The John Meadows Chest Workout | The Ultimate Guide!


John Meadows is a professional bodybuilder and one of the top bodybuilding coaches in the world. John believes the best way to train for a massive chest is with his Mountain Dog Training program.

If you want to learn John Meadows’ secret chest workouts then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Chest Only Workouts
  • Part 2: Chest / Shoulder Workouts
  • Part 3: Chest / Shoulder / Tricep 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. This is especially true when it comes to building a huge chest!

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

Here is a brief overview of how John likes to sequence his exercises:

Mountain Dog Chest Training

  • Phase #1: Pre-Activation / Pump
  • Phase #2: Explosive Movement
  • Phase #3: Supra-Maximal Pump
  • Phase #4: Loaded Stretching

John never likes to start his chest workouts with a barbell exercise like the flat bench press or the incline bench press. He says these exercises should be performed a little later after you are nice and warmed up.

Instead John likes to start his chest workouts with a dumbbell press or a machine press. He says these exercises are very easy on your joints and are great for pushing blood into the muscle at the start of the workout.

For his second chest exercise John almost always performs the incline bench press. He likes to work up to a heavy set of 6 reps and he performs every rep as explosively as possible. This is done to recruit the fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Here is John demonstrating his explosive set on the incline bench press:

The third exercise is called the supra-maximal pump exercise. John picks a compound or isolation chest exercise and tries to get the biggest pump possible in his chest. He often performs high-intensity techniques like drop sets, partial reps and iso-holds on this exercise.

Finally John finishes his chest workout with an exercise where he can get a huge stretch on his pecs. Some of his favorite exercises for this include dips, machine flys and cable flys.

John trains his chest using many different training splits. One of his favorites is a 4-day split where you train your chest and shoulders together on the same day. For example:

The Mountain Dog 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. Other times John likes to train his chest by itself or at the start of a chest / shoulders / triceps workout.

In this guide I will show you how John organizes his chest using 3 different types of training splits. Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Chest Only Workouts

John sometimes trains his chest on its own separate training day. Many bodybuilders use this strategy because you can really train your chest with a lot of volume and intensity.

Here is a perfect example of how John likes to organize his bodybuilding chest workouts. Check it out:

Chest Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: Flat machine press, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise #2: 30 degree incline bench press,  4 sets of 6 reps
  • Exercise #3: Incline machine press, 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise #4: Pec dec machine, 3 sets of 10 reps**

**On your last set perform 10 reps to failure, then perform 15 partial reps in the stretched position, then perform a 10-second iso-hold in the stretched position.

Here is the training video:

This is a perfect example of how John likes to organize his chest workouts. For this workout he use a flat machine press as his “pre-activation / pump” movement. He performs several sets and works up to a hard set of 8 reps.

Next he moves onto his favorite chest exercise: the 30 degree incline bench press.

John performs several sets and works up to a hard set of 6 reps. It might seem weird for him to perform his heaviest chest exercise second in the workout but John says his chest really started to grow when he started training this way.

Here is John explained it to his training partner:

“It’s always good to be stronger but it doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to be massive. That comes from the way you train.”

Next John performed some high-rep sets on the incline machine press. On his last set he performed a double drop set. John’s goal here was to get a massive pump in his chest leading up to his final exercise.

To finish the workout John performed the pec dec machine using a full range of motion. On the last set he trained to failure and then performed some partial reps plus a 10-second iso-hold in the stretched position. This was John’s way of overloading the stretched position of the exercise.

John says that he really likes to use exercises and techniques that stretch out his chest at the end of the workout after it has been pumped full of blood.

Here is another one of John’s typical Mountain Dog chest workouts. Check it out:

Chest Workout #2

  • Exercise #1: Hammer strength flat press, 5 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise #2: 30 degree incline barbell press, 4 sets of 6 reps
  • Exercise #3: Decline smith machine press, sets of 25, 12, 8 reps**
  • Exercise #4: Flat DB press, 3 sets of 8 reps****

**Perform a double drop set on the last set. Perform 8 reps, drop the weight, perform 8 reps, drop the weight, perform 8 reps, done!

****Perform a 10-second static hold in the stretched position right after your last rep. Have your training partner slightly press down on the dumbbells for an enhanced stretch.

Here is the full training video for this workout:

This is another one of John’s normal looking chest workouts.

Actually this workout looks very similar to the previous one. John starts the workout by working up to a heavy set of 8 reps on the flat machine press and a heavy set of 6 reps on the incline bench press. These are his activation and explosive exercises.

After he is done with the heavy stuff he moves onto his higher-rep pumping and stretching exercises.

On the decline smith machine press John uses a wide variety of rep ranges and even throws in a double drop set on the last set. Then on the 4th exercise John throws in a forced stretch with extra manual tension provided by his training partner.

Now let’s look at some of John’s favorite ways to add variety to his chest workouts. Here is a chest workout where John used heavy band tension on the first exercise. Check it out:

Chest Workout #4

  • Exercise #1: Machine flat press with bands, 4 sets of 6 reps
  • Exercise #2: 30 degree incline bench press, 4 sets of 6 reps
  • Exercise #3: DB hex press, 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Exercise #4: Flat DB press, 3 sets of 8-10 reps**

**On your last set train to failure, then perform a 10-second iso-hold in the bottom position with extra manual overpressure from your training partner.

Here is the training video:

The highlight of this workout was definitely the heavy band tension on the first exercise. John often uses bands on flat, incline and decline chest machines.

The bands really overload the lowering phase of the movement and give the exercise a completely different feel. They also force you to move the weight as explosively as possible.

This is great for recruiting the fast-twitch muscle fibers in your chest. Here is John describing this exercise:

“We’re starting off our workout with machine presses. Our goal on this is to get a lot of blood in the muscle. We also want to be explosive. We call that rate of force development in powerlifting.

The stack is a little too light because we’re going for around 6 reps so today we’re adding some bands around the machine to make it harder.”

The rest of the workout was classic Mountain Dog chest training stuff. John worked up to a heavy set of 6 reps on the incline bench press and performed 2 higher-rep pumping / stretching exercises to finish things off.

Every once in a while John will skip the incline bench press for his second exercise. Here is a workout where John substituted it with the incline smith machine press. Check it out:

Chest Workout #3

  • Exercise #1: 30 incline DB press, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise #2: 30 incline smith machine press, 4 sets of 6 reps
  • Exercise #3: Parallel bar dips, 3 sets of 10-20 reps**
  • Exercise #4: Fly machine, 3 sets of 10-20 reps**

**Perform all working sets to failure.

Here is the training video:

John says that the regular incline bench press is a little tougher on his body now that he is in his late 40s so he sometimes swaps it out for different machine exercises.

John never lowers the bar all the way down to his chest on the incline bench press or the incline smith machine press. Instead he lowers the bar to about 1-2 inches above his chest and then presses the weight straight back up.

He says lowering the bar to your chest can be very hard on your rotator cuff and just isn’t worth the risk. Check it out:

“Pay attention: we’re lowering the bar high on our chest but we’re not going down all the way.

What I find is going down all the way is too much stress on your rotator cuff.

We’re trying to keep really good tension on the chest so you don’t need to lock these out.”

John occasionally likes to mix up the order of his chest exercises.

For example John sometimes performs the incline bench press 1st or even third in his workout. This is one of his favorite strategies to use with very advanced bodybuilders.

Here is a chest workout where John did just that. Check it out:

Chest Workout #4

  • Exercise #1: Slight incline DB press, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise #2: Prime machine fly, 3 sets of 8-15 reps**
  • Exercise #3: 30 degree incline bench press, 4 sets of 6 reps
  • Exercise #4: Dips with chains, 3 sets to failure****

**On the last set train to failure, then perform partial reps out of the stretched position, then perform a 5-second iso-hold in the stretched position.

****Train to failure, then drop the chains and train to failure again.

Here is the training video:

For this workout John completely changes the order of his exercises. He actually performs his “stretch” exercise second, his “explosive” exercise third and his “pump” exercise fourth.

This is not something that John does very often. It was just his way of helping Shaun Claurida break through a training plateau in overall chest development.

Part 2: Chest / Shoulder Workouts

One of John’s favorite strategies is to train his chest and shoulders together in the same workout. Actually this is the approach that John uses with most of his bodybuilding clients.

John says that training the chest and shoulders together makes sense because the shoulders are heavily involved in your heavy chest exercises like the incline bench press.

John usually performs 3 exercises for his shoulders at the end of a chest / shoulders workout. Here is one of John’s classic chest / shoulder workouts. Check it out:

Chest / Shoulder Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: 30 degree incline DB press, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise #2: 30 degree incline bench press, 4 sets of 6 reps
  • Exercise #3: Flat machine press, 3 sets to failure**
  • Exercise #4: Pullover machine****, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #5: Seated cable row (wide / pronated grip), 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #6: Standing DB lateral raise, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #7: Standing Ez-bar front raise (wide / supinated grip), 3 sets of 10-12 reps

**On your last set train to failure, then perform extra partial reps in the stretched position.

****Use a narrow grip and squeeze your arms together using your pecs during the entire set.

Here is the training video:

This is a perfect example of how John likes to organize his chest / shoulder workouts. He performs 4 exercises for his chest and 3 for his shoulders.

As usual John performs an activation exercise and then works up to a heavy set of 6 reps on the incline bench press. John says that this is one of the best overall chest / front delt exercises you can do:

“The incline barbell press is probably my favorite upper body exercise. Awesome for your shoulders, your upper chest.

We’re going to do sets of 6 and we’re going to push against the bar as hard as we can.”

After the incline bench press John performs 2 higher-rep chest exercises to finish off the muscle. The pullover machine is a very interesting choice for a chest workout.

John performs this exercise by squeezing his hands and arms together during the entire range of motion. John is doing this to keep more of the tension on his chest during the pullovers and less tension on his lats.

Here is a chest / shoulder workout that John Meadows performed with the Mr. Olympia finalist Steve Kuclo. Check it out:

Chest / Shoulder Workout #2

  • Exercise #1: Flat machine press, 4 sets of 8 reps**
  • Exercise #2: Incline machine press, 4 sets of 6 reps
  • Exercise #3: Incline machine fly, 3 sets of 10-12 reps****
  • Exercise #4: Standing bent over reverse partial DB fly, 3 sets of 30 reps
  • Exercise #5: 45 degree prone DB “Y” raise, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #6: Standing smith machine overhead press, 3 sets of 8-10 reps******

**On your last set perform a rest-pause set. Train to failure, rest 20 seconds, train to failure again, rest 20 seconds, train to failure again, done!

****On your last set train to failure, then perform partials in the stretched position, then perform a 10-second iso-hold in a power position.

******On your last set perform a double drop set.

Here is the training video:

For this chest workout John actually skipped his favorite incline bench press altogether. He says he was training in a new gym and wanted to try out some of the new pieces of equipment.

Here is a pearl of bodybuilding wisdom from John’s talk with Steve Kuclo:

“When you stand to the side there’s two muscles that make you look super thick: a big round rear delt and a big hanging hamstring.

When you got the rear delts and the hamstrings, that’s a thick dude right there.”

Let’s look at one more of John Meadows’ chest / shoulder workouts. This was a super high-volume workout featuring 10 different exercises that John designed for Mr. Olympia winners Shaun Claurida and Terrance Ruffin. Check it out:

Chest / Shoulder Workout #3

  • Exercise #1: 30 degree incline DB press, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise #2: 30 degree incline bench press, 4 sets of 6 reps
  • Exercise #3: Cable press / fly (high pulley), 3 sets of 8-10 reps**
  • Exercise #4: 15 degree incline DB fly, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #5: V-bar dips with chain weight, 3 sets of 10-12 reps****
  • Exercise #6: 45 degree prone DB “Y” raise, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #7: Standing DB lateral raise, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #8: Bent over rear delt DB fly, 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Exercise #9: Lateral raise static hold******, 1 set of 10 seconds
  • Exercise #10: Spider crawls, 3 sets of 12-15 reps

**On your last set train to failure, then perform a 20-second static hold in the stretched position

****On your last set train to failure, then drop the chains and immediately train to failure again with just your bodyweight

******Hold the top position of a lateral raise while your training partner adds extra manual resistance

Here is the training video:

Talk about an intense chest / shoulder workout! John performs a whopping 5 exercises for his chest and 5 exercises for his shoulders.

This is a crazy amount of volume but John thought it was exactly what he needed on that specific training day.

Part 3: Chest / Shoulder / Tricep Workouts

John sometimes likes to train his chest, shoulders and triceps together on the same day. He does this when he is using a push / pull / legs split or when he wants to squeeze in some extra triceps work to bring up his arms.

John says the key to designing a good chest / shoulders / triceps workout is to be careful with how many exercises you do for each muscle group. John tries to perform no more than 8 exercises per workout but sometimes he goes overboard.

Here is one of John’s advanced chest / shoulder / triceps workouts that you can try. Check it out:

Chest / Shoulder / Tricep Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: 30 degree incline DB press, 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise #2: 30 degree incline barbell press, 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise #3: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 1 set of 30 reps**
  • Exercise #4: Machine fly, 3 sets of 8 reps****
  • Exercise #5: Reverse pec dec, 4 sets of 20 reps
  • Exercise #6: Seated kettlebell overhead press, 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise #7: Spongy grip cable pushdown, 4 sets of 12 reps
  • Exercise #8: Lying kettlebell extension, 4 sets of 12 reps

**Perform 10 reps, rest 20 seconds, perform 10 more reps, rest 20 seconds, perform 10 more reps for a total of 30 reps

****Perform 1 half-rep in the stretched position, then 1 full range of motion rep. That counts as 1 rep. Perform 8 of these “1.5” reps. On your last set perform 8 reps, then 10 partial reps in the stretched position, then a 10-second iso-hold in the mid-range position.

Here is the training video:

Talk about an intense workout! For this workout John performs 4 exercises for his chest, 2 exercises for his shoulders and 2 exercises for his triceps.

John structures his chest workout the same way he always does: he starts with a joint-friendly activation exercise, then performs a few heavy sets of incline bench presses and finally finishes with some high-rep pumping and stretching movements.

On the last 2 exercises John throws in some high-intensity techniques like cluster sets, 1.5 reps, partial reps and iso-holds to damage even more muscle fibers in his chest. If that chest workout was a little too intense then here is a beginner-friendly one that you can try. Check it out:

Chest / Shoulder / Tricep Workout #2

  • Exercise #1: 10 degree decline DB press, 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Exercise #2: 60 degree incline DB press, 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Exercise #3: Pec minor dip, 3 sets to failure
  • Exercise #4: Smith machine overhead press, 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Exercise #5: 30 degree incline DB “Y” raise, 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Exercise #6: Dual rope cable pushdown, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #7: Dual rope overhead cable extension (high pulley), 3 sets to failure

Here is the training video for this workout:

John says that this workout is perfect for beginners or anyone new to his Mountain Dog chest workouts. John starts this workout with one of his favorite pressing exercises – the slight decline dumbbell press.

Here is John describing this exercise:

“We’re starting with a decline dumbbell press. The key is it’s a slight decline. All we did is put a 25 pound plate underneath the bench.

I find this exercise is really easy on the shoulders and if you look at the research you get really good chest activation from this angle.”

Next John moves onto the high incline dumbbell press. John says that this movement is great for training the upper chest if you slightly tuck your elbows and perform the exercise correctly.

I think there’s a lot of misinformation on training your upper pecs.

You have a lot of muscle fibers that attach at your clavicle and usually when you see a high incline people think well, it’s all shoulders.

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. It depends on your structure and your technique. 

Finally John finishes the chest portion of the workout with some pec minor dips. Here is John describing this exercise:

This was an old favorite of Vince Gironda. These are called pec minor dips. You have a muscle that sits under your pec major called the pec minor.

Just think “reverse shrugs.” this muscle sits under your pec major and really creates that illusion of chest size.

If you made it this far then here is one of the craziest chest / shoulder / tricep workouts that John Meadows has ever performed in his entire life! Check it out:

Chest / Shoulder / Tricep Workout #3

  • Exercise A1: 30 degree incline DB press, 4 sets of 8 reps**
  • Exercise B1: 45 degree incline bench press, 4 sets of 5 reps***
  • Exercise C1: One-arm cable crossover, 2 sets of 20 reps, rest 10 seconds
  • Exercise C2: DB press static stretch, 2 sets x 30 seconds, rest 2 minutes
  • Exercise D1: Seated 80 degree incline smith press, 3 sets of 3 reps****
  • Exercise E1: 60 degree prone DB “Y” raise, 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Exercise F1: Standing DB partial lateral raise, 3 sets of 20-30 reps, no rest
  • Exercise F2: Broomstick stretch w/ bands, 3 sets of 10 reps, 1 minute rest
  • Exercise G1: One-arm Tate press, 2 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise H1: 45 degree incline DB extension (hands to chin level), 3 sets of 10-20 reps

**Perform 2 hard working sets of 8 reps with the same weight. On the second working set perform 8 reps, then drop the weight by 30-35% and train to failure again.

***Work up to a hard set of 5 reps. On your last set perform 5 hard reps, then drop the weight by 30-35% and rep the weight out just shy of failure.

****Work up to a heavy set of 3 reps. On the last set perform 3 reps, drop the weight by 30-40%, rep the weight out, drop the weight by 40-50%, rep the weight out, then perform a 10-second iso-hold in the top position with your elbows slightly bent.

Here is the training video:

John threw in some crazy exercises and techniques for this workout. For his second exercise John performed the 45 degree incline close grip bench press.

John says that this exercise is a little better for hitting the upper chest than the regular 30 degree incline press. John says that the main benefit of the close grip is you can safely lower the bar all the way down to your chest. Check it out:

“We did our inclines but we used a medium grip and that is what allowed us to go all the way to our chest.

Normally with the incline bench press we stop a couple of inches off our chest. But we’re using a different grip today.

We’re using a 45 degree incline with a close grip and that lets us go all the way down to our chest.”

Things only get weirder after the 45 degree incline presses. To finish the chest routine John supersets one-arm cable crossovers and a static chest stretch with manual overpressure.

John says that this superset is very effective but you have to be careful about not overtraining your central nervous system.

John says that the really high-rep sets can actually be harder on your central nervous system than low-rep sets in some cases.

“A lot of people think central nervous system fatigue is from heavy weight. It’s actually more from high reps.

So when you see guys doing really hard sets of 20 or 25 sets, it’s not a bad thing, but it actually creates more central nervous system fatigue than heavy sets of 3-5 sets.

Most people have it backwards.”

If you are a glutton for punishment then you have to give this John Meadows chest / shoulders / triceps routine a shot.

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 your chest or any other muscle group 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 chest then you have to give John Meadows’ chest workouts a shot. They may be just what you need to take your training to the next level.

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

Mountain Dog Training: The Ultimate Guide!

Mountain Dog Chest Training: The Ultimate Guide!

“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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