John Meadows uses many different training splits with his Mountain Dog Training program. However, one of his favorite training splits is the classic push / pull / legs split.
He trains many of his top athletes including the Mr. Olympia competitor Terrance Ruffin with this exact training split.
If you want to learn how John organizes his “pull” or back / bicep workouts then this article is for you!
- Part 1: The Push / Pull / Legs Split
- Part 2: Sample Pull Workouts
In this comprehensive guide I will teach you how John Meadows organizes his Mountain Dog pull workouts to build his massive back and biceps.
The push / pull / legs split is one of the oldest and most effective training splits. The idea is simple: you train your entire body over three separate workouts.
You have a “push” day where you train your chest / shoulders / triceps, a “pull” day where you train your back / biceps and a “legs” day where you train your quads / hamstrings / calves. Check it out:
The Push / Pull / Legs Split
- Day 1: Chest / Shoulders / Triceps
- Day 2: Back / Biceps
- Day 3: Quads / Hamstrings / Calves
The push / pull / legs split is so effective because it reduces overlap between body parts.
You work all of the pushing and pulling muscles together on the same day which makes it easier for your body to recover between workouts. It also gives bodybuilders plenty of room to specialize on their upper body and perform many different exercises for each muscle group.
For his pull workouts John likes to perform 3-4 upper back exercises, 1-2 bicep exercises and maybe 1-2 exercises for his rear delts or lower back.
Here is an easy, beginner-friendly Mountain Dog pull workout that you can try. Check it out:
Pull Workout #1
- Exercise #1: Meadows row, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Exercise #2: One-arm barbell row, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Exercise #3: Band-assisted pull up, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Exercise #4: Bent over rear delt DB fly, 3 sets of 20-30 reps
- Exercise #5: Seated DB curl (hammer grip), 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Here is the training video:
John starts this workouts with two of his favorite exercises: the Meadows row and the one-arm barbell row. The Meadows row is an exercise that John invented himself.
The basic idea is to perform a one-arm T-bar row where you grip the end of the bar and point your elbow out towards your side. John says that this exercise has done more for his overall upper back development than anything else.
Here is John describing 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.”
The one-arm barbell row is another one of John’s favorite exercises. He says that this is his #1 exercise for building up the lats. Check it out:
“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!”
John goes into detail about the benefits of the other exercises like the band-assisted pull ups and the seated dumbbell hammer curls. I highly recommend you watch the training video if you are interested in this type of workout routine.
Here is a high-intensity Mountain Dog pull workout that you can try. Check it out:
Pull Workout #2
- 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:
John uses some really interesting exercises in this workout including his favorite band-assisted pull ups. John likes to perform these towards the end of his upper back routines after his back has been pre-fatigued with other exercises.
He says that the bands give the exercise a completely different feel – you can use a bigger range of motion and you get a crazy contraction in your upper back. Check it out:
“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, 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.”
After training his upper back and rear delts John moves onto his biceps. John really likes to include some type of brachialis work in most of his workouts.
For this workout the seated dumbbell hammer curls are the brachialis exercise of choice. John says that most bodybuilders neglect the brachialis in their training.
He says people would have much bigger arms if they just included some direct brachialis work in their workouts on a regular basis. Check it out:
“Bicep training is a little more than bicep training (too me). I think there is a general lack of awareness of the brachialis muscle.
The brachialis sits in between the biceps and triceps. It’s actually a more powerful elbow flexor than the biceps. I like to really prioritize the brachialis.
When it’s developed it really pops and pushes the biceps out.”
For his really advanced trainees John sometimes likes to incorporate rack deadlifts into his high volume back / bicep workouts.
John says that the rack deadlift is a tremendous back exercise but you have to perform it correctly. Check it out:
Pull Workout #3
- Exercise #1: One-arm barbell row, 4 sets of 8 reps
- Exercise #2: Lying DB pullover, 4 sets of 10-12 reps
- Exercise #3: Rack pull (just below knees), 5 sets of 5 reps
- Exercise #4: Pull ups (wide / overhand grip)**, 4 sets to failure
- Exercise #5: Hanging lat stretch, 1 sets x 60 seconds
- Exercise #6: Standing barbell curl, 4 sets of 8 reps
- Exercise #7: One-arm DB preacher curl (supinated grip), 4 sets to failure
**Perform 4 sets to failure. John wants you to fail somewhere around the 8-10 rep mark.
Here is the training video for this workout
Talk about a high-volume back / biceps workout! John performs a total of 5 exercises for his upper back and 2 exercises for his biceps.
John never starts his back workouts with rack deadlifts. Instead he likes to perform them in the middle or end of his routine after his upper back is pre-fatigued.
In this workout John performs lying dumbbell pullovers right before his rack deadlifts to improve his mind-muscle connection with his lats.
“I do my dumbbell pullovers a little differently from most people. I lay on the bench instead of across of it.
Also pay attention to my range of motion. I only pull the dumbbell over my head – I don’t pull it over my stomach or chest.”
After the dumbbell pullovers he moves right into the rack deadlifts. John likes to use a moderately heavy weight and really flex and flare his lats throughout the entire range of motion.
He is almost trying to turn the rack deadlift into an isometric exercise for his lats!
Another interesting exercise that John uses for his lats is the weighted hang. The basic idea is to hang from a chin up bar with extra weight tied around your waist. This exercise was popularized by John Parillo and more recently Dante Trudel with his DC Training program. Check it out:
“I used to do those weighted hangs in John Parillo’s back in the early 90s. I’m not real strong on them.
You should probably try 2, 3 or 4 plates and try to hang for 60 seconds. Make sure you use your straps.”
Let’s look at another one of John’s “pull” workouts for advanced bodybuilders. Check it out:
Pull Workout #4
- Exercise #1: Chest supported row, 4 sets of 8 reps**
- Exercise #2: One arm supinating lat pulldown, 3 sets of 10 reps
- Exercise #3: Rack pulls, 3 sets of 4 reps****
- Exercise #4: Band assisted pull up, 3 sets of 10 reps******
- Exercise #5: Lying DB pullover, 3 sets of 15 reps
- Exercise #6: 45 degree barbell back extension (snatch grip), 3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Exercise #7: Preacher DB curl (supinated grip), 3 sets of 20-30 reps
- Exercise #8: 75 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Exercise #9: Bent-over rear delt DB fly, 3 sets of 15-20 reps
**On your last set train to failure, then do a single drop set, then perform a static stretch in the bottom position with manual overpressure from your training partner.
****On every rep flex your lower lats as hard as possible. On your last set perform a quadruple drop set with 4 reps on each attempt.
******On your last set perform 10 reps, then use a wide grip and perform 10 partial reps, then perform a 10-second isometric hold in the mid-range position of the exercise
Here is the training video:
Talk about an intense workout! To me the most interesting part of this workout is the way he performs his rack deadlifts.
Once again John uses a mind-muscle connection exercise to get his lats firing before moving onto the rack deadlifts.
In this workout John used the one-arm supinating lat pulldown. Here is John describing this exercise:
“I love these, I’m sure you’ve seen us do these before. Lean back a little, drive your elbow down, supinate naturally and squeeze your lat. You want lateral flexion of your spine.
In other words come down and bend your back a little bit to the side. But think about your elbow going down the ground. Boom! This is our single-arm supinated lat pulldown.”
After the one-arm supinating lat pulldown John moves right into the rack deadlifts. Once again John performs the rack deadlift as an upper back / lat exercise rather than a traditional powerbuilding-style movement.
John’s goal is to squeeze his lats the entire time to make his upper back work as hard as possible.
“People will say, how do I know if I’m going too heavy on these bodybuilding-style rack pulls? You will actually feel less tension in your lats. Your whole body will start firing because the weight is so heavy.
This is bodybuilding – we’re trying to build our lats. I don’t like regular deadlifts for our lats, but these I do like! You get your lats into position and it’s like a giant iso-hold.”
Because I’m such a nice guy, here is one more of John Meadows’ favorite back / bicep workouts. Check it out:
Pull Workout #5
- Exercise #1: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Exercise #2: Lat pulldown (narrow / neutral grip), 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Exercise #3: Hammer strength low row (neutral grip), 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Exercise #4: Two-arm cable reverse fly, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Exercise #5: Cable rope hammer curl, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Exercise #6: 90 degree ez-bar preacher curl (wide / supinated grip), 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Here is the training video:
John performed this routine with Brad Schoenfeld, the owner of the Stronger By Science website. I highly recommend you watch this training video to get Brett’s insights into training the upper back and biceps.
Better yet – subscribe to his newsletter at his website. He gives out a ton of valuable information that you won’t get anywhere else.
The push / pull / legs split is one of the most popular training splits in the world. Many world-class bodybuilders like John Meadows, Ronnie Coleman and Terrance Ruffin have used this training split to take their training to the next level.
If you are interested in the push / pull / legs split then I highly recommend you experiment with some of John’s back / bicep workouts from this article.
If you are more advanced then the 3rd or 4th workout may be just what you need to take your back and biceps to the next level.
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!
What’s going on! This is my own personal training log. Follow along as I train to become The World’s Strongest Natty Bodybuilder! Also, check out my NEW online coaching program: DC...
What’s going on! This is my own personal training log. Follow along as I train to become The World’s Strongest Natty Bodybuilder! Also, check out my NEW e-books: The Dr. Mike Training...