“Freedom isn’t secured by filling up on your heart’s desire but by removing your desire.”
Know Your Plan
I had just competed so I wasn’t going to be lifting anything heavy so trying to impress anyone was out of the question and even in my off season, my lifting wouldn’t have impressed anyone in there anyway!! But, I was in shape and hopefully I would get maybe an acknowledgement or a ‘hello’ if he was there to give me the chance to introduce myself and tell him how much I admired him and his physique and training……looking back I was so naive but sometimes it takes the naivety of youth and of innocence to do things that with life experience we would shy away from; this was certainly one of those ideas! So, there’s a lesson here; don’t allow past experiences to colour the way you view new ideas…..just because you have been rejected before, or ignored, or failed at it, or embarrassed even doesn’t, let me emphasise that DOESN’T mean that future actions will turn out the same way. What have you got to lose…..really?!!!! And yet, what could you gain?!!!! Just go for it and do it, the worst case scenario is that the answer is ‘no’ but I’ll guarantee the person you asked will respect your courage and enthusiasm to even ask.
I drove down the motorway from Telford to Birmingham and into the centre of town and parked in a multi storey right near New Street, not far from the centre and not far from Temple Street. I got there early, around 10am and sat and prepared myself to give my all in the workout no matter what my strength levels were; I was going to make sure that I wasn’t going to look like some newbie wannabe going up for the day hoping to get an autograph from the man, I was going in there to train! I had a very small snack and my pre-workout stack to make sure I was completely in the zone and focused on what I was training and whatever else happened after that would be a bonus…..heck, I was going to train in Temple Gym, the home of Mr Olympia, that in itself was a thrill and a treat.
Pre-Workout Stack (old school)
When I mentioned a pre-workout stack, don’t think it was anything like the pre-workout powders available today because they didn’t exist! We had no pre-workout supplements, no NO boosters, no intra workout powders, nothing but protein powder, weight gain powders, vitamins and mineral packs, boron (don’t ask!!!), creatine had just come in I think but we didn’t use it. The supplement industry was basic and just about to explode with a thousand new products but luckily (because we didn’t have to sift through all the marketing bull) we just had a few options and most of us kept it very simple; a protein powder and a vitamin and mineral tablet or tablets. So, what do I mean by my pre-workout stack? Well, back then Dan Duchaine had some out with a product in the US called ‘Ultimate Orange’, which was a pre-workout powder loaded with ephedrine and therefore worked….big time!! Well, we didn’t bother getting Ultimate Orange, it was too expensive over here in the UK and we had something even better, we had the original ultimate formula; all completely legal and legitimate to buy, we used two 25mg ephedrine tablets, 200mg of caffeine (in the form of Pro Plus) and half and aspirin, the ephedrine and caffeine as stimulants obviously triggered the Central Nervous System and brain chemistry to get you fired up and focused and the aspirin acted synergistically helping both the other compounds work more effectively and also thinning the blood slightly to help prevent any blood thickness issues. These days ephedrine is no longer legal to purchase so unfortunately for athletes this stack is out of the question; it’s safety was questioned after a woman died after ingesting a quantity of ephedrine before a marathon and then trying to run without proper training and hydration and suffered a heart attack but, in reality, there is little scientific evidence to show any harmful effects of ephedrine when taken as recommended by the labels back then. However, I would also mention that this stack was also the most effective fat burning supplement available back then, we would take it first thing in the morning pre contest and then at midday to create two peaks in adrenal energy and fat loss stimulation but off season, I would only ever take it on two days per week; leg day and back day! Using it pre contest, it was obvious that our body quite quickly relied on it to get started, similar to being addicted to coffee or tea or plain caffeine so once the shows were over we would clean out (and you would definitely notice the down of the withdrawal period of 48 hours or so, similar to detoxing off of coffee) and once our bodies had found it’s equilibrium again we would introduce it back in but just on two days a week, on the days that you really needed that extra kick up the ar8#e!
“‘Tell me what to do! ‘ What advice could I possibly give? No, a far better request is, ‘Train my mind to adapt to any circumstance’….in this way, if circumstances take you off script….you won’t be desperate for a new prompting.”
It’s funny when I see the range of supplements in stores today and read the labels and marketing hype and then look at the physiques of today…..however, that’s for another post and one that will hopefully help you save a whole lot of money!! Let’s get back to Birmingham, late 1992 (oh, how I sometimes wish I could do that in reality!!)…..
I took my kit out of the car, and set off down the steps and out into New Street and headed for the corner that I knew Temple Street joined on to; I knew there was a tailors shop near the corner so I looked out for that and I knew that at the top of the street was a large civil building with huge balls of stone or granite set on the ground around it, in fact there was a photograph of Dorian leaning against one of these huge stone balls in one of the magazines one year (I’ll have to try and find it for one of my Instagram posts!). Before I knew it there was the corner of Temple Street, it was closer than I had thought; it was basically right in the middle of Birmingham city centre yet if you had asked anyone where Temple Gym was, they probably wouldn’t have had a clue! I turned up the street and walked up checking both sides for an alleyway or something that would give me a clue as to where the gym was; nothing! And then opposite to where I was walking I saw an alley and a small sign saying ‘Temple Gym ‘ on the wall….I was closing in!
I walked down the alley and as it bent left there in front of me was a grey BMW with the personalised plates of DAY (I can’t remember the rest), right outside of a red door which was open to what seemed like complete darkness; I’d not only found it but the man himself was there, I’ll admit the butterflies started to appear in my gut as I knew this could be a significant moment for me, even just seeing him would have been a treat of a lifetime but I was going in to train too so I was probably going to end up training in front of Dorian Yates……it was time to get into the zone and just do it.
“For to be wise is only one thing – to fix our attention on our intelligence, which guides all things everywhere.”
The Home of Intensity
It seemed empty, there was no noise from the outside and no one could have known what was going on in that building during those years; I stepped up the door and a set of stairs appeared going down, fairly steep into the gym, although you could see nothing of the gym from the top; there was just a feeling, an atmosphere that you were entering something very special, a world that was very special and one that most people didn’t even know existed nor knew how to enter….I know this may sound as though I’m over-emphasising the ‘secrecy’ or the ‘uniqueness’ or speciality’ of the place but I’m not; there was something very real and unexplainable and indescribable in that place and once I was walking down those steps I had a feeling my life would be changed in some way; it was. I was to witness the most extreme, most intense, most highly charged workout world ever and once I’d seen what was happening down there, nothing would be the same! No gym would be the same, no workout by any other athlete would compare to what I saw and later experience and the lessons I learned would stay with me for life. All of those are things I will attempt to share in other blogs as best I can and the video’s you will watch on here and particularly in my coaching program will try to capture, in some small way, the feelings and intensity of those days.
I walked down the stairs and as I did so I saw one or two photographs on the walls going down (later on the walls would be covered in photo’s but back then there was just one or two) and I could see the gym floor opening up ahead of me and the bench and chairs around it where we would later sit after our workouts and chat and then the reception desk appeared ahead of me……but there was something in the way of that reception; a man (I think it was a human form) was stood with his back to me talking with someone behind the desk; but this was no back I had ever seen before in clothes or out. He was dressed in workout clothes, some T Michael sweatshirt and baggies (I can’t remember exactly as my overriding memory is just of the back, that back…..Oh My freakin Lord…..what the hell was that in front of me), it was insanely huge; I had never in my life seen anything that even remotely compared to what I was seeing then. It was Dorian and that first ever image is something that I will carry for the rest of my days; that was what I wanted, that was what I was here for, that was what the World was being shaken up with and it was real, it was pure beef, the width was monstrous, the clothes just hung upon his traps and bellowed down across a vast expanse of muscle covering who the heck knew what, but it wasn’t fat that was for sure!!!
A Whole New World
“God laid down this law, saying: if you want some good, get it from yourself.”
After I had stared for what seemed like minutes but was only probably milliseconds as the last thing I wanted was to be seen as some fan looking for an autograph or to disturb him; I approached the counter and asked for details on training there, the lady behind the counter told me the price (£3 per session, I think) and asked if I would be joining or just having a one off workout. It was Debbie who served me, his wife, and I explained that I was looking to come up three times a week to train but it was dependant upon the number of days I was able to take of work so I paid for a session and she pointed me towards the changing room; as I walked towards it, Dorian looked up and said ‘hi’ and I said ‘hi, it’s nice to meet you’ in return but it was very obvious that no conversation was going to take place and I didn’t expect one, I couldn’t believe I had managed to stammer out a ‘hello’ to be honest!
The changing rooms were, let’s say, hardcore!! I wasn’t expecting any fancy changing room or shower facilities but this was just a concrete block where you could sit with a toilet in and there was mould and dirt and grime everywhere…..I loved it!! I knew this was the place; no one gave a sh*t about changing or anything at all except training and getting the job done; there is a great set of photos taken in ’93 where Doz is sat on the concrete block in the changing room and people have said to me, ‘where was that taken?’!!! O.k. today, people would be complaining about such facilities and we even had someone (unknown) who complained to the council or someone about them back then and we couldn’t believe it; seriously, this was the best gym in the World for results and there was no other gym anywhere that had the atmosphere quite like Temple (although I’m sure there were others around the globe that were similar ); it was literally electrically charged with passion, energy, commitment, blood, death, almost a portal between the limits of life and death and someone wanted to complain about the changing room!!!!! I’m sorry, but yes, it may not take much to clean the place up but we were too focused on growing to give a f*#k about anything but the equipment and the workouts!
I sat down and took my jacket off and hung it up and stepped out into the gym to train; this was one workout that I was going to bring everything Johnny had ever taught me, everything that Jeff King had said, Lee Haney had advised, everything that intuitively I knew I had to give. It was shoulders and triceps day…..
The rest of the gym may have looked like it was cracking at the seams but every piece of equipment and every machine and every dumbbell was perfectly balanced, oiled, ran smoothly like butter, was just the best I had ever trained on. Some of the equipment was maybe twenty years old and maybe older as it would have been second hand when Dorian had bought it himself but it was looked after with intricate care and attention….that’s what happens when you have a gym where the owner also trains and competes! If they don’t train then they don’t care if something is out of order or doesn’t run smoothly but Dorian made sure everything was perfect, he went round every piece of equipment personally before every workout to make sure everything he was going to use was 100% in order, even the slightest sticking point or imbalance was corrected immediately.
I warmed up and began with dumbbell shoulder presses, one of my strongest movements then and now (I’ve just always had dominant delts which although was great for shoulder development meant that I had to adjust my chest training to make sure my delts never took over the tension and at that point I hadn’t mastered that, it was Dorian who showed me how over the following months as he, too, had dominant delts (how we did so will be in a future blog). I worked up to pressing around 90lbs bells or something around that before moving on to side lateral raises for umpteen sets and then behind the neck shoulder press on the smiths machine and cable side lateral raises before moving on to triceps; it was getting pretty hot down there even 20m below ground! So, I thought I’d take of my sweatshirt down to a t-shirt and began with triceps pushdowns.
I’m not quite sure what possessed me to go the extra step to strip down to a vest but it was probably ego and the knowledge that I had done the British two days prior so I knew I was sliced, diced and peeled but looking back……I have to laugh at myself for being such an idiot or an arrogant prat; maybe that’s harsh on myself but come on!! I was in Mr Olympia’s gym and I was stripping down to a vest?!!! Anyhow, that’s what I did. What was Dorian doing while I was training? Well, he was training also; I couldn’t tell you what as I made sure not to make any eye contact nor look over at him as I instinctively knew it would have been disrespectful and something that he just wouldn’t want, people looking at him as he trained. I was right, in the future when we started training together my father once came down to Temple to meet me after he had been shopping in Birmingham and, not knowing who he was, Debbie had gone straight across to him and said, ‘you’re welcome to sit down but do not look at them while they train!’ He then explained he was my father and she apologised but he knew anyway and I think he respected the fact that what we were doing was very serious, professional and on the limit of dangerous so any distractions from anything could have dire consequences.
What I did notice was that Dorian was training with another very good bodybuilder, Kenny Brown (I didn’t know his name at the time), a very talented black light heavyweight who competed in the EFBB. He was a lot smaller than Dorian but his intensity levels were close to what Doz was generating and what they were generating was frightening, I loved it, but it was scary frightening…..I had never seen intensity and effort like that which was coming from across the gym from me and it was very apparent to me that it was a completely different world than the one I was living and training in; maybe, just maybe, there was an answer here? That was why I was there and already I was learning that whatever it was I was doing in the gym just was nowhere near what these guys were doing, it wasn’t even as if I was actually training more just pushing weights and getting pumps….these guys were TRAINING!!!
“Dig deep within yourself, for there is a fountain of goodness ready to flow if you will keep digging.”
Anyway…..I was down to a vest and doing triceps pushdowns, doing my normal multiple sets as I guess 99% of all bodybuilders were doing at the time (and still do), I was still tanned up and my triceps have always had nice feathering on them so I was enjoying the sets, feeling good and that I was looking pretty good too; what is it they say about pride and a fall?! The next thing I know is Dorian and Kenny had moved across to where I was training and Dorian had been watching me for a few seconds; I finished my set and he came up to me and, in his deadpan straight way said to me, ‘Good condition, lad……you just need some muscle’ LOL!!!!!
I smiled and said ‘thanks, I’m trying!’; he moved on to his own workout but I think he was thinking, ‘this lad is keen but he’s never going to build any muscle training like that!’ But I’ll never know; I’m sure he doesn’t remember that moment but it is engrained in my mind and was quite a defining moment for me; yes, it was good that Dorian Yates had complemented me on my condition, incredible really, but then he gave the full Yates dry sense of humour in the line of truth, that I needed to build some muscle!! And I knew it.
I finished up the workout and luckily Dorian and Kenny finished at around the same time; I can’t remember if I timed it to co-incide but it is quite likely; I went to the desk and asked for a carb drink, as I noticed that Dorian and Kenny were both drinking one each and sat down at the bench. Dorian was spooning in from a large tub of powder something into his mouth and taking a gulp of carb drink to wash it down; I took a look as obviously I was intrigued to learn exactly what he did, he ate and he supplemented with. It said ‘Musashi’ on the tub but had small pictures of a horse on the outside, he took a teaspoon full which I guess is around 5g and it turned out to be branch chain amino acids for race horses! This was before Musashi got into making sports supplements in a big way for human athletes and it was a band that I had never seen in the UK before and had never heard of and try as hard as I could, I couldn’t find any outlet in the UK who could get me the product. I think they were sending him the tubs directly from Japan or Australia at the time, so I stuck with the carb drink, which was called ‘carbo-force’ at the time, 100g of carbohydrates from maltodextrin and one or two other sources; 100g!! If I took that amount now at 55 I’d be fat in no time!! We changed our post workout nutrition over the months and years that I both trained with and saw Dorian train and I’ll cover the various products we used and the results we experienced in future posts, it was all a learning game and we were the guinea pigs! Would a ‘guru’ have saved us some time and wasted hands on research back then? I doubt it, we had to get to know our own bodies; what works for one person isn’t necessarily what will work for another and that’s why I hate to hear of coaches who give out ‘cookie cutter’ diets or protocols because it takes away all the true learning of your own body and you literally are handing the job over to someone who may not always have your best interests at heart; if your coach is someone who works with you and tries new things and experiements then that’s a good thing! It means that they are exploring how your body works and building up a knowledge base of what will work for you! Back then, we were our own ‘guru’s’!! If someone had said to us then, hire a ‘guru’ to help you through the last few weeks of a prep or through an off season, we would have laughed!! Yes, there was an inner circle and we exchanged ideas and knowledge but you had to prove yourself to gain acceptance into that inner circle; and quite rightly!! Dangerous practices come when people not ready for things do those things; take your time, step by step, build your foundation and slowly (that’s the part people don’t like today) you’ll get there….if you’re committed enough.
“Pay attention to what’s in front of you – the principle, the task, or what’s being portrayed.”
The Beginning of a Journey
Gee….I keep getting side-tracked, this could go on forever, let’s get back to the gym and what happened then! Dorian and Kenny had their drinks and came and sat down next to me and Dorian asked if I’d just competed and after I’d explained I’d just done the Britain, he said he’d look forward to seeing me again in Temple as he felt that I needed the environment and to learn and try some alternative training methods, in other words, I think he knew that my multi volume approach wasn’t suitable for my physique and that my body would respond well to a more intense, lower volume strategy and training….how right he was. I chatted with Kenny a while to and as Dorian stood up to leave, he said ‘goodbye’ and that he would see me next time I was in town; I said that I was planning to come to Temple Gym three times a week, whether he thought I actually would or not was maybe the testing ground that would prove to him whether or not I was serious about becoming a pro or whether I was just another bodybuilder who was prepared to stay only in their comfort zone. I also got up to leave and said that I would be up the next day, to which Kenny said that they, too, would be training the next day before taking a day off, so we left it planning on seeing each other the next day…..so it looked like I was travelling the next day to Birmingham again!! Well, who wouldn’t?!!! More experiences will follow in future blogs, I hope you have enjoyed this one; my apologies for the rambling at times but I write as I remember things and my brain throws out the images and words in front of me. If you’ve enjoyed this then you’ll enjoy most if not all of my blogs as they are really just my memories of my own career and the people I met along the way and hopefully you’ll learn a few things to try and help you improve your own chances of success.