Hurley, a small village in Staffordshire. Incidentally, Eddie Hall the world record holder for the deadlift also grew up in Staffordshire – must be something in the water!

In 1975 his father died of a heart attack while Dorian was only 13 years old, and the family subsequently moved to Birmingham. Dorian’s mum found a new partner while in Birmingham, but tragically he also died of a heart attack within 12 months of knowing her.

By 19 Yates was hanging out with a group of skinheads (it is important to note that in the late 1970s and early 80s skinhead culture was based around punk music rather than the far-right nationalism that it became associated with in the late 80s).

In 1981 Dorian Yates became involved in the notorious riots that swept Britain. The Handsworth riots were based in Birmingham and were a reaction to the much better-known Brixton and Toxteth riots. Dorian and some friends were caught damaging a tailor’s shop and were consequently arrested. He was sentenced to three months in a youth detention centre. It was here that Dorian decided to focus on bodybuilding, as to avoid spiraling down into a life of crime.

young dorian yates

Within 3 years he would become bodybuilding’s British Champion. Within 11 years he would become the best bodybuilder on the planet, winning his first Sandow trophy.

Bodybuilding Career

When you listen to Dorian Yates speak, you realise that everything that he does is against the grain. He built his physique using methods that were completely different to every other bodybuilder at the time.

Using a variation of the High Intensity System developed by Mike Mentzer and Arthur Jones, Dorian’s sessions would be short, sharp, and to the point. At the time (and still to this day) the most common method that bodybuilders use is long slow sessions that can last several hours.

Yates was the first (and so far only) bodybuilder who was not based in the United States to win Mr Olympia, completing all of his training in his own gym in Birmingham, England. Yes, there have been many bodybuilders from outside the US, but they had all moved to the US to train. The idea being that if you surrounded yourself with fellow pros (in the US) it would elevate your game.

dorian yates

This is probably the case, but Dorian Yates bucked that trend. Training alone and using his own methods, Dorian created a physique that would change bodybuilding forever. He became the first mass monster, a bodybuilder with a physique that looks impossible. Instead of concentrating on aesthetics and symmetry, Yates focused on building as much mass as humanly possible.

1990’s

In 1990 he entered his first professional bodybuilding competition “The Night of Champions” and came second to Algerian bodybuilder Mohammed Benaziza. The next year he would come back and win The Night of Champions. 1991 was also the year that he entered Mr Olympia for the first time, narrowly losing out to 8 time winner Lee Haney.

With Lee Haney’s retirement after the 1991 Mr Olympia, there was a vacuum that needed to be filled. Yates took his opportunity with both hands, beating the great Kevin Levrone to become the first British Mr Olympia in 1992. He would never lose another bodybuilding competition again.

Between 1992 and 1997 he won 13 bodybuilding contests. Six consecutive Mr Olympia titles and 8 Grand Prix titles (mostly in England). He gained the nickname “The Shadow” because he had a habit of surprisingly entering tournaments at the last minute and winning them, something that must have frustrated many second-placed bodybuilders!

Dorian’s has admitted to using anabolic steroids for twelve years up until his final Mr Olympia (where he retired due to injury) and has been refreshingly honest about it.

Since retiring from professional bodybuilding, Dorian Yates has opened numerous gyms around the world, been involved with several supplement companies, and released a couple of autobiographies. He is married to Gal Ferreira Yates, a Brazilian fitness model and has a son called Lewis who is well on his way to a bodybuilding career of his own.

dorian and lewis yates
Father and son (Dorian and Lewis Yates)

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Steve Shaw

Steve Shaw

Steve Shaw is the original founder of Muscle and Brawn, an experienced powerlifter with over 31 years experience pumping iron. During competition he’s recorded a 602.5lb squat, 672.5lb deadlift and a 382.5lb bench press.

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