Dorian Yates Back Day Workout

Dorian Yates Back Day Workout

Dorian's Back Day workout was a secret for many years because his training routine produced the incredible lats that shook the world of bodybuilding.

Dubbed “the Shadow” for his secluded lifestyle and impressive presence on stage due to the billowing lats, 6-times Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates demoralized the competition with his width and thickness, along with granite harness and top-to-bottom detail. When the time came to turn their backs for the judges, the Shadow's contenders knew that the pencils will drop and the winner will emerge.

From lats that originated at his navel line of deeply etched lumbars and carapace of traps, Yates had it all and knew how to display it.

Since he began working out, Yates had no love for high volume training, eschewing it for his own high-intensity style called Blood and Guts, that was inspired by Mike Mentzer’s Heavy Duty System and Arthur Jones' HIT system.

Although his volume was relatively low, Yates’ intensity was almost unbearably high, and the weights were heavy. Two sets done Yates-style can be harder than 10 done traditionally.

Yates and a legion of high-intensity devotees still swear by this training style, asserting that it’s a faster and more efficient way to pack on muscle mass. The core principle while training Blood&Guts is that muscle growth is an adaptation to stress. If you want to get results, you need to constantly put maximum stress on the muscle, then allow it to recover through adequate rest and correct nutrition.


1. Close-grip Pulldown

2 warm-up sets consisting of 10 reps
2 work sets consisting of 9-10 reps

The first exercise in Dorian's back day routine emphasizes his lats by doing a close-grip pulldown. The Shadow had two variations for this exercise, both of them working the same muscle. The first one will be with a wide bar while the other used a v-grip bar.

In order to perform this exercise properly, make sure that you adjust the knee pad to lock the lower body into the proper position and avoid being pulled up by heavier weights.

With the wide bar, grab it with your palms facing forward and make sure that the grip is a bit wider than your shoulder width.

For the proper form, you need to arch your torso by bringing it back around 30 degrees and stick your chest out. After you got the position, bring the bar down until it touches the chest. Make sure that you keep your form during the whole exercise, on the positive and negative aspect of the exercise.

It’s highly important that you squeeze the back muscles once you get the bar down to your chest. On the negative, slowly let the bar get into the starting position, focusing on the negative aspect of the exercise.

The V-grip variation is exactly the same.

2. Nautilus pullover

1 warm-up set consisting of 10 reps
2 work sets consisting of 6-8 reps

Nautilus pullover is an easy-to-do, hard-to-master exercise that specifically needs a Nautilus machine. This exercise was a favorite in Dorian's back day routine because it targets both the lats and shoulders, thus making it a compound exercise.

Although, Dorian recommends using it mainly for Back Day is that’s the main body part that is targeted.

To begin the exercise, you must sit on the machine’s chair with your back in a straight position touching the back padding. After setting yourself in, grab the handle in the middle and put your elbows on the padding. Your arms should be raised, being close to the ears.

As to what regards the movement, make sure that you pull (using your lats and shoulders) the handle until your arms reach a parallel position with the body. After that, control the movement and slowly return to thee starting position, making sure that there is tension on the muscles.

Dorian recommends that you squeeze the muscles and hold it for as long as possible after getting your arms close to the body, slowly returning in the starting position, controlling the negative aspect of the exercise.

Even though the Nautilus Machine was Dorian's go-to exercise during back day, it's quite taxing. Drinking an intra-workout BCAA formula like HIT BCAA 10:1:1 can prevent your body from entering into the catabolism state and will allow you to keep your intensity until the very last, game-changing rep in the gym.

3. Barbell Row

1 warm-up set consisting of 10 reps
2 working sets consisting of 6-8 reps

Dorian can make this exercise look easy but in actuality is an advanced exercise that puts a lot of stress on the back. It’s advisable that you start this exercise with close to no weight in order to understand the proper form.

The starting position has you facing the barbell at your feet. Grab the barbell, then slightly bend your knees and bring your torso forward by your waist. Make sure that the shoulders are close the body. It’s important that you keep the back straight facing the ground.

Now keep the torso stationary and bring the weight towards you by using the forearms and squeeze the bar until it's close to the abdomen, and then slowly return to the starting position.

4. Deadlifts

1 warm-up set consisting of 10 reps
2 working sets consisting of 6-8 reps

The deadlift, just like the pull-ups, became a mandatory exercise in every professional athlete routine, especially for Dorian’s back day.

Doing a deadlift is not as hard as it looks but requires a lot of mental focus and muscle memory in order to maintain the form throughout the exercise.

We recommend starting with the bar empty in order to learn the proper technique and avoid injuries from the start and a back belt.

After you prepared your bar, place your feet under it so the mid foot is right under it. From there, flex your legs until your shins touch the bar; thus, stopping moving your hips down.

Lower your upper body down while maintaining a neutral spine position. In under to circumstance hyperextend or round your back as you might suffer serious injuries to the back or elbows.

Your arms should be shoulder width while getting close to grabbing the bar.

After locking yourself in the proper position, start lifting the bar upwards using your legs and your back muscles. Make sure that you maintain the back locked in the same starting position.

When getting close having the back upwards, push your chest out and squeeze the back muscles. After this, slowly return to the starting position while the back is locked in a neutral position.

We must stress the fact this exercise is less about how much one can lift and more about how good the form is. Exercise with an unloaded bar until you get the technique and then slowly add weights until you hit your max.

5. Seated Pulley Row

1 warm-up set consisting of 10 reps
2 working sets consisting of 8-10 reps

For the starting position, sit down on the machine’s bench and put your feet on the platforms, while slightly bending the knees in order to not put a heavy load of stress on the knees and leg joints.

Grab de V-bar by leaning your back. After you have the bar, put your back in a slightly arched position with chest sticking out, while your arms are fully extended and slowly bring the v-bar towards your abdomen.

When the bar toucher the abs, squeeze the back muscle and then slowly return to the starting position with your arms fully stretched.

As a safety measure, don’t swing your torso while performing this exercise because you're putting a lot of stress on the lower back muscles and injuries might occur.


Dorian's back day is not pretty, but it's tested and proven. The results are there if you give 100% and push beyond failure with negative reps.

After working out, your body will need to recover. Get a protein isolate supp like Shadowhey Isolate to build lean muscle mass faster: it's highly bio available in muscle building amino acids, rapidly digesting and easy to consume.

Dorian's tips

By being just physically in the gym, you won't give 100%. Yeah, you will train, but you won't be able to push harder, beyond what you did last week. Your mind plays an essential role - YOU need to push your limits.

The power of the mind becomes the strength of the body.