The Tim Ferriss Show: Dorian Yates Interview (#235)

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Dorian Andrew Mientjez Yates (@thedorianyates) is an English Professional Bodybuilder who is a 6-time Mr. Olympia Champion. Dorian started bodybuilding in 1983 and won his first Mr. Olympia in 1992. He went on to retain the title till 1997 before quitting bodybuilding due to critical injuries.

Dorian Yates was the guest on The Tim Ferriss Show Episode number 235 where he discussed growing up in the UK, bodybuilding, his mindset for competition, and life after bodybuilding.

Here are our takeaways from the conversation.


  • “Instead of saying something, get a pen, get a piece of paper and write it down. It makes it 100 times more powerful.”
  • “You have to have a plan. If you just wander in the gym and think about what should I do today, you’re not going to get anywhere.”
  • “I was a man on a mission and it’s hard to control the fire sometimes”
  • “I was never the guy that was going to be working for somebody else or working from 9 to 5. That was never going to happen.”
  • “To be honest, if I was not a competitive bodybuilder I don’t see the point in using steroids and perhaps open yourself up to potential health risks.”
  • “The one thing that kind of got me through (the dark times after competitive years) although I didn’t have the goal of training for a Mr. Olympia. Just to go to the gym and train was a form of meditation to me where I would forget about the outside world and problems.”
  • “Instead of looking at what you lost. Look at what you’ve gained.”
  • “Freedom is not giving a fuck”
  • “You can create that story with your mind and take steps to make it happen. And it can happen.”


  • Dorian Yates grew up in rural Staffordshire with a farm that had animals like horses, dogs, and chickens
  • Everything changed when his father died of a heart attack when Dorian was 13 years old
  • He and his mother moved to Birmingham which is the second-largest city in the UK
  • As his mother was planning to move back to the countryside, Dorian chose to stay back in Birmingham
  • He was arrested when he was 18 years old while being drunk and out with friends and was sent to a detention center
  • In the center, he saw weights and since he had previously done a little bit of weight training in school he took it up
  • One of the first times when he was in the Sports Hall in the center, the prison officer gave all the young people a circuit training to do which involved things like squats, push-ups, pull-ups, and other exercises which had to be done in a circuit by going around it 3 times. Dorian Yates finished it and sat down and the prison offer thought that he was making fun and told him to do the training. Dorian said that he had finished the circuit training and the officer didn’t believe him and made him do it again.
  • Dorian Yates realized that he was stronger than most of the guys in the facility and had the best physique among them
  • He made a decision to stop screwing around and do something with what he was good at, at that time


  • Dorian Yates started bodybuilding in 1983
  • He won the British Championship in the Heavyweight Category and Overall Category in 1988
  • He took 18 months off competition and began to train to become an elite bodybuilder. According to him, if he was to go to an elite competition and would place anywhere outside the 5th place, he was not cut out to become a bodybuilder and would not compete again.
  • He competed in the 1990 IFBB Night of Champions competition and placed 2nd behind Mohammed Benaziza. This gave him the assurance that he was a top-level bodybuilder and had what it takes to be the best
  • He competed in the 1991 IFBB Night of Champions competition and won it
  • On his debut at Mr. Olympia in 1991, he placed second behind the then reigning Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney
  • Dorian realized on his two 2nd place finishes that he had to improve his back and worked on it
  • Dorian Yates won his first Mr. Olympia in 1992 and went on to retain the title till 1997


  • Dorian Yates had tunnel vision on what he wanted to do
  • He wanted to change his life with bodybuilding and had a very strict and disciplined lifestyle
  • Lee Haney won his first Mr. Olympia in 1984 while Dorian Yates had only begun bodybuilding in 1983. He had looked up to Lee Haney all through his transition to become a world-class bodybuilder. On taking on Lee Haney during his Mr. Olympia debut in 1991, he had to change his mindset. Dorian had to change his thinking from “That’s Lee Haney, Mr. Olympia” to “Wait a second. He is a man, has two arms and two legs, and lifts weights. But one thing is for sure, he doesn’t work as hard as me.”


  • Since Dorian Yates had tunnel vision on what he was doing, he did not pay much attention to other areas of his life.
  • After his triceps injury in 1997 that forced him to quit bodybuilding, he realized that he had family issues that weren’t obvious earlier
  • Dorian Yates went through clinical depression after his post-competition years and found refuge by going to the gym where he would train and forget all his problems
  • He soon realized that he didn’t have to stick to his past and instead of thinking about what he had lost, he could realize what he had gained
  • Dorian Yates realized that he had a lot of free time since he wasn’t focused on bodybuilding and hence traveled around the world, went on safaris, partied, and did the things he wasn’t able to do when he was on a strict schedule during training
  • Since then, Dorian Yates has moved to Spain, has taken up Yoga and meditation and focuses on cardiovascular fitness and strength training to keep him healthy and happy


  • Dorian Yates’ nickname ‘The Shadow’ was coined by Peter McGough who was a reported for a small British magazine and eventually became the editor of Flex Magazine
  • Dorian Yates is a proponent of High Intensity Training (HIT), a model of training that involves high resistance training for short durations to the point of complete muscular failure that in turn increases muscular hypertrophy and strength. The model was first advocated by Arthur Jones and refined later by Mike Mentzer (IFBB Professional Bodybuilder and Mr. Universe)
  • Dorian Yates opened ‘Temple Gym’ in Birmingham which was then in the basement of a building with no windows and was less than 2000 sq.ft including the changing rooms. This was his base for the preparation for Bodybuilding competitions all through his competitive years.
  • Dorian Yates believes that the common misconception among bodybuilders is that heavier weights mean more growth. He believes that weights should be heavy but the range of motion should be controlled to maximize growth.
  • Dorian Yates believes in exhausting the muscle in all three phases of movement – concentric (lifting up the weight), isometric (holding the weight), and eccentric (lowering the weight). He says that most of the people only focus on the concentric part of the movement which is the easily exhausted among the three and fail to work on the isometric and eccentric phases which are important
  • According to Dorian Yates, he usually looked the best 2-3 weeks before a competition and said that he always overdid things