John structures his triceps workouts so that you can build as much muscle mass as possible while keeping your elbows healthy and pain-free. If you are fighting through elbow pain from your normal triceps training programs then you are going to love John’s workouts.
The thing that makes Mountain Dog tricep workouts unique is the choice and order of the exercises. John uses a ton of unique exercises and sequences them in such a way that your connective tissue stays healthy and pain-free.
John uses 4 main types of exercises in his Mountain Dog triceps workouts:
- Exercise #1: Tricep Pushdowns
- Exercise #2: Compound Tricep Exercises
- Exercise #3: Lying Tricep Extensions
- Exercise #4: Overhead Tricep Extensions
John loves all of these triceps exercises for different reasons. He believes the most important thing a bodybuilder can do is to perform them in the correct sequence.
John almost always performs tricep pushdowns at the start of his workouts to pump his triceps full of blood and to establish a great mind-muscle connection.
John doesn’t always perform compound pressing exercises like dips and pin presses in his routines. However, when he does they are almost always done in the middle of his workouts after his tricep pushdowns.
Finally John likes to perform different types of lying and overhead triceps extensions towards the middle or end of his workouts. John believes these are great triceps exercises but they have to be performed after your triceps are pre-exhausted to avoid injury.
I hope you found this quick overview of Mountain Dog triceps training helpful. Now let’s take a closer look at these 4 different categories of triceps exercises and some sample John Meadows triceps hypertrophy workouts.
Triceps Exercise #1: Tricep Pushdowns
John Meadows is a huge fan of triceps pushdowns. In fact he starts off about 99% of his triceps workouts with some variation of a triceps pushdown. John believes this is the perfect exercise to to use first in your triceps routine because it is very easy on your elbows and allows you to establish a great mind-muscle connection with the triceps.
John performs his triceps pushdowns in a very specific way: he learns forward with his torso and pushes the bar straight down and forward.
This is almost like a hybrid between a triceps pushdown and a decline bench press. John finds that this technique keeps the lats out of the movement and places much more tension on your triceps.
Here are three of John’s favorite triceps pushdown variations:
You can click on the links above to see John demonstrate each exercise. John starts almost all of his triceps workouts with one of these exercises. He often performs 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps for these exercises but John is very creative and he changes his target rep ranges a lot.
Now let’s take a closer look at each of these exercises.
The Spongy Grips Pushdown
The spongy grip pushdown is one of John’s favorite pushdown variations. The handles move independently from each other which puts way less stress on your wrists and elbows.
John also believes that the spongy grips themselves gives you a much better contraction in the triceps than a regular straight bar.
John likes this variation for hitting the lateral and medial heads of the triceps.
The Dual Rope Pushdown
The dual rope pushdown is another one of John’s favorite tricep pushdown variations. The rope pushdown is a favorite amongst bodybuilders because it allows for a more natural movement pattern and puts less stress on the wrists and elbows than a regular straight bar.
John Meadows uses two rope handles for this exercise instead of just one because it dramatically increases the range of motion of the exercise.
John likes to perform this exercise with his chest leaning forward and his elbows tucked against his sides. John says that this pushdown variation really blows up the long head of the triceps as well as the lateral and medial heads.
The “Power Pushdown”
The “power pushdown” is an exercise that John occasionally uses in his triceps training routines. This exercise is like a hybrid between a cable pushdown and a decline bench press.
John really likes this exercise because he can overload his triceps with a ton of weight while still getting a great contraction in the triceps and keeping his elbows healthy.
Triceps Exercise #2: Compound Tricep Exercises
John Meadows mostly relies on isolation exercises to train his triceps. However, he sometimes uses compound pressing movements like dips and pin presses in his triceps routines. John likes to perform these exercises towards the middle of his routine after he has already pre-fatigued his triceps with some type of pushdown variation.
Here are four of John’s favorite compound tricep exercises:
You can click on the links above to see John demonstrate each exercise. John usually performs these exercises for 3-4 sets of 5-10 reps. He doesn’t mind going slightly lower in reps on some exercises like pin presses when it is safe to do so. Now let’s take a closer look at each of these exercises.
Free Weight Dips
Free weight dips are one of John’s favorite compound pressing exercises for the triceps. Research shows that free weight dips are one of the best exercises you can do to train all three heads of the triceps: the long head, the medial head and the lateral head.
When John Meadows performs dips for his triceps he tweaks his form by keeping his elbows directly behind his body and maintaining an upright torso.
John believes that you don’t have to go all the way down to really get the most out of tricep dips. Instead you can stop just short of failure to keep some of the pressure off your shoulders.
Machine dips are a fantastic exercise for overloading the triceps. They work the triceps in a very similar way to regular free weight dips.
Earlier in his career John loved to perform high-intensity techniques on the dip machine including eccentric-only repetitions. You can click right here for a video of John performing eccentric-only machine dips.
Nowadays John likes to perform this exercise for slightly higher reps to keep his shoulders and elbows healthy.
The pin press is a lot like the good-old-fashioned close grip bench press. The primary difference is you are pressing the bar from pins set 6-8 inches above your chest. This keeps all the tension on your triceps throughout the entire range of motion.
John recommends you flare your elbows out to your sides to recruit more of the lateral head of your triceps. John often performs the pin press for as little as 5 reps per set.
The floor press is another compound triceps exercise that John sometimes uses in his triceps routines. The floor press is sort of like a bench press performed on the floor. You lower the weight down until your upper arms and elbows hit the floor, then you press the weight back up to lockout.
The floor press is great because it keeps maximum tension on your triceps throughout the entire range of motion. John often performs this exercise second or third in his triceps routines for 3-4 sets of 5-10 reps.
Triceps Exercise #3: Lying Tricep Extensions
John Meadows believes that lying triceps extensions are a “double-edged sword.” On one had they are one of the best triceps movements that you can perform. They really overload the lateral head and long head of the triceps and put the muscle under a deep, loaded stretch.
John trained with the Westside Barbell powerlifting club for a few years and learned many different forms of lying triceps extensions that he uses in his routines now.
According to John the big problem with lying triceps extensions is they can be really hard on your elbows. The world-class powerlifting coach Josh Bryant agrees. Josh once tore his triceps tendon right off the bone on a lying skull crusher exercise!
John’s solution is to perform lying triceps extensions towards the middle or end of your triceps routine after you have pre-fatigued your triceps with cable pushdowns and perhaps 1 or 2 other triceps exercises. That way you get all the benefits of lying triceps extensions minus any elbow pain.
Here are 4 of John’s favorite variations of lying triceps extensions:
You can click on the links above to see John demonstrate each exercise.
John likes to perform these movements for 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps depending on his exercise order for that workout. If John performs lying triceps extensions second in his routine then he may go as low as 6-8 reps per set. On the other hand if John performs them 3rd or 4th in his routine then he may use as much as 10-12+ reps per set.
Now let’s take a closer look at each of these exercises.
John has some reservations about the traditional “skull crusher” exercise because they can really beat up your elbows if you are not careful. However, John still uses this exercise in many of his routines.
John really likes to let the bar drift *behind* his head on this exercise rather than lowering it to his forehead. Lowering the bar behind your head puts a bigger stretch on the triceps and really overloads the long head of the triceps. The only downside is it puts less tension on the lateral head.
Lying Kettlebell Extension
The lying kettlebell extension is John’s absolute favorite way to perform a skull crusher! The kettlebells have many advantages over regular dumbbells for this exercise.
First of all they let you use a pronated grip. You can really lower your hands down further on this exercise which stretches out the triceps much more than normal. The kettlebells also lower the center of mass for the exercise which helps you to get an even bigger contraction in the triceps.
John likes to perform this exercise with your elbows drifting behind your head throughout the whole range of motion. Once again this puts more tension on the long head of your triceps and slightly less tension on the lateral head.
Dead Stop DB Skull Crushers
The dead stop dumbbell skull crusher is a unique exercise that John uses in his Mountain Dog tricep workouts. The basic idea is to pause the dumbbells on the ground for a split-second in between each rep. This reduces the stretch reflex on the exercise and forces your triceps to work much harder out of the bottom position.
John learned the JM press when he was training with the Westside Barbell powerlifting club. The JM press is a hybrid between a lying triceps extension and a close grip bench press. You lower the bar down to your chin area while flaring your elbows hard and then press the bar back up.
John likes to perform this exercise with an ez-bar although the Westside Barbell powerlifting team likes to use a regular barbell. The JM press puts a TON of tension on the triceps and is a very underrated triceps exercise.
Triceps Exercise #4: Overhead Tricep Extensions
John Meadows loves to use different types of overhead triceps extensions in his Mountain Dog triceps workouts. Once again John prefers to perform these exercises in the middle or end of his triceps workouts. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First of all these overhead triceps extensions can put a lot of pressure on your elbows and triceps tendons. Performing them later in your routine reduces the stress on your connective tissue.
Secondly these exercises place the long head of the triceps under an enormous stretch. John Meadows is a big believer in loaded stretches for building muscle. However, he likes to perform these exercises at the end of his workouts once his muscles are pumped full of blood. This makes the loaded stretch safer and more effective for building muscle.
Here are 4 of John’s favorite overhead tricep extension exercises:
- Cable Rope Overhead Extension (Low Pulley)
- Cable Rope Bent Over Extension (High Pulley)
- Unilateral DB French Press
- Ez-Bar French Press
You can click on the links above to see John demonstrate each exercise. Let’s take a closer look at each of these exercises.
Cable Rope Overhead Extension (Low Pulley)
The low pulley rope overhead extension is one of John’s absolute favorite exercises for training the long head of the triceps. With this exercise your elbows are directly over your head. This places the long head under a very deep stretch in the bottom position.
John likes the rope attachment because it puts less stress on your shoulders than dumbbells or an ez-curl bar.
Cable Rope Overhead Extension (High Pulley)
The high pulley rope overhead extension is one of the most popular triceps exercises among professional bodybuilders. John calls this the Lee Priest triceps exercise because he first saw Lee Priest performing it.
For this exercise you really want to lean forward and keep your elbows above your head as much as possible. This will put the long head of the triceps in a deep stretch.
Unilateral DB French Press
John sometimes uses the unilateral dumbbell french press in his triceps workouts. This exercise can be tougher on the shoulders so John only programs it at the very end of his triceps workouts. If you have a history of shoulder problems then this is probably not the best triceps exercise for you.
Ez-Bar French Press
The ez-bar french press is another one of those exercises that John will occasionally use at the end of his triceps workouts. This is another exercise that really recruits the long head of the triceps.
John sometimes performs this exercise with his upper back leaning against a padded machine. This turns the exercise into a very high incline triceps extension and takes some of the pressure off your shoulders.
Sample Mountain Dog Triceps Training Routines
If you’ve made it this far then congratulations! You now have a deep understanding of John’s favorite triceps exercises and how he sequences them in his routine. Here is a brief summary:
- Tricep pushdowns are performed first
- Compound pressing exercises are performed in the middle of the workout
- Lying triceps extensions are performed in the middle or end of the workout
- Overhead triceps extensions are performed in the middle or end of the workout
John performs some type of triceps pushdown in almost every routine. However, after the first exercise everything is up in the air. John is very creative and likes to use as much variety in his workouts as possible. Now let’s take a look at three different Mountain Dog tricep workouts to see how everything fits together. Check it out:
Mountain Dog Triceps Workout #1
- A1: Triceps pushdown (spongey grips), 3-4 x 10-12, 1/0/X/1, 2 minutes rest
- B1: JM press, 3-4 x 6-8, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
- C1: Overhead rope cable triceps, 3-4 x 8-10, 1/0/1/0, 2 minutes rest
You can click right here to watch the video of John Meadows performing this workout.
This is an extremely normal-looking Mountain Dog style triceps workout. In fact if you had to pick one workout and say “this is how John trains triceps” then this would be it. John performs three exercises for his triceps: spongey grip tricep pushdowns, JM presses and overhead rope extensions.
John uses his normal exercise sequence for this workout. He performs pushdowns first, then a hybrid extension / pressing movement and finally an overhead extension movement.
This workout is perfect if you are more of a beginner or if you are new to John’s style of training. Now let’s look at a slightly more complicated triceps workout. Check it out:
Mountain Dog Triceps Workout #2
- A1: Machine pushdown, 3-5 x 8, 1/0/1/1, 10 seconds rest
- A2: Machine dips, 3-5 x 8, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
- A3: Machine chest press (neutral grip), 3-5 x 8, 1/0/1/1, 10 seconds rest
- A4: Machine triceps extension**, 3-5 x 8, 1/0/1/0, 2-4 minutes rest
**Performed through the bottom 50% of the range of motion only.
You can click right here for the training video for this workout.
For this workout John performed a giant set for his triceps. Giant sets are a bodybuilding-style training method where you perform 4 or more exercises in a row for a body part with about 10 seconds rest between exercises. Giant sets were popularized by Milos Sarcev and John sometimes uses them in his workouts.
For this giant set John sticks to his usual order of exercises. He performs a pushdown variation first, then a couple of compound pressing exercises and finally he finishes his triceps off with a machine isolation exercise.
For this workout John wants you shooting for a hard set of 8 reps on each exercise. The reps may be on the lower side of things but the giant set really cranks up the time under tension so you will still get a crazy pump. John wants you to perform this circuit 3-5 times total. By the end of the workout your triceps will be begging for mercy!
Finally here is a more advanced triceps workout where John broke some of his tricep training rules. Check it out:
Mountain Dog Triceps Workout #3
- A1: Pin press (shoulder-width grip)**, 4 x 5, 1/1/X/0, 2 minutes rest
- B1: Dual rope cable triceps pushdown, 3 x 8, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
- B2: Cable rope triceps extension (high-pulley), 3 x 8, 1/0/1/0, 2 minutes rest
- C1: Lying dead stop DB triceps extension, 3 x 8-10, 1/1/1/0, 2 minutes rest
**Set the pins 6-8 inches above chest height.
You can click right here to watch John Meadows perform this workout.
For this workout John actually started with a compound pressing exercise: the pin press. About 99% of the time John starts with a cable pushdown exercise but he decided to break that rule for this workout.
John likes the pin press more than the close grip bench press because the top half of the exercise is where the triceps are recruited the most.
The rest of the workout is classic John Meadows programming. John performs a superset of dual rope pushdowns and high-pulley rope extensions. According to John this is an awesome superset for overloading the long head of your triceps.
Finally John finishes off the workout with lying DB dead stop skull crushers. If you ignore the pin presses at the start of the workout then John follows his typical order of exercises.
I tip my hat to John Meadows for inventing a bodybuilding training program that lets him train hard well into his late 40’s and beyond. A lot of strength coaches would balk at the idea of using tricep pushdowns as a core exercise to build big, strong triceps.
John has proven over and over that you can build massive triceps and keep your elbows pain-free by starting your workouts with tricep pushdowns.
If you want to build muscle at a rapid pace while avoiding the aches and pains associated with other training programs then I highly recommend you give John’s Mountain Dog tricep workouts a shot. You can use one of the three triceps workouts from this article or make your own workout using the information that you learned. The choice is up to you.
If you choose to make your own Mountain Dog style triceps workouts then remember John’s 4 rules for sequencing your exercises:
- Cable tricep pushdowns go first in your workout
- Compound exercises go in the middle or your workout
- Lying tricep extensions go in the middle or end of your workout
- Overhead tricep extensions go in the middle or end of your workout
If you remember these 4 rules then you will be well on your way to building big, freaky triceps.
“I love it when someone says that no one has ever done this before, because then when I do it that means that I’m the first one that has done it. So pay no attention to the people that say it can’t be done. I never listen to, ‘No, you can’t.’ I always listen to myself and say, ‘Yes, you can.’”
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!
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