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The John Meadows Back / Bicep Workout!

Are you curious how John Meadows organizes his back and bicep workouts? Do you want to know how John trains his pulling muscles for maximum muscle growth? Then you’ve come to the right place.

In this comprehensive guide I will show you exactly how John organizes his back / bicep workouts using 4 of his Mountain Dog Training routines.


  • The Push / Pull / Legs Split
  • The John Meadows Back / Bicep Workouts

John Meadows is a world-famous bodybuilding coach and the creator of the Mountain Dog Training program. John says that this program is ideal for anyone who wants to build as much muscle mass as possible while staying safe and avoiding injuries.

John says the way you train has a huge impact on your long-term results. John has trained with plenty of powerlifters who could deadlift over 800 pounds, but still had mediocre back development.

He believes if you truly want to build a huge back (or massive biceps), then you have to organize your workouts correctly.

John uses many different training strategies including proper exercise sequences, novel exercises and high-intensity techniques like drop sets, partial reps and iso-holds to build your back and biceps while staying safe.

John Meadows uses many different training splits with his bodybuilding clients. However, one of his favorite training splits is the classic push / pull / legs split. For example:

The Push / Pull / Legs Split

  • Day 1: Chest / Shoulders / Triceps
  • Day 2: Back / Biceps
  • Day 3: Quads / Hamstrings / Calves

John likes this split because it reduces overlap between muscle groups. For example, you are training your back and biceps together in the same workout, so you don’t have to worry about your biceps being sore and impacting your back workout.

The push / pull / legs split also lets you train muscle groups more than once per week. For example, John often uses a 6-day version of this split where you train each muscle group twice per week. John is a big fan of higher-frequency training programs and often uses this split with his clients.

Here is one of John’s beginner-friendly back / bicep workouts that you can try. Check it out:

John Meadows Back / Bicep Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: Meadows row, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #2: One-arm barbell row, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #3: Band-assisted pull up, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #4: Bent over rear delt DB fly, 3 sets of 20-30 reps
  • Exercise #5: Seated DB curl (hammer grip), 3 sets of 12-15 reps

Here is the training video:

This workout is about as simple as it gets. John performs 3 exercises for his upper back, 1 for his rear delts and 1 for his biceps. John often performs some rear delt work on his back / bicep workouts. This isn’t mandatory, but John feels it is a great way for many people to bring up this lagging muscle group.

John starts this workout with two of his favorite upper back exercises: the Meadows row and the one-arm barbell row.

John says the meadows row has done more for his overall upper back development than any other exercise. You are actually rowing with your elbows pointed away from you, rather than tucked in towards your ribcage.

“You’re going to row with a pronated grip. That allows you to use more rhomboids, rear delts, traps as opposed to a neutral grip which we are going to use on the second exercise.

Think of your arms just hanging, attached to the bar. Don’t pull with your biceps. Just think about driving with your elbow. You will get a great contraction in your entire back.”

After 3 sets of the Meadows row John moves right into the one-arm barbell row.

This is another one of his favorite upper back exercises. In fact, John says that this exercise has done more for his overall lat development than any other exercise.

“The neutral grip will place a lot more emphasis on your lats. Again you want to have a nice base.

Don’t turn it into a balancing exercise. Again you’re driving your elbow, just drive your elbow, squeeze your lats, stretch.

Those are really tough. I think those have put more muscles on my lats than anything I’ve done and those are as basic as it gets. Bend over, and row!”

After the rowing exercises John moves right into the band-assisted pull ups. John says that rows are the key to building a massive upper back. He often performs rowing exercises at the start of his upper back workouts, followed by 1-2 pulldown type exercises.

John he likes the band-assisted pull up because it is easier on your joints and the bands help you get a huge contraction in the top part of the exercise.

“I really, really like these! When I originally started doing these, I was doing these because I had a little tendonitis in my elbows.

As I was doing these I noticed I could get a little better range of motion, I could get really high up into the contraction, I could really steady my body with the band. And consequently my lats got a lot more sore.

They were really sore, so I got a great pump. So I really fell in love with this exercise.”

Now let’s look at a slightly more complicated back / biceps workout. This next workout is perfect for intermediate and advanced bodybuilders. Check it out:

John Meadows Back / Bicep Workout #2

  • Exercise #1: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #2: Lat pulldown (narrow / neutral grip), 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #3: Hammer strength low row (neutral grip), 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #4: Two-arm cable reverse fly, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #5: Cable rope hammer curl, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #6: 90 degree ez-bar preacher curl (wide / supinated grip), 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Here is the training video:

John performed this back / biceps workout with Brad Schoenfeld, the owner of

In this workout John performs 3 upper back exercises, 1 rear delt exercise and 2 biceps exercises. The upper back exercises in this workout were pretty straightforward.

John uses two pulldown type exercises to target his lats, and one rowing variation to target his upper back, including his traps, rhomboids and rear delts.

Next John performed an isolation exercise for his rear delts. John says the key with any rear delt exercise is to lock in your form and really feel the target muscle doing its job.

“This is one of my favorite rear delt exercises – cross cable reverse flys. It really targets the posterior delt. And it’s a nice single-joint movement that you can really crush that muscle without crushing your body.

The elbows need to be in a locked position – all the movement is taking place through the shoulder joint.”

Finally John finishes his back / biceps workout with two exercises for the elbow flexors.

John almost always includes at least 1 brachialis exercise in his biceps routines, and this workout was no exception.

“Bicep training is a little more than bicep training (too me). I think there is a general lack of awareness of the brachialis muscle.

The brachialis sits in between the biceps and triceps. It’s actually a more powerful elbow flexor than the biceps. I

like to really prioritize the brachialis. When it’s developed it really pops and pushes the biceps out.”

So far we’ve examined some relatively simple Mountain Dog back / bicep routines.

Now let’s look at a slightly more complicated one where John uses pullovers, rack deadlifts, weighted hangs and many other novel exercises to force his back and biceps into growth. Check it out:

John Meadows Back / Bicep Workout #4

  • Exercise #1: One-arm barbell row, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise #2: Lying DB pullover, 4 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #3: Rack pull (just below knees), 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Exercise #4: Pull ups (wide / overhand grip)**, 4 sets to failure
  • Exercise #5: Hanging lat stretch, 1 sets x 60 seconds
  • Exercise #6: Standing barbell curl, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise #7: One-arm DB preacher curl (supinated grip), 4 sets to failure

**Perform 4 sets to failure. John wants you to fail somewhere around the 8-10 rep mark.

Here is the training video for this workout

John starts this workout with his favorite one-arm barbell rows. John says that this exercise is great to perform early in your workout because you get a great contraction in your upper and lower lats.

John considers this more of a pre-activation exercise. In other words, it helps you establish a great mind-muscle connection with your lats, so you can feel them working even harder in the rest of your workout.

“I started doing these before nationals in 2002. So that was 16 years ago. And immediately my back got better doing these. This has always been a favorite of mine – one-arm barbell rows.”

After the one-arm barbell rows John moves onto lying dumbbell pullovers and rack deadlifts.

John says that he likes to perform pullovers and rack deadlifts towards the middle of his back workouts to give his arms a break. In other words, he wants to make sure that his upper back fatigues out faster than his biceps.

By the time he moves onto pull ups and weighted hangs his lats are absolutely thrashed, but his biceps are almost fully recovered. This means that his lats will do most of the heavy lifting on these last two exercises.

Here is John describing the weighted hangs that he did at the end of his back routine:

“I used to do those weighted hangs at John Parillo’s gym in the early 90s. I’m not real strong on them. You should probably do 2, 3 or 4 plates, and try to hang for 60 seconds. And make sure to use your straps.”

John likes to perform stretch exercises at the end of his routines, so it makes perfect sense that he would include some weighted hangs at the end of his hack workout.

John Parillo may be the original gangster of weighted hangs, but Dante Trudel of DC Training is the man who really popularized them in the early 2000’s. You can read my article on DC Training for more information.

Finally, here is one of John’s ultra high-volume back / bicep routines that you can try. Check it out:

John Meadows Back / Bicep Workout #5

  • Exercise #1: Chest supported row, 4 sets of 8 reps**
  • Exercise #2: One arm supinating lat pulldown, 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise #3: Rack pulls, 3 sets of 4 reps****
  • Exercise #4: Band assisted pull up, 3 sets of 10 reps******
  • Exercise #5: Lying DB pullover, 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Exercise #6: 45 degree barbell back extension (snatch grip), 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Exercise #7: Preacher DB curl (supinated grip), 3 sets of 20-30 reps
  • Exercise #8: 75 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Exercise #9: Bent-over rear delt DB fly, 3 sets of 15-20 reps

**On your last set train to failure, then do a single drop set, then perform a static stretch in the bottom position with manual overpressure from your training partner.

****On every rep flex your lower lats as hard as possible. On your last set perform a quadruple drop set with 4 reps on each attempt.

******On your last set perform 10 reps, then use a wide grip and perform 10 partial reps, then perform a 10-second isometric hold in the mid-range position of the exercise

Here is the training video:

Talk about an intense workout! John performs 6 exercises for his back, 2 exercises for his biceps and 1 exercise for his rear delts to finish things off.

In my opinion, the really interesting thing about this workout is the way John sequences his upper back exercises.

John’s goal with this workout is to really blow up his lats. John starts the workout with a chest supported row. He keeps his elbows tucked in tight towards his ribcage to make his lats work as hard as possible.

He also focuses on lowering the weight with his lats, rather than his arms, on every rep.

“The key is just keeping your elbows tight. This is going to give you a little more lat involvement. Sometimes we get wider with our elbows, kind of up. That’s a little more rear delts, traps, rhomboids, etc.

Also when you’re lowering the weight. I try to tell people don’t lower your arms. Keep your lats real tight and lower with your lats.

Just think of your arms as being attached. Just think of them as attachments.”

Next up is the one-arm supinating lat pulldown. John says that this exercise is unique because it really helps you engage your lower lats – especially in the fully contracted position of the exercise.

Next is where things get really interesting – John performs a rack deadlift for his lower lats! Check it out:

“One combination I really like is doing a rack pull after we kind of get that lower lat area. It just feels right doing these. Normally a lot of people start off their workouts with the rack pull or something like that.

But I think if you sequence this right, it’s really good for your lower lats. You’re going to go down just below your kneecap, and when you pull, I want you to lock your lower lats and pull back.

So instead of just gripping it and ripping it, I want you to be conscious of keeping your lats flexed and pulling back with your lats.”

John uses the rack deadlifts to target his lats while also giving his biceps a chance to rest.

This means that when he moves onto his band-assisted pull ups, his lats are going to work even harder and be the first muscle group to “tap out.”

“We’re doing banded chin ups, but one of the things is the sequence for how we did this. We did the rack pull – that kind of rests our arms up after doing the pulldowns. So now we go back to the chin, but our arms are rested.

Sometimes I like to do that. IN between the pulldowns or rows, I like to put a pullover or a rack deadlift in there to rest my arms up. It’s little, but sometimes little things like that can really help.”

Overall this is a fascinating back / bicep workout. If you are an advanced bodybuilder then it is definitely worth giving a shot.

Verdict: The John Meadows Back / Bicep Workout!

John Meadows is one of the smartest bodybuilding coaches in the world. He is known for his Mountain Dog Training program, which he uses to help advanced bodybuilders blast through training plateaus.

John often trains his back and biceps together in the same workout. This is a logical decision, as the back and biceps are involved in many of the same exercises.

If you respond well to high volume bodybuilding workouts then you have to give John Meadows’ back / bicep workouts a shot. They may be just what you need to take your training to the next level.

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

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