Old School Series: 1990s Bodybuilding Routine

Time for some blood and guts! Set aside volume training and focus on quality above quantity. This 4 day workout split is based upon the training style of Dorian Yates.

Workout Summary

Build Muscle
Split
Intermediate
12 weeks
4
30-45 minutes
Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, EZ Bar, Machines
Male & Female

Workout Description

One of the things I love best about bodybuilding are the routines. When I stumble upon some new way of training, it makes me feel like a kid at Christmas.

Having made most of my gains in the late 80s, I was pretty much a prisoner of volume training. When the 90s hit, and Dorian Yates exploded upon the IFBB scene, his intense new method of building muscle landed upon my radar screen.

Dorian Yates wasn't a high volume proponent. He was a minimalist, and typically only performed 1-2 sets to failure per exercise.

This type of training challenged my dogma, but in an exciting way. Dorian opened the door to quality first, before quantity. Though I have never completely adopted his training style, my gym efforts over the last 15 years have been reduced to the bare necessities.

1990s Bodybuilding Routine

The following routine is my variation of a Dorian Yates style training program. You will be utilizing the following split:

  • Day 1 - Back and Traps
  • Day 2 - Chest and Triceps
  • Day 3 - Off
  • Day 4 - Legs
  • Day 5 - Shoulders and Biceps
  • Day 6 - Off
  • Day 7 - Repeat, starting with Day 1

Warmup Set Percentages. Please note that the weight you use for warmup sets will be the listed percentage multiplied by the weight you use during your working sets.

For example, if you are using 315 pounds during your working sets of squats, your warm up sets would look like this:

  • Warmup Set #1 - 70% x 15 reps, or 220 pounds x 15 reps.
  • Warmup Set #2 - 85% x 12 reps, or 265 pounds x 12 reps.

Training to Failure. Dorian Yates advocated training to failure. I don't. Pushing for a rep when your form is deteriorating, or when a muscle is utterly fatigued is a recipe for injury.

I respect Dorian Yates, but I simply don't think most of us have any reason to train to failure. But it is still your choice. Do what you feel comfortable with. 

If you do not train to failure, make sure to push every set for as many reps as possible, stopping a set when you feel like you might fail on the next rep. You will be maximizing each set this way, and maximizing progression of weight.

Listed Reps. Reps listed for working sets are general reocmmendations. If you go above them for sets, add weight the next time you perform this exercise.

Day 1
Back and Traps
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlift - Warmup 80% 1 8
Deadlift - Working Set 1 8
     
Lat Pull Down - Warmup 70% 1 15
Lat Pull Down - Warmup 85% 1 15
Lat Pull Down - Working Sets 2 12
     
Machine Row - Warmup 80% 1 10
Machine Row - Working Sets 2 10
     
Seated Cable Row - Warmup 80% 1 10
Seated Cable Row - Working Sets 2 10
     
Bent Over Dumbbell Flyes - Warmup 80% 1 12
Bent Over Dumbbell Flyes - Working Sets 2 12
     
Dumbbell Shrugs - Warmup 80% 1 10
Dumbbell Shrugs - Working Sets 2 15
Day 2
Chest and Triceps
Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Barbell Bench Press - Warmup 70% 1 10
Incline Barbell Bench Press - Warmup 85% 1 10
Incline Barbell Bench Press - Working Sets 2 10
     
Machine Chest Press - Warmup 80% 1 10
Machine Chest Press - Working Sets 2 10
     
Pec Dec - Warmup 80% 1 12
Pec Dec - Working Sets 2 12
     
Incline Dumbbell Flye - Warmup 80% 1 10
Incline Dumbbell Flye - Working Sets 2 12
     
Cable Tricep Extension - Warmup 80% 1 15
Cable Tricep Extensions - Working Sets 2 12
     
Skullcrusher and Press Combination - Warmup 80% 1 8
Skullcrusher and Press Combination - Working Sets 2 10
Day 4
Legs
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats - Warmup 70% 1 8
Squats - Warmup 85% 1 8
Squats - Working Sets 2 10
     
Leg Press - Warmup 70% 1 10
Leg Press - Warmup 85% 1 10
Leg Press - Working Sets 2 15
     
Leg Extensions - Warmup 80% 1 10
Leg Extensions - Working Sets 2 12
     
Leg Curl - Warmup 80% 1 10
Leg Curl - Working Sets 2 12
     
Stiff Leg Deadlift - Warmup 80% 1 8
Stiff Leg Deadlift - Working Sets 2 10
     
Seated Calf Raises - Warmup 80% 1 10
Seated Calf Raises - Working Sets 2 15
Day 5
Shoulders and Biceps
Exercise Sets Reps
Seated Dumbbell Press - Warmup 70% 1 8
Seated Dumbbell Press - Warmup 85% 1 8
Seated Dumbbell Press - Working Sets 2 10
     
Seated Lateral Raise - Warmup 80% 1 10
Seated Lateral Raise - Working Sets 2 12
     
Smith Machine Press - Warmup 80% 1 8
Smith Machine Press - Working Sets 2 10
     
Bent Over Reverse Flyes - Warmup 80% 1 10
Bent Over Reverse Flyes - Working Sets 2 12
     
Standing Alternating Dumbbell Curls - Warmup 80% 1 10
Standing Alternating Dumbbell Curls - Working Sets 2 10
     
Machine Bicep Curls - Warmup 80% 1 10
Machine Bicep Curls - Working Sets 2 10

20 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Wed, 08/30/2017 - 12:22
Rob

Great routine. I especially agree with the Not training to absolute failure as it taxes the CNS too much making very hard to recover. Training to near failure is better as it is laid out in this plan. I do Dorian Yates beginner routine which is a upper body, lower body split.

Upper body

Bench press 1-2 warm up sets 2 work sets
Incline press 1 warm up set 2 work sets
Incline flys 1 warm up set 2 work sets
Chin ups or pulldowns 1 warm up set 2 work sets
Bent over rows 1 warm up set 2 work sets
Deadlifts 1-2 warm up sets 2 work sets
Press behind neck 1-2 warm up sets 2 work sets
Side raises 2 work sets
Rear raises 2 work sets
Leg raises 3 sets
Crunches 3 sets

Lower body

Squats 1-2 warm up sets 2 work sets
Leg press 1-2 warm up sets 2 work sets
Leg curls 1 warm up set 2 work sets
Calf raises 1 warm up set 2 work sets
Barbell curls 1 warm up set 2 work sets
Preacher curls 2 work sets
Pressdowns 1-2 warm up sets 2 work sets
Lying extensions 1 warm up set 2 work sets

I warm up for 12-15 reps then do the work sets for 8-12 reps.

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Posted Sun, 12/07/2014 - 21:12
Francisco J Montalvo

I workout 6 days a week,. twice a day. I work every muscle twice, First time I work a Certain muscle I do nothing but free-weights and add for instance if working chest, I do mostly dumbbell work with push-ups, whenever I do barbell work its on the smith machine(lno spotter), Days later I would work chest again but this time nothing but cable work, negatives and hammer strength pushing. Same with arms Day 2 dumbbells and barbell ,next time cable,negatives and second pauses and lighter weight. Alot of ppl give me props say Im big with definition and look good. My intake is alot of protein, protein cereal, protein bars and protein shakes and I try eating healthy food. I started working out two separate times cause my new job has a Gym, usually work my smaller muscles there, arms,triceps ,forearms and calves etc. At night I do Chest, Back ,Shoulder, Legs and Abs. I notice more gains and of course I always work hard. I understand Arnold did every muscle 3x per week. being that I have the time,. I was thinking on doing Arnolds routine for a while. (Chest/Back.Mon,Wed &Friday )(Arms/Shoulders Tue,Thur & Sat). Plus Thighs,abs and Calves at Night. my question is the following, Would my intake need to increase? I also drink Creatine, Walmart brand. So, in total I would be working an hour at work ,then 1hr-1hr n half at nightime.No cardio but I do sweat much,.And dont take long rest time either. I also drink fish oil for joints.. Would working every muscle intensively 3x a week affect my joints or does it depend on my intake?

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Posted Wed, 09/10/2014 - 16:40
itamar 27

If I was usually 4 days a week but sometimes 3 and sometimes come 2 when I do not have time this program for me?

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Posted Mon, 02/24/2014 - 13:19
Cristian

Rest beetween sets???

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Posted Fri, 12/20/2013 - 13:37
Oliver

Hi.
I have a knee problem which stops me from doing any leg work out f.eks. deadlift, is there any other workout routine you can recomend?

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Posted Mon, 12/09/2013 - 11:15
Willie

If you are warming up at 80% & 85% then what are the working set percentages?

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Posted Sat, 11/30/2013 - 07:27
james

Question, why have reps in the 10 -12 range? If this is a hypertrophy routine wouldn't it be more advantageous to have rep ranges 3-8 for working sets?

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Posted Tue, 11/26/2013 - 02:55
Slick

I have lots of workout mags from the 90's in my attic.I believe I have the issue with the pic shown above of Yates. When Yates was on his roll he once tore his pec clear off his chest. The pic showing the bruising was a nasty sight to see. Although his training methods may produce results there may be something in his routine that could lead to injury. I would tread lightly following his plan. Yates was a genetic freak but still sustained some nasty injuries.

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Posted Sat, 11/30/2013 - 23:44
james

Yates has recently admitted in interviews that he suffered injuries while training high intensity while in per contest/ dieting for a competition. He says that looking back now, he should have not tried to train beyond failure while on a hypocaloric diet.

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Posted Fri, 03/14/2014 - 19:44
Dave

Yates never tore his pec, you idiot! First he had a slight quad tear, so he stopped squatting. Next he tore his bicep (the pic you refer to). Finally, in '97, he tore his triceps at the elbow connection, almost separating it completely. He won the '97 Olympia, had surgery and it took more than 7 months to get his arm back to 70% strength. That is when he decided to retire. He also had some shoulder wear-and-tear type stuff. Anyone that trains hard enough understands that injuries happen... They will happen. The trick is learning to listen to your body when it tells you to back off a bit. Yates never did and his mind pushed his physique to epic proportions and muscle quality still not seen in today's Pros. Unfortunately, his mind and level of intense focus on left him to ignore his body's warnings.

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Posted Sat, 11/23/2013 - 23:11
Pradeep

Hi Steve,

Once again an amazing routine form your treasure.

I am using this schedule for the past 3 weeks and there is a great amount of improvement in power and density of the muscle. The muscle has started to look harder. But my abdomen has also started to look bigger. I mean it's not fat but muscle. I do abs and cardio every day. I am at present on a 3500 plus calorie diet. I am 5'7" weighing 74 kgs.

Do I have to change my diet now?

Pradeep

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Posted Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:03
Rahim Mapara

I am a great believer in Dorian Yates Routines. If you look at his training he does cardio on his off days. He suggests 30 minutes a cardio suggestion. I prefer 40-60 minutes first thing in the morning. This has helped me get leaner.

Thanks

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Posted Thu, 11/07/2013 - 15:55
Derek

Question - I've lost 80 lbs. I'm 5'4 and now I'm at 170 lbs. I was doing high reps low weight along with cardio. I now would like to finish getting rid of about 10 more pounds of fat and add 10 lbs. of muscle in the next 6 to 8 months. I was told by a pro body builder at the gym that I'm a member at, that I should now stop the cardio & focus completely on diet & a program that is very similar to the one that you have here. Is he on track or should I be mixing some cardio in

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Posted Sun, 10/20/2013 - 23:47
Eric

Could you explain the skullcrusher and press combo? Thanks.

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Posted Sat, 10/05/2013 - 18:09
Kate

And throw in a few sets of abs at the end of each workout?

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:02
Steven

Absolutely. Ab training 1-2 times per week is a good call.

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Posted Thu, 10/03/2013 - 11:59
Chip

Hi Steve,
I've been using a three day upper body split for about a year now, hitting everything twice a week and I've grinded to a halt. I'm 19 and I'm looking at using the 1970's, 90's, and the power muscle burn splits. Which of the three would you suggest for mass?

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:04
Steven

I would probably try the PMB for 6 months. Or you could run this for 4-6 months and then hop over to the PMB.

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Posted Thu, 10/03/2013 - 02:56
Ian

Looks like an interesting routine, thanks for posting.
Regarding the warm up sets, I'm assuming we warm up before them? 80% of deadlift working weight seems a lot to jump straight into. Cheers

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 10/03/2013 - 10:01
Steven

Hi Ian,

Correct. I would do some additional ramping warmup sets for big lifts like that.