Mountain Dog Training Splits: The Ultimate Guide!


John Meadows is one of the top bodybuilding coaches in the world today. He is also the creator of the Mountain Dog Training program.

John uses many different training splits with his world-class athletes. If you want to learn John’s favorite Mountain Dog Training splits then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: The Traditional Mountain Dog Split
  • Part 2: The Push / Pull / Legs Split
  • Part 3: Other Advanced Training Splits

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you John Meadows’ favorite training splits that he uses with his Mountain Dog Training program.

Most professional bodybuilders train each muscle group once per week using a traditional bodybuilding bro split.

They train their chest on one day, their back on one day, their shoulders on one day and so on. For example:

The Traditional Bodybuilding Bro Split

  • Day 1: Chest
  • Day 2: Back
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Shoulders
  • Day 5: Legs
  • Day 6: Arms
  • Day 7: Off

There is nothing wrong with this training split. However, John Meadows believes there are more effective ways to train if maximum muscle mass is your goal.

One of John’s favorite training splits is a modified version of the original bodybuilding bro split. John likes to train his chest and shoulders together on the same training day. For example:

The Mountain Dog Training Bro Split

  • Day 1: Legs
  • Day 2: Chest / Shoulders
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Back
  • Day 5: Arms
  • Day 6: Off
  • Day 7: Off

This is the exact training split that John used for the first half of his bodybuilding career. John says that this split works better for building big shoulders and it also gives you a little more rest during the week because of the extra rest day.

Another one of John’s favorite training splits is the classic push / pull / legs split. You train your chest / shoulders / triceps on one day, your back / biceps on another day and your quads / hamstrings / calves on the last day. For example:

The 4-Day Push / Pull / Legs Split

  • Day 1: Chest / Shoulders / Triceps
  • Day 2: Off
  • Day 3: Back / Biceps
  • Day 4: Off
  • Day 5: Quads / Hamstrings / Calves
  • Day 6: Chest / Shoulders / Triceps
  • Day 7: Off

You just keep rotating between these three types of workouts.

On week 2 you would perform a back / biceps workout on the first day, a quads / hamstrings / calves workout on the second day and so on. John likes this split because it is very simple to program and easy to recover from.

Many of his top athletes including Mr. Olympia finalist Terrance Ruffin get their best results using this split.

For some athletes John likes to use a advanced high-frequency split where you train each muscle group twice per week. For example:

John Meadows’ Advanced High Frequency Training Split

  • Day 1: Legs (heavy)
  • Day 2: Chest / shoulders (heavy)
  • Day 3: Back (heavy)
  • Day 4: Arms (heavy)
  • Day 5: Legs (pump)
  • Day 6: Chest / shoulders (pump)
  • Day 7: Back (pump)

This is the exact training split that John Meadows used when he won is IFBB pro card at the 2015 NPC Team Universe competition.

John says that this split works great for highly advanced bodybuilders with great recovery ability. He also thinks you have to nail your intra-workout nutrition to recover from this kind of training schedule.

Early in the week John uses “heavy” workouts designed to build muscle and strength. Then later in the week he performs “pump” workouts with joint-friendly movements and lighter weights.

Finally John will sometimes use other body part splits for his advanced clients. For example he will sometimes perform shoulder / tricep, chest / back or even back / shoulder workouts to bring up weaker body parts.

All of this will be covered in part 3 of this article.

I hope you found this overview of John Meadows’ favorite Mountain Dog Training splits helpful. Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: The Traditional Mountain Dog Split

John Meadows believes that the traditional bodybuilding bro-split is a great choice for bodybuilders. You can really attack each muscle group with a lot of volume and intensity because you are only training 1-2 muscle groups per day.

John prefers to use a version of this split where you train your chest and shoulders on the same day:

The Mountain Dog Training Bro Split

  • Day 1: Legs
  • Day 2: Chest / Shoulders
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Back
  • Day 5: Arms
  • Day 6: Off
  • Day 7: Off

This is a classic training split that John has used with many professional and amateur bodybuilders. John likes to mix things up and uses a ton of different exercises in his workouts. However, he does use certain strategies over and over in his workouts for each muscle group.

For example John almost always starts his leg workouts with some type of leg curl before performing squats or leg presses.

Let’s take a look at some typical Mountain Dog bro split workouts. Check it out:

Workout #1 Legs

  • 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 what John’s high-volume leg workouts usually look like.

He starts his workout with leg curls, then he performs 3 quadriceps exercises and finally he finishes the workout with some stiff-legged deadlifts to stretch out his hamstrings.

This type of high-volume workout is great when you are training each body part once per week. Here is John talking about this workout:

“We did a lot of leg curls. We finished with a cluster set. Heavy set, 6-8 reps, rest 20 seconds, repeat 2 more times. Then we did some heavy work on the leg press.

I personally went up to a heavy set of 6-8 reps and Luke did a heavy set of 20 reps.

And then we did something brutal: we did a superset with leg extensions and hack squats. We really put a stretch on our quads and went crazy on that.

And then we finished with some sets for our hamstrings. Some stiff legged deadlifts with dumbbells, really stretching the hamstrings out to finish things off.”

John says that his leg workouts are the hardest to recover from so he likes to perform them first in the week when he is fresh.

The next day John likes to train his chest and shoulders. Here is what a high-volume chest / shoulder workout might look like. Check it out:

Workout #1 Chest / Shoulders

  • Exercise #1: 30 degree incline DB press, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise #2: 30 degree incline bench press, 4 sets of 6 reps
  • Exercise #3: Cable press / fly (high pulley), 3 sets of 8-10 reps**
  • Exercise #4: 15 degree incline DB fly, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Exercise #5: V-bar dips with chain weight, 3 sets of 10-12 reps****
  • Exercise #6: 45 degree prone DB “Y” raise, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #7: Standing DB lateral raise, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #8: Bent over rear delt DB fly, 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Exercise #9: Lateral raise static hold******, 1 set of 10 seconds
  • Exercise #10: Spider crawls, 3 sets of 12-15 reps

**On your last set train to failure, then perform a 20-second static hold in the stretched position

****On your last set train to failure, then drop the chains and immediately train to failure again with just your bodyweight

******Hold the top position of a lateral raise while your training partner adds extra manual resistance

Here is the training video:

Talk about a high-volume workout! John performs 5 exercises each for his chest and shoulders.

Normally John performs about 3-4 exercises for each muscle group but on this workout John really cranked up the volume. He was training two Mr. Olympia competitors so he wanted to bust out all the stops for this workout.

In this workout John doesn’t perform any overhead pressing exercises for his shoulders. He says the front delts got plenty of work from the heavy chest pressing exercises so he just needed to finish off the side and rear delts.

“We did the heavy dumbbell press, we did the heavy shoulder saver press, we’ve done a lot of stuff that was engaging the front delt heavy.

So now we’re focused more on the side and rear delts with higher reps.”

Now let’s look at a high-volume back workout that you could perform using the Mountain Dog Training bro-split. Check it out:

Workout #3 Back

  • Exercise #1: Seated cable row (dual handles), 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise #2: Seated cable row (dual handles)**, 3 sets of 12 reps
  • Exercise #3: One-arm DB row, 3 sets of 6 reps****
  • Exercise #4: Lying kettlebell pullover, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #5: Machine chest supported row (wide / overhand grip), 3 sets of 7 reps
  • Exercise #6: 45 degree back extension (holding barbell medium grip), 3 sets of 10 reps

**Bend over so your upper body is almost parallel to the ground in the bottom position, then arch your upper body so it is vertical in the contracted position. See the video below for more details.

****Perform a double drop set on the last set.

Here is the training video:

This is a very normal looking Mountain Dog Training back workout. John likes to perform 3-5 exercises for his upper back, maybe 1-2 exercises for his rear delts and maybe 1 exercise for his lower back.

John likes to use lower back exercises like the 45 degree back extension or the reverse hyperextension on this day instead of his leg day.

For this workout he actually uses the 45 degree back extension while holding onto a barbell. Check it out:

“We just did hyperextensions with a barbell. We were using 45 pound plates so we didn’t go down all the way. I don’t think it’s safe to go down all the way and get a huge stretch on this exercise.

I think you should be really cautious on this movement. It’s really good for your lower back, glutes, hamstrings – your whole posterior chain.”

Now let’s look at one of John Meadows’ arm workouts. It’s almost impossible to show you what a “typical” Mountain Dog arm workout looks like because John is always mixing things up.

I recommend you check out my article “Mountain Dog Arm Training: The Ultimate Guide!” for more information.

Here is a simple Mountain Dog arm workout that you can use with John’s bodybuilding bro split. Check it out:

Workout #4 Arms

Superset #1

  • A1: Dual handle pushdown, 4 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • A2: Ez-bar drag curl (wide / supinated grip), 4 sets of 10 reps, 1 minute rest

Superset #2

  • B1: Machine preacher curl (narrow / semi-supinated grip), 4 sets of 6 reps**, no rest
  • B2: Machine dips, 4 sets of 8 reps, 1 minute rest

Superset #3

  • C1: 75 degree incline cable rope extensions, 4 sets of 10 reps, no rest
  • C2: One-arm DB pinwheel curls, 4 sets of 10 reps, 1 minute rest

**Your training partner applies extra manual resistance on the lowering phase of each rep. Use a 3-second lowering phase on these reps.

Here is the training video:

For this workout John uses three different antagonistic supersets. He performs one biceps exercise, then immediately performs 1 triceps exercise, then rests 1 minute and repeats the sequence.

John uses this strategy with three different exercises for his biceps and triceps. Antagonistic supersets were a favorite strategy of many legendary bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kai Greene.

John also uses some interesting high-intensity techniques during this workout.

For example he performs some accentuated eccentric sets on the preacher curl machine to really overload his biceps.

“We’re doing a machine preacher curl. But we’re loading the negative – the eccentric part. If you watch, I’m going to get extra resistance applied as I lower the weight. This generates a ton of tension in the muscle.”

John absolutely loves the Mountain Dog bro split where you train your chest and shoulders on the same training day.

He used this split for the first half of his bodybuilding career and he still trains many of his world-class bodybuilders this way. Of course it is not the only split that John uses…

Part 2: The Push / Pull / Legs Split

John Meadows is a huge fan of the classic push / pull / legs split. The basic idea is to train your chest / shoulders / triceps on one day, your back / biceps on another day and your entire lower body on a third day.

The push pull legs split is very easy to use, very easy to recover from and a great choice for bodybuilders of all levels. Many legendary bodybuilders like Ronnie Coleman used this exact split during their bodybuilding careers.

When John uses the push / pull / legs split he still follows most of his normal training rules. For example he still performs triceps pushdowns before performing skull crushers or overhead triceps extensions.

Here is a high-volume “push” workout that you can try. Check it out:

Workout #1 Push

  • Exercise #1: 30 degree incline DB press, 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise #2: 30 degree incline barbell press, 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise #3: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 1 set of 30 reps**
  • Exercise #4: Machine fly, 3 sets of 8 reps****
  • Exercise #5: Reverse pec dec, 4 sets of 20 reps
  • Exercise #6: Seated kettlebell overhead press, 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise #7: Spongy grip cable pushdown, 4 sets of 12 reps
  • Exercise #8: Lying kettlebell extension, 4 sets of 12 reps

**Perform 10 reps, rest 20 seconds, perform 10 more reps, rest 20 seconds, perform 10 more reps for a total of 30 reps

****Perform 1 half-rep in the stretched position, then 1 full range of motion rep. That counts as 1 rep. Perform 8 of these “1.5” reps. On your last set perform 8 reps, then 10 partial reps in the stretched position, then a 10-second iso-hold in the mid-range position.

Here is the training video:

Talk about a high-volume push workout! John performs 4 exercises for his chest, 2 exercises for his shoulders and 2 exercises for his triceps. He even throws in some high-intensity sets on his chest exercises for good measure.

If you look closely John is following all of his normal exercise sequencing rules for his chest, shoulders and triceps.

John performs dumbbell presses first in his chest routine before incline bench presses, he pre-fatigues his rear delts before doing any overhead pressing and he performs tricep pushdowns before doing the more difficult lying triceps extensions.

Now let’s look at a typical Mountain Dog pull workout. Check it out:

Workout #2 Pull

  • 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

This is a very normal looking Mountain Dog pull workout. John performs 5 exercises for his upper back and 2 exercises for his biceps.

John starts this workout with one of his favorite lat exercises: the one-arm barbell row.

“I started doing these before Nationals in 2002. Immediately my back got better doing these. This has always been a favorite exercise of mine.”

Next John performs lying dumbbell pullovers.

John says that he really likes to perform his pullovers in between his other upper back exercises. This gives his arms a break in between pulling exercises and gives him a chance to really isolate his lats.

“I do my dumbbell pullovers a little differently than most people. I lay on the bench instead of across it.

And also take note of how high I pull the dumbbell up. I only pull the dumbbell over my head instead of over my chest or stomach.

This helps me keep tension on my lats.”

Finally John finishes his upper back workout with some weighted hangs. This is where you just hang from a chin up bar with extra weight to stretch out your lats.”

“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.”

I already showed you how how John likes to structure his leg workouts in part 1 of this article but let’s go ahead and look at another Mountain Dog leg workout here.

After all, the leg workout is a key part of the push / pull / legs split! Check it out:

Legs Routine

  • 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.

Part 3: Other Advanced Training Splits

John Meadows sometimes uses other training splits with his athletes. Sometimes John is working with someone who needs to bring up their lagging body parts.

Other times John is doing a workout with a client and he just decides to add in some extra work for something like shoulders or arms. It all depends on how John is feeling that day.

Here is a shoulders / triceps workout that John performed. Check it out:

Workout #1 Shoulders / Triceps

  • Exercise A1: Reverse pec dec, 4 sets of 20 reps**
  • Exercise B1: Standing DB lateral raise, 3 sets of 20 reps****
  • Exercise C1: Machine high incline press, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise D1: Spider crawls, 3 sets up and down
  • Exercise E1: Cable rope pushdown, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise E2: Cable rope overhead extension (high pulley), 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise F1: Tate press, 4 sets of 10 reps

**Train to failure, then perform 5 partial reps in the stretched position, then perform a 10-second iso-hold with extra manual overpressure

****Perform 20 full range of motion reps, then perform 20 partial reps with the same weight

Here is the training video:

You used to see a lot more bodybuilders perform shoulder / tricep workouts in the 1990s. Dorian Yates loved to train muscle groups like shoulders and triceps or chest and biceps together.

Nothing has changed – this is still a great way to train. You can read about it more in my article “The Dorian Yates Training Split!

John starts this workout with some high-rep / high-intensity sets on the reverse pec dec.

“This is an exercise you can really go crazy on.

If you really want your rear delts to grow fast I want you to throw in one of these high-intensity sets every time you train rear delts.

So 20 full range of motion reps, then partial reps, then an iso-hold to finish things off.”

John says that he loves to start his shoulder workouts with rear delts and he loves to perform really, really high rep sets for them.

“I like to do higher reps for rear delts. Sets of 20, sets of 25, sets of 30. Just burn your rear delts like fire!

I know a lot of people may not agree with that, talking about muscle fiber type, but high reps on rear delts will never let you down!”

Here is another weird body part grouping workout: back and shoulders.

The truth is this was supposed to be a back workout but John decided to roll right into shoulders because he was getting a great pump in his rear delts. Check it out:

Workout #2 Back / Shoulders

  • Exercise A1: One-arm barbell row with chains, 4 sets of 8 reps**
  • Exercise B1: Cable pullover (rope handle), 4 sets of 8-12 reps, no rest
  • Exercise B2: Lying DB pullover with bands, 4 sets of 8-12 reps, 2 minutes rest
  • Exercise C1: T-bar row (wide / pronated grip), 3 sets of 8-12 reps****
  • Exercise D1: Pull up (wide / neutral grip), 3 sets of 6 reps******
  • Exercise E1: Prone rear delt DB fly, 3 set of 20-30, 30-40, 60-80 reps
  • Exercise F1: Spider crawls, 3 sets of 3 reps up and down
  • Exercise G1: Wall press, 3 sets of 10 reps

**On the last set train to failure, then drop the weight and train to failure, then drop the chains and train to failure

****Perform a double drop set on your last working set

******On your last set train to failure, then perform a 30-second iso-hold after reaching failure

Here is the training video:

There are many other ways that John likes to organize his workouts. For example John will sometimes perform chest / back workouts or even full body workouts!

However, these are some of the ones that he likes to use time and time again.

Conclusion

John Meadows uses many different training splits with his Mountain Dog Training program. He uses everything from bodybuilding bro-splits to the push / pull / legs split to a 7-days per week split where you train each body part twice per week.

I highly recommend you experiment and find the training split that works best for you.

In my experience the best way to do this is to record your workouts in a training logbook and track your progress. That way you will know right away if what you are doing is working or not.

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. When I'm not writing about some of the greatest minds in the fitness industry - including Charles Poliquin, John Meadows, Josh Bryant, Dante Trudel, Louis Simmons, and more - I can be found lifting pink dumbbells in gyms all over Panama!

Recent Posts