Mountain Dog Training Bands And Chains | The Ultimate Guide!


Bands and chains are not just for powerlifters! Many of the world’s best bodybuilding coaches like John Meadows use these tools to build muscle mass and blast through training plateaus.

If you want to learn how John Meadows uses bands and chains in his Mountain Dog Training program then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Chest
  • Part 2: Shoulders
  • Part 3: Legs
  • Part 4: Back
  • Part 5: Arms

In this comprehensive guide I will show you how John Meadows uses bands and chains in his bodybuilding workouts to build more muscle mass.

Bands and chains are tools that you can use in the gym to build muscle mass and strength. They were first used by the powerlifting coach Louie Simmons in the 1980s. Today bands and chains are used by hardcore powerlifters and bodybuilders all over the world.

What Are Chains?

Weightlifting chains can be added to different barbell exercises like the squat, bench press or deadlift to make them more challenging. However, they can also be used on their own on many different exercises.

Here is a great video of John Meadows squatting with chains. Check it out:

When John squats down the chains fall on the ground and make the exercise feel lighter. Then when John stands back up the chains come up off the floor and make the exercise feel heavier.

In other words the bar might feel like it is 300 pounds in the bottom position and 400 pounds in the top position! This is absolutely crazy when you think about it.

John likes chains because they make squats and other exercises feel lighter in the bottom position where you are more vulnerable. John’s Mountain Dog Training program is all about finding ways to build muscle faster while staying safe and avoiding injuries.

Chains can help you train hard while protecting your joints. The chains also force you to accelerate the bar as fast as possible on the way up. If you slow down the chains will pull you back down to the ground!

John uses an “explosive” exercise in many of his workouts and chains are a perfect choice for these movements.

What Are Bands?

Weightlifting bands look like giant rubber bands. They can be added to barbell movements like the squat, bench press or deadlift but they can also be added to dumbbells, machines or even used on their own!

Here is a great video of John performing a leg press with bands. Check it out:

Bands create additional tension when they are stretched. They are just like a giant rubber band – the more you stretch them the more tension you create.

John loves to use bands on different exercises like the leg press because they make the exercise feel heavier in the top position and lighter in the bottom position. This helps you to train hard while keeping your joints safe.

However, bands also have some other advantages.

Bands have eccentric properties and can create a ton of muscle soreness. Bands can also be used like cables to help you apply resistance in different directions.

Don’t worry – I will show you all of John’s favorite exercises for bands and chains and how he incorporates these exercises into his training programs.

I hope you found this overview helpful! Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Chest

John Meadows likes to use both bands and chains during his Mountain Dog chest workouts. He uses these tools on compound and isolation exercises. However, he usually only uses them on 1 exercise per workout at the most.

One of his favorite ways to use bands is to attach them to different chest machines. Here is John showing you how to add bands to a decline hammer strength machine:

Band Machine

John loops the bands around the back of the machine and the handles. The bands add a tremendous amount of tension throughout the entire range of motion.

John says they give you a great contraction in your chest in the lockout position and they create a ton of muscle damage on the lowering phase of the lift.

John uses banded machine presses at the end of his chest workouts as a “finisher” exercise and at the start of his workouts as a primary mass-building exercise.

Here is a workout where John uses a TON of band tension on his first machine exercise. Check it out:

Chest Band Routine

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

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

Here is the training video:

Now THAT is a lot of band tension! You don’t have to go that crazy on your chest exercises – just a little bit of band tension can go a long ways.

Another one of John’s favorite compound chest exercises is the chain dip. Check ti out:

Chain Dip

John’s favorite way to add extra weight to dips is to throw 1-3 pairs of chains over his shoulders. The chains give the exercise a completely different feel – they raise the center of gravity of the exercise and force your chest to work much harder.

John usually performs this exercise 3rd or 4th in his routine after his chest is nice and warmed up. Now let’s look at some of John’s favorite band or chain chest isolation exercises.

In recent years John has been using the band crossover more and more in his training programs. Check it out:

Band Crossover

John likes to perform this exercise with one arm at a time.

The band creates a tremendous amount of tension in the fully contracted position. The feel of this exercise is completely different vs a regular cable crossover. It is just one of those things that you have to try for yourself to understand.

Another one of John’s favorite band chest exercises is the “over and back.” Here is John demonstrating this exercise:

Over And Backs

John likes to use this exercise to stretch out his chest after heavy pressing movements. This exercise puts a slight stretch on your chest when your arms are above and behind your head. This exercise feels incredible when you perform it at the end of a high-volume chest workout.

This exercise is also terrific for improving your overall shoulder health and range of motion. Many bodybuilders have very poor shoulder mobility so this exercise is worth its weight in gold.

Part 2: Shoulders

John Meadows has come up with some very creative ways to use bands and chains during his shoulder workouts.

One of John’s favorite ways to target his side delts is to perform chain lateral raises. He attaches the chains to a weightlifting handle and then uses nothing but chain weight to train his shoulders. Check it out:

Lateral Raise With Chains

The chains make this exercise feel much heavier in the top position when your arms are parallel to the ground.

Many bodybuilders like to perform heavy dumbbell lateral raises where they cheat the dumbbells up until their arms are parallel to the ground. They are trying to tax their side delts in the top part of the exercise but this might not be the best way to build big shoulders.

John says that the chains let you overload your side delts in the top position with a heavy weight while maintaining good form. That sounds like a good deal to me!

Now let’s look at some of John’s favorite ways to use bands to train the shoulders. John sometimes adds bands to his overhead pressing exercises. For example here is John demonstrating the seated dumbbell overhead press with bands:

Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press With Bands

The bands give this exercise a completely different feel. The dumbbell feels lighter in the bottom position of the exercise but very heavy at the top when you lock out your elbows.

This exercise isn’t better or worse than the regular dumbbell overhead press – it’s just different.

If you are familiar with John’s Mountain Dog Training programs then you know John loves to use new exercises in his workouts to challenge his muscles. This exercise fits this philosophy perfectly.

Another cool band exercise that John popularized is the spider crawl. This exercise is a little hard to explain so here is John demonstrating the movement:

Spider Crawls

You need to have a pair of EliteFTS micro-bands to perform this exercise. They are about 6 inches in length.

The spider crawl is sort of a rear delt / rotator cuff exercise. You pull your hands apart from each other and then crawl your hands up and down the wall. Your rear delts and rotator cuff have to contract isometrically to perform this exercise.

John says that this is a great exercise for your overall shoulder health. If you are not performing some direct rear delt or rotator cuff work in your training program then you are probably setting yourself up for a shoulder injury further down the road.

Another one of John’s favorite rear delt exercises is the band pull apart. Check it out:

Band Pull Apart

John learned this exercise from Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell powerlifting team.

It is very popular among powerlifters for strengthening the rear delts and improving overall shoulder health. All you have to do is grab a mini-band and pull your hands apart using your rear delts.

John says that sets of 10-30 reps work great for this exercise. Another variation of the band pull apart is the rear delt fly with bands. Check it out:

Rear delt fly with bands

This exercise is great for training the rear delts because it trains them through a huge range of motion. You get a nice stretch on the rear delts in the starting position and a huge contraction in the finishing position.

The bands give this exercise a completely different feel from the cable rear delt fly – especially in the fully contracted position.

Part 3: Legs

Now we’re getting to the good stuff! John Meadows absolutely loves to use bands and chains in his Mountain Dog leg workouts. In fact, John uses bands and chains more for his legs than any other body part!

Let’s start by looking at the hamstrings.

John likes to start his leg routines with leg curls. He uses lying leg curls, seated leg curls and standing leg curls – they are all great options. Sometimes John likes to use bands or chains on this exercise to further increase the intensity of the exercise.

Here is John performing lying leg curls with chains:

Lying Leg Curl With Chains

John is using chains so he can overload the very top part of the exercise when his hamstrings are fully contracted. This is normally the hardest part of the exercise but it’s hard to use a lot of weight in this position.

The chains get around this problem so you can use a very heavy weight in the fully contracted position. John likes to use bands on leg curls for a similar reason. Check it out:

Lying Leg Curl With Bands

The bands add a crazy amount of tension in the fully contracted position. The downside to using bands on leg curls is you will have a lot less tension in the stretched part of the exercise.

Now let’s look at some of John’s favorite quadriceps like the squat, leg press and hack squat.

John has specific rules for all of these exercises. He likes to use chains on the squat, bands on the leg press and something called “reverse bands” for the hack squat.

Here is a video of John squatting with chains. Check it out:

Squat With Chains

John absolutely loves to perform squats with chains. The chains unload on the ground as you squat down. This makes the exercise feel much lighter in the bottom position and heavier in the top position.

John loves to squat with chains because it keeps his knees, hips and lower back healthy. Most of the time John squats with regular straight weight but he really likes to mix in chains from time to time.

On the leg press John likes bands more than chains. Check it out:

Leg Press With Bands

The banded leg press is a phenomenal exercise. Some leg press machines just feel tough on your knees – especially in the bottom position of the exercise.

Using bands turns the leg press into a completely different exercise. The bands create a ton of eccentric stress but they actually feel really good on your knees.

Many bodybuilders like Stan Efferding have used the banded leg press to rehabilitate their knees and build up the size of their quads. It is just a phenomenal overall exercise for your quads.

When it comes to the hack squat John doesn’t like to use bands or chains. Instead he likes to use something called “reverse bands.” He sets up the bands so they are actually helping you lift the weight up rather than pulling you down.

Here is a great video of John performing reverse band hack squats. Check it out:

Hack Squat With Reverse Bands

John says that the hack squat is one of his favorite exercises but some hack squat machines are really hard on your knees. The reverse bands make the exercise feel lighter in the bottom position AND they take away some of the eccentric stress of the exercise.

If you have never used reverse bands then you don’t know what you’re missing. Many strength coaches like Christian Thibadeaeu agree that reverse bands are easier on your joints than regular “straight weight.”

John usually likes to put reverse band hack squats at the end of his leg routines after his quads are nice and warmed up. For example here is a leg workout John performed with Evan Centopani. Check it out:

Mountain Dog Leg Workout #2

  • 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 training video:

John doesn’t view the reverse band hack squat as a gimmicky exercise. To him they are just one of his core movements for building big quadriceps.

Part 4: Back

John has some really interesting ideas about how bodybuilders should train their upper backs. He believes it is really important to use exercises where you can really squeeze your back and get strong muscular contractions when your muscles are shortened.

John uses bands and chains on different back exercises to really overload your back in this shortened position. John’s favorite exercise for back width is the one-arm barbell row. He says this exercise hits his lats better than anything else.

Sometimes John likes to add chains to this exercise to really overload the contracted position. For example:

One-Arm Barbell Row With Chains

John also likes to use the chains to perform some crazy drop sets on this exercise. One of his favorite strategies is to train to failure with the chains, then take the chains off and continue training to failure. Sometimes he continues and throws in a few more drops after that.

John says that this kind of drop set where you perform your first attempt with chains and the other ones without chains gives you an unbelievable pump in your upper back.

Another one of John’s favorite rowing variations is the chest supported row with bands. Check it out:

Chest Supported Row With Bands

The bands give you an unbelievable contraction in the top part of the exercise. I highly recommend you pause for 1-3 seconds in the fully contracted position to get the full benefit of this exercise.

Another one of John’s favorite banded back exercises is the lying dumbbell pullover with bands. Here is a great demonstration of this exercise:

Lying DB Pullover With Bands

Normally the lying dumbbell pullover only puts tension on your lats when the dumbbell is behind your head. Using bands on this exercise is a game-changer because it engages your lats even when the dumbbell is directly over your stomach!

The bodybuilding legend Milos Sarcev says that this exercise is absolutely incredible for engaging your lower lats. Now let’s talk about the deadlift. John Meadows sometimes likes to use chains on the deadlift. Check it out:

Rack Deadlift With Chains

The chains help you to overload the top half of the exercise. They also take a lot of the pressure off your lower back in the starting position of the exercise.

This is just another fantastic exercise that you can use in your bodybuilding workouts.

Part 5: Arms

John Meadows doesn’t use bands and chains very often for arms. However, he does have a few exercises where he likes to use these tools.

One of his favorite arm exercises to use bands and chains is the standing barbell curl. Here is John demonstrating the barbell curl with chains. Check it out:

Barbell Curls With Chains

John says that he really likes this exercise. The chains help you to overload the top part of the exercise when your biceps are fully contracted. It’s also easier to maintain perfect form when you are using chains on this exercise.

Another good variation of this exercise is the barbell curl with bands. Check it out:

Barbell Curls With Bands

The bands are very similar to the chains – they help you to overload your biceps in the fully contracted position.

Here is a full biceps workout where John started with the barbell curl with bands. Check it out:

Mountain Dog Biceps Routine #1

  • Exercise #1: Barbell curl with bands (supinated grip), 2 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #2: Dumbbell pinwheel curls, 2 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #3: Standing DB curls (hammer grip), 2 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #4: 45 degree incline DB curls (supinating grip), 2 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #5: 90 degree preacher ez-bar curls (wide / supinated grip), 2 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #6: Standing ez-bar curl (reverse grip), 2 sets of 8-12 reps

Here is the training video:

John mostly sticks with barbell curls with bands and chains.

There are plenty of other exercises you can use them on – especially for triceps! – but John prefers straight weight for most of his arm movements.

Conclusion

Bands and chains are two of the most effective tools in the world for building muscle. I tip my hat to John Meadows for finding effective ways to use these tools in his high-volume bodybuilding workouts.

In my experience bands and chains are especially effective for helping bodybuilders build big legs while keeping their knees, hips and lower back healthy. If you don’t know where to start I highly recommend you play around with chain squats, banded leg presses and reverse band hack squats.

If you enjoyed this content then make sure you check out my article “Mountain Dog Training: The Ultimate Guide!

“If you want to turn a vision into reality, you have to give 100% and never stop believing in your dream.”

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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