Mountain Dog Quads Training | The Ultimate Guide!


John Meadows is one of the most successful bodybuilding coaches in the world. He has trained many professional bodybuilders including the Mr. Olympia competitors Shaun Claurida, Brandon Curry and Terrance Ruffin.

John believes the fastest way to build huge quads is with his Mountain Dog Training program. If you want to build a pair of legs that would make Tom Platz jealous then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Quadricep Training Theory
  • Part 2: Quadricep Workouts

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you everything you need to know about how to build huge quadriceps using the Mountain Dog Training program.

The Mountain Dog Training program is all about building as much muscle as possible while staying healthy and avoiding injuries.

John says bodybuilding is more than just showing up to the gym and throwing around heavy weight. The way you train has a huge impact on your results.

John says the key to building huge quads is to use the right exercises, to sequence them correctly and to find different ways to increase the intensity of your workouts while staying safe.

Here is John talking more about his Mountain Dog Training program:

“When I think about my training program, it’s looking at how we can safely grow the most amount of muscle possible.”

In this guide I’m going to teach you the training principles that John Meadows uses to design his own Mountain Dog quadricep workouts.

I will teach you John’s favorite quadricep exercises and how he uses them to build his leg workouts. Then at the end of the article I will show you how John uses these quad training principles in 6 of his Mountain Dog leg workouts.

Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this cutting edge information! Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Quadricep Training Theory

John Meadows says that training quads is one of the most difficult things you can do in the gym. He says that training quads is harder than training your back, your shoulders or any other muscle group.

You really need to have a high pain tolerance if you want to build big tree-trunk legs. Check it out:

“I believe leg training needs to be hard, really hard. And it’s going to be painful. You just have to train yourself to push through the pain.

To me leg training has to be another notch of intensity. You’ve got to find another gear, you have to work through the pain.

I just think if you want awesome legs, you’re going to have to train them really, really, really hard.”

John says the key to building big quads is to structure your workouts so you can train really, really hard without hurting your joints. The key to doing this is to sequence your exercises correctly.

John likes to start his workouts with joint-friendly exercises like squats or leg presses and finish his workouts with other movements like hack squats and pendulum squats. John also likes to use tools like bands and chains to make some exercises even safer.

Here are 4 rules that John uses to build his Mountain Dog quad workouts:

The Mountain Dog Rules For Training Quads

  • Rule #1: Start your routine with squats and leg presses
  • Rule #2: Finish your routine with hack squats and lunges
  • Rule #3: Leg extensions and split squats can go anywhere
  • Rule #4: Use bands and chains for your quad exercises

Now let’s take a closer look at each of these rules.

Rule #1: Start Your Routine With Squats And Leg Presses

John Meadows says that you should start your quad workouts with a power exercise like squats or 45 degree leg presses. These exercises are easier on your knees and really let you load your quads with a ton of weight. Check it out:

“Do leg presses or squats before you do hack squats. Don’t do any kind of lunge or hack squat first in your routine – you won’t engage the muscle sufficiently, and you could beat up your knees in the process.”

John uses a ton of different variations of these two exercises in his workouts. Here are some of his favorites:

The Best Power Quadriceps Exercises

In terms of squats John Meadows almost never uses the regular 45 pound barbell. He says that whenever he tries to squat with a regular straight bar he gets back pain and a jolt of electricity shooting down his legs.

Instead John uses different specialty bars like the safety squat bar or the spider bar. Here is John demonstrating the safety squat bar squat:

Safety Squat Bar Squat

The safety squat bar has a large padded surface that rests on your shoulders. This makes the bar extremely comfortable to squat with.

The safety squat bar also has a built-in camber which lowers the center of gravity of the exercise. The safety squat bar puts less pressure on your lower back than a regular 45 pound barbell which makes it a great choice for anyone who is suffering from lower back pain.

John says that his legs actually started to grow faster when he started using the safety squat bar and the spider bar exclusively in his training.

John also likes to start his workouts with the 45 degree leg press. For example:

45 Degree Leg Press

John says that this exercise is easier on your knees than other machines like the hack squat or the pendulum squat.

One of John’s favorite strategies is to use high-intensity techniques like drop sets on the leg press. He says things like drop sets and cluster sets are perfectly safe to do on the leg press but he avoids them when he’s squatting.

Rule #2: Finish Your Routine With Hack Squats And Lunges

John Meadows believes that certain exercises like hack squats and lunges should be performed at the end of your workout when your legs are pre-fatigued and pumped full of blood.

He thinks these exercises are just too hard on your knees to perform at the beginning of your workout. John also wants to make sure he gets the heavy loading from things like squats and leg presses early in the workout when he is fresh.

Here is a list of John’s favorite “finishing” quad exercises:

The Best Finisher Quadricep Exercises

  • Option #1: Machine hack squat
  • Option #2: Walking lunges
  • Option #3: Smith machine lunges
  • Option #4: Machine sissy squats

One of John’s all-time favorite quad exercises is the machine hack squat. Check it out:

Machine hack squat

John absolutely loves this exercise. The hack squat allows you to perform a squatting motion with your back fully supported. This reduces the pressure on your lower back and lets you focus 100% on training your quads.

The hack squat machine also gives you the chance to play around with your foot position. You can raise or lower your feet to target different parts of your legs.

John usually likes to perform hack squats as his third quad exercise for the day. He says they are a phenomenal exercise but they can be hard on your knees if you are not careful. Check it out:

“I don’t think you should walk in the gym and go do your hack squat. I think that movement is done best after squats or leg presses.

I don’t think it should be your first exercise. I just think it feels better when you have blood in your knees and your hips and everything is warmed up.”

Another one of John’s favorite “finishing” exercises is the walking lunge. Check it out:

Walking lunges

John uses many different variations of lunges in his workouts. He uses barbells, dumbbells and even kettlebells to overload his legs in slightly different ways.

Once again John likes to perform lunges as the 3rd or 4th exercise in his quad workouts:

“Same thing with lunges. I wouldn’t come into the gym and start doing lunges.

I would be worried about pulling an adductor or something would go wrong. That’s another exercise that I would put later in the sequence.”

Another one of John’s favorite finishing exercises for quads is the smith machine lunge. He has been using this exercise more and more in his quad workouts in recent years. Check it out:

Smith machine lunges

John really likes the smith machine lunge as a finishing exercise because it stretches all the muscles in your legs including your quads, adductors, hamstrings and glutes.

If you read my article “Mountain Dog Training: The Ultimate Guide!” then you already know John is a huge fan of doing loaded stretches at the end of a hard workout.

Here is John Meadows himself talking about this exercise:

“I really like these. You can change your form to them a little more glute focused or a little more quad focused.

I like to do these with my front foot on a plate. That’s going to give me a little more range of motion for a bigger stretch on my legs.

I’m going to stay upright and really drive with my quad.”

So far the rules are pretty simple: you start your workout with joint-friendly exercises like squats, leg presses and machine squats and you finish your workout with more challenging exercises like hack squats, lunges and smith machine split squats.

Rule #3: Leg Extensions And Split Squats Can Go Anywhere

John Meadows is willing to put leg extensions and split squats literally anywhere in his quad workouts. He might start his workouts with these exercises or he might finish his workout with them.

Let’s start by looking at the leg extension. Check it out:

Leg Extensions

John says the leg extension is a good exercise and deserves a place in your overall training program. One of John’s favorite strategies is to perform high-intensity sets on the leg press.

You don’t have to worry about balancing the weight or stabilizing your body so the leg extension is perfect for using things like drop sets, partial reps and iso-holds. Check it out:

“This exercise is perfect for doing high-intensity techniques, driving a ton of blood in there safely. We can use drop sets, we can use partials, we can use cluster sets… we can use all that stuff safely on this exercise.

I think it makes the most sense to use these when you want to create an incredible pump. You are also in a good position to work the shortened position of the strength curve.

So get the weight up and then really flex your quads. We can talk about form and execution but what really matters to me is how hard you push the exercise.

Form is great and all that but I want you to do 1 set where you go really hard.”

It doesn’t matter if John performs the leg press first or last in his quad routine: he almost always performs 1 really hard set with different high-intensity techniques.

John also really likes to use a variation of Bulgarian split squats in his Mountain Dog quad routines. Here is John demonstrating this exercise:

Split Squats

John really likes to perform this exercise where you are holding a dumbbell in one hand and holding an upright support with your other hand. That way you can really train your quads hard without worrying about balancing yourself or falling over.

“You don’t want this to be a balancing exercise. I want you to hold onto something with your other arm so you can really target your quads.”

Once again John likes to use different high-intensity techniques on this exercise. His favorite strategy is to perform a triple drop set with 10-second iso-holds at the end of each mini-set.

You perform 8 reps, then perform a 10-second iso-hold in a power position, then drop the weight and repeat 3 more times. Talk about a brutal set!

Rule #4: Use Bands And Chains For Your Quad Exercises

John Meadows loves to use bands and chains in his workouts.

John first learned about these tools when he trained with the Westside Barbell powerlifting gym in Columbus, Ohio. Today he uses them in almost all of his Mountain Dog leg programs.

Bands and chains are so effective because they change the strength curve of the exercise. They make the exercise easier in the bottom position where you are weaker and more vulnerable and heavier in the top position where you are stronger.

Let’s look at how John uses these tools on his three favorite quad exercises: the squat, the leg press and the hack squat.

John Meadows really likes to perform squats with chains. For example:

Squat With Chains

The chains completely change the feel of the exercise.

When you squat down the chains fall down on the ground and make the exercise feel lighter. Then when you stand back up the chains make the exercise feel heavier.

This is great if you want to take some of the pressure off your hips, knees and lower back in the bottom position of the exercise.

The chains also teach you to squat more explosively. If you don’t squat up as fast as possible then the chains will rip the bar back down to the ground!

When it comes to the 45 degree leg press John really likes to use bands. Check it out:

Leg Press With Bands

The leg press with bands is almost a completely different exercise from the regular leg press. If you use enough band tension then the exercise actually feels easier in the bottom position and harder at the top!

Here is John describing the leg press with bands:

“The leg press is my favorite exercise to use bands on. The bands create tension through the whole range. The bands just put a lot more stress on the quads and give the exercise a totally different feeling.”

Another HUGE benefit of the leg press with bands is it strengthens the connective tissue of your knee.

I don’t have any scientific studies to back this up but high rep leg presses with bands is one of the best exercises for rehabilitating your knees. I’m talking from experience here – I’ve helped many bodybuilders rehabilitate their knees using this exercise.

The world’s strongest bodybuilder Stan Efferding is also a big fan of this exercise for improving your knee health. Now let’s talk about the hack squat.

The hack squat is a tricky exercise. It can be great for building huge quads but some hack squat machines are very hard on your knees.

John likes to use reverse bands on this exercise to make it easier on your joints. Check it out:

Hack Squat With Reverse Bands

Reverse bands are like the opposite of regular bands. The reverse bands are literally pulling the machine back up to the starting position. In other words they are helping you throughout the entire range of motion.

Here is John describing this exercise:

“This is a reverse banded hack squat.

A lot of you tell me you have problems with hack squats because of your knees. This is nice because the way we set the bands, it’s going to help you out of the bottom and take the pressure off your knees.

This lets you load up the weight and get the benefit of a heavy weight through most of the range of motion.

But when you get to the hard part at the bottom, the bands are going to help pull you up which keeps the stress off your knees. So you can continue to use heavy weight safely without tearing your knees up.”

If you have never used reverse bands then you have no idea how good they feel on your joints. It almost feels like the weight is floating as you perform the exercise.

I highly recommend you give them a try in your own Mountain Dog quad workouts.

Part 2: Quadricep Workouts

Now we’re getting to the good stuff! We’re going to look at 5 Mountain Dog leg workouts to see exactly how John builds his quadricep routines.

Here is a very simple quadriceps-only workout that you can try. Check it out:

Routine #1

  • Exercise #1: Spider bar squat, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise #2: Pendulum squat, 3 sets of 10 reps**
  • Exercise #3: Machine leg extensions, 3 sets of 10 reps****

**On your last set perform 10 reps just shy of failure, rest 20 seconds, go a gain just shy of failure, rest 20 seconds, go again just shy of failure, then drop the weight and immediately perform 10 partial reps in the bottom position, then immediately perform a 10-second iso-hold in the mid-range position.

****Perform a 30-second quads stretch after each set

Here is the training video:

This is a shorter, easier version of what John’s leg workouts usually look like. John starts this workout with the spider bar squat. As you already know John likes to use different specialty bars on the squat.

“I love squats. They’ve always been one of my favorite exercises. But I just can’t put a heavy barbell on my back. I get bolts of lightning shooting down my spine.

The safety squat bar is just another way to squat, it can save your back. I’m 47 now. Anything I can do to preserve my joint health is a win for me. And you can destroy the muscle!”

After squatting John moves onto pendulum squats and leg extensions. On both of these exercises he throws in high-intensity techniques to really annihilate his quads including cluster sets and loaded stretches.

Here is a more challenging Mountain Dog leg workout that you can try. Check it out:

Routine #2

  • Exercise A1: Lying leg curl, 4 sets of 8 reps**
  • Exercise B1: 45 degree leg press, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise C1: Leg extension, 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise C2: Reverse band hack squat, 5 sets of 8-12 reps****, 2 minutes rest
  • Exercise D1: Dumbbell stiff-legged deadlift, 3 sets of 8-12 reps

**Perform a rest-pause set on your last set. Train to failure, rest 20 seconds, train to failure with the same weight, rest 20 seconds, train to failure with the same weight, done!

****Use a 3-second negative phase on each rep

Here is the training video:

This is a very normal looking Mountain Dog leg workout. John usually starts his leg workouts with some type of leg curl. He likes to perform several warm up sets and then he really goes crazy on the last set with different high-intensity techniques.

For quads John uses three main exercises: the 45 degree leg press, leg extensions and reverse band hack squats. John actually supersets the leg extensions and hack squats so he performs the leg extensions, rests 10 seconds and then goes right into the hack squats.

John is using the leg extension machine to pre-exhaust his quads so he can use less weight on the hack squat and still overload his quads.

“Legs in general are going to hurt. You just have to accept that and understand the difference between good pain and bad pain and just embrace it.”

Here is another quad workout where John uses a similar superset to pump up his quads. Check it out:

Routine #3

  • Exercise A1: Lying leg curl, 4 sets of 6-8 reps**
  • Exercise B1: Safety squat bar squat, 4 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Exercise C1: Vertical leg press, 3 sets of 12-15 reps, no rest
  • Exercise C2: Sissy squat machine (holding weight at chest), 3 sets of 12-15 reps, 2 minutes rest
  • Exercise D1: Smith machine split squat, 3 x 12-15 reps

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

Here is the training video for this workout:

This workout is very similar to the previous one. John works up to 1 really hard set of 6 reps on the safety squat bar squat and then goes right into his superset with the vertical leg press and the sissy squat machine.

This is how John likes to organize his training: he performs 1 really hard set on the big barbell exercises like the squat and then pumps up the volume on other machine and isolation exercises.

Finally John finishes the workout with the smith machine split squat to stretch out his legs.

“That is such a  good feeling man! It’s such a good feeling to walk out of the gym and do something I didn’t think I could do.”

Earlier in this article I talked about how John likes to perform drop sets and iso-holds on the Bulgarian split squat.

Now let’s look at a full workout where John uses this technique. Check it out:

Routine #4

  • 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:

John famously performed this workout with IFBB pro Evan Centopani. The real highlight of this workout was the crazy drop set on split squats.

John performs 8 reps, then performs an 8-second iso-hold in a power position, then drops the weight and repeats 3 more times in a row without resting.

“The drop set, what we’re trying to do is do sets of 10. Then at the end of every set of 10 we’re doing a 10-second iso-hold and then dropping the weight.

That’s my goal with these but I have yet to do all sets of 10 reps with a 10-second iso-hold. There’s really no way for me to put into words how they felt.”

John says he’s attempted the Bulgarian split squat drop set many times but he’s never gotten 8 reps on each drop. It’s just too hard!

So why did John perform this drop set early in the workout? The answer is simple: he wanted to pre-fatigue his quads before moving onto squats and hack squats.

That way he didn’t have to use as much weight on these big compound exercises and he could protect his joints and lower back.

Sometimes John will perform lower-volume / higher-intensity leg workouts. Here is one example. Check it out:

Routine #5

  • Exercise #1: Lying leg curl, 3-4 sets of 4-12 reps**
  • Exercise #2: Machine squat, 5-6 sets of 6-8 reps**
  • Exercise #3: Machine hack squat, 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps**
  • Exercise #4: Machine leg extension, 3 sets of 10, 10, 25 reps***

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Perform 8 reps to failure, rest 20 seconds, train to failure a 2nd time, rest 20 seconds, train to failure a 3rd time, done!

***Here are John’s exact words: “These might not be 25 full reps – it’s whatever you have to do to get to 25 reps.” In other words, perform as many full range of motion reps as you can, then start busting out partials. It’s 25 total reps or you’re a Candy-Ass Nancy Boy!

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout John works up to one all-out set for each exercise.

On most exercises he uses the rest-pause method that was popularized by Dante Trudel’s DC Training program. On the last set of leg extensions he uses a modified version of the rest-pause method and gets as many reps as possible.

John believes that the legs are just one of those body parts that respond well to really high rep sets. Check it out:

“I can’t prove this with any scientific data. This is just my own personal opinion. But I think the legs just require more reps. I just think legs need more resp.

I don’t think you can just do sets of 6 on the leg press, squat or leg curl. I think we underestimate the need for repetitions on legs.

I tend to use a broader rep range when training legs.”

In all of these workouts John follows his exercise sequencing rules. He also does a great job of finding safe ways to safely perform high-intensity techniques to stimulate more muscle growth.

Conclusion

Mountain Dog Training is one of the most effective bodybuilding training programs ever invented. It works especially well for helping you build muscle while staying healthy and avoiding injuries.

If you are looking for a great back training program then I highly recommend John’s Mountain Dog back workouts. John does a great job of using novel exercises like Meadows rows and one-arm barbell rows and sequencing them properly to stay healthy.

If you have a lagging upper back then John’s Mountain Dog back workouts may be just what you need to take your training to the next level.

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

“Only when standing at the brink of destruction does man truly realize his potential.”

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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