Dorian Yates’ Ab Exercises That Helped Him Win 6 Consecutive Olympia Titles

Dorian Yates ab exercises

Only doing two ab exercises once a week made the bulk of Dorian Yates core routine back in the day. 

If you’re a bodybuilding fan, you know how intense and competitive the sport can be. And while there are certainly a lot of impressive figures in the field, few can truly be called “icons” – except for Dorian Yates, of course. This article will teach you the ab exercises Dorian Yates “The Shadow” did that helped him earn his Olympia titles. 

This English bodybuilder first burst onto the Mr. Olympia scene in 1991, when he nabbed a 2nd place win. But he wasn’t content to stop there — in 1992, he returned and won the whole thing. Yates was unbeatable before his retirement in 1997, holding first place every year.

And that’s not all — Yates also competed in eight other bodybuilding competitions and won every single one. Overall, it’s pretty clear that Yates is a force to be reckoned with in the bodybuilding world!

What’s even more impressive about Dorian Yates is his unconventional training method. This Men’s Open trailblazer often ignored common bodybuilding practices on sets and reps, instead choosing to train to failure regularly. However, few could attack his practices as the 5’10” Yates often stood tall and beat six-foot-plus bodybuilders. He had an overbearing size that impressed people every time!

During the peak of his career, Dorian Yates picked up the moniker “The Shadow.” He tended to show up to competitions, win and disappear after ‘till you saw him at the next competition. Luckily, Yates is now an open fountain of bodybuilding knowledge in retirement and often shares tips on his routines and mindset.

Recently on his Instagram, Dorian Yates, discussed how he built his impressive abs during his career. Many may find it controversial, as with all his other routines. But you saw the abs on him, so we think it’s worth taking an in-depth look. 

In this post, we talk about Dorian Yates’s ab exercises, his mentor, and abs in general. We also discuss the bodybuilding approach to abs. Here’s an insight into Dorian Yates’ abs routine according to his Instagram and more.

Full Name: Dorian Andrew Mientjez Yates
Weight Height Date of Birth
260 – 290 lbs 5’10” 04/19/1962
Division Era Nationality
Men’s Open 1980s-1990s English


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A post shared by Dorian Yates (@thedorianyates)

You can see Yates Instagram post about his ab training routine above.

Dorian Yates Abs Routine

According to Dorian Yates, his ab routine was simple; he did bodyweight crunches and reverse crunches to failure twice on one day of the week. However, he says these routines were done with a hard contraction and a big air exhale at the peak. He would squeeze the abs so much they would be on the verge of cramping! Dorian Yates writes,

“My abs routine was simple: 2x bodyweight crunches to failure, 2x bodyweight reverse crunches to failure. But these were done with a hard contraction and a big exhalation of air at the peak of the contraction. We would squeeze our abs so hard that they’d be on the verge of cramping, almost!”

Science calls what Dorian Yates is describing here isometric training. It’s the contraction of your muscles without any movement, and when you do it at the weakest point of your rep, it can spur muscle growth. Studies show that isometric training is great for muscle hypertrophy and helps to build muscle mass (1)

Yates Always Had Visible Abs

Dorian Yates says he has always had a visible set of abs for as long as he can remember. The physique that inspired him ab wise was Bruce Lee. So when exercising as a youngster, Yates would do bodyweight pushups and situps to be like Bruce Lee. He wrote on Instagram:

“In my youth, I’d always be doing bodyweight exercises like sit-ups and pushups with a poster of Bruce Lee watching over me!”

In his early bodybuilding days, Yates tried to train his abs with weights but noticed they would quickly grow blocky. As a bodybuilder, having a muscular and defined midsection is important, so Yates had to find another alternative. This was when he switched contraction work with just body weight.

Dorian Yates Ab Exercises

The Shadow trained his abs once a week after doing a heavy-duty shoulders and triceps session. He felt like these were his easiest workouts of the week and added ab movements at the end, as the previous exercises didn’t take too much out of him.

Abdominal Crunches

The abdominal crunch is a trusted ab workout that targets your rectus abdominis, the six-pack muscle in front of your torso (2). This movement also builds your core and helps with your overall performance and stability. Strong abs are important for sports like bodybuilding and your daily movements.

Reverse Crunches

Reverse crunches offer the same benefit as abdominal crunches but with the added advantage of being easier on your back. This is because reverse crunches flex your spine less than traditional abdominal crunches. Reverse crunches activate the upper and lower rectus abdominis, lats, and internal obliques.

Our Take

When you look at it, the Dorian Yates ab routine is a great way to train your abs. Bodybuilding is about finding what works for you. If your genes already have you on the right path, like with Yates, there is no reason to go the extra mile, minimal core training is all you’ll need. 

Moreover, your abs are targeted when you do other compound exercises like deadlifts and squats. As a result, you may only need to dedicate a partial workout session to training your abs. While direct core training is still important, dedicating just 15 minutes to two or three ab routines at the end of your workout could be enough to see results. 

Most importantly, you need to focus on burning fat to make your abs show. Building your ab muscles will strengthen them, but if you have too much body fat, you’ll never be able to see them. Generally, your abs will become visible at around 10-14% body fat for males and around 15-19% for females. The lower your percentage, the more defined your stomach will be. 

“In my opinion, it wasn’t really that important to train my abs as they were always visible due to my low body fat year round and my genetics did play a part here in helping me stay lean. Everyone has abs… it’s just a case of revealing them by lowering your body fat.”

Exclusive Dorian Yates Training Journal E-Book

Dorian Yates kept detailed training journals throughout his entire bodybuilding career dating back as early as his first competition. Now, for the first time ever, Dorian’s official journals have been published highlighting passages between 1985-1990. With over 100 pages, this ebook collects the actual writings of Dorian Yates as he trained towards becoming a Mr. Olympia champion and legend.

The pages are Yates’ own words and actual writing as he trained to become one of the greatest bodybuilders in the history of the sport. This is the first of Yates’ journal that has been published, and it details select passages over the course of five years, from 1985 to 1990.

The E-book helps aspiring bodybuilders take effective notes to maximize their training, workouts and nutrition to continue seeing great progress, and how to set goals for yourself so they appear in writing so no excuses can be made.

Dorian Yates Training Journal is the entire bodybuilding career of legendary bodybuilder, Dorian Yates, in his own words as he chronicled five years of his training.

Read our full review of Dorian Yates Training Journal E-Book

Finally, as with all other muscles, recovery time is important when training your abs. Muscle growth happens during rest, so training your abs daily is unnecessary and could impair your progress. 

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for more tips from legendary bodybuilders! 


  1. Oranchuk, D. J., Storey, A. G., Nelson, A. R., & Cronin, J. B. (2019). Isometric training and long-term adaptations: Effects of muscle length, intensity, and intent: A systematic review. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 29(4), 484–503. 
  2. Escamilla, R. F., McTaggart, M. S., Fricklas, E. J., DeWitt, R., Kelleher, P., Taylor, M. K., Hreljac, A., & Moorman, C. T. (2006). An electromyographic analysis of commercial and common abdominal exercises: implications for rehabilitation and training. The Journal of orthopaedic and sports physical therapy, 36(2), 45–57.
Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.