Dorian Yates’ Workouts from 1982-1985


Yates in 1986

Known as ‘The Shadow’ in bodybuilding circles, Dorian Yates was the goliath of early 1990s bodybuilding. Winning the Mr. Olympia six straight years in a row from 1992 to 1997, Yates was famed for his intense approach to training. A modified form of the high intensity training advocated by Arthur Jones and Mike Mentzer, Yates’ success briefly brought this style of training to the bodybuilding fore.

The following post, stemming from a Dorian article with Flex magazine from the mid 1990s, details the Englishman’s training programme prior to his meteoric success. While everyone wants to know how a champion trains, knowing how they became a champion is equally important…Enjoy!

Induction Programme

  • Five minutes of stretching of all muscle groups as a general warm-up
Bodypart Exercise Set Reps
Thighs Barbell Squats 3 10
Hamstrings Leg Curls 3 10
Chest Bench Presses 3 10
Back Barbell Rows 3 10
Shoulders Presses Behind Neck 3 10
Biceps Barbell Curls 3 10
Triceps Lying Triceps Extensions 3 10
Abs Incline Situps 3 20
Calves Standing Calf Raises 3 10

Duration: Approximately 50 minutes


  • Concentrate on doing each rep in strict style
  • Use a weight with which 10 reps is just possible, rather than going to failure
  • Rest between each set until you are fully capable of attempting the next set. The time period should fall between 60 and 90 seconds.
  • Listen to what your body is telling you in regard to each exercise’s suitability

Spilt Routine: 1983-1985

Workout One

  • Five minutes warming up and stretching muscle groups to be exercised
Bodypart Exercise Set Reps
Chest Bench Press 3 8
  Incline Presses 3 8
  Incline Flyes 2 8-10
Back Chins or Pulldowns 3 8
  Barbell Rows 3 8
  Deadlifts 3 8
Delts Presses Behind Neck 3 8
  Side Laterals 2 8
  Bent Laterals 2 8
Abs Crunches 3 To Failure
  Hanging Leg Raises 3 To Failure

Workout Two 

  • Five minutes warming up and stretching muscle groups to be exercised
Bodypart Exercise Set Reps
Thighs Barbell Squats 4 8
  Hack Squats 3 8
Hamstrings Leg Curls 3 8
Calves Standing Calf Raises 3 8
Biceps Barbell Curls 3 8
  One Arm Preacher Curls 2 8
Triceps Triceps Pushdowns 3 8
  Lying Triceps Extension 2 8


  • Aim for textbook execution on every exercise.
  • The first set of each exercise should be relatively light (to warm up), with the following sets taken to failure.
  • When the eighth rep no longer represents failure, add weight accordingly.
  • I didn’t employ forced reps until I’d been following this schedule for 12 months.

Workout Schedule 

Monday – Workout 1

Tuesday – Rest

Wednesday – Workout 2

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Rest

Saturday – Workout 1

Sunday – Rest

Monday – Workout 2

Tuesday – Rest

Wednesday – Rest

Thursday – Workout 1

Friday – Rest

Saturday = Workout 2

Sunday – Rest


The premise that a training program should be in sync with a seven day cycle was almost sacred 11 years ago, but I had no qualms about breaking that tradition. Human physiology ticks to a 24-hour clock, not a seven day calendar.

Within this split routine, I did three exercises for large body parts and two exercises for the smaller ones. The exception was thighs (a large body part), which I limited to two exercises: barbell squats and hack squats. At that stage of my development, I felt those were the only two exercises I needed for thighs – I did an extra set of barbell squats by way of compensation. Like my induction course, my split routine relied mainly on basic movements as they generate the most overall growth.

I rested between sets only as much as I needed, and I didn’t socialise during rest periods. I was very businesslike. My job was to get in and out of the gym as quickly as feasible and the go home an grow! Another factory that illustrated I had stepped up a gear from my ‘breaking in’ schedule was that I started to compile a training log. This was an invaluable reference in determining what worked for me and what didn’t.

After a year on this schedule, I started to include forced reps. I would choose one basic exercise for each body part and on the last set of that exercise, I would do one or two forced reps.

When I began split routine training, I weighed 180 pounds and I kept on it for two years right through to my first novice contest in 1985, when I weighed 210 pounds. In fact, I didn’t abandon this program until after I won the British heavyweight division in October of 1985.

3 thoughts on “Dorian Yates’ Workouts from 1982-1985

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  1. Love this program now, I’m actually planning to implement this in my summer routine after reading your article. I also relate to having a “business” like attitude in the gym, we’re there to get our work done, not talk about the weather or what was on TV. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Oh brilliant. Will you let us know how you find it? It’s funny but sometimes it’s the simple things like actually workout when you’re meant to workout which make a difference!

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