John Meadows is one of the most successful bodybuilding coaches in the world. He has helped countless professional and amateur bodybuilders transform their physiques and maximize their potential.
John believes the fastest way to build massive shoulders is with his Mountain Dog Training program.
If you want to build a pair of shoulders that would make Phil Heath jealous then this article is for you!
- Part 1: Mountain Dog Shoulder Exercises
- Part 2: The Best Shoulder Training Strategies
- Part 3: Sample Mountain Dog Shoulder Workouts
In this comprehensive guide I will teach you everything you need to know about how to build cannonball delts 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 shoulders is to use the right exercises, to sequence your exercises correctly and to find safe ways to perform high-intensity techniques to increase the intensity of your workouts.
Here is John giving a great overview of 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 shoulder.
I will teach you John’s favorite shoulder exercises and how he uses them to build his shoulder workouts. Then at the end of the article I will show you how John uses these upper back training principles in 6 of his Mountain Dog shoulder workouts.
Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this cutting edge information! Now let’s get down to business…
Part 1: Mountain Dog Shoulder Exercises
John Meadows trains his shoulders at least once per week using a traditional bodybuilding bro split.
Here is the exact training split that John used for most of his bodybuilding career:
The Original Mountain Dog Training Split
- Day 1: Legs
- Day 2: Chest / Shoulders
- Day 3: Back
- Day 4: Arms
John Meadows likes to train shoulders immediately after he trains chest. John says this strategy works well for a number of reasons.
First of all John loves to perform heavy compound pressing exercises like the 30 degree incline barbell bench press for his chest workouts. John says that this exercise is awesome for building your upper chest and shoulders.
John feels that rolling right into your shoulder work makes sense because your shoulders are already warmed up and pumped full of blood from your chest work.
John Meadows likes to use about 3-4 exercises for his shoulder workouts. He uses at least 1 exercise to target all three heads of the delts: the rear delts, the side delts and the front delts.
Let’s take a closer look at some of John’s favorite exercises, rep ranges and high-intensity techniques for these three parts of the shoulder.
The Best Rear Delt Exercises
- Option #1: Reverse pec dec
- Option #2: Rear delt cable fly
- Option #3: One-arm rear delt cable fly
- Option #4: Bent over rear delt dumbbell fly
- Option #5: Rear delt destroyers
- Option #5: Spider Crawl
- Option #6: Band pull-aparts
- Option #7: Rear delt band pulls
John Meadows says that most people have lagging rear delts. It’s not because the rear delts are a stubborn body part – he thinks they respond really fast once you start training them properly.
The problem is most people treat rear delts like an afterthought.
“I don’t know anybody that has rear delts that dominate their front delts. So I have no hesitation at all in telling you to start with your rear delts.”
John includes some direct rear delt work in all of his shoulder workouts. One of his favorite strategies is to perform side and rear delt isolation exercises before finishing the shoulder workout with a compound pressing exercise.
John says that performing rear delt work first in your shoulder workout is one of the best ways to bring up this muscle group.
One of John’s all-time favorite rear delt exercises is the reverse pec dec. Check it out:
The Reverse Pec Dec
John says that this exercise is fantastic for isolating your rear delts. It also works really well for performing different high-intensity techniques like drop sets, partial reps and iso-holds.
One of John’s favorite strategies is to perform ultra-high reps on the reverse pec dec. He says that the rear delts grow best on sets of 20, 30 or even 50 reps! Check it out:
I was doing the classic sets of 8, sets of 10 on my rear delts and they really suffered. It just didn’t look very good.
Eventually I had a guy that taught me, he wanted me to do higher reps. He had me do sets of 30 and above.
I started incorporating high rep sets for my rear delts. Bam! In a couple of months they looked completely different.
And my rear delts ended up being one of my best body parts. But it was because of the high reps.
Another one of John’s favorite rear delt exercises is the rear delt destroyer. Here is a video of John demonstrating this exercise:
Rear Delt Destroyers
John absolutely loves to use partial reps for his side and rear delts. John picks a weight that is about 50% heavier than normal and performs sets of 20-50 partial reps.
“Experiment with some partial reps. Heavy, shorter range of motion.
Everyone’s going to laugh at you and say you don’t know what you’re doing. But trust me, you do know what you’re doing.
You’re just finding a heavy, high-intensity way to overload your delts.”
John often performs a triple drop set on this exercise to really pump his rear delts full of blood. Another under-rated rear delt exercise is the spider crawl. Here is John demonstrating this exercise:
The spider crawl is an exercise for your rear delts and rotator cuff. John says this exercise is great because it keeps your shoulders nice and healthy.
John is right – if you are not performing spider crawls or some other exercise for your external rotators then you are setting yourself up for a shoulder injury.
“You will have no trouble feeling a burn in your shoulders when you do these.”
Isolating the rear delts is a huge part of John Meadows’ Mountain Dog shoulder workouts. If you want to train like John then you need to start performing some rear delt isolation work 1st or 2nd in most of your shoulder workouts.
Of course John is also a big fan of isolation exercises for the side delts. Here are some of his favorites:
The Best Side Delt Exercises
- Option #1: Prone DB “Y” raise
- Option #2: Dumbbell lateral raise
- Option #3: Dumbbell partial lateral raise
- Option #4: 6 ways
- Option #5: Supine cable lateral raise
- Option #6: Cable upright row
- Option #7: Machine lateral raise (arms bent)
- Option #8: Machine lateral raise (arms straight)
As you can see John uses a huge variety of isolation exercises for his side delts. One of his new favorite side delt exercises is the prone Y raise. Check it out:
Prone Y Raise
John says this exercise mostly works your side and front delts but your rear delts also get some stimulation. Check it out:
“It’s not really a straight front delt or side delt exercise. It’s more of a combo exercise.
I like it because it’s hard to cheat and you get a really good contraction at the top. I really, really enjoy these.”
John also really likes to perform heavy dumbbell lateral raises for his side delts. Here is a perfect demonstration of this exercise:
Dumbbell Partial Lateral Raise
John says that the side delts respond well to really, really high reps with a heavy weight.
“I also really like heavy partial laterals for shoulders. If you think about dumbbell laterals, what I would do is I would go up significantly.
If you use 30s for your side laterals, then maybe you use 45s for your partial laterals. But the way you do your partial laterals is key. I don’t want your arms to be locked, a little bit of bend is OK.
And you’re just coming up about 6 inches. This looks easy but imagine you’re using 15-20 pounds more than you usually use! You’re also going to use high reps.
You’re using high reps for a partial range of motion and the burn is going to be insane. These partials done with a heavy weight are very productive.”
John also really likes to use various machine exercises to train the delts. One of his favorite high-intensity strategies is to perform manual eccentric reps using the lateral raise machine. Check it out:
Machine Lateral Raise (Arms Bent)
Talk about an intense set! John is lifting the weight up on his own. Then his training partner is pressing down on the machine handles to overload the lowering phase of the exercise. This is an absolutely brutal way to overload your side delts.
John says that you only need to perform one set of eccentric training per workout to get the full benefit of this technique. John does like to include some direct front delt work in his workouts.
This can be in the form of a front delt isolation exercise or an overhead pressing movement. However, John usually likes to perform his front delt work at the end of his workout after his rear and side delts are pumped full of blood.
Here are some of John’s favorite front delt exercises:
The Best Front Delt Exercises
- Option #1: Seated dumbbell overhead press
- Option #2: Scrape the rack press
- Option #3: Smith machine overhead press
- Option #4: Machine overhead press
- Option #5: Incline dumbbell raise
- Option #6: Barbell front raise
- Option #7: Seated plate raise
- Option #8: Over and back band raises
Once again John uses a huge variety of exercises for his front delts. The scrape the rack press is a staple exercise in John’s Mountain Dog shoulder workouts.
Here is a perfect video demonstration of this exercise:
Scrape The Rack Press
The scrape the rack press is almost like a hybrid between a barbell overhead press and an incline barbell press. You are pressing the weight up and forwards at the same time.
John says that this exercise gives you a crazy contraction in your delts without bothering your joints.
“This is a unique exercise. I’m pushing the weight up against the wall. I do these nice and slow. They just feel really good on my shoulders. I never have any shoulder pain after doing these.”
John also likes to use isolation exercises to train the front delts. He almost never performs 2 front delt exercises in one of his Mountain Dog shoulder workouts so usually you are going to use a compound pressing exercise or an isolation exercise.
One of John’s favorite front delt isolation exercises is the incline dumbbell raise. Check it out:
Incline Dumbbell Raise
This exercise is unique from other front delt isolation exercises because it places your front delts under a huge loaded stretch at the start of the exercise. Check it out:
“You don’t need to train your front delts a lot as long as you’re doing plenty of incline barbell presses.
But this exercise gives you a nice range of motion. By laying down on an incline bench you get a really good, safe stretch on your front delts.”
The bottom line is John Meadows uses a combination of rear, side and front delt exercises in his Mountain Dog shoulder workouts.
He also uses plenty of high-intensity techniques like ultra-high-rep sets, drop sets, partial reps, iso-holds and even eccentric reps. Now let’s look at some sample Mountain Dog shoulder workouts!
Part 2: Sample Mountain Dog Shoulder Workouts
John Meadows likes to train his shoulders and chest together on the same training day. He usually performs 4 chest exercises followed by 3 shoulder exercises. For example:
Chest / Shoulder Workout Template
- Exercise #1: Chest
- Exercise #2: Chest
- Exercise #3: Chest
- Exercise #4: Chest
- Exercise #5: Shoulders
- Exercise #6: Shoulders
- Exercise #7: Shoulders
We are just going to look at some of John’s shoulder workouts. In a true Mountain Dog training program you would train your chest before your shoulders so keep that in mind.
Here is a simple beginner-friendly shoulder workout that you can try. Check it out:
Shoulder Workout #1
- Exercise #1: Lean-away DB lateral raise, 4 sets of 8-12 reps
- Exercise #2: 30 degree prone rear delt DB swings, 4 sets of 20-25 reps
- Exercise #3: Bradford press, 4 sets of 8 reps
- Exercise #4: Seated plate front raise, 4 sets of 8-12 reps
This is a very simple Mountain Dog shoulder workout. John performs 4 exercise total – 1 isolation exercise for his side, rear and front delts plus one overhead pressing exercise.
John throws in some higher-reps on the rear delt isolation exercise but otherwise the rep ranges are pretty typical.
For his more advanced bodybuilders John likes to throw in different high-intensity techniques to increase the intensity of the workout.
Here is a more advanced Mountain Dog shoulder workout that you can try. Check it out:
Shoulder Workout #2
- Exercise #1: Reverse pec dec, 4 sets of 15-20 reps**
- Exercise #2: Machine lateral raise, 4 sets of 20 reps***
- Exercise #3: Scrape the rack press, 4 sets of 8-12 reps
- Exercise #4: 60 degree prone DB “Y” raise, 2 sets of 8-12 reps
**On the last set train to failure, then perform 5 partial reps in the stretched position, then perform a 10-second iso-hold in the stretched position
***On the last set perform 20 partial reps to failure in the stretched position, then lighten the weight and perform 10 partial reps to failure in the top position of the exercise.
Here is the training video:
Talk about an intense workout! Once again John performs 4 total exercises: 1 overhead pressing movement and 3 isolation exercises for his rear, side and front delts.
Here is John talking about the partial reps from this routine:
“A lot of people say Oh, partial reps are a waste. No they’re not! It’s additional tension, additional blood flow, additional stress on the muscle as long as you get your full range of motion reps in.”
I highly recommend you watch the full training video to understand how to perform these high-intensity sets. Another one of John’s favorite shoulder training strategies is supersets.
This is where you perform 2 shoulder exercises in a row with no rest. Check it out:
Shoulder Workout #3
- Exercise A1: Standing partial DB lateral raise, 3 sets of 30 reps, 1 minute rest
- Exercise B1: 30 degree prone rear delt fly, 3 sets of 30 reps, 2 minutes rest
- Exercise C1: Power squat overhead press, 3 sets of 20 reps, 10 seconds rest
- Exercise C2: Standing DB lateral raise, 3 sets of 10 reps, 2 minutes rest
Here is the training video:
This is another typical Mountain Dog shoulder workout. John starts the workout with some very high rep sets for his side and rear delts. Once again John is using partial range of motion reps for these two exercises.
Then to finish the workout he supersets a machine overhead press with standing dumbbell lateral raises.
This type of superset increases the time under tension of your set and really jacks up the metabolic stress on your shoulders. Of course high reps have their drawbacks.
John says the biggest problem with them is they are very difficult from a psychological perspective. Most people can only handle ultra-high-rep shoulder work for a few workouts in a row. Check it out:
“It’s just not practical to do high reps all the time. Most people don’t have the pain tolerance to go through with it. And high reps to failure puts a huge strain on your central nervous system.”
Let’s wrap things up by looking at some crazy superset and giant set Mountain Dog shoulder workouts.
Here is a workout featuring three supersets for your rear, side and front delts. Check it out:
Shoulder Workout #5
- Exercise A1: Dual handle rear delt cable fly, 3 sets of 15 reps**, no rest
- Exercise A2: Bent over partial rear delt DB fly, 3 sets of 15 reps, 2 minutes rest
- Exercise B1: Standing partial DB lateral raise***, 3 sets of 15 reps, no rest
- Exercise B2: Standing partial DB lateral raise****, 3 sets of 12 reps, 2 minutes rest
- Exercise C1: Seated DB overhead press, 3 sets of 10-12 reps, no rest
- Exercise C2: Seated DB front raise, 3 sets of 10-12 reps, 2 minutes rest
**Perform 15 full range of motion reps, then 5 partial reps in the stretched position
***Perform through the bottom half of the range of motion only
****Perform through the top half of the range of motion only
Here is the training video:
This is a very nasty workout! You are going to perform 3 different supersets. The first superset is for your rear delts, the second superset is for your side delts and the third superset is for your front delts.
John also throws in some high-rep sets and his favorite partial range of motion reps.
Every once in a while John will use giant sets during his shoulder workouts. A giant set is when you perform 4 exercises in a row for the same body part with only 10 seconds rest in between sets. Check it out:
Shoulder Workout #6
- Exercise A1: Prone DB row (elbows flared out), 4 sets of 8-10 reps, 10 seconds rest
- Exercise A2: Seated machine lateral raise, 4 sets of 8-10 reps, 10 seconds rest
- Exercise A3: Reverse pec dec, 4 sets of 8-10 reps,10 seconds rest
- Exercise A4: Seated machine overhead press, 4 sets of 8-10 reps, 2 minutes rest
Here is the training video:
This is John’s favorite way to organize a giant sets shoulder workout. He performs different isolation exercises for the rear / side delts and only performs his overhead pressing exercise at the end of the circuit when his shoulders are already fatigued.
John Meadows says that your shoulders will grow just as fast training this way but you will dramatically reduce your risk of injury.
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 shoulder training program then I highly recommend John’s Mountain Dog back workouts. John does a great job of using novel exercises like rear delt destroyer sets, partial lateral raises and scrape the rack presses.
He also likes to sequence these exercises so you can make progress while keeping your shoulders healthy.
If you have lagging shoulders 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!
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...