As most followers of the bodybuilding world have observed, the game has undergone a metamorphosis of sorts over the past 15 years – it has changed, indeed progressed to where cloaked to capacity with masses of sliced to the bone muscle on a perfectly proportioned fame is the number one criterion. While some would call this pushing the envelope just a little too far, hardcore bodybuilding fans would say it is a sign of progress, a natural progression for a sport that is, after all, about building muscle, and lots of it.
The man who many feel singlehandedly turned the bodybuilding tide towards extreme mass is British giant Dorian Yates, the first professional champion to break the 260-pound barrier – in 1993 – who combined such prodigious size with spectacular proportions and a classic X-Frame to become a six-time Mr. Olympia and one of the greatest ever.
Known as The Shadow throughout his illustrious professional career, Dorian would lock himself away in his Birmingham England Temple Gym, only to emerge with the kind of astonishing size and shape that would cause his competition to consider alternative careers at worst, their battle for second place at best.
Upon retiring from the professional stage, Dorian has worked assiduously to promote bodybuilding and devotes much of his time toward training others to be at their very best. His knowledge is sought internationally and his seminars are in great demand worldwide. For the first time he shares his Olympian insights with Inside Fitness readers. Enjoy.
Inside Fitness Magazine: You are known for your High Intensity, low sets training style. Describe the training style you used prior to your winning the Mr. Olympia for the first time and how it changed after you won the title?
Dorian Yates: Prior to ’92 I was doing two sets to failure, so I would do maybe a couple of warm-up sets and then one set to failure, then probably drop the weight probably five to ten percent for the next set to failure. Obviously, if I’ve been to failure with 100 pounds and I have six to eight reps, then if I did 100 pounds on the next set I wouldn’t get those six to eight reps because of the fatigue, so I would have had to drop down. After ’92 I cut back to doing just one set to failure.
IFM: What would you suggest a bodybuilder do in order to determine how they must adjust their training to ensure a proportionate physique?
DY: I think the beginning bodybuilder will need to work everything evenly first, and to see how things pan out after six months or so. Then you can start putting emphasis on certain areas or de-emphasizing certain parts. If you’ve got something that grows really quickly, obviously you don’t need to work that as hard, and vice versa, if you have something that is lacking you need to put your concentration into that, and apply intensity and find which exercises work best for your structure. It doesn’t matter what I do or what it says in the magazines, it might not work for you.
IFM: What are your views on somatotyping with the labels endomorph, ectomorph and mesomorph? Is it important to establish one’s somatotype prior to beginning a bodybuilding program?
DY: Everyone has a combination and everyone is totally an individual, so I don’t think you can slot people into one of these three categories. I would work with the individual and get feedback from their training and diet, and pretty soon I will work out how many calories they need and how much protein and so on. We are all combinations of the three body types so we can’t just slot a person into one type and say this is what they need. When I look at somebody I ask him or her to write down what they are eating and monitor them to see exactly what they need. It’s just a matter of trial and error for a bit until you get the balance right.
IFM: So when training a person you wouldn’t have a standard approach for all?
DY: No, I approach every person as an individual and see what he or she is presently doing. Then change things around until we get it right. The training program probably wouldn’t vary that much; it might vary depending on how often a person can train because of their recovery ability and what exercises they will do because of their body structure or balance. But the principals will be the same. There is probably a bigger variance in the diet. I would give dietary guidelines that would work for anybody, but these can be adjusted up or down depending on metabolism.
IFM: What is the most important thing a person should do once they are no longer experiencing training results?
DY: Re-evaluate everything including your training program and nutrition. It could also be that your body needs a rest. Take some time off, re-assess and begin again with a slightly adjusted training program. Ensure you are getting enough calories. And also be aware that growth comes in cycles. If you have been doing well for a period and getting bigger and stronger, that won’t continue endlessly. Maybe you need to back off a little bit and have some time off, regroup and go again. You should expect this from time to time. But if you are training for a month and getting no results, no increases in strength or size or appearance, doing the same thing is obviously not going to help you, so change is needed. And a rest period would probably be good before that.
DY: Yes growth does slow down. For the first six months it’s really fast. Then most people don’t progress after a year or two. That’s my view. Those people who try to maximize their training and diet programs, and get the right amount of rest, are able to progress beyond that point. It’s usually slow but you can still see progress from one month to the next.
IFM: What about bodybuilding did you enjoy most during your reign as Mr. Olympia?
DY: I enjoyed the challenge, pushing myself to see what I could get out of my body and seeing how far I could take it. It was kind of a warrior-like challenge, and the workout was like a battleground. There was that degree of intensity; so that intensity and focus on the mission is what I enjoyed the most. The Mr. Olympia for me was just a showcase for what I had been doing. That’s why I’m surprised when people drop down onto one knee when they win. For me, I had been training all year for that and it was a chance for me to show off what I’d done and to compete against my peers.
IFM: What are some of the main lessons bodybuilding taught you during your career?
DY: That if you focus on something enough, chances are that you can do it. It gives you that discipline and self-confidence and belief. If you focus on something enough and work towards it you can achieve it. It’s just a matter of desire. A lot of people kid themselves. They want something but they have to be prepared to do what it takes to get there in terms of sacrifice and work, whatever forms those may take. So I tell people if they really want something, analyze it and be honest with yourself and ask yourself what it is going to take to achieve it, and whether you are willing to do it. Is the goal worth the sacrifice? If not then you are probably wasting your time.
IFM: With the level of sacrifice required to succeed in bodybuilding what makes it such a popular sport?
DY: It’s a challenge and very satisfying to overcome all of these hurdles and to discipline yourself to go through all of the pain and dieting when your whole system is crying out for you to eat some food. It strengthens your character. And you learn goal setting that can be applied to anything: business or anything else. Setting realistic goals combined with a degree of motivation will take you a long way.
IFM: What are some further benefits to living the bodybuilding lifestyle?
DY: Well, there is more to bodybuilding than the obvious physical aspects. You look good and, as a result, feel good and perform better. Mentally it makes you a stronger person and, again, a more disciplined person, and you achieve a better quality of life with the investment of a bit of effort.
IFM: What are your views on machines versus free weights?
DY: They both have their pros and cons. If you gave me the option of a room full of free weights or a room full of machines I would probably go for the free weights. But machines have their benefits as well. Most of my leg training was done on machines; leg extensions, leg presses, hack squats. For overall functionality free weights are probably superior. But I’m not in a position where I have to choose, so I use both. With machines you have less risk and more control, but with free weights the movement is more natural because the range of motion is not set in a groove, it takes an individual pathway for the person that is using it. But if you have an injury, and you need to stabilize it, a machine may be more useful. Or you might want to isolate something. And you have to use machines when you train legs, unless you just use squats. Same with back training. You have barbell rows, dumbbell rows and chins as free weight movements, but what else is there? There are many useful back machines and I used to use these along with the free weights. And it all depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you were an athlete trying to improve performance or someone who is purely after strength, then free weights would probably be best. If I were training someone for rugby or martial arts I would probably steer them towards free weights because they are more practical and better suited to that sport. It all just depends.
IFM: Where do your business interests lie today Dorian?
DY: Right now I am franchising my Temple Gym, one in California and opening another in Vegas shortly, and there are a lot more in the pipeline. I also have my own nutrition company in Europe and am launching one in the States over the next year, so I will hopefully be at the (2009) Arnold Classic launching the products. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas that are going to prove very effective and will not put my name on anything that is not of the highest quality. I think people trust my name and I wouldn’t be involved in something I didn’t believe in.
IFM: You are still based in England?
DY: Yes, I’m based in England but I’m on the road a lot. I just got back from Brazil, where I did an appearance. This weekend I’m going to Holland and Norway so I’m still very active with the Nutrition Company and personal appearances.
IFM: Who inspired you when you first began training?
DY: There were a few people. Mike Mentzer was obviously one of them with his training philosophy, along with Nautilus inventor, Arthur Jones. Fortunately I found the correct way to train early on through the teachings of these men. Tom Platz was also really big at the time and was doing some seminars in Europe and I enjoyed his passion and enthusiasm for training and for the sport of bodybuilding. That seems to be lacking these days.
IFM: Who were some of your influences outside of bodybuilding? I heard Bruce Lee ranked highly for you.
DY: Yes. When I was a kid and into martial arts, there was Bruce Lee and he was a super-focused athlete, and that’s why he was the best at what he did. Anyone who was the best at what they did really. Jimi Hendrix with his guitar playing. It was almost like an obsession and I can relate to that.
IFM: I read where you were quoted as saying if you weren’t a bodybuilder you would like to be a rock star.
DY: Well I would like to be but I can’t sing and can’t play a musical instrument so that wouldn’t work (laughs). But yes the lifestyle, the freedom and the traveling would appeal. I suppose there may be a performer in me as well.
IFM: Who inspires you most these days?
DY: I think my daughter probably.
IFM: You have two children, right?
DY: Yes I have my daughter who is seven and my son who is in his 20s. So I try to spend time with them as well.
IFM: Thank you for your time Dorian. It has been a real pleasure talking with you. One final question: What are some of the more common mistakes you see people making in the gym?
DY: Probably spending too much time in the gym. When they are in the gym, not using enough training intensity. They are overdoing it in terms of how long they are in there but not applying enough intensity to grow, which defeats the purpose of being in there in the first place. It takes a lot of effort over a short period. Then it is time to rest.
David Robson is a freelance writer based in Hamilton, New Zealnd. He is a competitive bodybuilder and martial artist who has written many articles for the fitness industry. He also operates a personal training studio helping others achieve their fitness goals. www.davidrobsonelite.com