If you are asked to think about the greatest bodybuilder of all time, you will probably think of Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the most famous in bodybuilding history. You might even think about Ronnie Coleman or Lee Haney, the only two 8-time consecutive Olympia winners.

One name that not many will think to list is Dorian Yates. However, Yates is one of the most prolific bodybuilders of all time. With over 15 major wins and six consecutive Olympia titles in the 1990s, his physique is one of the most sought-after styles in the industry.

In this review, we will look at the man who combined the finesse of Schwarzenegger and the mass of Coleman. We will learn all about the Dorian Yates workout routine, diet, purpose, and how he made it to the top, so you can, too.

Dorian Yates' Workout Routine Explained

When he started lifting weights in 1983, Yates had a plan for domination. After learning what it takes to get to the top, working to get there and finding his form, Yates became unbeatable.

From the early 90s until he suffered major bicep and triceps injuries that forced retirement, Yates won almost every major title competition he entered.

He follows a standard bodybuilding 4 or 5 day split focusing on individual body parts. He performs two warm-up sets and then one working set to failure. High weight and pump concentration are the key to this training style.

Following Yates’ bodybuilding workout routine can be brutal. It is best to start with a training partner to spot you. You might also want to alter the training frequency until you are comfortable with adding more weight.

Keeping a training diary can help you spot your weaknesses from a previous workout and set goals for every workout session. The biggest key, though, is rest days. Unlike other workout routines, the working set causes a lot of muscle tearing. You will need the rest days to recover.

When performing your working set, the lowering phase is just as important as the pushing or pulling phase. Complete control of the weight and full range of motion are essential. Most bodybuilders train to failure, but Yates' working sets, along with his warm-up sets, prepared his body for that failure.

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It doesn’t matter if you are on abs day, working the entire body, or focusing on individual muscle groups. The working sets to failure, as seen below, will help you build muscle and see results.

As long as you maintain your training diary and practice safe workouts, your warm-up sets and working sets will give each body part the results you are after while following the Dorian Yates training split.

Dorian Yates Outdoor Workout Routine

Monday: Shoulder, Triceps, and Abs

Exercises

Sets

Reps

Target

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

12,10

8-10

Shoulders, triceps

Barbell Lying Tricep Extension

10

6-8

Triceps

Cable One Arm Pushdown

10

6-8

Triceps

Roman Chair Sit-up

10

20

Abs

Crunch

10

20

Abs

Reverse crunch

10

10

Abs

Tuesday: Back

Exercises

Sets

Reps

Target

Lever Underhand Grip Pulldown

12,10

6-8

Lats, biceps, trapezius

Or Machine Pullover

12,10

6-8

Lats

Yates’ Bent-over Row

10

6-8

Lats, biceps, trapezius

Dumbbell Bent-over Row

10

6-8

Lats, biceps, trapezius

Cable Seated Row

10

6-8

Lats, trapezius, biceps

Rear-Delt Hammer Strength Flyes

10

6-8

Rear delts

Dumbbell bent-over lateral raise

10

6-8

Rear delts

Back Extension

8

6-8

Erector spinae, glutes, hamstrings

Deadlift

8

6-8

Glutes, erector spinae, quads

Wednesday: Rest Day

Thursday: Chest, Biceps, and Abs

Exercises

Sets

Reps

Target

Incline Barbell Bench Press

12,10,6-8

6

Chest, shoulders, triceps

Lever Chest Press

10

6-8

Chest, shoulders, triceps

Incline Dumbbell Flys

10

8

Chest

Cable Cross-over

10

8-10

Chest

Dumbbell Incline Curl

10

6-8

Biceps

Barbell Curl

10

6-8

Biceps

Lever Preacher Curl

10

6-8

Biceps

Roman Chair Sit-up

10

20

Abs

Crunch

10

20

Abs

Reverse crunch

10

10

Abs

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: Legs

Exercises

Sets

Reps

Rest

Leg Extensions

2 Warm-Up,
1 Working 

12-14, 10-12

10-15 Secs

Leg Presses

2 Warm-Up,
1 Working 

12-14, 10-12

10-15 Secs

Hack Squat

2 Warm-Up,
1 Working 

12-14, 10-12

10-15 Secs

Seated Hamstring Curl

2 Warm-Up,
1 Working 

12-14, 10-12

5 minutes

Stiff Legged Deadlifts

1 warm-up,
1 working 

10-12, 6-8

10-15 Secs

Calf Press

3 rest/pause 

To Failure

10-15 Secs

Seated Calf Raise

1 warm-up,
1 working 

10-12, 6-8

10-15 Secs

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Sunday: Rest Day

Dorian Yates Bodybuilding Training

Who is Dorian Yates? (The Famous English Mr. Olympia)

Dorian "The Shadow" Yates was born in Stafford, England, in 1962. He was a troubled youth and spent 6 months in a juvenile detention center shortly after his family moved to Birmingham.

When he was released, he was determined to change his ways and started exercising to burn off energy. This quickly led to entering the gym and doing workouts. When he saw muscular results, Yates was addicted.

By 1983 he was a staple in the local gyms and started entering amateur contests and bodybuilding competitions. In 1990 he went on the pro circuit, coming in the top three spots, often as runner-up. Between 1990 and 1991, he won a total of two titles.

From 1992 until his retirement in 1997, he won every contest he entered. This included 6 back-to-back Mr. Olympia title victories. His bodybuilding workout plan included not only working with different types of weights, adding weight and maximum effort but also building muscle through a warm-up set and forced reps on a working set.

Yates believed it was this work ethic (and his working set routines) that made him the envy of fellow bodybuilders.

His forced retirement was due to injury. He developed chronic pain and small injuries from heavy lifting over the years. He also tore his bicep and triceps a few weeks before the 1997 professional bodybuilder competition, which he still won.

After the end of his competition career, he bought and ran Temple Gym in Birmingham, where he conducted his high-intensity training method daily. He also started his own brand, writing an autobiographical book, workout training guides, training DVDs, and the DY Nutrition brand of supplements.

English bodybuilder Yates continued his workouts and training, but not for competition. Working set to failure routines gave way to leg workouts, muscle group focus to body part attention, and muscle building to muscle maintenance.

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Current Body Stats

During his competition days, Yates would fluctuate weight during the competition season and off-season. At the height of his career, Dorina Yates' measurements were as follows:

Stat

Measurement

Height

5’11”

Weight

310 lbs

Age

58

Biceps

24 Inches

Waist

36 Inches

Chest

58 Inches

Legs

36 inches

Dorian Yates Current Stats

Dorian Yates Workout Principles & Fitness Advice

One of the things that makes Dorian stand out is how he approaches his workout routines and exercises. Not from a physical standpoint, as body splits, high-intensity training, and heavy lifts are common, but from a mental aspect.

The proper frame of mind is critical to Yates' training style success. Knowing his own body and believing that cardio directly following a working set will diminish gains, everything from his warm-up sets to focus on muscle group forced reps was on his results.

Yates trained on a four day split, focusing on different exercises for each individual body part's muscle growth. Maximum intensity with two warm-up sets followed by one working set to failure. In many cases, that failure was after one maximum strength rep.

When reps made it to 8, 10, or 12, he kept pushing. It was this mindset and dedication that formed his body and muscles into competitive bodybuilding championship material.

The warm-up sets (even on abs day) were the core of his results. Without those warm-up sets, the working set to failure would have required many more reps. Higher reps didn't give Yates the results he wanted.

By placing that focus on each body part, performing a warm-up set or two was a small price for great gains. Each workout, all the exercises, and his complete training regimen were all focused on one thing, results.

Accomplishments, Awards & Body Building Titles

Dorian Andrew Mientjez Yates has won 21 professional titles over his career, with 18 1st place trophies.

Aside from his 6 Mr. Olympia titles, he has plenty of other IFBB accolades in his trophy case.[1]

  • Winner – 1984 Mr. Birmingham Novice
  • Winner – 1986 British Championships
  • Winner –  British Championships
  • Winner – 1991 Night of Champions
  • Winner – 1991 English Grand Prix
  • Winner – 1992 English Grand Prix
  • Winner – 1994 Spanish Grand Prix
  • Winner – 1994 German Grand Prix
  • Winner – 1994 English Grand Prix
  • Winner – 1996 Spanish Grand Prix
  • Winner – 1996 German Grand Prix
  • Winner – 1996 English Grand Prix
Dorian Yates Full Physique

The Dorian Yates Diet

Dorian Yates once used his diet as a means to bulk and get ready for competition. That diet consisted of a lot of lean proteins and carbohydrates. With vegetables and shakes to round out the caloric intake, Yates’ bulking diet is all but required when following his workout.

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Yates spread his meals over six servings throughout the day. As is common for bulking, you need to maintain the calorie intake and keep the metabolism running throughout the day.[2] The best way to do that is to split your meals and eat every few hours.

Breakfast

  • Up to a dozen egg whites
  • Protein powder mix
  • Porridge mixed with oatmeal

Snack

  • Protein shake

Lunch

  • Two large chicken breasts
  • Cup of green veggies
  • Either rice or a potato

Snack

  • Protein shake

Dinner

  • Steak (usually filet mignon)
  • Cup of green veggies
  • Potato or rice

Late Snack

  • Porridge and oatmeal
  • Half a dozen egg whites

What To Go For

  • High-Protein Diets 
  • Healthy Fats
  • Complex Carbohydrates

What To Avoid

  • Processed Foods
  • Sugars
  • Alcohol

What Supplements Does Dorian Yates Take?

Dorian Yates is a major proponent of taking supplements to help with muscle mass gains, reducing recovery times, and getting a boost to make it through your workouts. He started the DY Nutrition brand and sells his supplements directly from his website.[3]

During his bulking and competition days, Yates was known to take the following supplements regularly.

  • BCAAs
  • Glutamine
  • Pre-workout mix
  • Daily multivitamin
  • Protein shake

Dorian Yates Workout Routine & Diet Plan FAQs

How many calories did Dorian Yates eat per day?

Against what is common for bulking and competition, Dorian Yates maintained a caloric intake below 6000 calories during the off-season and under 4000 calories during competitions.

What cardio did Dorian Yates do?

Bodybuilders are notoriously avid against cardio workouts. Yates was under the same understanding. He believed that cardio on workout days would diminish gains. To that end, he also understood how important cardio is to endurance and blood flow. So he power walked for 30 minutes every off day.

How many warm-up sets did Dorian Yates do?

The Yates workout included three sets of each exercise; the first two were lower weight warm-up reps followed by the heavy weight to failure working set.

Did Dorian Yates do dips?

Dorian did not do compound pressing exercises. He decided to get his arm results with isolation exercises such as skull crushers and pull downs, but he never performed dips.

What is a Dorian deadlift?

The Dorian deadlift is a deadlift movement that builds the back with a much more difficult version of a standard deadlift. It is named after Dorian as he is the primary user of the lift and the person most people see using it. This deadlift starts as a standard lift, but when you go back down, just below the knees, you reverse the movement. This takes the rest and non-eccentric movement out of the lift.

Conclusion

Dorian Yates is one of the most successful bodybuilders of the modern era, and his reign at the top through the 90s was meteoric. His non-conventional lifting attitude, dedication, and hard work are envied worldwide.

The English Mr. Olympia followed a workout plan many have tried to duplicate and imitate over the years. Now that you know how The Shadow ate, what he believed in, and his workout routine, you can take your next gym session to the next level.

References: 

1. https://ifbb.com/
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6520689/
3. https://dynutrition.com/

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Andrew White

Andrew White is the co-founder of Garage Gym Pro. As an expert fitness professional (gym building nerd) with over 10 years of industry experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern fitness & the newest market innovations for garage gyms. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually out surfing or playing basketball.