The story of Dorian Yates sometimes seems straight out of a 1930's movie. A "Dead End Kid" or "Boy's Town" character, a self-confessed juvenile delinquent who discovers that sport can be the path from troubled youth to future success.
Dorian Yates was a "bad boy" as a teenager, but what saved him and led to his amazing career was bodybuilding. “When I first picked up a barbell,” he says, “there was an instant connection. It didn't take long for serious training and muscle building to become my main purpose in life.”
Dorian was the first of the so-called "mass monsters". Lee Haney was tall, but Dorian's physique contained more hard chunks of thick muscle. He was "aesthetic" by bodybuilding standards, but not to the extent of many classic competitors like Serge Nubret, Frank Zane or Larry Scott. Joe Weider used to distinguish between slim and shapely "Apollonian" bodies (Zane) and thicker, more massive "Herculean" (Dorian).
He weighed nearly 300 pounds in the offseason and was a precursor to some of today's competitors who weigh over 300 pounds in competitive form. With so many big bodybuilders in the pros, the IFBB Pro League created the 212 and Classic Physique divisions to provide a competitive platform for their size.
Dorian Yates' bodybuilding career took off. He entered the Birmingham vice in 1984 and finished first. Two years later he won the heavyweight division of the British Championships and took the overall title the next year. t bad for a "beginner".
Of course, Dorian Yates won six consecutive Olympia titles from 1992 to 1997 and has the fifth-highest number of Mr. Olympia wins in history, behind Ronnie Coleman, Lee Haney, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Phil Heath.
But one thing Dorian Yates is remembered for alongside his competitive success is his decision to adopt the sort of "high-intensity" training principles advocated by Nautilus inventor Arthur Jones and Mr. Universe Mike Mentzer. This style of training is designed to radically increase the intensity of each rep and set, allowing for much shorter workouts. Rather than just doing positive and negative reps, HIT adds things like forced reps, forced negative reps, assisted partials, and other techniques designed to engage muscles beyond what would have been achieved with traditional techniques.
Developed by Arthur Jones, the Nautilus gyms and workout styles featured a range of equipment for clients to use for an extended set of intense 20-minute workouts at a time, and then get done. Having trainers in and out in such a short amount of time was obviously good for business as this space was designed to allow many more gym members to get their workouts done. This was a good business model, but not necessarily an ideal way to build a bodybuilding physique.
Of course, no proponent of HIT, whether it be Dorian, Mike Mentzer, or Casey Viator, built their early bodies using this type of training approach. They all started with conventional training and switched to HIT later in their careers. An interesting observation here is that almost all of these bodybuilders had Herculean physiques - thick, powerful, and very mesomorphic. So their bodies all had thicker and stronger connective tissue that could withstand the stress of HIT. You have to wonder how someone smaller in build like Frank Zane could have withstood that level of stress.
Even the mighty Dorian Yates ended up suffering from this approach to training. He ended up suffering a series of injuries and I remember reading an interview in which he admits that he knew he was sacrificing his body to win championships with HIT but was willing to accept that price for the pay for success. His career ended in large part due to a torn bicep and tricep, the latter just three weeks before his final competition, the 1997 Mr. Olympia, which he won despite the injury.
For professional athletes who train intensively for decades, it is very difficult not to suffer injuries. This style comes with territory and is one reason why so many in a variety of sports are forced to stop competing at a relatively young age. HIT puts so much strain on the body that the risk of injury is significantly increased. With so many top pro bodybuilders in their 40s or older, you won't find many risking their bodies by resorting to this type of super-stressful training technique.
After serious biceps and triceps injuries, Dorian Yates had to give up the competition. Luckily, after his retirement, Dorian proved to be a capable businessman - like other past champions like Lee Labrada, Rich Gaspari, Shawn Ray and the aforementioned Lee Haney. And of course Arnold. Dorian opened a successful gym and founded several businesses, including a supplement line.
As a photographer, it has always been easy for me to work with Dorian. There are bodybuilders who are very creative as posers that I can work with and suggest poses that take more dramatic photos. This was not the case with Dorian. He had a few basic poses that he was comfortable with, ones that showed off his body to its best advantage, and he stuck to it. I would not ask Dorian to strike a more "creative" pose than I would expect the Presidents on Mount Rushmore to follow my pose suggestions.
- Height: 179.1 cm (5 ft 10.5 in)
- Off-season weight: 305 pounds (138 kg)
- competition weight: 265 pounds (120 kg)
- bust size: 140cm (55 inch)
- hip circumference: 107 cm (42 in)
- thigh size: 77 cm (30 inches)
- Waist size: 83 cm (33 inches)
- calf size: 54 cm (21 inches)
- upper arm size: 53 cm (21 inches)
- 1996 Mr. Olympia, 1st
- 1995 Mr. Olympia, 1st
- 1994 British Grand Prix, 1st place
- 1994 Grand Prix of Germany, 1
- 1994 Spanish Grand Prix, 1st place
- 1994 Mr. Olympia, 1st
- 1993 Mr. Olympia, 1st
- 1992 British Grand Prix, 1st place
- 1992 Mr. Olympia, 1st
- 1991 British Grand Prix, 1st place
- 1991 Mr. Olympia, 2nd
- 1991 Night of Champions, Jan
- 1990 Night of Champions, Feb
- 1988 British Championships, 1st Heavyweight and Overall
- 1986 British Championships, 1st Heavyweight
- 1985 World Games, 7th Heavyweights
- 1984 Mr. Birmingham vice, 1st
- 1996 Spanish Grand Prix, 1st place
- 1996 Grand Prix of Germany, 1
- 1996 British Grand Prix, 1st place
- 1997 Mr. Olympia, 1st