Dorian Yates vs Ronnie Coleman – The Battle of the Backs

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In the illustrious bodybuilding world, debates over the greatest physique are as intense as the workouts.

Recently, on The Menace Podcast, two legends of the sport, Dennis James and Chris Cormier, engaged in a spirited discussion comparing the back development of two iconic bodybuildersDorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman

The question on the table: Who possessed the most awe-inspiring back in the prime of their careers?

Dorian Yates vs Ronnie Coleman – The Battle of the Backs
via YatesInstagram Account

Dorian Yates: The Shadow’s Dominance

Dorian Yates, aptly nicknamed “The Shadow,” emerged as a dominant force in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

After securing his first Mr. Olympia title in 1992, Dorian Yates embarked on a reign of supremacy, defending the coveted title for five consecutive years until 1997.

The intensity of his training and his meticulous focus on conditioning set him apart. 

Even in his debut Olympia appearance, Dorian Yates stood toe-to-toe with the formidable Lee Haney, foreshadowing the era he would usher in.

“Let’s compare Dorian Yates at his best and Ronnie Coleman at his best,” suggested Dennis James during the podcast.

dorian yates mr olympia
via dorian yates instagram

“I had Dorian Yates’s back,” Chris Cormier responded.

The consensus was that Dorian Yates boasted an unparalleled lat spread. His back, a canvas of striated muscle, presented a spectacle that defined an era. 

However, the focus shifted when the discussion honed in on the back double biceps pose.

Dorian Yates had better back lat spread, but Ronnie Coleman’s back double biceps in his prime was unbeatable,” asserted Dennis James.

Here, the debate gained nuance. It wasn’t just about the width or the density of the back it was about the specific pose that showcased the intricate details of the muscles – a back double biceps that, in the eyes of many, remained unmatched during Ronnie Coleman’s prime.

Dorian Yates‘ Back Workout

dorian yates back workout
via dorian yates instagram

In the realm of bodybuilding, few names evoke as much reverence as Dorian Yates, known as “The Shadow.” 

His dominating presence and unparalleled physique earned him six Mr. Olympia titles during the 1990s. 

While Dorian Yates was famously reserved about revealing his physique backstage, he generously shared the blueprint of his back workout, a crucial element in sculpting his legendary physique.

If you’re aspiring to cast your shadow over the weight room, here’s the detailed breakdown of Dorian Yates‘ back workout.

The Dorian Yates Back Workout

dorian yates back pose
via dorian yates instagram

Barbell Row

  • Sets: 2 x 12-15 (light warm-up)
  • Notes: Utilize very lightweight for warm-up, maintain a roughly 70-degree torso angle, and perform partial reps as needed.

Hammer Strength Pulldown

  • Sets: 1 x 8-10
  • Notes: Opt for an underhand grip, allow full shoulder elevation at the top of each repetition, and focus on stretching the lats.

Barbell Row

  • Sets: 1 x 8-10
  • Notes: Lift as much weight as possible within good form, maintain an upright torso, and utilize partial reps as fatigue sets in.

Hammer Strength Single-Arm Row

  • Sets: 1 x 8-10
  • Notes: Alternate arms, incorporate forced reps and eccentric-only repetitions at failure.

Seated Cable Row

  • Sets: 1 x 8-10
  • Notes: Take a wide, overhand grip, lean slightly forward for lat stretch, and keep elbows high, considering negative repetitions if desired.

Machine Rear Delt Flye

  • Sets: 1 x 8-10
  • Notes: Emphasize forced repetitions over negative reps, considering it as an intermediary exercise between heavy compounds.

Bent-Over Dumbbell Rear Flye

  • Sets: 1 x 8-10
  • Notes: Perform seated with torso curled over, raise dumbbells to shoulder level, and utilize partial reps to push past failure.

Back Hyperextension

  • Sets: 1 x 10-12
  • Notes: Place a light pre-loaded barbell on traps, hold the contracted position, and focus on lower back development.


  • Sets: 1 x 8
  • Notes: Prioritize good form, concentrate on squeezing lats, and avoid intensity techniques like forced or negative reps.

Fine-tune intensity and volume based on individual preferences. Dorian Yates‘ back workout epitomizes his philosophy of intensity over quantity. 

His strategic approach to back development, focusing on width and thickness, provides a comprehensive guide for those aspiring to build a legendary physique. 

As you embark on this journey, remember Dorian Yates‘ emphasis on pushing to absolute failure and the nuanced tips for each exercise to maximize results. Embrace the shadow and sculpt a back that commands attention in any arena.

Ronnie Coleman: The Unbeatable Force

ronnie coleman now age
via ronnie coleman instagram

As Dorian Yates gracefully exited the stage after his sixth Olympia triumph, another titan was gearing up to ascend – Ronnie Coleman

Bursting onto the scene in 1998, Ronnie Coleman’s sheer mass and conditioning redefined the possibilities of the human physique. Eight consecutive Mr. Olympia titles attested to his unparalleled dominance.

Chris Cormier, reflecting on the comparison, articulated, “I’m not even looking at shoulders and arms I’m just looking at the back, and your video shows it the best, the thickness that Ronnie Coleman had at the time.”

The thickness of Ronnie Coleman’s back, particularly in the back double biceps pose, became the focal point. 

It wasn’t a question of who had the better back overall it was about the specific angle that each excelled in.

Ronnie Coleman’s Back Workout

ronnie coleman back pose
via ronnie coleman instagram

In the world of bodybuilding, few names carry as much weight as Ronnie Coleman, an eight-time Mr. Olympia champion known for his jaw-droppingly heavy lifts and iconic catchphrase, “Light weight, baby!” 

His approach to physique development centered around intense, barbell-based compound lifting, sculpting a posterior chain that dominated the Mr. Olympia competition for eight consecutive years.

The Essence of Ronnie Coleman’s Back Training

ronnie coleman back workout
via ronnie coleman instagram

Powerlifting Meets Bodybuilding

Ronnie Coleman’s back workout is a fusion of powerlifting and bodybuilding, blending heavy, compound movements with high-rep schemes. 

This unique combination contributed to his incredible back development, characterized by rippling lumbar erectors and offensively wide lats.

Twice-a-Week Routine

Ronnie Coleman’s commitment to back development was evident in his training frequency, tackling back workouts twice a week. 

Each session strategically focused on different elements of muscularity, emphasizing width in one session and thickness in the other.

Ronnie Coleman Back Workout for Width

Barbell Row5 x 10-12
Seated Cable Row4 x 10-12
Machine Pulldown3 x 10-12
Underhand Pulldown3 x 10-12

Ronnie Coleman Back Workout for Thickness

Deadlift4 x 6-12
Barbell Row3 x 10-12
T-Bar Row3 x 10-12
Dumbbell Row3 x 10-12

Ronnie Coleman’s back training efficiency stemmed from incorporating compound lifts, efficiently engaging large muscle groups for comprehensive development.

A Word of Advice

While Ronnie Coleman’s back workout is a formidable blueprint, it’s crucial to acknowledge that individual results vary due to factors like genetics and years of dedicated training. 

Embrace the principles, work hard, but remain realistic about personal limits. 

The fusion of powerlifting and bodybuilding, intensity, and strategic exercise selection encapsulates the essence of Ronnie Coleman’s legendary back development.

The Legacy Continues: Life After Olympia

ronnie coleman vs dorian yates back
via ronnie coleman instagram

Beyond the debate, both Dorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman have transcended their competitive years, leaving an indelible mark on the world of bodybuilding.

Dorian Yates, now 61, remains an embodiment of dedication to fitness. His High-Intensity Training (HIT) style continues to sculpt his physique, as evidenced by a recent 40-year progression update showcasing shredded abs.

On the other side, Ronnie Coleman, despite battling injuries, maintains an impressive workout routine, hitting the gym six times a week. 

His collaborations with contemporary stars like Derek Lunsford and even a legendary session with Arnold Schwarzenegger underscore his enduring influence.

Both legends have found relief in stem cell treatment, a testament to the evolving landscape of bodybuilding and sports recovery. 

Dorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman, once fierce rivals on the stage, now share a commonality in embracing innovative methods to sustain their physical well-being.

The Verdict: Chris Cormier’s Call

chris cormier burns charest
via chris cormier instagram

In the end, as the podcast wrapped up, Chris Cormier stood firm in his belief that Dorian Yates possessed the superior back. 

However, the spirited exchange highlighted the subjective nature of such comparisons. 

Bodybuilding aficionados will forever engage in discussions over the minutiae of poses, the thickness of muscle fibers, and the overall aesthetics of the human form.

The clash of titans – Dorian Yates vs Ronnie Coleman – extends beyond their competitive years. 

It’s a perpetual conversation, a celebration of the enduring legacy these bodybuilding icons have crafted, leaving an indomitable imprint on the iron game.

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