What’s the best training program to build muscle? I get this question all the time.
If you have an “old-school” mindset and really love to train hard then John Meadows’ Mountain Dog Training program is one of your best options. It has worked for thousands of bodybuilders and it will work for you too!
- Part 1: Exercise Sequence
- Part 2: Training Splits
- Part 3: Chest / Shoulders
- Part 4: Legs
- Part 5: Back
- Part 6: Arms
In this comprehensive guide I will teach you everything you need to know about how to build muscle with the Mountain Dog Training program.
Mountain Dog Training is a high-volume bodybuilding training program invented by IFBB pro John Meadows. John is a professional bodybuilder and one of the brightest minds in the fitness industry. His Mountain Dog Training program is designed to do one thing: help you safely build as much muscle mass as humanly possible.
Here is a great video by John Meadows summarizing the Mountain Dog training style:
We know from research and real-world experience that there are many different ways to make a muscle grow.
Some training programs like DC Training and Dorian Yates’ “Blood And Guts” training focus on progressive overload and post-failure training techniques like rest-pause sets and forced reps. Other programs like Milos Sarcev’s giant sets workouts focus on hitting a muscle from many different angles and getting a huge pump.
All of these programs can be extremely effective. However, they don’t take advantage of all of the different mechanisms for muscle growth.
The thing that makes Mountain Dog Training unique is John takes all the different mechanisms for muscle growth and blends them together into a program to help you safely build as much muscle as possible.
Here are just some of the muscle-building strategies that John Meadows uses in his workouts:
- Unique exercise sequences to enhance your mind-muscle connection and keep your joints healthy
- Novel exercises including Meadows rows, stretch pulldowns and exercises with bands and chains to overload your muscles in completely new ways
- High-intensity training methods like drop sets, static holds and partials to maximize muscle damage and metabolic fatigue
- “Pump workouts” that enhance your recovery and increase your training frequency
- “Challenge” sets that push your muscles and your mind to their absolute limits
And much, much more. In this comprehensive guide I will teach you everything you need to know about how to build as much muscle as possible with the Mountain Dog program.
First we will cover some general topics like John’s 4-phase exercise sequence, his favourite high-intensity training methods and Mountain Dog approved training splits.
Then we will look at Mountain Dog style workouts for every body part. We will cover John’s general philosophy for each body part followed by 2 complete workouts for every muscle group.
After reading this article you will be ready to design your own Mountain Dog style workouts to become the bodybuilder you were always meant to be!
Note: if you have any trouble reading the routines presented here then check out this article on how to read a training program. Now let’s get down to business…
Part 1: Exercise Sequence
Mountain Dog Training is designed to keep you as healthy as possible while building as much muscle mass as possible.
In order to do this John Meadows breaks up his workouts into four separate phases:
- Phase #1: Pre-Pump Activation Phase
- Phase #2: Explosive Phase
- Phase #3: Pump Phase
- Phase #4: Stretch Phase
Now let’s take a closer look at the 4 phases of Mountain Dog Training. Check it out:
Phase #1: Pre-Pump / Activation Phase
One of the key differences between Mountain Dog Training and most other bodybuilding programs is that you almost never perform the big, compound exercises first in your routine.
John Meadows loves exercises like bench presses and deadlifts for building muscle. These exercises recruit a ton of muscle fibers and are great for building muscle. Unfortunately they are also very tough on your connective tissue like your joints, ligaments and connective tissue.
Instead John likes to start his workouts with a joint-friendly exercise that feels really good on your connective tissue.
This should be an uncomplicated exercise where you have a great mind-muscle connection and you can really feel the target muscle working. If you can get a good squeeze or a strong contraction in the shortened position then that is even better.
A perfect example of a pre-pump / activation exercise would be a cable pushdown for triceps. For example:
Why is this a perfect pre-pump / activation exercise for the triceps? It’s simple: the cable pushdown gives you a great contraction in the triceps and let’s you establish that mind-muscle connection with the muscle. It also gives you a chance to start driving a ton of blood into the muscle.
However, unlike other triceps exercises like skull crushers the cable pushdown is very easy on your elbows.
The powerlifting coach Josh Bryant once tore his triceps tendon right off the bone trying to perform skull crushers with 330 pounds. The bodybuilding legend Dorian Yates suffered a similar injury to his triceps tendon on skull crushers.
If you start your triceps workout with cable pushdowns then you don’t have to worry about this issue.
Of course the pre-pump / activation exercise doesn’t have to be an isolation exercise. In many cases John recommends against it. One of John’s favourite exercises to start off a chest workout is the incline dumbbell press. For example:
Most trainees are able to get a really good contraction in their chest using dumbbell presses. The dumbbells allow for a more natural movement pattern so they are much easier on your shoulders and pec tendons than barbell presses.
As a general rule of thumb John doesn’t like to use any high-intensity training techniques during the pre-pump / activation phase. He skips the crazy stuff like drop sets, partials, static holds etc. These are usually saved for later in the workout.
A good rule of thumb for phase #1 is to perform 4 working sets of 8-12 reps with the last 1-2 sets taken just shy of failure.
Of course there are exceptions. John designs some of his programs with less training volume and more high-intensity bodybuilding techniques. In that case you may start off your workout with 1-2 sets of beyond-failure training like drop sets etc.
Phase #2: Explosive Phase
This is where things get really exciting! In phase 2 you are going to perform a big compound exercise to really overload the muscle and recruit a lot of muscle fibers. You want to use what Charles Poliquin might call a “most bang for your buck” exercise.
A perfect example would be a squat or leg press for your quadriceps. Here is John Meadows demonstrating the safety squat bar squat:
John normally starts off his leg workouts with some type of leg curl to activate and drive blood into the hamstrings. He really believes that this is a great way to bring up your hamstrings and keep your knees healthy. However, once his legs are warmed up he moves onto the more “meat and potatoes” exercises like squats and leg presses.
During the explosive phase you are going to train in the lower rep ranges. John is a big fan of sets of 5-6 reps for phase #2. He also really wants you to train these exercises explosively.
In other words you would lower the weight under control and then really explode the weight up to lockout on every rep. Research shows that these explosive reps actually help you to recruit more fast-twitch muscle fibers which is great for boosting hypertrophy.
Just take a look at John Meadows performing the incline bench press during the explosive phase of his chest workout:
Talk about an explosive set! This is exactly what your phase 2 sets should look like. You explode the weight up to lockout while maintaining picture-perfect form so you keep all the tension on the working muscle.
So how hard should you train on these movements? John says that you should train about 1-rep shy of failure on your last 1-2 working sets. There’s no need to go all the way to failure on the big barbell exercises. If you do that you are just asking for trouble.
Phase #3: Supramaximal Pump Phase
Every bodybuilder loves the feeling of a great pump in the gym. Arnold Schwarzenegger once said that the pump is the best feeling you can have with your clothes on. It’s hard to argue with Arnold!
During phase 3 of your Mountain Dog workout John wants you to really focus on getting a huge pump in your working muscle. For years bodybuilders have said that getting a great pump in the gym is one of the best ways to train for muscle growth.
The scientific research is slowly showing that these old-school bodybuilders were right!
When you get a great pump your muscles cells start to swell up. This actually threatens the integrity of the cell walls and can trigger muscle hypertrophy through an increase in protein synthesis.
During the supramaximal pump phase John wants you to focus on an exercise where you have a great mind-muscle connection and you can really drive a lot of blood into the muscle with some strong contractions.
John loves to use high-intensity training techniques like drop sets, partial reps and iso-holds during this phase. Here is John performing drop sets and iso-holds on the Bulgarian split squat. Check it out:
Talk about a brutal set! John is performing a triple drop set with iso-holds after each attempt Here is the official protocol:
- Perform 10 reps plus a 10-second iso-hold, then drop the weight
- Perform 10 reps plus a 10-second iso-hold, then drop the weight
- Perform 10 reps plus a 10-second iso-hold, then drop the weight
- Perform 10 reps plus a 10-second iso-hold, done!
Now THAT is a high-intensity set! John likes to perform just one of these high-intensity sets per exercise in the pump phase of his workout. If you can perform more than one of these sets in your workout then you aren’t training hard enough or you aren’t human!
John loves to use drop sets and iso-holds during the pump phase but these aren’t his only strategies. He also likes to use supersets, tri-sets and giant sets to push a lot of blood into the working muscle.
Here is a great tri-set for your chest that you may want to try. Check it out:
My pecs are cramping just from watching that video! The bodybuilder is performing a tri-set with three different exercises:
- Machine flys
- Flat cable presses
- Decline hammer strength presses with band tension
For this tri-set John really wanted three exercises that overloaded the chest in the shortened or contracted position. John has many different ways that he performs high-intensity sets in phase 3 of his Mountain Dog workouts. I will cover more of these strategies in the rest of this guide.
Phase #4: Stretch Phase
Last but not least we have the stretch phase. John Meadows loves to finish off his workouts with an exercise that places the muscle in a deep loaded stretch. Loaded stretches were popularized in the bodybuilding world thanks to Dante Trudel and his DC Training program.
Dante was a huge believer in using loaded stretches to build tissue as quickly as possible. This isn’t just bro-science though: there is a ton of research showing that loaded stretches can be used to stimulate muscle growth.
You can check out my article “Loaded Stretching: The Ultimate Guide!” for more information.
John believes that the best time to use loaded stretches is at the end of your workout when your muscle is really pumped up and filled with blood. Let’s look at some sample exercises. One of the best exercises you can use to stretch out the hamstrings is the stiff-legged deadlift. Check it out:
If you have ever performed a stiff-legged deadlift with perfect form then you know how effective this exercise is for training the hamstrings. The stretch you get on your hamstrings in the bottom position is insane!
If you have lagging hamstrings then this might be the single most important exercise for you to perform in your lower body workouts. Other great hamstrings exercise for phase 4 of your lower body workout include dumbbell stiff-legged deadlifts and glute ham raises.
Of course it is just as important to perform stretch exercises for your upper body as it is your lower body. One of John’s favourite stretch exercises for the chest is stretch push ups.
Here is John performing a superset with dips and stretch push ups. Check it out:
The stretch push up is a very interesting exercise. John does a great job of maintaining the proper mechanical position with his chest pushed out and his shoulder blades pulled back throughout the entire range of motion.
This is the right mechanical position for all chest exercises but it is especially important during your phase 4 stretch exercise.
John also has a TON of tricks up his sleeve for putting the lats under a deep, loaded stretch. He has used everything from weighted hangs from pull up bars to novel exercises to stretch out the lats. One of John’s favourite techniques is called the “stretch pull down.”
To perform the stretch pull down your training partner will add manual resistance to the eccentric range to make the exercise harder. You can click right here to watch a video of John Meadows applying extra manual resistance on lat pulldowns to really stretch out the lats on every rep.
If you perform this exercise correctly then you will have a HUGE stretch on your lats in the top position of the exercise. This is a great way to overload your lats and add inches to your “back width.”
John has a ton of other tricks up his sleeve for putting every muscle group into a deep loaded stretch. We will explore more of these ideas in parts 3-6 of this guide.
Part 2: Training Splits
John Meadows uses a TON of different training splits with his bodybuilding clients. This is a sign of a great coach. Some bodybuilders get their best results absolutely destroying a muscle group once per week. Other bodybuilders make optimal progress using a higher-frequency approach.
Here are some of John’s favourite Mountain Dog Training splits:
- The original 4 days per week split
- The high-frequency 7 day split
- The 4 day push / pull / legs split
- Body part specialization splits
Now let’s take a closer look at each of these training splits:
The Original 4 Days Per Week Split
For many years John Meadows trained himself and most of his trainees using a classic 4 days per week bodybuilding split:
- Monday: Legs
- Tuesday: Chest / Shoulders
- Thursday: Back
- Friday: Arms
You can train on any 4 days of the week as long as you do not train more than 2 days in a row. This split is a great option for advanced bodybuilders or anyone who really likes to “bomb and blitz” a muscle group once per week with a lot of volume and intensity.
Actually this is the exact training split that John Meadows used to compete as a national-level bodybuilder in the 1990s and 2000’s.
The biggest drawback to this training split is you only get to train each muscle group once per week. Many trainees need to train muscle groups more often in order to make optimal progress. In that case you may want to try one of John’s higher-frequency splits.
The High-Frequency 7 Day Split
In the year 2013 John Meadows began experimenting with intra-workout protein and carbohydrate supplements as a way to speed up his recovery ability. John couldn’t believe the results: he wasn’t getting sore anymore! In other words his recovery ability shot through the roof!
John began experimenting with higher-frequency training splits as a way to build muscle faster. The experiment worked: John added over 10 pounds stage weight (aka muscle tissue) in less than a year! The difference in his physique was night-and-day.
One of John’s favorite high-frequency training strategies is to train each body part twice per week using a 7-day split. Check it out:
- Monday: Chest / Shoulders
- Tuesday: Legs
- Wednesday: Back / Biceps
- Thursday: Arms
- Friday: Chest / Shoulders (Pump)
- Saturday: Legs (Pump)
- Sunday: Back (Pump)
For this training split John divides his workouts into “base” workouts and “pump” workouts. The base workouts are your normal Mountain Dog style workouts with lots of volume and intensity. The pump workouts are a little different.
John uses joint-friendly exercises and higher rep ranges to stimulate hypertrophy without beating up your body too much. John believes that these pump-style workouts have a synergistic effect on muscle growth when combined with his heavier base workouts.
John trains a lot of competitive bodybuilders with this split in the last 3-4 months leading up to their competition. It is very hard to recover from so most of John’s clients don’t train this way year-round.
The 4 Day Push / Pull / Legs Split
Another great training split that John is using more and more with his clients is the modern 4 day push / pull / legs split. The push / pull / legs split divides your body into three separate training days.
On the push day you train your chest, shoulders and triceps. On the pull day you train your back and biceps. Finally on the legs day you train your quads, hamstrings and calves. This is a great way to minimize overlap between muscle groups and maximize your recovery ability.
John really likes the 4 days per week push / pull / legs split lets you train each muscle group once every 4-6 days. This “moderate” training frequency for many bodybuilders.
The 4 day push / pull / legs split can be a little tricky because you don’t train the same body parts on the same days every week. Instead your workouts rotate each training day. Here is what your workouts might look like over a 3-week period:
- Monday: Back / Biceps
- Tuesday: Chest / Shoulder / Triceps
- Thursday: Quads / Hams / Calves
- Friday: Back / Biceps
- Monday: Chest / Shoulder / Triceps
- Tuesday: Quads / Hams / Calves
- Thursday: Back / Biceps
- Friday: Chest / Shoulder / Triceps
- Monday: Quads / Hams / Calves
- Tuesday: Chest / Shoulder / Triceps
- Thursday: Back / Biceps
- Friday: Quads / Hams / Calves
This is an awesome split to use if you want to train muscle groups with more frequency but don’t have the recovery ability to handle some of John’s ultra-high frequency programs.
Body Part Specialization Splits
When a bodybuilder comes to John Meadows with a weaker body part he often puts them on a special training split.
One of John’s favourite strategies to use a 5 or 6 day training split where your weaker body parts are trained twice per week. All of your stronger body parts would be trained the usual once per week. For example here is a Mountain Dog training split you might use if you have a lagging upper back:
- Monday: Back
- Tuesday: Chest / Shoulders
- Wednesday: Legs
- Thursday: Off
- Friday: Back
- Saturday: Arms
- Sunday: Off
As you can see the upper back is trained twice per week while every other muscle group is trained once per week. You might want to perform one upper back “base” workout and one upper back “pump” workout each week to prevent overtraining.
On your “pump” workout you could focus on exercises that are easier on your lower back like lat pulldowns, chest supported rows etc.
This is a great strategy to hit a weaker body part with extra volume / frequency without overtraining your body.
Part 3: Chest / Shoulders
Now we’re getting to the good stuff! Let’s kick the rest of this guide off with a discussion on Mountain Dog style chest / shoulder workouts.
First I’m going to teach you some of John’s favourite Mountain Dog training strategies for building huge pecs and shoulders. Then I’ll walk you through a couple of typical Mountain Dog style chest / shoulder workouts.
John almost always recommends bodybuilders train their chest and shoulders together on the same day. One of the hardest parts about building a huge chest is just staying injury free. So many top bodybuilders have either torn their pec or injured their rotator cuff while training heavy on the bench press or incline bench press.
This is where John’s patented 4-phase exercise sequence comes into play! John wants you to train the big barbell exercises like incline bench presses and flat bench presses. However, unlike most bodybuilding coaches he wants you to perform them second or third in your routine!
Here is what a typical Mountain Dog style chest workout might look like:
Mountain Dog Chest Training Template
Exercise #1: Any joint-friendly compound exercise
- Flat / incline dumbbell presses, flat / incline machine presses (hammer strength, cybex, freemotion etc.)
Exercise #2: Any compound chest exercise where you can be explosive
- Incline / flat bench press, Incline / flat smith machine, possibly dumbbell presses or other machine presses
Exercise #3: Any compound chest exercise where you get a great pump
- Dumbbell presses, machine presses, dips, cable exercises, possibly barbell or smith machine presses
Exercise #4: Any exercise where you get a great stretch on your chest
- Machine flyes, cable flys, dumbbell flys, stretch push ups, dips, any exercise where you get a huge stretch
John almost always starts off his chest workout with some sort of dumbbell press or machine press. These are joint-friendly exercises where you can establish a really good mind-muscle connection with your chest.
Normally John avoids high-intensity methods like drop sets, partials etc. on his first exercise but he does sometimes use them here.
The second exercise is usually a big compound exercise like the incline bench press or incline smith machine press. Sometimes John will perform a dumbbell or machine movement here as well.
This is the “explosive” phase where you lift the weight as explosively as possible while maintaining good form. As a general rule of thumb you will work up to a heavy set of 6 reps performed just shy of failure.
The third and fourth exercises should be more joint friendly exercises where you can get a great pump and a big stretch on your chest. Great examples include all forms of machine exercises, flies, dips, stretch push ups etc.
Of course this is just a basic template. John Meadows is very creative and is always coming up with new ideas. Sometimes John only performs 3 total exercises by combining the “pump” exercise and “stretch” exercise into one movement / phase.
Other times John will perform supersets, tri-sets or even giant sets during the third or fourth phase of his workout to really drive a lot of blood into his chest and thrash as many muscle fibers as possible.
After training chest John transitions right into his shoulder workout. This works well because John uses a lot of incline pressing movements which also work the shoulders very hard. On a typical day John uses about 3 exercises to train his shoulders.
Here is what a typical Mountain Dog style shoulder workout might look like:
Mountain Dog Shoulder Training Template
Exercise #1: Rear delt isolation or compound exercise
- Machines reverse flys, cables reverse flys, dumbbell reverse flys, dumbbell “hang and swings”, cable face pulls, Reeves rows, etc.
Exercise #2: Side delt isolation or compound exercise
- Machine lateral raise, cable lateral raise, dumbbell lateral raise, upright row variations, 60 degree incline “Y” dumbbell raise, etc.
Exercise #3: Overhead pressing exercise
- Dumbbell overhead press, barbell overhead press, smith machine overhead press, hammer strength overhead press etc.
John almost always starts off his shoulder workouts with some type of rear delt exercise. John believes most bodybuilders have underdeveloped rear delts so he really prioritizes them in his Mountain Dog shoulder workouts.
John believes the rear delts respond best to sets in the 10-30 rep range and high-intensity techniques that increase the time under tension such as drop sets and partials.
After hitting the rear delts John moves onto side delt isolation exercises and overhead pressing movements. Sometimes John performs overhead presses in his routines while other times he does them last – there is no set exercise order.
Remember, this is just a template. Sometimes John writes his Mountain Dog shoulder workouts with overhead presses second in his routine before the side delt exercise. Other times John completely skips overhead presses and focuses on more rear / side delt exercises or perhaps even some front raises to isolate the front delts.
Now let’s look at a couple of Mountain Dog style chest / shoulder workouts performed by the master blaster himself, John Meadows. Check it out:
Mountain Dog High-Volume Chest / Shoulder Workout
- A1: 30 degree incline dumbbell press, 3-4 x 8, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: 30 degree incline barbell press, 3-4 x 6, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Hammer strength flat press, 3-4 x 6-10**, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- D1: Machine pullover (narrow grip)****, 3-4 x 15-20, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- E1: cable high row (medium / neutral grip), 3 x 10-15, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- F1: Iso-lateral seated cable rear delt fly, 3 x 10-15, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- G1: standing DB lateral raise, 3 x 10-15, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- H1: Standing ez-bar front raise, 3 x 10-15, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
**Perform 3-4 progressively heavier sets of 6-10 reps. On your last set perform a double drop set. Hold the weight in the stretched position while your training partner is dropping the weight in between each attempt. Your chest will be on fire during these static stretches!
****Push your hands in together throughout the entire range of motion to increase the tension on your pecs. It should “feel” like you are pushing your hands together as you would on a pec-dec isolation exercise.
You can click right here to watch John Meadows perform this chest / shoulders workout.
This is a normal Mountain Dog style high-volume chest / shoulder workout.
John starts off his workout with two of his favourite chest exercises: incline dumbbell presses and incline barbell presses. On these exercises John works his way up to a really heavy set of 6-8 reps performed just shy of failure.
The third exercise is where John really goes crazy and “busts out all the stops.” John uses a flat machine press where you are laying on your back.
John performs a brutal double drop set on his last set. He performs 6 reps to failure, pauses in the stretched position while his partner drops the wight, performs 7 reps to failure, pauses in the stretched position again while his partner drops the weight, then reps it out one last time to failure. Ouch!
Finally John finishes his workout with a machine pullover. This is a bit of an unusual exercise for “phase 4” of a Mountain Dog chest workout but John finds a way to make it work.
He has you squeeze your hands together on the machine to better activate your chest throughout the range of motion.
For the second half of the routine John performs 4 different exercises to isolate all 3 heads of the deltoids. These exercises are performed for moderate to high reps without any high-intensity training techniques.
Now let’s take a look at a high-intensity Mountain Dog chest workout. Check it out:
Mountain Dog High-Intensity Chest / Shoulder Workout
- A1: Hammer strength flat press, 4 x 8**, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Hammer strength incline press, 4 x 6, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Supine machine fly, 3 x 10-15***, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- D1: Bent-over rear delt DB fly, 3 x 30, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- E1: Prone 60 degree “Y” DB raise, 3 x 10-12, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- F1: Standing smith military press, 3 x 10-12****, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
**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!
***Perform 10-15 reps to failure, immediately followed by 10 partial reps in the stretched position, immediately followed by an all-out isometric hold performed to failure in a “power position” (have your training partner help you into the power position).
****Perform a double-drop set on your last set. Each attempt should be performed to failure or just shy of failure.
You can click right here to watch John Meadows perform this chest / shoulder workout.
Talk about a high-intensity chest / shoulder workout! John Meadows performed this workout while traveling with Steve Kuclo, one of the top bodybuilders in the world.
John starts off this workout with 2 types of machine presses. John was training in a gym with some new pieces of equipment that he just had to try so he took a break from the dumbbell and barbell presses.
On the first exercise John performs a DC-style rest-pause set on his last working set. This must have brought back old memories for Steve Kuclo as he used to use the DC Training system with rest-pause sets when he was a national-level amateur bodybuilder.
On the second exercise John worked up to a heavy set of 6 reps just like he would in any other chest workout.
Finally John busts out the high-intensity training techniques for the machine fly exercise. John performs 10 reps to failure, followed immediately by 10 partial reps in the stretched position, followed immediately by an all-out isometric hold performed to complete muscular failure.
My chest is cramping just typing this!
The second half of the workout is a little less exciting but John make sure to get some quality shoulder work in. John finishes the workout with a drop set on the smith machine military press with 3-second negatives on every rep.
If you want to blow up your chest and shoulders then give these training strategies a shot!
Part 4: Legs
If there is one muscle group that John Meadows is known for it is his legs. John’s legs are absolutely enormous! Any bodybuilder worth his salt will tell you that building big legs is an incredibly painful process.
You really need to have a high pain threshold if you want to build some “tree-trunk” legs. I can’t give you the mental toughness you need to train all-out on leg day. However, I can teach you how to design some unbelievably effective Mountain Dog style leg workouts.
One of the hardest parts about building big legs is just staying injury free over a long period of time. So many bodybuilders screw up their knees to the point where they can’t train legs hard anymore.
John designs his Mountain Dog leg workouts so that you can train hard while minimizing the aches and pains that come with training your legs hard.
Here is a basic template for how John organizes his leg workouts:
Mountain Dog Quads / Hamstrings Training Template
Exercise #1: Any leg curl machine
- Lying leg curls, seated leg curls, kneeling leg curls)
Exercises #2-4: Any good quadriceps exercises
- Squats, leg presses, hack squats, lunges, split squats, leg extensions etc.
Exercise #5: Any hamstrings “stretch” exercise
- Stiff-legged deadlifts, dumbbell stiff-legged deadlifts, T-bar stiff-legged deadlifts, glute-ham raises, etc.
John almost always starts off his leg workouts with some type of leg curl.
John found over the years that leg curls do a great job of warming up your knees and establishing a mind-muscle connection with your hamstrings. They also make your knees feel more stable during big quadriceps exercises like squats and hack squats.
The second phase of John’s lower body workouts is dedicated to the quadriceps. John usually uses about 3 quadricep exercises. Once again it’s important to sequence your exercises correctly.
John likes to use hack squats as his third quadriceps exercise after things like leg presses and squats. Hack squats can be very hard on your knees if you are not careful so John generally places them last to keep you safe.
John is also a big fan of using bands on quadricep exercises to take some pressure off your knees in the bottom position. Banded leg presses and reverse band hack squats are staples in his programming.
Finally John finishes off his leg workouts with a hamstrings exercise that places the muscle in a deep loaded stretch. Stiff-legged deadlifts are a staple but John also uses dumbbell stiff legged deadlifts and even glute ham raises in his routines.
That wraps up this overview of Mountain Dog style leg training. Now let’s look at some sample Mountain Dog leg workouts!
Here is a high-volume leg workout that John performed with IFBB pro Evan Centopani. Check it out:
Mountain Dog High-Volume Leg Workout
- A1: Lying leg curl, 3-5 x 10-12**, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- B1: Bulgarian split squat, 3 x 10***, 1/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Spider bar squat (medium stance / heels flat), 3 x 8-10, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- D1: Reverse band hack squat, 3 x 10-12, 1/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
- E1: Machine leg extension, 1 x 15-20****, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- F1: Glute ham raise, 3 x AMRAP*****, 1/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
**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.
*****Perform 3 working sets to failure.
You can click right here to watch John Meadows and Evan Centopani perform this leg workout.
John Meadows calls this a typical high-volume Mountain Dog style leg workout. John must be a madman because this workout was enough to make Evan Centopani puke up his lunch!
John starts off his workout with his favourite hamstring machine: the lying leg curl. John performs a TON of heavy warm up sets followed by a brutal double drop set with extra partials and an isometric hold.
Next John and Evan move onto their 3-4 quadriceps exercises. The first one was a modified Bulgarian split squat. John likes to perform this movement where he holds onto a fixed object with one hand to make it easier to balance your body.
On his last set John performs a triple drop set with a 10-second iso-hold after each attempt. This is the set that made Evan puke!
Next John moves into spider bar squats and reverse band machine hack squats. Finally John finished off his quadriceps with one all-out set of leg extensions performed to failure. Of course John uses a “stretch” hamstring exercise to finish off the workout.
For this workout John used Dave Tate’s favourite glute-ham raise. John says that he is weak on this exercise so he just performs 3 all-out sets for as many reps as he can muster.
This is a very typical high-volume Mountain Dog leg workout. However, that doesn’t mean that all of his leg workouts are high-volume. Sometimes a lower-volume strategy is just what you need to stimulate growth.
Here is a high-intensity Mountain Dog leg workout that you may want to try. Check it out:
Mountain Dog High-Intensity Leg Workout
- A1: Lying leg curl, 3-4 x 4-12**, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Machine squat, 5-6 x 6-8**, 1/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Machine hack squat, 3-4 x 6-8**, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- D1: Machine leg extension, 3 x (10, 10, 25***), 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
**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!
You can click right here to watch John Meadows perform this leg workout.
For this workout John uses rest-pause sets on almost every exercises. This is a bit unusual for one of John’s Mountain Dog workouts but he is willing to do just about anything if it will make his muscles grow!
Once again John starts off his leg workout with some type of leg curl machine. For this exercise John performs lots of warm-up sets in the 4-6 range. These are just designed to get some blood moving into his hamstrings without wearing him out too much.
The final set of leg curls is where John busts out the rest-pause technique.
After training his hamstrings John moves onto three quadricep exercises: machine squats, machine hack squats and leg extensions. For the first 2 quad exercises John performs lots of warm-up sets followed by 1 all-out rest-pause set.
For the leg extensions John tells his training partners to get 25 reps or die trying! You can use full range of motion reps, partials, partner assisted reps etc. Whatever you have to do to hit that magic 25 rep target.
If you are looking for a low-volume leg workout to shock your legs into growth then this routine has your name written all over it!
Part 5: Back
For many years John Meadows’ upper back development lagged behind the rest of his body.
John used to joke that he was blessed with “amazing legs and a crappy back.” John tried all the classic mass-building exercises like chin ups, barbell rows and deadlifts but his back wouldn’t grow.
John was determined to bring up his lagging upper back and in 2004 he began to experiment with many unconventional exercises and training techniques. John’s upper back development took off and now his upper back is one of his better body parts!
John doesn’t have a set workout template for his back workouts the way he does for his chest / shoulder and lower body workouts. However, he does have some rules that he follows most of the time.
Here are John’s back training rules:
- Perform rows and pulldowns early in your workout!
- Perform deadlifts towards the end of your workout!
- Perform lower back exercises last in your workout!
Now let’s take a closer look at each of these rules.
Back Training Rule #1: Perform rows and pulldowns early in your workout!
John usually starts his Mountain Dog back workouts with different types of rows and pulldowns. These are great exercises to overload upper back muscles like your lats, traps, rhomboids and teres major.
Of course John has some unique exercises that he likes to use here. John is very fond of 1-arm rowing variations like Meadows rows and 1-arm barbell rows. You can click right here for a video of John Meadows’ 3 favorite rowing exercises.
John is also a big fan of pulldown exercises. John believes that the key to getting the most out of pulldowns is to really stretch out your lats in the top position. He often has his training partners add extra manual resistance in the stretched position to overload this part of the movement even more.
Back Training Rule #2: Perform deadlifts towards the end of your workout!
John doesn’t always perform deadlifts in his upper back workouts. However, when he does he performs them second to last! John likes to pre-fatigue his upper back with different types of rows and pulldowns before he does his heavy deadlifts.
Performing deadlifts towards the end of your workout does 2 really important things:
- It makes his upper back work much harder during deadlifts
- It forces him to use less weight which makes the exercise safer
In other words you can build more muscle mass while reducing your risk of injury by performing deadlifts towards the end of your back workout. That sounds like a good deal to me!
Of course this advice is for bodybuilders looking to build maximum muscle mass. If you are a powerlifter then what are you doing reading this article? This is for people who want to be jacked and tan, not obese with a shaved head and a goatee! I’m looking at you Mr. “perma-bulking powerlifter!”
Back Training Rule #3: Perform lower back exercises last in your workout!
John likes to finish his back workout with some type of exercise for his lower back. Some of John’s favourite lower back exercises include 45 degree back extensions and reverse hyperextensions.
It should be obvious why John performs these exercises last: otherwise your lower back can limit the amount of weight you use on rows and deadlifts!
Doing these lower back exercises is important not only for building your spinal erectors but also keeping your lower back healthy. After all, you can’t perform exercises like squats and deadlifts if your lower back is injured!
OK – you should have a pretty good idea of how John designs his Mountain Dog back workouts. Now let’s look at some sample back training routines from the madman himself!
Let’s start with a lower-volume back workout that is perfect for more beginner or intermediate level trainees. Check it out:
Mountain Dog Beginner-Friendly Back Workout
- A1: Iso-lateral machine pulldown, 4 x 10-12**, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Chest-supported row (semi-pronated grip), 4 x 8-10**, 1/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Trap bar deadlift, 3 x 5-6, 1/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
- D1: Lying DB pullover, 3 x 10, 1/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
**Perform several progressively heavier warm-up sets, followed by 1 working set to failure.
You can click right here to watch John Meadows perform this workout.
This is a super-simple back workout that almost anyone reading this article can recover from. John starts the workout with different types of pulldowns and rows to really target his lats, traps and rhomboids.
For both of these exercises John performs plenty of warm-up sets followed by 1 all-out set to failure.
After pre-fatiguing his upper back John moves onto a very fun deadlift variation: the trap bar deadlift. The trap bar deadlift is much easier on your lower back than a traditional conventional deadlift and is a great choice for a bodybuilder who just wants to get jacked.
Finally John finishes off the workout with some lying DB pullovers performed through a comfortable range.
Now let’s take a look at a more advanced Mountain Dog back workout. Check it out:
Mountain Dog Advanced Back Workout
- A1: Machine pulldown (wide / pronated grip), 3 x 15, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Seated cable row (v-handle), 4 x 8, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Bilateral bent-over kettle bell row, 4 x 8, 1/0/1/1, 120 seconds rest
- D1: Rack deadlift (just below knees), 3 x 5, 1/1/X/1, 120 seconds rest
- E1: Reverse hyperextension, 2 x 15, 1/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
You can click right here to watch John Meadows perform this workout.
Once again John follows the back training template we discussed earlier. First he focuses on different pulldowns and rowing exercises early in his workout.
Then when his upper back is pre-fatigued he busts out a deadlift exercise to really overload the rest of his upper back.
Finally he finishes the workout with a lower back exercise designed to pump an enormous amount of blood into his posterior chain and to bullet-proof his lower back from injury.
For each exercise John performs several warm up sets followed by 1-2 all out sets performed just shy of failure. Of course John has a million different ways to design an upper back workout.
Normally John focuses more on 1-arm rowing exercises like Meadows rows, 1-arm barbell rows and even 1-arm dumbbell rows. I guess you could say the only constant thing about John’s Mountain Dog upper back workouts is they are always changing!
Part 6: Arms
It’s time to discuss every bodybuilder’s favourite muscle groups to train: the biceps and triceps! John Meadows almost always trains the biceps and triceps together on their own training day.
There are 3 big reasons why John likes training the arms together:
- It maximizes the pump you get in your upper arms
- It gives you the option of performing antagonistic supersets
- It puts you in the right mindset because isolating each muscle is critical
Let’s quickly discuss these advantages of training biceps and triceps together on their own training day. First of all it really maximizes the pump you can get in your arms.
Every bodybuilder knows how important the pump is for building muscle. When you train biceps and triceps together you really maximize the cellular swelling inside your muscles because the blood never really leaves the upper arm region.
Training biceps and triceps together also gives you the option of performing antagonistic supersets. This is a fancy way of saying you go back and forth between performing 1 set for the biceps and 1 set for the triceps.
Research shows that this technique helps you recruit more motor units in your muscles and improves your muscular endurance over the course of your workout. It also gives you a crazy pump in your arms!
Finally training the arm muscles together puts you in the right mental state. John believes that you really have to isolate the biceps and triceps to maximize hypertrophy. You can’t let other muscle groups like your shoulders or back take over the exercises!
When you train these muscles together you are automatically in the right mindset throughout the entire workout.
John Meadows is extremely creative when it comes to designing his Mountain Dog arm workouts. However, there are still some rules that he follows when designing his workouts. This is especially true when it comes to training the triceps.
Here are two arm training rules that you must follow:
Arm Training Rule #1: Start your workout with safe, joint-friendly exercises for the biceps and triceps
- Biceps: all types of dumbbell curls, hammer curls, pinwheel curls, drag curls etc.
- Triceps: all types of tricep pushdowns (rope handle, pronated grip, supinated grip etc.)
Arm Training Rule #2: Finish your workout with exercises that really stretch your biceps and triceps
- Biceps: all types of preacher curls (dumbbells, ez-bar, machine etc.)
- Triceps: all types of triceps extensions (skull crushers, kettlebell exensions, JM presses, overhead rope extensions, overhead dumbbell extensions etc.)
When it comes to training the biceps John loves to use exercises like preacher curls that really stretch out the biceps. Preacher curls were a favourite of the first Mr. Olympia winner Larry Scott and many other “golden era” bodybuilders.
Just make sure that you perform towards the middle or end of your routine after you have already pre-fatigued your biceps. John believes they can be a little dangerous if you perform them first thing in your routine.
John almost always starts his Mountain Dog tricep routines with some type of cable tricep pushdown. He uses every type of tricep pushdown you can think of in his routines! He does this to pre-fatigue your triceps and keep your elbows healthy on other exercises like skull crushers.
Towards the end of his tricep routines John likes to use skull crushers, overhead triceps extensions and other movements that place the triceps in a huge stretch. John believes these can be tough on your elbows if you perform them too early in your routine.
Remember, Mountain Dog Training is all about longevity. You can’t train your triceps if you injure your elbows!
Sometimes John performs compound pressing exercises like close grip bench presses or machine dips towards the middle of his routines. This is something that John does in maybe 25-50% of his tricep workouts.
OK, that concludes our overview of Mountain Dog arm training. Now let’s look at some sample routines!
Here is a good medium-volume Mountain Dog arm routine that is appropriate for almost any trainee. Check it out:
Mountain Dog Medium-Volume Arm Workout
- A1: Standing barbell drag curl, 3 x 12, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- B1: Bilateral DB preacher curl (supinated grip)**, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- C1: Standing unilateral DB hammer curl, 3 x 12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- D1: Standing dual rope cable pushdown, 3 x 12, 1/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest
- E1: Standing cable pushdown (pronated grip), 3 x 12, 1/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest
- F1: Kettle bell lying extension, 3 x 12, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
**Press the dumbbells together throughout the entire set.
You can click right here to watch John Meadows perform this arm workout.
This is a very typical Mountain Dog style arm workout. John trains his biceps with three exercises followed by his triceps with three exercises. As you can see John uses his normal exercise sequences for both muscle groups.
For his biceps John makes sure that he performs his preacher curls towards the middle of the routine rather than at the start. For his triceps John performs different types of cable pushdowns before moving onto the lying tricep extensions.
This may not be the “sexiest” arm routine but it works well for most trainees.
So what if you are a more advanced bodybuilder? In that case you may want try one of John’s higher volume Mountain Dog arm workouts.
Here is a high-volume supersets routine that is guaranteed to give you an out-of-this-world pump. Check it out:
Mountain Dog High-Volume Arm Workout
- A1 Standing DB curl (supinated grip), 3 x 10, 1/0/1/0, no rest
- A2 Standing DB curl (hammer grip) 3 x AMRAP**, 1/0/1/0, 30 seconds rest
- A3 Standing cable pushdown (pronated grip / D-handles), 3 x 10, 1/0/X/1, no rest
- A4 Standing overhead cable extension (D-handles), 3 x AMRAP**, 1/0/1/0, 30 seconds rest
- B1: Unilateral bicep stretch (arm abducted), 1 x 30 seconds, no rest
- B2: Unilateral tricep stretch (arm overhead), 1 x 30 seconds, 30 seconds rest
- C1: Dual rope cable pushdown (elbows at sides), 3 x 10,
- C2: Dual rope cable pushdown (elbows in front), 3 x AMRAP**
- C3: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 3 x 10***,
- D1: Unilateral bicep stretch (arm abducted), 1 x 45 seconds, no rest
- D2: Unilateral tricep stretch (arm overhead), 1 x 45 seconds, 30 seconds rest
- E1: Standing barbell curl, 3 x 10-12****
- E2: Lying dead-stop kettlebell extension, 3 x 15-20,
- F1: Unilateral bicep stretch (arm abducted), 1 x 60 seconds, no rest
- F2: Unilateral tricep stretch (arm overhead), 1 x 60 seconds, 30 seconds rest
- G1: Pinwheel spider DB curl, 2 x 10-15
- G2: Incline diamond push up, 2 x 10-15
**Perform as many reps as possible with the same weight as the previous exercise
***perform a 10-second negative on the last rep
****Train to failure, then perform 5 partial reps in the bottom position
You can click right here to watch John Meadows perform this mega arm pump workout.
John calls this the “mega-pump arm workout.” You’ll know why after you perform it! This routine may be a little confusing the first time you try to read it. Here is the basic workout template:
- Part 1: “A” exercises
- Part 2: Static stretches
- Part 3: “B” exercises
- Part 4: Static stretches
- Part 5: “C” exercises
- Part 6: Static stretches
- Part 7: “D” exercises
Overall you are performing 17 sets for biceps and 20 sets for triceps if you include the static stretches. Not that is a lot of work!
Once again john follows his preferred exercise sequences for biceps and triceps. He makes sure that his arms are warmed up and even a little pre-fatigued before performing stretching exercises like preacher curls and lying tricep extensions.
If you are really motivated you may want to measure your arm size with a measuring tape before and after this workout. I think you will be shocked at how much your arms blow up after this workout!
John Meadows really is a mad genius. His Mountain Dog Training program is one of the most effective and popular bodybuilding training programs in the world today.
The thing that really sets Mountain Dog Training apart from all of the other programs is its emphasis on longevity and injury prevention. It is very inspiring to see John continue to train hard even though he is no longer a spring chicken!
The thing that makes Mountain Dog Training so effective for health and longevity is John’s unique approach to exercise sequencing. He makes sure that you are warmed up and maybe even a little pre-fatigued before performing the big compound exercises like squats, deadlifts and incline bench presses.
This is a fantastic way to structure your workouts if you are interested in building as much muscle mass as possible while staying injury free over the long-run.
If you are interested in Mountain Dog Training then you have a few options:
- You can use this information to design your very own Mountain Dog style workouts
- You can purchase one of John’s extremely detailed 12-week programs
- You can hire John directly to write customized training programs for you
No matter which option you choose I am confident you will get the results you want. Of course there is no training program. Mountain Dog Training is not perfect and will not work for everyone.
If you get better results on lower-volume training programs then Mountain Dog Training is probably not your best bet. Likewise if your nickname in the gym is “Candy-Ass Nancy Boy” then forget about it! Mountain Dog Training will eat you up alive!
So who is this program for? If you respond well to high-volume programs, have a high pain-tolerance and really prioritize staying injury-free on your muscle-building quest then Mountain Dog Training is for you!
Just like in bodybuilding, failure is also a necessary experience for growth in our own lives, for if we’re never tested to our limits, how will we know how strong we really are? How will we ever grow?
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training journey!
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