The Johnnie Jackson Training Program!


Johnnie Jackson is one of the world’s top professional bodybuilders.

He won 6 professional bodybuilding competitions and earned the title of the World’s Strongest Bodybuilder in 2009.

If you want to learn how Johnnie Jackson organized his training then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Johnnie Jackson’s Back Workouts
  • Part 2: Johnnie Jackson’s Chest Workouts
  • Part 3: Johnnie Jackson’s Shoulder Workouts
  • Part 4: Johnnie Jackson’s Leg Workouts
  • Part 5: Johnnie Jackson’s Shoulder Workouts

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you the Johnnie Jackson training program. 

Johnnie Jackson trains 5 days per week using a traditional bodybuilding style bro-split. He trains each muscle group once per week on its own separate training day. Check it out:

The Johnnie Jackson Training Split

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

Johnnie Jackson says that this bodybuilding style training split is the way to go if you are an advanced bodybuilder trying to build muscle mass.

This split allows him to attack each muscle group with many different exercises and a ton of training intensity.

Here is Johnnie describing his training style:

“I don’t like to spend a lot of time in between sets. It’s 100 miles an hour baby, 7 days a week and twice on Sunday.”

Johnnie Jackson is known for his high-volume, high-intensity training style. He attacks each muscle group with many different exercises and loves to use high-intensity techniques like drop sets, forced reps and cheating reps.

Johnnie wouldn’t call them cheating reps though – to him using a little momentum so you can lift a heavier than normal weight is just common sense.

I hope you found this introduction helpful. Now let’s look at the workouts that Johnnie Jackson used to become a bodybuilding champion.

Part 1: Johnnie Jackson’s Chest Workouts

Johnnie Jackson is known for his massive chest development.

His chest dominates the rest of his upper body! Johnnie was blessed with great chest genetics but he still trains his chest hard and heavy using a variety of exercises.

Johnnie likes to start his chest workouts with incline bench presses and flat dumbbell presses before moving onto more isolation style exercises.

Here is one of Johnnie’s go-to chest workouts. Check it out:

Johnnie Jackson’s Chest Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: Incline bench press, 5 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #2: Dumbbell bench press, 4 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #3: Machine pec dec, 4 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: V-bar dips with chains, 3 sets of 12-20 reps
  • Exercise #5: Cable flyes, 3 sets of 12-20 reps

Here’s the training video for this workout:

This is a very normal looking chest workout for Johnnie Jackson. Johnnie likes to keep all of his sets around 8-20 reps.

That doesn’t mean he is training light – Johnnie almost always uses more than 400 pounds on the incline bench press!

Johnnie says the key is to use heavy weight AND high reps to build muscle. Sometimes after failing he will bust out partial reps in the stretched position to really overload his chest.

Here is Johnnie explaining how he uses partial reps on the pec dec to stimulate more muscle growth: 

“I get a lot of feedback from a lot of people seeing me do partial reps.

After I reach failure I can still perform more partial reps so I’m getting as much of a pump as I can, getting as much range as I can and pumping as much blood in the muscle as I can.”

Every once in a while Johnnie will mix things up and perform the regular bench press in his training.

Johnnie really likes this exercise but his long-time training partner Branch Warren hated it so he almost never performed it in his training.

Whenever Johnnie is training alone he likes to squeeze in the flat bench press as his primary chest exercise.

Here are Johnnie’s thoughts on the flat bench press:

“A lot of people preach and talk about getting away from bench press and the heavy compound movements.

I don’t know why they skip the flat bench – this is the bread and butter of bodybuilding, it changes your physique! I’m down for it, I always do it.”

Here is one of Johnnie’s chest workouts where he used the flat bench press as his primary chest exercise. Check it out:

Johnnie Jackson’s Chest Workout #2

  • Exercise #1: Bench press, 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #2: Incline bench press, 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: Flat DB press, 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: Machine pec dec, 4 sets of 8-15 reps

Here’s the training video for this workout:

One of the things I really like about Johnnie is he is always looking to mix things up in his workouts.

He is always on the hunt for new exercises that he can try out and new ways to overload his muscles. He has what some people call the “growth mindset.”

Here is Johnnie talking about his attitude towards training:

“I like to use the whole gym. Not just certain things. I’m always changing up, always challenging myself, always trying to do something new in each workout if I can.

It’s always great to shock your body and it’s just fun for me to change up and do something different.

You never know what you can do, you never know what you can accomplish unless you put in the work.”

If your chest is lagging behind the rest of your body then give Johnnie’s chest training program as shot.

He uses a high-volume / high-intensity approach where he tries to push his body to the limit in the higher rep ranges.

He believes that you have to train to failure and even beyond failure with techniques like partial reps and drop sets to really achieve your maximum potential.

Part 2: Johnnie Jackson’s Back Workouts

If you thought Johnnie Jackson’s chest workouts were intense then wait until you see his back workouts! Johnnie trains his back once per week with a ton of volume and intensity.

Johnnie says that he likes to train his back with 6-8 exercises per workout! This is a crazy amount of volume but it works like magic for him.

Johnnie says that if you want a big back then you have to stick to the basic compound exercises.That means lots of heavy deadlifts, pull ups and rows.

Here is one of Johnnie’s favorite ways to organize his back workouts. Check it out:

Johnnie Jackson’s Back Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: Conventional deadlift, 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #2: Pull ups (wide / pronated grip), 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: One-arm DB row, 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: Chest supported row, 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #5: Seated cable row (V-handle), 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #6: Incline cable pulldown (V-handle), 4 sets of 8-15 reps

Here’s the training video for this workout:

Talk about an intense back workout! Johnnie says that a lot of people on the internet like to criticize his training style.

They say he uses sloppy form and that you can’t train with high-volume and high-intensity at the same time.

That may be true for most people but Johnnie is anything but normal! He believes you have to use outside-the-box thinking if you want to take your physique to the next level. Check it out:

“Everybody thinks because we train heavy we must not train with a whole lot of volume. We do a lot of heavy weights and a lot of volume.

We like to keep our body under that pressure for as long as we can and as many reps as we can.”

Now that is the mindset of a true champion!

For the previous workout Johnnie started his workouts with deadlifts before moving onto different rowing and pulldown exercises. Johnnie sometimes uses deadlifts in his bodybuilding workouts but most of the time he skips them.

Johnnie likes to use deadlifts when he is preparing for powerlifting competitions but most of the time he sticks to bodybuilding exercises like lat pulldowns and rows.

He says that deadlifts take so much out of you and it isn’t always worth it if your main goal is to build muscle mass.

Here is what Johnnie’s bodybuilding back workouts look like when he skips deadlifts. Check it out:

Johnnie Jackson’s Back Workout #2

  • Exercise #1: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 4 sets of 8-15 reps 
  • Exercise #2: Barbell row (supinated grip), 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: Seated cable row (V-handle), 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: Rope cable pullover, 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #5: Seated cable row (dual handles), 4 sets of 8-15 reps

Here’s the training video for this workout:

Johnnie Jackson cut back on the number of exercises for this back workout. He performed this workout while he was preparing for one of his bodybuilding competitions.

Even though he cut back on the number of exercises he still trained with as much intensity as possible.

Johnnie believes this is the only way to bring your best physique to the bodybuilding stage. Check it out:

“You always come in and work up to your fullest potential and always challenge and push yourself.

That’s the only way to get in shape and to give your body no other choice but to do what you want it to do.”

That’s the mindset of a true champion!

Part 3: Johnnie Jackson’s Shoulder Workouts

Johnnie Jackson is known for his high-volume shoulder workouts. He uses a variety of isolation exercises to blast his shoulders from all angles.

One of Johnnie’s favorite shoulder training strategies is to perform rear delt exercises first in his workouts. He believes this is important because the rear delts are a smaller muscle group and they can easily get overpowered by the rest of your upper body.

Here is one of Johnnie’s go-to shoulder workouts. Check it out:

Johnnie Jackson’s Shoulder Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: Reverse pec dec flyes, 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #2: Standing DB lateral raise, 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: Seated DB overhead press, 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: Hammer strength overhead press, 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #5: Standing alternating DB front raise, 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #6: Hammer strength shrugs, 4 sets of 8-15 reps

Here’s the training video for this workout:

This is a very normal looking shoulder workout for Johnnie Jackson. He pummels his shoulders with a variety of exercises including 2 compound pressing movements and 4 isolation movements.

Here is Johnnie explaining why he always starts his shoulder workouts with a rear delts exercise. Check it out:

“I like to start out with rear delts. The ear delts are very small muscles.

If you don’t start out hitting your rear delt first it could totally miss throughout the workout because your other delt muscles might take over.”

Here is another one of Johnnie’s go-to shoulder workouts. Check it out:

Johnnie Jackson’s Shoulder Workout #2

  • Exercise #1: Reverse pec dec, 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #2: Standing alternating front DB raises, 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: Seated DB overhead press, 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: Standing DB lateral raise, 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #5: Machine overhead press, 4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #6: Seated front DB raises, 4 sets of 8-15 reps

Here’s the training video for this workout:

For this workout Johnnie sticks to his usual shoulder training gameplan. He blasts his shoulders with 6 different exercises including 2 compound pressing movements and 4 shoulder isolation exercises.

If you respond well to high-volume workouts then you have to give Johnnie Jackson’s shoulder workouts a shot.

Part 4: Johnnie Jackson’s Leg Workouts

In 2004 Johnnie Jackson tore both of his quad muscles while training for a powerlifting meet. He was performing a heavy set of squats and they suddenly gave out on him.

At first Johnnie thought his bodybuilding career would be over. His quads healed but he had a hard time getting them to grow.

Eventually Johnnie started training legs with Branch Warren and his legs finally started to grow.

Johnnie’s Jackson’s leg workouts are extremely intense but they will get your legs growing faster than you can say “Tom Platz!” Check it out:

Johnnie Jackson’s Legs Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: Machine leg extension, 4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Exercise #2: 45 degree leg press, 4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Exercise #3: Machine hack squat, 4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Exercise #4: Belt squat, 4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Exercise #5: One-leg horizontal leg press, 4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Exercise #6: Lying leg curl, 4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Exercise #7: Standing leg curl, 4 sets of 8-20 reps

Here’s the training video for this workout:

Johnnie Jackson almost always starts his leg workouts with leg extensions. He says that this machine is absolutely essential for isolating and pre-exhausting your quadriceps.

Leg extensions force your quads to work harder when you move on and perform the rest of your quad exercises like leg presses and machine hack squats.

Many other professional bodybuilders including Dorian Yates and Stan Efferding got their best results when they started their leg workouts with leg extensions. It is definitely something to think about!

Here is another one of Johnnie’s go-to leg workouts. Check it out:

Johnnie Jackson’s Legs Workout #2

  • Exercise #1: Lying leg curl, 4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Exercise #2: Standing leg curl, 4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Exercise #3: Machine leg extension, 4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Exercise #4: 45 degree leg press, 4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Exercise #5: Box squat, 4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Exercise #6: Horizontal leg press, 4 sets of 8-20 reps

Here’s the training video for this workout:

For this workout Johnnie started his workout with 2 different types of leg curls. Here is Johnnie discussing why this is such a smart idea:

“I like to start with my hamstrings because that’s the weakest part of my lower body.

I like to get them activated, get some blood pouring in there first so throughout the rest of the workout I’m still doing damage to the hamstrings.”

Many other bodybuilding coaches like IFBB pro John Meadows are also a big fan of starting their leg workouts with leg curls.

If you are really paying attention then you probably noticed that Johnnie Jackson performs box squats at the end of his routine.

No, this was not a typo! Johnnie found that he got better leg growth from box squats over regular free squats. Check it out:

“After leg press I go into the box squat. As you heard I said box squats and not regular squats!

I currently do box squats because after the last couple of years I’ve injured my hamstrings a few times. I had a hard time with my form on squats. I couldn’t really figure it out anymore. So I turned to box squats.”

If you are like Johnnie Jackson and you have a hard time getting the hang of regular free squats then there is nothing stopping you from incorporating box squats into your routine.

Johnnie says that this decision has helped him avoid injuries and continue to train hard as he gets older.

Part 5: Johnnie Jackson’s Arm Workouts

Johnnie Jackson trains his arms the same way he does every other body part: with lots of volume and intensity! Johnnie says that a lot of bodybuilders think training arms is just about chasing the pump.

There is nothing wrong with that approach but Johnnie feels the arms are more than just for show. Check it out:

“Sometimes there’s a misconception that arms are just there for showing off, for looking good. But you always have to remember they’re supporting muscles as well.

Besides looking good you have to be strong to facilitate the compound movements. You want to think about my arms are steady, my arms are powerful, my arms are there to help me finish and complete the big compound lifts.”

Johnnie Jackson trains his biceps and triceps with 4 exercises each. He performs all of his biceps exercises first in the workout and then moves onto biceps.

As usual Johnnie keeps his workouts fast-paced with high rep ranges and short rest periods. Check it out:

Johnnie Jackson’s Arm Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: Supine cable curl (supinated grip / low pulley), 4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Exercise #2: Standing ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: One-arm machine preacher curl (supinated grip), 4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: Standing alternating DB curl (hammer grip), 4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Exercise #5: Rolling DB extensions, 4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Exercise #6: V-bar dips (upright torso), 4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Exercise #7: Machine dips (upright torso), 4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Exercise #8: Bent-over DB kickbacks, 4 sets of 12-15 reps

Here’s the training video for this workout:

Talk about an intense arm workout! Johnnie trains his biceps and his triceps with a wide variety of exercises.

He says that one of his favorite exercises for training his biceps is the classic standing barbell curl. Check it out:

“The barbell curl is the exercise that almost every bodybuilder started out doing.

I can’t say enough about sticking with the meat and potatoes, sticking with the basic exercises before advancing to the fancy exercises people like to do these days.

Me, I’m old school. I say stick to the basics because nothing beats the basics.”

When it comes to training his triceps Johnnie likes to use a healthy mix of compound and isolation exercises. He normally starts his workouts with some type of isolation exercise like tricep pushdowns or rolling dumbbell extensions.

After that he moves into big compound exercises like dips and close grip bench presses.

Here is Johnnie discussing the benefits of dips for massive triceps:

“One thing I like about tricep dips is that it puts pressure and emphasis on all 3 heads of the triceps.

So when it’s working together, its working more efficiently, you get a better mind-muscle connection, you can really concentrate, really squeeze up at the top, 10% more blood pushed into the muscle.”

Johnnie likes dips so much for triceps that he performed free weight and machine dips in the same workout!

Now let’s look at another one of Johnnie’s typical arm workouts. Check it out:

Johnnie Jackson’s Arm Workout #2

  • Exercise #1: Standing alternating DB curl (supinating grip), 4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Exercise #2: Standing cable curl (wide / supinated grip), 4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: Machine preacher curl (supinated grip), 4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: 30 degree spider ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Exercise #5: Bench press (shoulder-width grip), 4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Exercise #6: Standing cable pushdown, 4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Exercise #7: Rolling DB extension, 4 sets of 12-15 reps

Here’s the training video for this workout:

For this workout Johnnie sticks to some of his favorite biceps exercises like alternating dumbbell curls, machine preacher curls, close grip bench presses and rolling dumbbell extensions.

As always Johnnie uses his trademark “ballistic” style where he uses momentum to get the weight moving.

Johnnie gets a lot of criticism for his form but he believes these cheating reps overload his arms more than strict form ever could. Check it out:

“I’m always in control. Even if I’m swinging I’m always in control of what I’m doing. It’s controlled fury!”

If you want to build massive arms like Johnnie Jackson then you better bust out the controlled fury on arm day!

Conclusion

Johnnie Jackson is an incredible bodybuilder. He won 6 pro shows and even earned the title of the World’s Strongest Bodybuilder in 2009.

Johnnie is definitely a gifted athlete but I believe his training style and his mindset are what puts him over the top.

Everyone can train hard once in a while. However, it takes a man on a mission to train with that kind of mind-blowing intensity day-in and day-out for many years at a time.

I think the following quote sums up Johnnie’s training style perfectly:

“It’s 100 miles an hour baby – 7 days a week and twice on Sunday!”

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

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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