England’s Dorian Yates led a career full of highlights in the 1990s that saw him solidify his name as one of the best in the Men’s Open. He possessed an imposing physique with a granite back and muscle hardness rarely seen in today’s landscape. In a recent Instagram post, Yates explained the origin story behind his nickname “The Shadow” and opened up about why he never chose to compete at Arnold Classic competitions.
Revered for his mass monster physique and work ethic, Yates separated himself from his peers with exercise mechanics learned from legends of the sport Arthur Jones and Mike Mentzer. While most bodybuilders preferred patterns that involved a fixed number of reps and sets while lifting weights, Yates routinely pushed his workouts to failure.
Aside from taking runner-up to Lee Haney in 1991, Yates proceeded to win every single Mr. Olympia contest he entered, racking up a total of six titles. Having reflected on his achievements, fans were blown away that Yates managed to win the sport’s most prestigious honor on multiple occasions when he competed injured with torn triceps and biceps.
With such a storied career, you would guess Yates’ body would be showing signs of wear and tear. But after a series of recent stem cell injections, the bodybuilding legend admits his mobility, pain, and discomfort have all improved. In his latest offering, he answered a few questions about his career lingering in the minds of fans.
Dorian Yates Explains How ‘The Shadow’ Nickname Came into Existence, Talks Not Competing at Arnold Classics
Yates revealed that the late Peter McGough nicknamed him ‘The Shadow’ because he would disappear for long periods of time and would eventually re-appear at contests even bigger than before.
The late Peter McGough nicknamed me ‘The Shadow’ early on in my career. He was present at my first show and was one of my biggest supporters and friends in the industry.
Peter gave me the name due to my disappearing for long periods of time and then appearing without any fanfare or even telling anyone in the industry which show I was going to do. Appearing bigger than before with always my trademark conditioning.
Even during my Olympia reign, I never allowed any photoshoots to take place where the other pros could gauge that years progress. Except, of course in 1993 and those photos were never intended to go into Flex Magazine originally either! Even within my own domain in Temple Gym, my training partners would seldom see me without a top and sweatshirt or my baggies unless on the very rare occasion I was getting changed or during prep at my weekly progress photos!”
No-one in Temple would have shared anything anyway, there was a code of secrecy and honour we shared and was one of the reasons why I was so comfortable there, far removed from the goldfish bowl that would have been Golds Gym or anywhere else.
Dorian also said he picked up a trick from Lee Haney and would always wear his infamous Tardis tracksuit backstage. He said this was done to throw other competitors off and to keep them guessing about his progress.
“Backstage, I also kept covered up in my infamous tardis tracksuit; using a trick I had learned from Lee Haney. I made sure no-one saw me until the very last moment before walking onstage when I would remove my tracksuit,” shared Dorian Yates.
As for why he never competed at Arnold Classics, Yates explained that his peers would never be able to ‘equal my 12-month gains’ in between Olympia contests.
“I’ve been asked why I never competed in the Arnold Classic, which could have been a good payday for me, but I quickly learned that to make the improvements that I wanted each year, it would take me 12 months and those who competed in other shows, I knew could never equal my 12 month gains. Historically, Arnold Classic winners lost ground by the time they competed for the Olympia as there wasn’t time to improve.
How can you make any significant size and strength gains when every time you’re about to grow, you have to reduce your calories again to get into competition shape? If you want to be a cruising professional, then I suppose I understand, but that never interested me. I was always only ever interested in one show and that was the Mr. Olympia.”
Yates isn’t the only bodybuilder to steer clear of the Arnold Classic. Reigning four-time Classic Physique Olympia Chris Bumstead has yet to compete at the Arnold, and neither has Derek Lunsford, both of which have reasoned that it gives them an advantage having the extra time in the off-season to improve and grow their physiques for Mr. Olympia shows.
Aside from his experiences and training tips relating to his career, Yates has kept an open mind since retiring. He recently underwent a test that measured his Vo2 Max, and the results approximated his ‘biological age’ to be anywhere between 30 and 39. From recovery practices to yoga, and meditation, Yates is keen on preserving not just his physical health, but his mental capabilities.
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Yates is an icon of the sport and his consistency and willingness to face adversity defined his legacy. Even though he never won an Arnold Classic title, he remains one of the greatest to ever step on stage.