The John Meadows Training Program | The Ultimate Guide!


John Meadows is one of the most successful bodybuilding coaches in the world. He created his own training program called “Mountain Dog Training” to help bodybuilders take their physique to the next level.

If you want to learn how John Meadows trains for bodybuilding then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Legs
  • Part 2: Chest / Shoulders
  • Part 3: Back 
  • Part 4: Arms

In this comprehensive guide I will show you how John Meadows designs his own bodybuilding style workouts.

John Meadows created his Mountain Dog Training program so that he could build muscle mass as fast as possible while staying healthy and avoiding injuries.

John says he made some of the best gains of his life in his early 40’s and he was still crushing his workouts in the gym when he passed away at 49 years old. John is proof that you can train hard and make progress for a very long time if you structure your workouts correctly.

John Meadows trains anywhere from 4-7 days per week using many different bodybuilding bro splits. Here is one of John’s all-time 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

John used this exact training split for most of his bodybuilding career.

So how does John structure his workouts? The truth is John structures his workouts differently for every body part.

I will show you exactly how he likes to train each muscle group as we go through this guide. However, John does have some rules that he uses no matter what body part he is training. Check it out:

The John Meadows Training Rules

  • Rule #1: Sequence your exercises correctly
  • Rule #2: Find safe ways to use high-intensity techniques
  • Rule #3: Use as much variety in your workouts as possible

In this guide I will show you exactly how John uses these three training principles when he trains his legs, chest, shoulders, back and arms. Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Legs

John Meadows is known for his massive legs. They are by far one of his best body parts on the bodybuilding stage.

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

John Meadows likes to train his hamstrings and quadriceps together on the same training day. He performs 1-2 hamstrings exercises and 3-4 quadricep exercises per workout.

Here is a basic template for his leg workouts:

The John Meadows Leg Training Template

  • Exercise #1: Hamstrings
  • Exercise #2: Quads
  • Exercise #3: Quads
  • Exercise #4: Quads
  • Exercise #5: Hamstrings

This is just a basic template. Sometimes John skips the second hamstrings exercise or even adds a fourth exercise for his quadriceps. However, this is the basic template that John follows for most of his workouts.

John likes to start all of his leg workouts with leg curls. He says that doing leg curls first in your workout makes your heavy quadricep exercises like squats, leg presses and hack squats feel better on your hips and knees.

Doing leg curls first in your workout is also great for bringing up lagging hamstrings.

John likes to train to failure on his last set of leg curls with different high-intensity techniques. Check it out:

“What I like to do, I work up to a top set and on the top set I like to throw in some high-intensity techniques.

Maybe some forced reps, or some drop sets, or some partial reps, or a cluster set. I like to go crazy on the last set!”

John Meadows likes to perform 3-4 quadricep exercises in a row after his leg curls. John says the key to building big quads is to sequence your exercises correctly.

He likes to start his quad routine with exercises like squats and leg presses. He says these exercises are easier on your knees. Other exercises like hack squats and walking lunges are always performed alter in his workouts after he is nice and warmed up.

John says that some exercises like leg extensions and Bulgarian split squats can be performed anywhere.

Finally John sometimes likes to perform some extra hamstrings work at the end of his workout like Romanian deadlifts or glute ham raises.

Here is one of John’s typical leg workouts. Check it out:

Leg Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: Kneeling leg curl, 4 sets of 8-12 reps**
  • Exercise #2: Spider bar squat, 4 sets of 6 reps
  • Exercise #3: Machine hack squat, 4 sets of 6 reps**
  • Exercise #4: Walking kettlebell lunge, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #5: Inverse leg curl machine, 3 sets of 8-12 reps

**Perform a double drop set on your last working set.

Here is the training video for this workout:

In this workout John follows his usual leg training template. He performs leg curls, 3 quadriceps exercises and then one “stretching” hamstrings exercise at the end of the workout.

On the leg curls John performs several warm up sets and then performs a brutal double drop set on his last set. John says that his hamstrings really started to grow when he started going all-out on his last set of leg curls. Check it out:

“I feel like people don’t push the leg curls hard enough. They take them for granted. They do their 3 sets of 10 reps and then leave and say “hey, I don’t have any hamstrings!”

On that last set i like to dig down with drop sets, partial reps, iso-holds – that for me is when my hamstrings started to get that nice little hang.”

Next John performs 3 basic mass-building exercises for his quads: spider bar squats, machine hack squats and walking kettlebell lunges.

John says that he almost never performs regular back squats any more. Instead he does all of his squatting with the safety squat bar or the spider bar. John says these bars are easier on his lower back and shoulders than a regular bar. They also hit his quads a little bit harder.

I highly recommend you watch the training video to see what these bars look like.

On his squats John works up to a heavy set of 6 reps. He performs this set as explosively as possible to really overload the fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Next John performs the hack squat. He says this is probably his all-time favorite quad exercise.

“When you get a hack squat that feels good, that feels comfortable, man I feel like that is just the best exercise for quads.”

John says the hack squat is a fantastic exercise. You just have to be careful about where you put it in your workouts. John puts the hack squat towards the end of his workouts to keep some of the pressure off his knees.

Finally John finishes the workout with a few sets of walking kettlebell lunges and the inverse leg curl machine.

Here is one of John’s more advanced leg workouts that you can try. Check it out:

Leg Workout #2

  • Exercise A1: Kneeling leg curl, 4 sets of 8 reps**
  • Exercise B1: 45 degree leg press, 4 sets of 8 reps****
  • Exercise C1: Machine hack squat, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise D1: Machine sissy squat, 4 sets to failure, no rest
  • Exercise D2: Machine leg extension, 4 sets to failure, 2 minutes rest
  • Exercise E1: Stiff legged deadlift, 4 sets of 8-12 reps

**On your last set train to failure, then perform a 10-second eccentric-only rep with extra manual resistance from your training partner.

****On your last set perform 8 reps just shy of failure, then perform a mega drop set. You perform 8 reps, then your training partner performs 8 reps, then you take a 45 pound plate off each side and go again. Repeat until you perform an attempt with only 3 plates on each side.

Here is the training video:

Talk about a high-volume leg routine! In this workout John performs 4 exercises for his quads and 2 exercises for his hamstrings. That is about the most volume that John uses in a single leg workout.

As usual John follows his usual exercise sequencing rules. He starts the workout with joint-friendly exercises like leg curls and leg presses and finishes the workout with more challenging exercises like hack squats and stiff-legged deadlifts.

John also includes a brutal superset at the end of his quad routine. He supersets machine sissy squats with machine leg extensions and performs 4 sets to failure on each exercise.

John says you need to have a high pain tolerance to train this way. Check it out:

“There’s nothing like walking out of the gym knowing that you did that.

Knowing that I didn’t think I was capable of doing that, I didn’t think I was capable of doing that many plates for that many reps, dropping the weight and doing more.

For me it was awesome when Dave and I walked out of the gym and we said, I didn’t think I could do that. That is such a good feeling! Doing something that I didn’t think I could do.”

Here is another one of John’s high-volume leg workouts. This one was enough to make IFBB pro Evan Centopani puke mid-workout. Check it out:

Leg Workout #3

  • Exercise #1: Lying leg curl, 3-5 sets of 10-12 reps**
  • Exercise #2: Bulgarian split squat, 3 sets of 10 reps***
  • Exercise #3: Spider bar squat (medium stance / heels flat), 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Exercise #4: Reverse band hack squat, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #5: Machine leg extension, 1 sets of 15-20 reps****
  • Exercise #6: Glute ham raise, 3 sets to failure

**On your last set only: perform a double drop set, followed by 20 partials in the bottom position, followed by an iso-hold in a power position. All of this is done back-to-back with no rest.

***On your last set only: perform a triple drop set with iso-holds after each attempt. Perform 10 reps, then a 10-second iso-hold, then drop the weight. Repeat this sequence 3 more times with no rest between attempts.

****Perform 1 set to failure.

Here is the video of John Meadows and Evan Centopani performing this workout:

In my opinion the two really interesting things about this workout were the Bulgarian split squats and the reverse band hack squats. Let’s start by talking about the Bulgarian split squat.

For this workout John decides to pre-exhaust his quads with a brutal drop set on the Bulgarian split squat before moving onto squats and hack squats.

John performs several warm up sets and then performs a triple drop set with a 10-second iso-hold thrown in at the end of each mini-set.

Even Centopani says this was the real surprise of the workout. Here is John talking about this exercise:

“I’ve never been a big fan of Bulgarian squats from the perspective of balance.

When you have a foot elevated and there’s a balance component to it. Even if you hold both dumbbells I think there’s a balance issue. However, if you do it the way we did in the video it’s a phenomenal exercise.

We’re holding a dumbbell with one hand and the squat rack with the other. So you take the balance part out of the exercise and you can really focus on getting your reps, executing with good form and generating intensity.

We did some sets working up in weight.”

After the split squat John moves onto more normal mass-building exercises like the squat and hack squat.

For the hack squats John actually uses something called “reverse bands.” He attaches resistance bands to the machines so they are assisting him up out of the bottom part of the exercise.

John likes the reverse bands because they make the exercise feel much easier on your knees. Here is Evan Centopani describing this exercise:

“Oh man! What a difference it made. The weight was getting progressively lighter as you squat down.

It makes a big difference because you’re able to feel much greater tension in the upper quads and take the knees out of it.”

Every once in a while John likes to perform lower volume / higher intensity workouts for his legs.

Here is a perfect example of a high-intensity leg workout that John performed with Jeff Nippard. Check it out:

Leg Workout #4

  • Exercise #1: Lying leg curl, 4 sets of 8 reps**
  • Exercise #2: Machine leg extension, 4 sets of 8 reps**
  • Exercise #3: Safety squat bar squat with chains, 4 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Exercise #4: Smith machine split squat, 4 sets of 8 reps

**On the last set perform a double drop set, then perform 10 partial reps in the stretched position, then perform a 10-second iso-hold in the stretched position

Here is the training video:

For this workout John uses the pre-exhaust method that was made popular by Dorian Yates. He performs a brutal drop set on lying leg curls and leg extensions before moving onto squats.

For the high-intensity sets he trains to failure, then performs a double drop set, then performs several partial reps and finally performs a 10-second iso-hold in a “power” position with extra manual resistance from his training partner. Talk about a tough set!

John says that these sets may seem impossible but most people can push themselves a lot further than they think they can.

“There’s an old samurai maximum: only when man stands on the brink of destruction can he truly realize what he is capable of. You can handle a lot more than you think you’re capable of.”

If you want to train your legs like John Meadows then you need to have a high pain-tolerance. There is no other way!

Part 2: Chest / Shoulders

John Meadows almost always trains his chest and shoulders together on the same training day. He says it makes sense to train these muscles together because you use your shoulders a lot during heavy chest exercises like the incline bench press.

John likes to train his chest with about 4 exercises per workout. Here is how he sequences his exercises:

The John Meadows Chest Training Template

  • Step #1: Pre-activation / pump (dumbbell press, machine press)
  • Step #2: Explosive movement (incline bench press)
  • Step #3: Supra-maximal pump (dips, machine press, smith machine press)
  • Step #4: Loaded stretch (dumbbell press, machine fly, cable fly)

John always starts his chest workouts with a joint-friendly chest exercise like a dumbbell press or a hammer strength press. After that he almost always performs some explosive sets on the incline bench press.

Finally John finishes his workout with two high rep exercises to pump his chest full of blood and to really stretch it out. John says that sequencing your exercises will help you make faster progress and avoid injuries.

John uses a similar strategy for his shoulder workouts: he pre-exhausts his rear and side delts with different isolation exercises and then finishes his shoulders off with an overhead pressing exercise.

John says that this strategy keeps your shoulders healthy and helps you make faster progress.

Here is a perfect example of what John’s chest / shoulder workouts look like. 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, 4 sets of 6-10 reps**
  • Exercise #4: Pullover machine****, 4 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Exercise #5: Seated cable row (wide / overhand grip, elbows flared), 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #6: Standing DB lateral raise, 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #7: Ez-bar front raise (wide / supinated grip), 4 sets of 8-12 reps

**Work up to a hard set of 10 reps to failure, then increase the weight and perform a double drop set with 6 reps to failure on the first attempt.

****Use a narrow grip and squeeze your hands together during the entire range of motion to engage your pecs more.

Here is the training video:

This is exactly how John likes to structure his Mountain Dog chest / shoulder workouts.

John starts the workout with an incline dumbbell press. He likes to perform dumbbell and machine presses at the start of his workout to warm up his joints and establish a good mind-muscle connection with his chest.

Next he moves onto his favorite upper body exercise: the incline bench press.

“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.”

Finally John finishes his chest routine with two higher-rep exercises to pump as much blood in his chest as possible. For the shoulder routine John performs different isolation exercises for his rear, side and front delts.

Here is a higher-volume chest / shoulder workout that you can try. John performed this one with his bodybuilding clients Shaun Clarida 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:

Now that is a high volume chest / shoulder workout! John performs 5 exercises each for his chest and shoulders. This is more volume than he usually uses but he was training with two very advanced bodybuilders and had to bust out all the stops.

For the chest routine John performs some incline dumbbell presses, his favorite incline bench presses and then three higher-rep exercises to pump as much blood into his chest as possible.

For his shoulder routine John performs a wide variety of isolation exercises for his rear, side and front delts. One of John’s favorite shoulder exercises is actually the incline “Y” raise.

Here is John talking about this exercise:

“It’s not really a straight front delt or a side delt exercise. It’s kind of a combo exercise. I like it too because it’s hard to cheat and you get a really hard contraction at the top. I really really enjoy these.” 

John also adds in some unique exercises like a lateral raise “crucifix hold” with extra manual resistance from your training partner. Make sure your nutrition and recovery are on-point before attempting this workout – don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Sometimes John likes perform lower-volume chest / shoulder workouts. He usually does this at the end of one of his 12-week training program to give his body a break.

Here is a good example of a lower-volume John Meadows chest / shoulder workout. 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, 4 sets of 8-12 reps****
  • Exercise #4: Bent over reverse 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 10-12 reps******

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

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

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

Here is the training video:

For this workout John actually skips his favorite incline bench press in favor of some different machine presses. He was training in a new gym and wanted to try some different machines that he never used before.

When John performs lower-volume workouts he likes to use more high-intensity sets to stimulate growth. In this workout John performed rest-pause sets, partial reps, iso-holds and drop sets to increase the intensity of his exercises.

Here is another high-volume chest workout that you can try. This one uses a crazy giant set at the very end of the workout. Check it out:

Chest / Shoulder Workout #4

  • Exercise A1: Slight incline DB press, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise B1: 45 degree incline bench press, 4 sets of 6 reps
  • Exercise C1: Cable fly (high pulley), 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Exercise D1: Cable crossover (high pulley), 2 sets of 15 reps, 1 minute rest
  • Exercise E1: Cable crossover (high pulley), 1 set to failure, 1 minute rest
  • Exercise E2: V-bar dips, 1 set to failure, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise E3: Decline stretch push ups, 1 set to failure, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise E4: Incline stretch push ups, 1 set to failure, 2 minutes rest
  • Exercise F1: Bent over DB reverse fly, 4 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • Exercise F2: Standing DB lateral raise, 4 sets to failure, 1 minute rest

Here is the training video:

This really is a crazy workout. The first 4 exercises are pretty normal for him. He performs some incline dumbbell presses, incline bench presses, cable flys and cable crossovers. Finally John finishes his chest workout with a 4-exercise giant using cable crossovers, dips, decline push ups and incline stretch push ups.

Here is John describing the giant set:

“We’re going to do an all-out blood flow pump for our whole pec, series of 4 exercises. Milos Sarcev style.

So I’ve got 4 exercises lined up here. The goal is literally to go to failure on every single one of these. So we’re leaving nothing in the tank.

We’re going to finish our chest workout knowing we pushed the heavy weight on the first 2 exercises and now we got as much blood flow in there as we can.”

John likes to use giant sets every 5th or 6th workout. He thinks they are a great tool to use in your workouts but he doesn’t like to use them too often.

John’s chest workout was so intense that he just performs 2 isolation exercises for his rear and side delts.

There is one more chest / shoulder workout that I want to show you. Sometimes John trains his triceps together with his chest and shoulders. John likes to perform this kind of workout when he is using a push / pull / legs split or when he wants to increase his triceps training frequency.

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

Chest / Shoulder Workout #5

  • 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:

Even though he is training his triceps at the end of the workout John still sticks with his usual exercise sequences for chest and shoulders.

Even if you do not copy John’s exact workouts there is still plenty to learn from his chest and shoulder routines.

Part 3: Back 

John Meadows had a very hard time developing his upper back. His legs were enormous and he had 18 inch arms at 18 years old but his upper back always lagged behind the rest of his body.

Of course John didn’t back down from the challenge. Today John’s upper back is just as big as the rest of his upper body.

John uses many unique upper back exercises and different high-intensity techniques to blow up his back without bothering his joints. John uses 5 main types of exercises in his back workouts:

The 5 Mountain Dog Back Exercises

  • Exercise #1: Rows
  • Exercise #2: Pull downs
  • Exercise #3: Pullovers
  • Exercise #4: Deadlifts
  • Exercise #5: Back Extensions

John always starts his workouts with different types of rows and pulldowns. John says that these are his “meat and potato” exercises for building back width and thickness.

Some of his favorite upper back exercises include one-arm barbell rows, Meadows rows, band assisted pull ups and stretch pulldowns.

John is also a fan of dumbbell and machine pullovers. He likes to perform pullovers in between his rows or pulldowns to isolate his lats and give his arms a break.

John also likes to use rack deadlifts to beef up his back. He uses them in about 20-40% of his back workouts. John says rack deadlifts are a great exercise but he only performs them towards the end of his workouts after his rows and pulldowns.

Finally John likes to finish his back workouts with some direct lower back exercises like back extensions or reverse hyperextensions. John includes some direct lower back work in about 50% of his back workouts.

Here is a simple John Meadows upper back workout that you can try. Check it out:

Back Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: One-arm barbell row, 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Exercise #2: Meadows row, 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise #3: Lying DB pullover, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #4: Dual handle cable pulldown, 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Exercise #5: Dumbbell stiff-legged deadlift / shrug, 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Here is the training video:

This is a perfect example of how John likes to organize his back routines. John starts this workout with two of his favorite upper back exercises: the one-arm barbell row and the Meadows row.

John says the one-arm barbell row is his favorite lat exercise. It did more to develop his lats than any other exercise.

“I started doing these in 2002. I was training for the nationals. We started playing around with these and we thought man, this is a phenomenal exercise.

If you’re wondering what the difference is between this and a dumbbell, you just have to try it. It feels completely different with the path of the bar.”

Next John performs his all-time favorite back movement: the Meadows row. John says this exercise hits your entire upper back including your lats, traps, rhomboids and rear delts. Absolutely everything gets smoked! Check it out:

“When I do a heavy barbell row, it tends to be my spinal erectors, some rear delts, some biceps and some traps as opposed to my lats and rhomboids.

For me personally, I don’t think it’s a bad exercise, personally I feel one-arm barbell rows and Meadows rows more in my lats.”

After the heavy rowing exercises John performs some lying dumbbell pullovers. John likes to perform pullovers in between his compound back exercises.

He says this exercise is great for stretching our your lats and for giving your biceps a break.

“After two hard rowing exercises I like to give my biceps a break. It’s a great time to move onto a pullover.

I also like to do pullovers after I’ve got some blood in my lats. There’s nothing like stretching out a muscle that’s pumped full of blood.”

Finally John finishes the workout with some machine pulldowns and a weird stiff-legged deadlift / shrug exercise that John invented. Sometimes John likes to include heavy rack deadlifts into his routine.

Here is a perfect example of how John might organize a rack deadlift workout. Check it out:

Back Workout #2

  • Exercise #1: Machine pulldown (wide / pronated grip), 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Exercise #2: Seated cable row (v-handle), 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise #3: Bilateral bent-over kettle bell row, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise #4: Rack deadlift (just below knees), 3 sets of 5 reps
  • Exercise #5: Reverse hyperextension, 2 sets of 15 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

This is a simple but very demanding back workout.

First John pre-fatigues his upper back with machine pulldowns and two rowing exercises. John avoids barbell bent over rows or other ultra-heavy rowing exercises because he wants to keep his lower back fresh for the heavy deadlifts.

Here is John talking about his second rowing exercise, the bent-over kettlebell row:

“Now we’re moving onto kettlebell rows. I wish I could give you a scientific explanation on why these feel so good.

Unfortunately I can’t. It’s just something I tried and it feels really, really good.”

After the kettlebell rows John moves onto the heavy rack deadlifts. Rack deadlifts are one of the only back exercises John like to train with low reps. He often does sets in the 3-6 rep range with relatively heavy weights.

Finally john finishes the workout with a couple sets to failure on the reverse hyperextension machine. This is one of his all-time favorite lower back machines. He learned it from the powerlifting guru Louie Simmons many years ago.

“This is just a phenomenal rehab exercise. My lower back feels better than it has in years and I credit this exercise.

Louie Simmons invented this and if it wasn’t for Louie I would probably have a really, really, really bad back right now.”

So far we’ve looked at some of John’s basic, heavy Mountain Dog back workouts. Now let’s look at some workouts where John uses supersets and giant sets to blow up his back.

Supersets are a high-intensity technique where you perform two exercises in a row for the same muscle group with only 10 seconds rest between sets. For example you could perform a pulldown, rest 10 seconds and then perform a row.

Supersets are so effective because they increase the time under tension on your back and force your muscles to work longer than normal.

John likes supersets because they are a novel way to stimulate muscle growth and you don’t have to train super heavy when you use them.

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

Back Workout #3

Superset #1

  • A1: Machine pulldown (medium / neutral grip), 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • A2: Lying DB pullover, 3 sets of 8-12 reps**

Superset #2

  • B1: One-arm arcing DB row, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • B2: Rack deadlift (mid-shin height), 3 sets of 8-12 reps**

Superset #3

  • C1: Machine chest supported row, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • C2: Dual rope cable row (high pulley), 3 sets of 8-12 reps**

**After your 3rd set perform a 60-second manual stretch for your lats. See the video below for more details.

Here is the training video:

This workout consists of three separate supersets. You perform 3 rounds of the first superset, 3 rounds of the second superset and 3 rounds of the third superset.

John also performs a manual stretch for his lats after the third round of each superset. Here is John describing the workout:

“Our goal with this workout today is we want a mega-pump. And then we’re going to do some mega stretching too.”

John uses three different loaded stretches for his back during the workout. I highly recommend you watch the training video to understand what John is trying to do here.

The loaded stretches do many positive things including increasing the time under tension on your muscle, increasing the release of hormones like IGF-1 and MGF and maybe even stretching out the fascial tissue surrounding the muscle.

Here is John’s training partner explaining why you have to try and hold the stretches for a true 60 seconds:

“You have something called the golgi tendon organ – it’s a stretch receptor.

When you stretch like John just did, the reflex, it’s going to fight it to prevent that muscle from being injured.

After about 60 seconds your nervous system actually relaxes those. But you have to do it for a true 60 seconds.”

The last workout was a superset workout. Now let’s look at how John likes to do his giant set back workouts. Check it out:

Back Workout #4

  • Exercise A1: Chest supported row (wide / pronated grip), 4 sets of 8 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A2: Decline DB pullover, 4 sets of 8 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A3: Machine pulldown (narrow / neutral grip), 4 sets of 8 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A4: One-arm DB row, 4 sets of 8 reps, 3 minutes rest

Here is the training video for this workout

John Meadows is a big fan of giant sets. He says that he uses them every 5th or 6th workout for his back.

Giant sets are so effective because they increase the time under tension of the set and force your muscles to work for much longer than normal.

If a normal set lasts about 20 seconds then a giant set will last upwards of 80 seconds! That extra time under tension will go a long ways in terms of stimulating growth.

John starts this workout with one of his favorite back exercises: the chest supported row. Here is John describing his form on this exercise:

“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.”

John Meadows normally trains his upper back on its own. However, sometimes he likes to train his upper back and biceps together on the same training day. He does this when he is using a push / pull / legs split or when he wants to give his biceps some extra attention.

Here is a perfect example of what John Meadows’ back and biceps workouts look like. Check it out:

Back Workout #5

  • Exercise #1: Machine chest supported row, 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise #2: One-arm barbell row, 3 sets of 8-12 reps**
  • Exercise #3: Band assisted pull up, 3 sets to failure****
  • Exercise #4: Reverse pec dec, 3 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Exercise #5: Seated DB curl (hammer grip), 3 sets of 10 reps******
  • Exercise #6: Machine preacher curls, 3 sets of 8-12 reps

**On the last set train to failure, drop the weight and train to failure again.

****On the last set train to failure, then pull yourself halfway up and perform a 10-second iso-hold

******Perform 10 reps to failure, then perform 5 partial reps out of the bottom position

Here is the training video:

This is exactly how John likes to structure his back / biceps workouts. John performs 3 exercises for his upper back, 1 for his rear delts and 2 for his biceps. John says that you have to cut down on the number of exercises you do for your back when you do a “pull” workout.

For this workout John uses two of his all-time favorite back exercises: the one-arm barbell row and the band assisted pull up.

Here is John describing his form on the one-arm barbell row:

“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!”

And here is John talking about why he likes the band-assisted pull up so much:

“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, I got a great pump. So I really fell in love with this exercise.”

If you are looking to add some size to your upper back then you have to give these John Meadows back workouts a shot.

John used them to take his worst body part (his upper back) and bring it in line with the rest of his upper body.

Part 4: Arms

John Meadows believes the arms are a unique muscle. If you want to build massive arms then you have to train them differently from other muscle groups like the chest, back or legs.

John says the keys to building big arms are to train for a maximum pump, to sequence your exercises correctly and to find safe ways to increase the intensity of your workout. John usually performs 3-4 exercises for his biceps and 3-4 exercises for his triceps.

On some workouts he performs all of his biceps exercises in a row and then all of his triceps exercises in a row. Other times he uses a high-intensity technique called “antagonistic supersets” where you alternate back and forth between sets for both muscle groups.

Here is a simple John Meadows style arm workout that you can try. Check it out:

Arm Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: Barbell drag curl, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #2: Preacher DB curl (supinated grip)**, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #3: Standing one-arm DB curl (hammer grip), 3 set of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #4: Dual rope cable pushdown, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #5: Spongy grip cable pushdown, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #6: Lying kettlebell extension, 3 sets of 10-12 reps

**Push the dumbbells together as you perform the exercise.

Here is the training video:

This arm workout is as simple as it gets. John performs 3 exercises each for his biceps and triceps. John says the arms are a smaller muscle group and recover faster than your chest or back.

He likes to perform all of his sets to failure for arms so this workout actually has 9 sets to failure for each body part! Here is John describing the workout:

“We’re only doing 9 sets each for biceps and triceps, but if you think about it, we didn’t work up to one big set with a lot of body parts.

All 9 sets were really tough so it’s 9 hard sets. Just make sure your last rep on each set is really, really challenging.”

Just like with his chest or legs John has a special way that he likes to sequence his exercises. For biceps John likes to start the workout with exercises that overload the mid-range of the strength curve.

Good examples would be standing barbell curls and standing dumbbell curls. These exercises are hardest right at the middle of the exercise when your forearms are parallel to the ground.

John really likes biceps exercises like preacher curls and incline curls but he prefers to do these at the middle or end of his workouts after he already has a good biceps pump.

For triceps John likes to start his workout with triceps pushdowns. He only performs lying or overhead triceps extensions at the middle or end of his workout.

Here is an arm workout where John Meadows alternates back and forth between exercises for his biceps and triceps. Check it out:

Arm Workout #2

  • 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 another very simple arm workout by John Meadows. He performs 3 exercises each for his biceps and triceps. As usual John sequences his exercises to keep maximum tension on his biceps and triceps rather than his joints.

Now let’s look at a slightly more complicated arm workout where John supersets biceps and triceps exercises. Check it out:

Arm Workout #3

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 minute 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 minute 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 minute 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:

For this workout John performs 3 different supersets for his biceps and triceps. He performs one set of triceps, then immediately performs one set for biceps and rests for one minute.

John repeated this process 4 times for each superset. This is called an “antagonistic superset” because you are training opposing muscle groups back-to-back.

Research shows that antagonistic supersets have many advantages including helping you to recruit more muscle fibers in both muscle groups and improving your muscular endurance during the workout.

On the second biceps exercise John performs a very interesting high-intensity technique: he performs accentuated-eccentric reps. On the lowering phase of each rep his training partner pulls down on the machine to add additional tension on his biceps.

Here is John describing this technique:

“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.”

John says that you only need to use this technique for a maximum of one exercise per workout. John Meadows likes to use as much variety as possible during his arm workouts.

One of his favorite strategies is to perform giant sets where he alternates back and forth between biceps and triceps exercises.

Here is one example of a John Meadows giant set arm workout. Check it out:

Arm Workout #4

Giant Set Arm Circuit #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 Arm Circuit #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:

This workout actually consists of two different giant sets. You perform 4 rounds of the first giant set and then 4 rounds of the second giant set.

Many bodybuilding coaches like Milos Sarcev and Charles Poliquin are also big fans of this kind of giant set routine for the upper arms. During the workout John gives some great insights into some of his favorite arm exercises.

Here is John talking about his all-time favorite biceps exercise, the preacher curl:

“The preacher curl is another one of my favorite exercises. I don’t go down all the way on those. It’s really, really hard to curl completely out of the bottom.

Plus I think it’s a little hard on the biceps tendon and you can injure yourself. But it’s a fantastic biceps exercise.”

And here is John talking about one of his new favorite triceps exercises, the lying kettlebell extension:

“Don’t laugh at this exercise! I really like using the kettlebells for these because you can get the kettlebell a little closer to your head.

Your elbows aren’t quite as flared out. Once you get the feel for how to stabilize them they feel good.”

John is constantly mixing things up in his arm workouts. However, these 4 workouts should give you a good idea of how John likes to train his arms.

Conclusion

John Meadows is one of the most iconic bodybuilders in the world today. John trains for bodybuilding using his own Mountain Dog Training program. He says the goal of Mountain Dog Training is to build as much muscle mass as possible while staying safe and avoiding injuries.

John was still in unbelievable shape at 49 years old when he passed away. John is proof that you can be jacked and have tremendous longevity in the sport of bodybuilding if you train correctly.

If you are looking to spice up your training then you have to give the John Meadows training program a shot. If you enjoyed this article then make sure you check out the following articles:

John Meadows’ training program may be just what you need to take your training to the next level. All credit for the ideas presented in this article go to John. Rest in peace brother!

“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”

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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