The John Meadows Shoulder 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: The John Meadows Training Split
  • Part 2: The John Meadows Shoulder Workouts

In this comprehensive guide I will show you how to build massive shoulders using John Meadows’ Mountain Dog shoulder 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’s shoulder workouts are very intense but they are also very easy on your joints and connective tissue.

John says the key to building massive shoulders is to use the right exercises, to sequence your exercises correctly and to find ways to safely increase the intensity of your workouts. In other words, John’s goal is to create the most intense “burn” in his shoulders as possible!

John normally trains his shoulders immediately after training his chest. Here is one of John’s favorite training splits:

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

In this guide we’re just going to look at John Meadows’ shoulder workouts. You can read more about how he trains his chest right here.

Here is one example of how John likes to organize his shoulder workouts. Check it out:

Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: Reverse pec dec, 4 sets of 15-20 reps**
  • Exercise #2: Machine lateral raise, 4 sets of 20 reps****
  • Exercise #3: Scrape the rack press, 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #4: 60 degree prone DB “Y” raise, 2 sets of 8-12 reps

**On the last set train to failure, then perform 5 partial reps in the stretched position, then perform a 10-second iso-hold in the stretched position

****On the last set perform 20 partial reps to failure in the stretched position, then lighten the weight and perform 10 partial reps to failure in the top position of the exercise.

Here is the training video:

This is exactly how John likes to train his shoulders. Let’s see if we can understand what he is doing.

First of all John is using 4 different exercises to train his shoulders. John actually starts his workout with isolation exercises for his rear and side delts.

This is one of John’s favorite shoulder training strategies: he almost always starts by pre-exhausting his side and rear delts before doing any heavy pressing exercises.

John says this strategy is great for keeping your shoulders healthy. It’s also great for bringing up your rear delts.

John says the rear delts respond quickly if you just train them hard enough.

“I do not think rear delts are a stubborn body part for most people. I think it’s just a lack of effort.

A lot of people go well, I get them from my rows. Most people who built rear delts got it from high reps.”

Another interesting thing about this workout is the rep ranges. John is performing his first 2 exercises in the 15-20 rep range.

John says that the side and rear delts respond extremely well to high rep ranges. John sometimes uses as much as 90 reps for certain rear delt exercises!

John also uses partial reps on his last set of the reverse pec dec machine and the lateral raise machine. John says that partial reps are one of his favorite high-intensity techniques for training the shoulders. Check it out:

“A lot of people say Oh, partial reps are a waste. No they’re not! It’s additional tension, additional blood flow, additional stress on the muscle as long as you get your full range of motion reps in.”

After pre-exhausting his side and rear delts John moves onto his heavy overhead pressing exercise.

John almost always includes one overhead pressing movement in his shoulder workouts. However, he likes to perform them at the end of his workouts after his shoulders have been pre-fatigued.

Finally John finishes his shoulder workout with the 60 degree prone “Y” raise. John says this is probably his new favorite shoulder exercise – it mostly works the side delts but you also get a little bit of front and rear delt involvement too.

I highly recommend you watch the training video to see how John performs this exercise.

Here is another good example of how John likes to train his shoulders. Check it out:

Workout #1

  • Exercise A1: Standing DB lateral raise, 2 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise B1: Reverse pec dec, 4 sets of 8-12 reps, no rest
  • Exercise B2: Band face pull, 4 sets of 8-12 reps, 2 minutes rest
  • Exercise C1: Seated cable overhead press, 3 sets to failure

Here is the training video:

This is another normal looking John Meadows shoulder workout.

John starts the workout by performing isolation exercises for his side and rear delts. John says it doesn’t matter that much if you train your rear delts first and your side delts second or vice versa.

The important thing is to train your side and rear delts first in the workout before doing any heavy overhead pressing exercises.

Here is how John Meadows’ training partner Evan Centopani described this workout:

“These exercises were ordered, so we decided not to start out with a pressing movement. It was isolation, isolation, and we pressed last. And I thought that was really smart. It was safe and definitely very effective.”

John almost always trains shoulders immediately after training his chest so his front delts are already very fatigued.

John Meadows is a huge believer in performing high reps for the shoulders. He often performs 20-50 reps per set for his side and rear delts.

Here is a simple workout where he performed 25 reps on every single set. Check it out:

Workout #2

  • Exercise #1: Standing DB lateral raise, 2 sets of 25 reps
  • Exercise #2: Two-arm cable rear delt fly, 2 sets of 25 reps
  • Exercise #3: 45 degree prone DB “Y” raise, 2 sets of 25 reps
  • Exercise #4: Machine overhead press, 2 sets of 25 reps

Here is the training video:

As usual John follows his strategy of pre-fatiguing the side and rear delts with different isolation exercises before performing any overhead pressing exercises.

John says that the high-rep sets for shoulders are a double-edged sword. They are fantastic for building muscle mass but they require a lot of mental toughness and they are very difficult to recover from.

John says that the high-rep sets can actually be harder on your central nervous system than low-rep sets. Check it out:

“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.”

John says there are two ways you can use high-rep sets: you can perform them for 3-4 weeks at a time or you can perform them once every 3-4 weeks.

On your other weeks you would perform sets in the 8-15 rep range like normal.

“It’s just not practical to do high reps all the time.

Most people don’t have the pain tolerance to go through with it. And high reps to failure puts a huge strain on your central nervous system.”

Here is another one of John Meadows’ high-rep shoulder workouts. Check it out:

Workout #3

  • Exercise A1: Standing partial DB lateral raise, 3 sets of 30 reps, 1 minute rest
  • Exercise B1: 30 degree prone rear delt fly, 3 sets of 30 reps, 2 minutes rest
  • Exercise C1: Power squat overhead press, 3 sets of 20 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise C2: Standing DB lateral raise, 3 sets of 10 reps, 2 minutes rest

Here is the training video:

This workout is harder than it looks! One of John’s favorite shoulder training strategies is to perform high-rep sets with a partial range of motion. In other words John will perform lateral raises for his side or rear delts through the bottom half of the range of motion only.

John uses this strategy for his first 2 exercises of this workout. To finish the workout John supersets a machine overhead press and dumbbell lateral raises.

John says that he only performs overheard pressing exercises where his elbows are out in front of his body. He completely stays away from behind the neck presses and other exercises where your elbows are directly to your sides.

John says that these variations are too hard on your shoulders and will increase your risk of injury. Check it out:

“I’m OK with presses as long as you have your elbows out in front of you to a degree and you’re not going straight out to the side.

Behind the neck press, to me, I’ve just seen too many shoulders blown out through the years, too many shoulder injuries.

It’s just too risky for me. But if your elbows are out in front of you then I think you’re pretty well protected.”

About 20-30% of the time John likes to train his shoulders with supersets or giant sets.

These techniques are great for building muscle mass because they increase the time under tension of your sets and force your muscles to work longer than normal.

Here is one of John’s favorite superset shoulder workouts. Check it out:

Workout #4

  • Exercise A1: Dual handle rear delt cable fly, 3 sets of 15 reps**, no rest
  • Exercise A2: Bent over partial rear delt DB fly, 3 sets of 15 reps, 2 minutes rest
  • Exercise B1: Standing partial DB lateral raise***, 3 sets of 15 reps, no rest
  • Exercise B2: Standing partial DB lateral raise****, 3 sets of 12 reps, 2 minutes rest
  • Exercise C1: Seated DB overhead press, 3 sets of 10-12 reps, no rest
  • Exercise C2: Seated DB front raise, 3 sets of 10-12 reps, 2 minutes rest

**Perform 15 full range of motion reps, then 5 partial reps in the stretched position

***Perform through the bottom half of the range of motion only

****Perform through the top half of the range of motion only

Here is the training video:

For this workout John is performing three different supersets: one for his rear delts, one for his side delts and one for his front delts. This is a very effective way to structure a shoulder hypertrophy workout.

This type of workout was a favorite of the strength coach Charles Poliquin. John also likes to perform giant set workouts for his shoulders. Here is one example. Check it out:

Workout #5

  • Exercise A1: Prone DB row (elbows flared out), 4 sets of 8-10 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A2: Seated machine lateral raise, 4 sets of 8-10 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A3: Reverse pec dec, 4 sets of 8-10 reps,10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A4: Seated machine overhead press, 4 sets of 8-10 reps, 2 minutes rest

Here is the training video:

Giant sets were popularized by the bodybuilding coach Milos Sarcev. The basic idea is to perform 4 or more exercises in a row with only 10 seconds rest in between sets.

Giant sets are so effective because they prolong the time under tension of your set and force your muscles to work harder than normal. This helps you to recruit and fatigue more muscle fibers in your delts. It also gives you a tremendous pump in your shoulders.

Even when John is using giant sets he still uses his favorite pre-exhaust strategy. John performs 3 isolation exercises for his side and rear delts before finishing his shoulders off with a machine overhead press.

John performs this entire circuit 4 times in a row with only 2 minutes rest between each round.

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 shoulders 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 delts then you have to give John Meadows’ shoulder 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 Shoulder 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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