Dorian Yates' Leg Workout (Ultimate Mass Masterclass)

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: May 10, 2024
FACT CHECKED by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
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Dorian Yates, a legend in bodybuilding and a six-time Mr. Olympia title winner, dominated the stage with his unparalleled leg development.

As a health and fitness trainer, I've long admired Yates' exceptional achievements and his approach to training.

But what's the story behind his success?

Keep reading to uncover the secrets of Yates' leg routine, a path that led him to greatness in bodybuilding, and follow in the footsteps of this iconic figure.

Dorian Yates Stats

  • Age: April 19, 1962 (60 years)
  • Height: 5’9” (175 cm)
  • Weight: On-Season(260 lbs) / Off-Season(290 lbs)
  • Arms: 21”
  • Waist: 34”
  • Chest: 57”
  • Legs: 30”
  • Calves: 22”

What Does the Dorian Yates Leg Routine Comprise?

A man with huge and toned leg muscles

The Dorian Yates leg routine comprises low-volume, high-intensity exercises that are mostly machine-based.

Dorian prefers using machines like hack squats, leg extensions, leg curls, and leg presses instead of traditional barbell exercises like squats.

The first time I tried Dorian Yates' leg routine, I was blown away by its intensity.

It comprises low-volume, high-intensity exercises, mostly machine-based.

I remember feeling the burn with each rep, using machines like hack squats, leg extensions, leg curls, and leg presses, a departure from my usual barbell squats.

While delving into the intricacies of Dorian Yates' intense leg workouts, one cannot overlook the pivotal role that his mental fortitude and psychological resilience played in pushing through the grueling sessions, a facet explored in various interviews and biographies.

Quad Exercises

Dorian worked his quads with three machine-based leg exercises: leg extensions, leg presses, and machine hack squats.

He trained in the 8–12 rep range, making sure the last reps brought his quads to muscle failure.

Here’s how the six-time Mr. Olympia winner worked his quads:

  • Machine leg extension: 1 working set x 8–10 reps
  • 45-degree leg press: 1 working set x 10–12 reps
  • Hack squat: 1 working set x 8–10 reps

Hamstring Exercises

A man stretching his legs

For his hamstrings, Dorian trained in the 6–8 rep range, ensuring the last reps brought him to muscle failure.

While Dorian focused on using machine-based exercises for his quads, he used the barbell RDLs for his hamstrings.

My hamstrings were not spared either. Adopting Dorian’s approach, I pushed through the 6–8 rep range.

The barbell RDLs were a game-changer for me, a stark contrast to the machine-based quad exercises, each rep pushing my hamstrings to their limit.

Here’s his hamstring workout:

  • Prone leg curl (lying leg curl): 1 working set x 6–8 reps
  • Romanian deadlift or stiff leg deadlift: 1 working set x 6–8 reps
  • Kneeling leg curl: 1 working set x 6–8 reps

Calf Exercises

  • Standing calf raise: 1 working set x 10–12 reps
  • Seated calf raise: 1 working set x 6–8 reps

Workout Split

A man doing stretching before workout

Dorian trained four times a week, dedicating each day to exercise a different muscle group.

He used the following workout split, which helped him achieve the Mr. Olympia title six times:

  • Day 1: Chest and biceps
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Cardio
  • Day 4: Shoulders and triceps
  • Day 5: Back and rear delts
  • Day 6: Cardio

On day 7, Dorian would repeat this cycle again.

Training Principles

Body Builder flexing his biceps

A journey through Dorian’s illustrious career unveils the evolution of his training techniques, where adaptations and refinements were incessantly made to surmount plateaus and achieve continuous improvement, a narrative richly documented in his books and interviews.

Here are four training principles Yate applies to his leg day workouts:

  • Machine-focused exercises: Dorian heavily relied on machines for his intense leg workouts, like the leg press, leg extension machine, and hack squat machine.
  • Single working sets: While most bodybuilders perform multiple sets per exercise, Dorian prefers putting all his effort into one set.
  • High-intensity training style: Dorian trains every set till muscle failure, after which he engages in forced reps to ensure his muscles have given everything they have [1].
  • Heavy calf training: Yates treated his calf muscles like his other leg muscles and worked them till failure. This is what gave him bulging calves to match his quads.

Diet Plan

  • Meal #1 (breakfast): One cup of oatmeal, 10 egg whites, and a protein shake
  • Meal #2: Protein shake
  • Meal #3: Post-workout drink for carbohydrates
  • Meal #4 (lunch): 2 chicken breasts, rice or potatoes, and green veggies
  • Meal #5: Protein shake
  • Meal #6 (dinner): 12 oz. filet mignon (or another protein source), rice or potatoes, and green veggies
  • Meal #7: Half cup oatmeal, 6 egg whites, and protein shake

Diet and Nutrition Principles

Low carb high protein meal

In tandem with his rigorous training regimen, Dorian’s strategic nutritional intake and meticulous supplementation, detailed in numerous resources, were instrumental in fueling, recovering, and maximizing the gains from each workout session.

As a bodybuilder, Dorian’s aim was to put on as much muscle mass as possible.

So he consumed a large amount of protein every day, going as far as consuming four protein shakes a day.

He supplemented the gaps between his meals with protein shakes and included them in his first and last meal.

He kept carb consumption to a minimum, eating only two meals of rice or potatoes during the day as well as drinking a simple carb drink after workouts to raise insulin levels.

I decided to give Dorian’s diet a shot. The large protein intake was a staple, and cutting down on carbs was challenging yet rewarding.

Each meal felt like fuel, a necessary companion to the grueling workouts, and the results in muscle definition and recovery were noticeable.

Dorian’s goal was to keep his metabolism ticking, which is why he ate seven meals a day to keep his body replenished through his routine exercise, based on the research published in Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition [2].

“Complex carbohydrates are always best, except, again, after a workout where you could take simple (sugar) carbohydrates to get an insulin spike.”

- Dorian Yates

Did Dorian Take Supplements?

Yes, Dorian took supplements. He especially relied on protein powder to supplement his diet.

I too, found solace in supplements during this intense regimen.

Protein powder became my go-to, with creatine, pre-workout, glutamine, and BCAAs filling in the gaps.

Each supplement played a pivotal role in not just enduring but thriving through each session, much like Dorian.

Additionally, he took the following supplements to fuel his leg workout and recovery:

  • Creatine
  • Pre-workout
  • Glutamine
  • BCAAs


How Did Dorian Yates Train Calves?

Dorian trained his calves once a week, like every other muscle. He first worked the gastrocnemius with standing calf raises until they were fatigued. He then followed this by training the soleus with seated calf raises.

How Much Could Dorian Yates Squat?

Dorian could squat 405 lbs (183.7 kg) for seven reps, followed by 425 lbs (192.8 kg) for four reps. This is according to his journal entry on March 1, 1985.

How Many Hours a Day Did Dorian Yates Train?

Dorian Yates trained for only one hour a day, four times a week. This was comparatively less compared to other bodybuilders. Dorian experimented with different training styles and claimed that working intensely for an hour was the most effective for him.


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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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