It’d be easy to assume that most world-class bodybuilders have a bread-and-butter exercise they prefer to augment a part of their physique. Mr. Olympia legend Dorian Yates, one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time, certainly fits this bill.
On Mar. 15, 2023, Yates posted a black and white Instagram photo of himself performing one of his signature exercises — a reverse-grip barbell row. In the accompanying caption, the six-time Mr. Olympia champion (1992-1997) went into appropriate detail about why he appreciates the barbell row as his favorite back-training mechanism.
Per Yates’ account, he could typically move a heavier weight with his barbell rows. However, he wrote that he usually lifted four 45-pound plates and one 25-pound plate on each side of the 45-pound barbell (totaling 455 pounds) as to maintain quality form.
Yates noted he usually performed this movement alongside former bodybuilder Paul Baxendale. He described an account where Baxendale initially utilized a lot of body momentum for his rows, partly due to the heavy weight on the barbell. Yates maintained that when Baxendale halved his working weight, his back grew noticeably over the next few months.
Here is how the “Barbell Row — Yates Style” guide reads regarding proper tips and steps to perform the exercise:
Barbell Row “Yates Style” Steps and Tips
Grip: Yates’ copy reads that the barbell row is the best exercise to build muscle on the lats and overall back. He would apparently utilize a reverse “underhand” grip while pulling his barbell into his waist. (Note: Yates has previously stated that he suffered a biceps tear while performing this exercise during preparation for his 1994 Mr. Olympia win, and subsequently switched to using an overhand grip.)
Stance: For Yates’ row, he would keep his body above parallel at a 70-degree angle to the floor. He wrote that this torso angle allows the lat muscles to contract better while protecting the back from injury. An arched position is vital to maximize full benefits.
Partial Reps: In order to align with proper intensity, because forced reps can be difficult with a barbell row, Yates writes that it’s best to perform partial reps at a certain point. Though, he would only perform partial reps toward the end of a set after he couldn’t work through a full range of motion.
Negative: As for the actual repetition, Yates would perform the eccentric portion (lowering phase) slowly while the concentric portion (lifting phase) received as much energy as feasible.
Equipment: Finally, Yates wrote that he “believes in using wrist straps” for any heavy-weight back exercise. The main purpose was to uphold a firmer grip, in turn allowing him to better target his back muscles.
Taking these cues from Yates probably wouldn’t be the worst idea for an athlete seeking a greater way to build back mass in the modern era.
These days, while seemingly maintaining his fitness at a high level, the 60-year-old Yates appears to be enjoying his retirement from competition more than anything. He has business ventures and resides in Brazil with his wife. That said, it looks like he knows he still has plenty of wise nuggets about bodybuilding to drop for those willing to learn.
Featured image: @thedorianyates on Instagram