The John Meadows Arm Workout | The Ultimate Guide!


John Meadows is an IFBB professional bodybuilder and one of the best bodybuilding coaches in the world. John believes the fastest way to build huge biceps and triceps is to use his Mountain Dog arm workouts.

If you want to learn how John Meadows designs his arm workouts then this article is for you!

Introduction 

  • Part 1: Bicep Workouts
  • Part 2: Tricep Workouts
  • Part 3: Complete Arm Workouts

In this comprehensive guide I will show you how to build a massive chest using John Meadows’ Mountain Dog chest workouts.

John Meadows says that his Mountain Dog Training program is all about building as much muscle mass as possible while staying healthy and avoiding injuries. John Meadows likes to train his arms at least 1 day per week on their own separate training day.

Here is one of his favorite training splits:

The John Meadows Training Split

  • Day 1: Legs
  • Day 2: Chest / Shoulders
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Back
    Day 5: Arms
  • Day 6: Off
  • Day 7: Off

This is the exact training split that John used for most of his bodybuilding career.

John says that training your biceps and triceps on together on their own day is the way to go. He argues that you get a better pump in your arms and you can use different techniques like antagonistic supersets to increase the intensity of your workouts.

In this guide we’re going to take a deep look at how John trains his biceps and triceps. I will show you how John sequences his exercises and the different techniques he uses to increase the intensity of his workouts.

Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Bicep Workouts

John Meadows is known for his unbelievable bicep development. Many people say that his biceps are his best body part. They look like tennis balls sitting on top of his arms!

John says the key to building big biceps is to sequence your exercises correctly, to perform every exercise with perfect form and of course to train the brachialis muscle.

John usually picks 3-4 exercises for his biceps and performs 3-4 sets to failure per exercise. He says the biceps are a smaller muscle group and can handle more sets taken to failure than other muscles like your legs or back.

Here is a simple example of how John likes to train his biceps. Check it out:

John Meadows Bicep Routine #1

  • Exercise #1: Standing DB curl (hammer grip), 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #2: One-arm preacher DB curl (supinated grip), 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #3: Incline cable curl, 4 sets of 8-12 reps

Here is the training video:

This biceps workout is about as simple as it gets. John trains his biceps using three different exercises that train different parts of the muscle and different parts of the strength curve.

John believes that you should start your biceps workouts with exercises that overload the mid-range of the strength curve.

In other words you want to start with exercises that are hardest right in the middle of the exercise. Good examples include standing barbell curls, standing dumbbell curls and reverse ez-bar curls.

John wants you to save exercises that put the biceps under a big stretch for later in the workout.

For this workout John chooses the standing dumbbell hammer curl. This is one of his favorite exercises for training the brachialis. John says that he uses at least 1 exercise to train the brachialis in every bicep workout.

“Hammer curls are nice because you get a little bit more activation in your brachialis with a neutral grip.

In other words they target that little muscle that sits in between your biceps and triceps.

When that develops it pushes your biceps and triceps out.”

Next John performs two exercises that really stretch out the biceps: preacher curls and incline cable curls. John never starts his workouts with these exercises. Instead he waits until he already has a good pump in his biceps.

Here is a slightly more advanced John Meadows biceps workout that you can try. Check it out:

John Meadows’ Biceps Routine #2

  • Exercise #1: Barbell curl with bands (supinated grip), 2 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #2: Dumbbell pinwheel curls, 2 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #3: Standing DB curls (hammer grip), 2 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #4: 45 degree incline DB curls (supinating grip), 2 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #5: 90 degree preacher ez-bar curls (wide / supinated grip), 2 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #6: Standing ez-bar curl (reverse grip), 2 sets of 8-12 reps

Here is the training video:

For this workout John picks 6 different biceps exercises and performs 2 working sets to failure per exercise. Now that is a lot of volume for the biceps!

John starts the workout with 3 different exercises that overload the mid-range of the strength curve: barbell curls, pinwheel curls and hammer curls.

For his first exercise John actually performs barbell curls with bands. John likes to use bands and chains on barbell curls to make the very top part of the exercise slightly more challenging. Check it out:

“Typically when you do a regular curl you’re going to have your biggest challenge in the mid-range part of the exercise.

So you don’t get a huge contraction at the end. With the band you get a huge contraction in the top part of the exercise.”

After the barbell curls John performs pinwheel curls and standing dumbbell curls for his brachialis muscle. If you watch closely John isn’t using very much weight on his biceps exercises.

He says that his biceps really started to grow when he used lighter weights and focused on squeezing the barbell or dumbbell as hard as possible on every rep. Today John does this instinctively – he doesn’t even have to think about it.

Finally John finishes his workout with a variety of exercises that overload the bottom part and top part of the strength curve.

Sometimes John likes to mix things up and perform supersets, tri-sets or even giant sets for his biceps workouts. Here is one of his favorite bicep tri-sets routines that you can try. Check it out:

John Meadows’ Biceps Routine #3

  • Exercise A1: 90 degree preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / supinated grip), 5 sets of 8 reps, no rest
  • Exercise A2: Standing DB curl (neutral grip), 5 sets of 8 reps, no rest
  • Exercise A3: Preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / supinated grip), 5 sets of 8 reps, 1 minute rest

Here is the training video:

Talk about a brutal biceps workout!

For this routine John performs all three biceps exercises in a row, then rests 1 minute and repeats the entire thing again. John’s goal is to perform 5 rounds of this tri-set for a total of 15 sets.

Here is John describing the workout:

“We’re going to do a tri-set. So we’re going to do exercise #1, go directly into exercise #2 and then go directly into exercise #3.

We’re going to take a 1 minute break after that and repeat the circuit 5 times.

So once your elbows are warmed up you’re going to start and do 5 rounds or 15 total sets.”

John says the key to building a great biceps tri-set routine is to pick exercises that overload different parts of the strength curve. And that is exactly what John does here.

The spider curl overloads your biceps when they are fully contracted, the standing dumbbell curl overloads the middle part of the exercise and the preacher curl overloads your biceps when they are fully stretched.

This tri-set is a nasty combination which overloads almost every part of the biceps. Here is John describing the spider curl exercise:

“We’re going to start with a spider curl. I started doing these in the 1990s when I was training in the John Parillo performance center in Columbus, Ohio.

I’m going to curl on the vertical side of the bench instead of the normal angled side of the bench.”

Now let’s look at how John likes to train his triceps.

Part 2: Tricep Workouts

John Meadows has some very strong opinions about how bodybuilders should train their triceps. John usually picks 3-4 exercises for his triceps and performs 3-4 sets to failure on each exercise.

He also likes to use different high-intensity techniques like drop sets, partial rep and iso-holds to increase the intensity of his workouts. However, John says the real key to building huge triceps is to sequence your exercises correctly. Check it out:

John Meadows’ Tricep Training Rules

  • Rule #1: Start your workout with tricep pushdowns
  • Rule #2: Perform compound triceps exercises at the middle of your workout
  • Rule #3: Perform lying triceps extensions at the middle or end of your workout
  • Rule #4: Perform overhead triceps extensions at the end of your workout

Don’t worry, these rules will make more sense as we look at some of John’s actual tricep workouts. If you really want to learn more about these rules then check out my article “Mountain Dog Tricep Training: The Ultimate Guide!

Here is a very simple triceps workout by John Meadows that you can try. Check it out:

John Meadows’ Triceps Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: Triceps pushdown (spongey grips), 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #2: JM press, 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Exercise #3: Overhead rope cable triceps, 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps

Here is the full training video for this workout:

This triceps workout is about as simple as it gets.

John Meadows performs 3 exercises for his triceps and performs about 3-4 sets to failure for each exercise.

John says this routine is so effective because the exercises are sequenced correctly. First he starts with a tricep pushdown variation.

John says you should start all of your tricep workouts with tricep pushdowns because they are very easy on your elbows and help you establish a strong mind-muscle connection. Check it out:

“I always want you to start with a pushdown. Now the reason why is elbow health.

A lot of people will have you start with a skull crusher variation or a lying extension variation.

I don’t like that, I don’t think it’s good for long-term elbow health.”

After his triceps are warmed up he moves onto lying tricep extensions. John really like these exercises – he just thinks you should perform them after you have a good amount of blood in your triceps.

For this workout John uses the JM press:

“This is something I did back when I trained with powerlifters. The movement is called the JM press.

This exercise was popularized by JM Blakely. It’s kind of a hybrid between a close grip bench and a lying extension where you lower the bar to your chin.”

Finally John finishes with the rope overhead triceps extension.

John says that you should only perform overhead triceps extensions at the very end of your workout. They put a maximum stretch on your triceps but they can also be very hard on your elbows if you are not careful.

Here is John summarizing this workout:

“With this workout we’ve hit all three heads of the triceps: the lateral head, the medial head and the long head.

But we’ve done more than that – we’ve also sequenced them properly.

If you want to build huge triceps then you have to keep your elbows health. So structuring your triceps workouts is extremely important.”

Here is a slightly more advanced triceps workout that you can try. Check it out:

John Meadows’ Triceps Workout #2

  • Exercise A1: Standing triceps pushdown (spongey grips), 4 sets of 12 reps, 90 seconds rest
  • Exercise B1: Lying triceps extension (football bar / close grip), 4 sets of 6 reps, no rest
  • Exercise B2: Bench press (football bar / close grip), 4 sets of 6 reps, 90 seconds rest
  • Exercise C1: Overhead triceps extension (football bar)**, 4 sets of 8 reps**, 90 seconds rest

**Perform a static stretch in the bottom position of the exercise for 10 seconds immediately after your last rep.

Here is the training video:

This workout is very similar to the last one. The big difference is John uses different high-intensity techniques to increase the intensity of the workout.

As usual John starts his workout with triceps pushdowns. After that he moves into a decline triceps extension. He actually supersets this exercise with close grip bench presses.

“We’re doing decline lying extensions right into the decline press with the football bar. Your triceps should be smoked after this.”

Finally John finishes the workout with some overhead triceps extensions.

For this exercise he actually performs a 10-second iso-hold at the end of the set in the bottom position of the exercise. He lowers the bar down and holds it for 10 seconds while his triceps are maximally stretched.

“After you do your 10 reps I want you to let it sit there in the stretched position for 10 seconds.

So you do 4 sets of 10 and after the 10th rep you do a nice 10-second stretch before your partner takes the weight away from you.”

Every once in a while John will perform a compound pressing exercise like the pin press or machine dips first in his workout. Here is one workout where he did just this. Check it out:

John Meadows’ Triceps Workout #3

  • Exercise A1: Pin press (shoulder-width grip)**, 4 sets of 5 reps
  • Exercise B1: Dual rope cable triceps pushdown, 3 sets of 8 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise B2: Cable rope triceps extension (high-pulley), 3 sets of 8 reps, 2 minutes rest
  • Exercise C1: Lying dead stop DB triceps extension, 3 sets of 8-10 reps

**Set the pins 6-8 inches above chest height.

Here is the full training video for this workout:

Overall this looks pretty similar to the first 2 triceps workouts that we looked at. John starts this workout with the pin press instead of his favorite triceps pushdowns.

John likes the pin press more than the regular close grip bench press because it does a better job of isolating the triceps. After all, the triceps are most active during the top half of the bench press. When you lower the bar all the way down to your sternum you start to recruit more of the chest and front delts.

Here is John describing this exercise:

“We’re starting with a close grip pin press. We started doing these in the mid-1990’s when I was training with Louie Simmons at the Westside Barbell powerlifting gym.

Today we’re going to do 5 sets of 5 reps. Look at how his elbows are tucked in – that’s keeping the tension on his triceps.

The reason we’re doing a pin press instead of a close grip bench press is to keep all the tension on the triceps.”

After the pin presses John performs a brutal superset with cable pushdowns and overhead triceps extensions.

John says this variation of overhead triceps extensions is OK to perform in the middle of your workout because your elbows are still in front of your body rather than directly overhead. It puts a moderate stretch on your triceps – similar to any lying triceps extension.

Finally John finishes with dead stop dumbbell triceps extensions. He likes to perform this exercise where you are pushing the dumbbells back behind you to keep constant tension on the triceps.

Every once in a while John will perform a giant sets routine for his triceps. Here is a good example of how John likes to organize his giant sets triceps routines. Check it out:

John Meadows’ Triceps Workout #4

  • Exercise A1: Machine pushdown, 3-5 sets of 8 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A2: Machine dips, 3-5 sets of 8 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A3: Machine chest press (neutral grip), 3-5 sets of 8 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A4: Machine triceps extension**, 3-5 sets of 8 reps, 2 minutes rest

**Performed through the bottom 50% of the range of motion only.

Here is the training video for this workout:

Giant sets were popularized by the bodybuilding coach Milos Sarcev. The basic idea is to perform 4 or more exercises in a row with no rest between sets.

John likes to use giant sets because they let you fatigue your muscle fibers in a way that is hard to achieve with regular straight sets. Here is John talking about giant sets:

“I like to do giant sets stuff for my arms if I’m in a hurry and I have to move fast, or if I want to get a great pump.

But I think that workouts that drive a lot of blood into the muscle are great for muscle growth, as long as you push yourself really hard on your sets.”

For this giant sets workout John still follows his normal exercise sequencing rules.

He starts with a variation of triceps pushdowns, then he moves onto a couple of compound pressing exercises and finally he finishes with a machine triceps extension variation.

Part 3: Complete Arm Workouts

Now we’re getting to the good stuff! We’re going to look at some complete arm workouts where John trains his biceps and triceps together. John has a few different ways he likes to organize his full arm workouts.

Sometimes he performs 3-4 exercises for his biceps and then 3-4 exercises for his triceps. Other times he actually alternates back and forth between exercises for his biceps and triceps. That is what we are going to focus on in part 3 of this article.

Here is a cool alternating arm workout that John Meadows performed with IFBB pro Fouad Abiad. Check it out:

John Meadows’ Arm Routine #1

  • Exercise #1: Standing barbell curl, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #2: Dual rope pushdown, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #3: Preacher DB curl (supinated grip), 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #4: Lying dead stop DB extensions, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #5: Seated DB curls (hammer grip), 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #6: Cable pushdowns (medium / pronated grip), 3 sets of 10-12 reps**

**Train to failure, then immediately perform an overhead cable extension to failure using the same weight and cable setup.

Here is the training video:

This is a very simple arm workout that you can perform in almost any commercial gym. John alternates back and forth between exercises for his biceps and exercises for his triceps.

John likes to perform arm workouts this way because you get a great pump in your arms and you can use a little more weight on your 2nd or 3rd exercise for each muscle group.

As usual John sticks with his usual exercise sequences. For example John performs mid-range biceps exercises like the standing barbell curl before performing an exercise that really stretches out the biceps like preacher curls.

Likewise John performs cable pushdowns for his triceps before performing lying triceps extensions. Sometimes John likes to perform antagonistic supersets in his arm workouts. This is where you alternate back and forth between 1 set for your biceps and 1 set for your triceps.

Here is an antagonistic superset arm workout that you can try. Check it out:

John Meadows’ Arm Routine #2

Superset #1

  • A1: Dual handle pushdown, 4 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • A2: Ez-bar drag curl (wide / supinated grip), 4 sets of 10 reps, 1-2 minutes rest

Superset #2

  • B1: Machine preacher curl (narrow / semi-supinated grip), 4 sets of 6 reps**, no rest
  • B2: Machine dips, 4 sets of 8 reps, 1-2 minutes rest

Superset #3

  • C1: 75 degree incline cable rope extensions, 4 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • C2: One-arm DB pinwheel curls, 4 sets of 10 reps, 1-2 minutes rest

**Your training partner applies extra manual resistance on the lowering phase of each rep. Use a 3-second lowering phase on these reps.

Here is the training video:

Talk about a brutal workout! John likes to perform antagonistic supersets in his arm workouts because they give you a tremendous pump and because they help with your muscular endurance during the workout.

Many strength coaches like Charles Poliquin are also big fans of using antagonistic supersets to build big, strong arms.

In this workout John performs 1 high-intensity set for his biceps on the machine preacher curls. He has his training partner add extra manual resistance on the lowering part of the exercise to eccentrically overload his biceps. Check it out:

“We’re going to do a machine preacher curl but we’re loading the negative or eccentric part.

So if you watch, I’m going to get extra resistance applied as I lower the weight.

We’re going to do 6 reps like that, generating a ton of tension on the muscle.”

This is a brutal way to blast through hypertrophy training plateaus in the biceps. There is a ton of research supporting the use of heavy eccentric reps for building muscle – you can click right here if you don’t believe me!

Here is another one of John’s antagonistic superset workouts. Check it out:

John Meadows’ Arm Routine #3

Superset #1

  • Exercise A1: Machine dips, 3 sets of 8-12 reps**, no rest
  • Exercise A2: Standing DB curls (hammer grip), 3 sets of 8-12 reps, 1-2 minutes rest

Superset #2

  • Exercise B1: One-arm cross-body lying DB extension, 3 sets of 8-12 reps****, no rest
  • Exercise B2: 30 degree spider DB curl (supinated grip), 1-2 minutes rest

Superset #3

  • Exercise C1: Spongy grip pushdown, 3 sets of 8-12 reps, no rest
  • Exercise C2: Standing alternating DB curl (supinating grip), 3 sets of 8-12 reps******, 1-2 minutes rest

Finisher Movement

  • Exercise D1: Standing ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 4 sets of 10 reps, 20 seconds rest

**On the last set perform a double drop set followed by 10 partial reps in the stretched position

****Train to failure, then perform regular one-arm DB extensions to failure

******On your last eccentric rep perform a 10-second iso-hold in the mid-range position with extra manual resistance from your training partner

Here is the training video:

Talk about a brutal arm workout! In this workout John performs high-intensity techniques on 4 of the exercises including drop sets, partial reps, iso-holds and mechanical advantage drop sets.

If you are looking for a workout routine that will blow your arms up then this is a great choice.

In this workout John breaks some of his usual rules for proper exercise sequencing. For example John performs machine dips at the start of his triceps workout and triceps pushdowns at the end of his workout.

John doesn’t do this very often but he sometimes breaks his own rules to shock his arms into growth.

Now let’s look at one of John’s absolute favorite strategies for building big arms: antagonistic giant sets.

This is where you perform a giant set of 4 or more exercises while alternating between exercises for your biceps and triceps. This will make more sense when you see the routine. Check it out:

John Meadows’ Arm Routine #4

The Giant Set:

  • Exercise A1: Standing DB curl (hammer grip), 6 sets of 8-12 reps, no rest
  • Exercise A2: Cable pushdown (pronated grip), 6 sets of 8-12 reps, no rest
  • Exercise A3: 90 degree preacher curl (wide / supinated grip), 6 sets of 8-12 reps, no rest
  • Exercise A4: Dual rope cable pushdown, 6 sets of 8-12 reps, 2 minutes rest

Other Exercises:

  • Exercise B1: Standing barbell curl, 3 sets of 10 reps, 1 minute rest
  • Exercise C1: Football bar bench press (medium grip), 3 sets of 10 reps, 1 minute rest

Here is the training video:

So what the heck is going on here? John is performing 4 exercises in a row as part of his giant set. The unique thing is he is alternating back and forth between exercises for his biceps and exercises for his triceps.

Antagonistic giant sets are so effective because they combine the benefits of two awesome training methods: antagonistic supersets and giant sets. You get a great pump in your arms and can still lift a decent amount of weight on all of your sets.

In fact research shows that alternating between sets for antagonistic muscle groups actually improves your muscular endurance above and beyond regular “straight sets.”

During the workout John talks about the importance of using perfect form on all of your exercises. Check it out:

“Try to not cheat too much with your arm work. Your elbows are really fragile, you get tendonitis in your elbows very easily.

So try to use strict form. Use as much weight as you can but use strict form. I’m a big believer in that for your arms.

My arms really started to grow when I lightened the weight on arm training and focused on using perfect form.”

Here is a slightly more advanced antagonistic giant set workout that you can try. Check it out:

John Meadows’ Arm Routine #5

Giant Set #1

  • A1: Standing dual rope cable pushdown, 4 sets of 8-12 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Standing 2-arm DB curl (supinating grip), 4 sets of 8-12 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: High-pulley rope triceps extension (leaning forward at torso), 4 sets of 8-12 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: Seated DB curls (supinating grip), 4 sets of 8-12 reps, 2 minutes rest

Giant Set #2

  • B1: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 4 sets of 8-12 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: Kettlebell lying extension, 4 sets of 8-12 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • B3: Reverse cable curl, 4 sets of 8-12 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • B4: 30 degree incline DB extension, 4 sets of 8-12 reps, 2 minutes rest

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout you are actually going to perform 2 separate antagonistic giant set routines. You perform 4 rounds of the first giant set and then 4 rounds of the second giant set.

John says that you should train to failure on pretty much every single set during this workout. Check it out:

“I’d like to see failure on all of these. We’re not doing anything that’s going to destroy your joints so don’t be afraid to go to failure.”

This is one of the most advanced arm workouts that John has ever written so make sure you are ready for it. John says that beginner and intermediate bodybuilders should perform just 1 of these giant sets and call it a day.

Conclusion

John Meadows is one of the world’s best bodybuilding coaches and it’s easy to see why. He designs his workouts so that you can build muscle mass very quickly while staying healthy and avoiding injuries.

John says the key to building huge biceps and triceps is to sequence your exercises correctly and to find safe ways to increase the intensity of your workouts.

If you are looking for a new way to train your back then you have to give John Meadows’ arm workouts a shot.

If you enjoyed this content then make sure you check out the following articles:

These articles may be just what you need to take your training to the next level.

“I looked up to the guys who could really take their training to another level. They would not leave the gym until they won. And that’s the mentality I’ve always had – I would not leave the gym until I put everything I had into it.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

 

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

What's going on! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen, I'm the creator of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to take your training to the next level, then you've come to the right place... My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world!

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