Everyone wants a huge barrel chest like their hero Arnold Schwarzenegger. The problem is almost no one knows how to build one!
Most modern bodybuilders have a chest that lags behind the rest of their upper bodies.
If you want to build a huge chest like Arnold then Mountain Dog Training is for you!
- Part 1: The Pre-Activation / Pump Phase
- Part 2: The Explosive Phase
- Part 3: The Supra-Maximal Pump Phase
- Part 4: The Stretch Phase
In this comprehensive guide I will show you exactly how John Meadows structures his Mountain Dog chest workouts to build maximum muscle mass while keeping you safe and injury free.
John Meadows is the creator of Mountain Dog Training and the founder of Granite Supplements.
John Meadows breaks up his Mountain Dog chest workouts into 4 separate muscle-building phases:
- Phase #1: The pre-activation / pump phase
- Phase #2: The explosive phase
- Phase #3: The supra-maximal pump phase
- Phase #4: The stretch phase
Each of these phases work together to help you safely stimulate as much chest growth as possible.
Now let’s get down to business…
Phase #1: The Pre-Activation / Pump Phase
The pre-activation / pump phase is designed to help you establish a great mind-muscle connection with the target muscle and to start pumping it full of blood.
John wants you to focus on joint-friendly exercises where you can really feel the target muscle group working.
That doesn’t mean that you have to use an isolation exercise. John’s favorite exercises for phase #1 of his chest workout are machine presses and dumbbell presses. For example:
John’s Favorite Pre-Activation / Pump Phase Chest Exercises
- Option #1: Flat / incline / decline dumbbell press
- Option #2: Flat / incline / decline hammer strength press
- Option #3: Flat / incline / decline machine press
All of these exercises really allow John to feel his chest working without bothering his joints too much.
Remember, John Meadows is still in his 40s and training hard. If you want to train well into your 40s and 50s then you have to be smart with how you structure your workouts.
Earlier in his career John started his workouts with some of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favorite chest exercises like the flat bench press and the incline bench press. There’s just one problem: John kept injuring his pecs and shoulders training this way!
When he started performing these heavy barbell exercises later in his routine these aches and pains went a way and his chest really started to grow.
John usually likes to perform several progressively heavier sets of 8-10 reps for his first chest exercise. He might perform 1-2 all-out sets all the way to failure or just shy of failure.
Sometimes John will even throw in some high-intensity techniques like drop sets or partial reps at the end of his last working set. However, most of the time John likes to save these techniques for later in his workout.
Here is a great video of John performing incline dumbbell presses during his pre-activation / pump phase:
I want you to pay close attention to how John performs this set. Every single rep is performed with perfect control.
John gets a huge stretch in the bottom position and a strong contraction in the top position on every rep. This is what you want!
Remember, the goal of the pre-pump / activation phase is to establish that mind-muscle connection and a good pump in your chest. You can’t do this if you are just jerking the weight around!
Phase #2: The Explosive Phase
This is where things really get fun! John calls phase #2 the “explosive phase.” John wants you to use a big compound exercise like the incline bench press and train explosively for sets of about 6 reps.
Your goal is to explode the weight off your chest as fast as possible while maintaining perfect form and keeping all of the tension on your chest.
These explosive reps will help you to recruit the fast-twitch muscle fibers and create a lot of deep muscle fatigue in your chest. John’s absolute favorite chest exercise for the explosive phase is the incline bench press.
Here is a perfect video of John performing this exercise explosively:
Of course John uses many other exercises for the explosive phase as well.
Here is a list of John’s favorite chest exercises for the “explosive phase”:
- Option #1: Incline barbell press (John’s favorite)
- Option #2: Incline smith machine press
- Option #3: Flat / incline dumbbell press
- Option #4: Flat / incline machine press
As you can see John really likes to perform heavier exercises like the incline barbell press or incline smith machine press for this phase of the workout.
These are the exercises where you can lift a ton of weight and really explode the weight up to lockout.
For the explosive phase John wants you to perform several progressively heavier sets of 6 reps. For example:
- Set #1: 6 reps with 70% of your 6-rep max
- Set #2: 6 reps with 80% of your 6-rep max
- Set #3: 6 reps with 90% of your 6-rep max
- Set #4: 6 reps with 100% of your 6-rep max
These percentages are not set in stone. For example John might perform sets of 6 with 225 pounds, 245 pounds, 265 pounds and 285 pounds for his working sets. The important thing is that you slowly ramp up to a really hard set of 6 reps performed just shy of failure.
John doesn’t want you to perform any high-intensity techniques here like drop sets, partial reps, static holds etc. for this phase. He says to save that for the easier, higher-rep exercises performed towards the end of the workout.
Phase #3: The Supra-Maximal Pump Phase
If you love getting a good pump then you are going to love this phase! John’s goal during phase #3 is to get a huge pump in the chest.
You can use almost any exercise you want as long as you can really feel your chest working.
Here are some of John’s favorite chest exercises for the supra-maximal pump phase:
- Option #1: Flat / incline / decline dumbbell press
- Option #2: Flat / incline / decline machine press
- Option #3: Parallel bar dips
- Option #4: Machine / cable / dumbbell flies
- Option #5: Cable crossovers
For phase #3 you are going to perform 3-4 progressively heavier sets of 8-20 reps.
On your last set you are going to go all-out and pull out all of the stops. John has his trainees use different high-intensity training methods here like drop sets, partial reps, iso-holds, supersets and tri-sets.
Here is John demonstrating an absolutely brutal high-intensity set on the supine machine fly. Check it out:
John performs a full range of motion reps to failure, then performs a few forced reps, then performs a few partial reps out of the bottom position and then finishes things off with a brutal static hold in a “power position” to failure.
Your exact sets and reps aren’t super important during this phase. The important part is to train for a massive pump in your chest. John really believes that a massive pump is one of the keys to building a barrel chest like Arnold’s.
Phase #4: The Stretch Phase
The final phase of the Mountain Dog chest workout is the stretch phase.
There is more and more research coming out showing that loaded stretches help with building muscle.
John wants to take advantage of this additional way to stimulate growth by including an exercise that really overloads the target muscle group in the stretched position.
Here are some of John’s favorite chest exercises for the stretch phase:
- Option #1: Machine / cable / dumbbell flies
- Option #2: Cable crossovers
- Option #3: Stretch push ups
- Option #4: Parallel bar dips
- Option #5: Machine / dumbbell pullovers
The stretch phase is a lot like the supra-maximal pump phase. John wants you to perform higher reps and to safely emphasize the stretched position of the exercise.
Here is a great video of John performing stretch pushups to really open up his chest at the end of his workout:
As you can see John keeps his chest held high and his shoulder blades pinched back throughout the entire exercise. This is exactly what you want!
This deep loaded stretch will work synergistically with the rest of the workout to enhance muscle growth.
Once again John wants you to perform 3-4 progressively heavier sets with your last set being the “money” set where you bust out all the high-intensity techniques like drop sets, partial reps etc.
By the end of the stretch phase your chest will be absolutely engorged with blood, totally fatigued and really stretched out.
Now THAT is how to build a barrel chest according to John Meadows!
Complete Mountain Dog Training Chest Workouts
Now let’s look at some complete mountain dog training chest workouts. I did my best to pick three unique workouts using different exercises and high-intensity training techniques.
I want to show you how creative John can be with his workouts while still giving you a good idea of what his workouts usually look like.
This first workout uses some of John’s favorite chest exercises including hammer strength presses, incline barbell presses and smith machine presses.
At the end of the workout John uses a very unique stretching technique that you probably haven’t heard of before. Check it out:
John Meadow’s Super High Volume Chest Workout
- Exercise #1: Hammer strength flat press, 5 sets of 8 reps
- Exercise #2: 30 degree incline barbell press, 4 sets of 6 reps
- Exercise #3: Decline smith machine press, sets of 25, 12, 8 reps**
- Exercise #4: Flat DB press, 3 sets of 8 reps****
**Perform a double drop set on the last set. Perform 8 reps, drop the weight, perform 8 reps, drop the weight, perform 8 reps, done!
****Perform a 10-second static hold in the stretched position right after your last rep. Have your training partner slightly press down on the dumbbells for an enhanced stretch.
Here is the full training video for this workout:
This is a very typical looking Mountain Dog style chest workout. John performs 4 total exercises using his regular 4-phase exercise sequencing system.
The thing that really stands out to me for this working is the high-intensity technique that John uses on the last exercise. He has Jeff Nippard apply manual over pressure on his chest after reaching failure on the last set.
Basically John performs a set of flat dumbbell presses to failure for 10 reps. Then John has Jeff Nippard press down on the dumbbells for 10 seconds to overload John’s chest in the stretched position.
Jeff is probably adding about 10-20 pounds of tension per dumbbell but this is just enough for John to really feel the stretch in his chest. If you have a training partner then I highly recommend you try out this technique towards the end of your chest workout.
Now let’s look at one of John’s slightly more advanced chest workouts. John says this workout is perfect for building a barrel chest like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Check it out:
John Meadow’s Barrel Chest Workout
- Exercise #1: 30 incline DB press, 4 sets of 8 reps
- Exercise #2: 30 incline smith machine press, 4 sets of 6 reps
- Exercise #3: Parallel bar dips, 3 sets of 10-20 reps**
- Exercise #4: Fly machine, 2 sets of 10-20 reps**
**Perform all working sets to failure.
Here’s the training videos or this workout:
John starts off his workout using his usual chest training template.
He trains his first exercise using several progressively heavier sets of 8 reps and his second exercise with several progressively heavier sets of 6 reps.
However, things really get interesting for the third and fourth exercises: John has you perform 2-3 sets to failure for each exercise!
For the parallel bar dips John recommends that you train the bottom half of the movement only to keep maximum tension on your pecs. You won’t be able to perform as many reps this way but the tension you get on your chest throughout the whole movement is incredible.
For the 4th exercise John uses a special type of machine fly where the weight is heavier in the contracted position and lighter in the stretched position.
John calls this his favorite fly machine because it lets you really train hard without worrying so much about injuring yourself in the bottom position of the exercise.
Now let’s look at a super high-intensity chest workout that John Meadows thinks is appropriate for a silverback gorilla! Check it out:
Silverback Pec Super Pump Chest Workout
- Exercise #1: Flat machine press, 4 sets of 8-10 reps**
- Exercise #2: Incline machine press, 3 sets of 6 reps**
- Exercise #3: Decline smith machine press, 3 sets of 6 reps**
- Exercise #4: Incline cable fly, 3 sets of 8-12 reps*****
**Perform a double drop set on the last set only.
****Perform several partial reps in the top, middle and bottom position of the exercise on your last rep after reaching failure.
Here is the full training video:
Normally John holds off on the high-intensity training techniques until his 3rd or 4th exercise.. However, for this workout John performs some brutal drop sets on the first three exercises!
John never does this with barbell exercises but if he is using a couple of machine based movements then it becomes more feasible.
John finishes the workout with some partial reps performed on the incline cable fly. This is a great way to safely destroy as many muscle fibers as your chest as possible right at the end of your workout.
John Meadows structures his chest workouts in a very unique way to help you build muscle mass while staying injury free.
The biggest change with John’s workouts is he wants you to hold off on the heavy barbell pressing exercises like the incline bench press until you have already pre-fatigued your chest with a joint-friendly chest exercise.
If you are someone who has suffered from chest or shoulder injuries in the past then you will love these Mountain Dog chest workouts. They let you annihilate your chest without all of the usual aches and pains.
So what are you waiting for? Go build a barrel chest like Arnold Schwarzenegger with these Mountain Dog style chest workouts!
Here is a great quote by Arnold Schwarzenegger to pump you up even more:
“You have to push past your perceived limits, push past that point you thought was as far as you can go.”
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!
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