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John Meadows - The Brutality of Mountain Dog Training

Brutality of
Dog Training
A How-To Guide
and Scientific
Written by
John Meadows
with Scott Stevenson, PhD
We are very proud to share this book with you! If you follow any of the
Mountain Dog training videos on the YouTube channel, Facebook page, Twitter
(@MOUNTAIN DOG1), or on the Elite FTS channel, you have no doubt seen some
of the outright crazy stuff we do. This article is where you learn the method
behind the madness (written in John’s own words), and why the Mountain Dog
Training system, rooted in decades of John’s real world ball busting experience,
is also well-supported by solid exercise science (supplied by Scott).
I would like to dedicate this book to my incredible wife Mary. She has stuck with
me through the worst of times, despite my shortcomings. She believed in me
enough to back me when I told her I wanted to leave my comfortable VP job
at a bank in the corporate world to pursue my passion in the Fitness industry,
despite no guarantee of earnings and us having a new set of twins. I hope this
work reflects her belief in me.
Chapter 1
Mountain Dog Workout Structure
Time to put your thinking cap on. Knowledge is power, and our hope is that
knowing even more of the Hows and Whys of Mountain Dog Training will
propel your training vigor and passion to an even higher level. Above all,
get ready to have some fun experiencing first hand that you can do what
you didn’t think possible. Courtesy of Scott Stevenson, you will see there
is scientific method to Mountain Dog Madness!
Mountain Dog training revolutionized my training and
breathed new life into my bodybuilding career. After 20
years of competitive bodybuilding I’ve tried countless
training methods with varying degrees of success,
but nothing returned sustained improvements without injuries compared to John’s. At 38 I’m training
harder, longer and with more enthusiasm than I did
in my 20’s. Brutal, intense, masochistically-fun,
results-oriented workouts define my personal
experience working with John Meadows.
-Mark Dugdale, IFBB Professional Bodybuilder
A Mountain Dog Base workout for each muscle group has 4 Phases (Kinds
of Sets). (Note that Calves, Arms and Abs are exceptions.)
So what does a Mountain Dog workout look like?
There are essentially two types of workouts:
1. Base workouts (covered below in this Chapter)
2. Pump/Optional workouts (covered in Chapter 3)
Base workouts are always done and we are going to dive into what they
are made up of now! Pump workouts are used to add frequency, and even
more muscle fiber stimulation. We will get into those in the Last Chapter.
Base workouts are actually a collection of mini-workouts, each exploiting a different hypertrophy concept. Let’s walk through each one of these
phases that you will go through in a workout.
A Base workout always begins with one lift that
serves as an extension of your warm-up, but the way
I apply it, it’s too demanding to be considered just a
warm-up itself. It’s got to be an exercise that’s:
1. Easy on your joints, tendons and ligaments
2. Uncomplicated to perform, and
3. Allows you to really feel the target muscle(s)
The Pre-Pump Activation Exercise is not necessarily an
isolation exercise or a traditional pre-exhaust exercise,
a common misconception I have seen on the Internet
when people discuss my methods.
Instead, it is more typically an exercise using dumbbells or machines.
For example, a chest workout may begin with a flat
bench dumbbell chest press, or a machine press. This
is certainly not a true pre-exhaust exercise such as
a machine fly, nor are you putting yourself at risk of
a muscle tear as compared to a barbell bench press.
Again, the point of this is not pre-exhaustion. Rather,
I want to prepare the muscles I’m going to train hard
that day for the work ahead (and believe me, they will
get blowtorched). The smartest way to do this, as I see
it – especially to help minimize risk of injury – is to hit
those muscles with an exercise that emphasizes the
muscles with relatively less stress on the joints, tendons, and ligaments. As a side note, I prefer to do what
people commonly view as pre-exhaust on a pumped
muscle (such as the chest fly), later in the workout.
More on that later. You will see why.
Pre-Pump Injury Prevention over the
Long Haul
Don’t gloss over this idea. I’m not in any way saying
that big lifts like the bench press or squat are inherently dangerous. But the stronger you get and the longer you play the iron game, the more likely it is you’re
going to get injured doing those classic, conventional,
barbell exercises with only a progressive overload
mentality, especially if you keep doing them as most
people do—first thing in the workout. It’s easy to continue sliding plates on the bar as you work up to a top
set, getting lost in your own ego. But so often, before
you even realize it, you’ve popped something in your
shoulder or your back or your knee, and it can dog you
for months, even years, after the fact. This is just reality, and if you have ever suffered a major injury, you
know there is no glory in it. It’s kind of hard to make
gains when you are on the sideline. That’s just not
worth it. Training for me, and I assume for you as well,
is about success over the long haul and being able to
look and feel good and enjoy the process until you die.
Most of the time, all it takes to avoid this problem is
a more thorough warm up, pumping blood into the
muscles and lubricating the joints so you’re ready to
better handle and focus on those heavier, harder lifts
much more acutely.
Pre-Pump, NOT Pre-Fatigue
So apart from just using a more isolated exercise to
start things off, we’re going to make sure we maximize
its ability to get a pump going. High-rep sets would
not be appropriate here because we still have heavy
training to come and don’t want to be too fatigued to
complete it, so I stick to moderate bodybuilding ranges like 8–12 for the most part.
Pre-Pump Techniques
Sometimes, it may be appropriate to use constant
tension on the pre-pump exercise—i.e., not going to
either end of the range of motion. Not locking out or
extending the working joints completely ensures muscular contraction throughout the set.
Another applicable technique is partial reps. For example, at the end of my last set of leg curls, when my
legs are too tired to do another full-range rep, I’ll bend
my knees just a few inches, completing quarter-range
reps to failure. Jam the blood in there! I also love using
this technique in Phase 3 which you will see below.
Depending on the muscle group, exercise or stage of
a training cycle, there are other times when I actually
like to lock out the joints and hold for a two-second
peak contraction. This might occur on a chest press as
Pre-Pump your Peri-Workout
I believe that pumping up the target muscle area
serves another critical function that potentiates training gains — delivering nutrients to the muscles to
enhance growth. The centerpiece of this strategy is an
easily digestible intra-workout shake that you start
consuming shortly before you start training. With the
intra-workout nutrients entering your bloodstream,
the more blood you can drive into your muscles, the
greater the delivery of protein and carbs (see more on
this below). Here are my basic recommendations for
peri-workout nutrition
PRE-workout Meal:
Have a pre-workout meal that you finish 30-60
minutes before training.
• I like a small to moderate amount of carbs to give
Pre-Pump Activation Exercise Science
• Increased blood flow can actually increase muscle strength in small muscle masses(1, 2), and enhance maximal aerobic power(3), where oxygen delivery to working
muscle limits performance(4).
• Excessively high repetitions are not needed to get the benefits of a warm-up, and
too much could hamper the rest of the workout(5).
• Although direct evidence lacks, many authorities (but not all) suggest warm-up
for injury prevention(6). Experiments with isolated muscle suggest that increased
elasticity at higher temperatures may prevent muscle and tendon tears(7, 8).
• Believe it or not, exercise(9) and in particular resistance exercise(10) can alleviate
osteoarthritic pain.
you easily useable energy to make it through the training
• I add in a little fat to keep your blood sugar from rising
too fast, and then you going hypoglycemic from a massive insulin dump right after(11). Fat will slow the entry of
glucose into the bloodstream(12-14).
• Add in a moderate amount of easily digestible protein
as well.
Intra-workout Supplementation:
Resistance training turns on skeletal muscle protein turnover, which is a combination of muscle protein breakdown
(MPB) and muscle protein synthesis (MPS) (two processes
that correlated very strongly)(15). Training is both anabolic
and inherently catabolic. Of course, Mountain Dog Training is
about trying to kill muscle fiber, figuratively speaking, but we
also don’t want runaway muscle breakdown. This is where
peri-workout recovery supplementation comes in. We control
optimize the balance of MPS and MPB, produce a favorable
hormonal environment for making muscle gains, and ease
the burden on our gastrointestinal tract by consuming very
SPECIFIC types of carbohydrate and protein, especially essential amino acids (EAAs) or di- and tripeptides from hydrolyzed
protein sources, thus raising insulin and lowering cortisol.
POST-workout Meal:
• Start eating anywhere between 45 to 60 minutes after
training. Remember you had a lot of good nutrition during
training, so there’s no need to rush to get this meal.
• As an example, eat a balanced whole food meal such as
steak and rice.
A Mountain Dog Special: Pre-Pumping the
Hamstrings First
I’ve found over the years that training the hamstring before
squats or compound thigh exercises seems to enhance performance and reduce joint pain in the knees and hips. So, for
thigh (quad and hamstring) training, the Pre-Pump exercise
is almost always a hamstring-specific exercise.
Science of Peri-Workout Recovery
• The essential amino acids, especially
leucine and the brached chain amino
acids are anabolic(16-20), and anti-catabolic(21, 22), rapidly spiking blood levels
when consumed in free-form(23), which
is best for rapidly turning on protein
• Adding carbohydrate to protein will
synergistically increase insulin(29, 30),
to refuel glycogen(30, 31) and inhibit protein breakdown(32, 33). Exercise (muscular contraction) itself
also increases insulin sensitivity (via
glucose transporter mobilization)(34)
thus amplifying the actions of supplement-driven insulin release.
• Hydrolyzed proteins elevate blood
amino acid(35) and insulin levels(36)
more rapidly than intact protein, and
enhance glycogen synthesis, irrespective
of (elevated) insulin(37). In particular, diand tripeptides are so rapidly absorbed
via a specific intestinal transporter(38),
which may explain why a whey hydrolysate more effectively drives post-exercise protein synthesis than a blend
of that same whey’s constituent amino
• Carbohydrate-protein supplements
can reduce muscle soreness and
damage(40, 41), the latter of which can
adversely affect insulin sensitivity(42)
and post-exercise glycogen replenishment(43, 44). A relatively large carbohydrate-protein recovery supplement
also reduces cortisol levels(45, 46), thus
improving long-term muscle gains(4749). Specifically, peri-workout timing of
protein(50) or a protein-carbohydrate
mixture(51) has proven important in
enhancing gains in trained individuals,
although peri-workout (protein) timing
seems less critical in those who are
initially untrained(52).
Science of Hitting the Hamstrings First
• Although the jury is still out on how to best harness it(53-59), post-activation
potentiation of muscle force, e.g., via phosphorylation of myosin light chain that
increases muscle force output(60) might enhance hamstring contribution to squat
performance(61), e.g., if you’ve done a hamstring Pre-Pump exercise first.
• Pre-pumping the hamstrings (as a warm-up) might also improve muscle contraction neurologically(62), such that hams are used and stimulated more so in “big”
squatting and leg-pressing movements.
• Reduced knee pain may be due to increased blood flow(63), increased joint
temperature(6) and pressure related enhancements of joint lubrication(64, 65).
• Theoretically (and from feedback of those who have experienced it), simply having
pumped-up hamstrings may alter joint proprioception and muscle coordination if
the hamstring and gastrocnemius provide posterior cushioning to the knee joint.
Take Home Message of Phase I (Pre-Pump Exercise)
This phase should give you a very good pump, and not wreak havoc on
joints and connective tissue. This helps with longevity and it also enables
you to start driving your intra-workout nutrition into the muscle.
A Mountain Dog Special: Occasional Use
of Bands and Chains
Those who love to lift heavy can breathe a sigh of relief, because here’s where we get into the more conventional bodybuilding exercises and higher intensity.
Leg day Base workouts will feature squat variations
and chest days may call for the bench press (though
usually done on a slight incline or decline). The first
thing you’ll notice, however, is how much better you
feel performing these exercises than when you put
them first in your workout. With pumped hamstrings
thanks to the leg curls, you’ll feel sturdier at the bottom of your squats. Your hips will also feel better, like
they’ve been grooved for smoother reps. If you just did
machine presses, your shoulders will be warm and
“awake” for heavy benching.
One particular aspect of the Explosive Exercise Phase
of a Mountain Dog workout that sets it apart from
other phases is the occasional use of bands and
chains for varying the stimulus. Those of you who
have done my programs have probably noticed that I
will, at times, call upon these implements. They aren’t
an absolute requirement, but I strongly recommend
them if you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter, as
they force you to use maximum contractile tension
through the entire rep. These are powerful tools for
busting plateaus and accelerating your progress. I do
not like to use bands for more than 2 weeks at a time
as I feel they actually start to beat you up a little much
if overdone, due to the muscular overload.
Why We Use Bands and Chains
Bye-Bye to the Big Weights?
Let me address a common fear I suspect has already
crept into your mind: Won’t putting my main strength
exercise second force me to use lighter weights?
Won’t I get weaker?
Here is a little more about why we use Bands and
Chains with Mountaindog Training.
Primary Forms of Human Strength Curve
The simplest answer is “No.” As with any kind of training, there’s an adjustment window. The first two or
three weeks you train like this, you may not feel up to
using the same weight on squats and bench presses
as you did if you used to put those lifts first. But that
doesn’t mean you’re getting weaker. It just means your
muscles are a bit fatigued when you perform the lifts
second. There’s a difference. Once you get more conditioned to Mountain Dog Training, you’ll not only be
back up to your old numbers in no time, you’ll exceed
them, and your joints will feel better as well!
“Explosive” as in Ballistic?
The way we perform the “explosive” exercise is actually pretty standard for regular weight training. The sets
and reps are moderate, and I don’t generally apply intensity techniques (e.g., partials) in this workout Phase.
Generally speaking, “explosive” simply means lowering the weight under control and driving the weight up
“with authority.”
Primary Forms of the Human Strength Curve and Imposed
First, let’s note that these tools provide accommodating resistance. As an example,
Science of Explosive Exercises for Muscle Growth
• Rate of force development, through performing
exercises in an explosive manner, is trainable(64).
• Training in an explosive manner may preferentially
stimulate type II muscle fibers(66), which may have
greater hypertrophic potential(67).
whatever load you can bench press from your chest,
you’ve surely noticed that you could handle a lot more
if you only had to lower the bar a few inches from
lockout and then press it. Same thing holds for squats:
Maybe you can squat 405 deep but you can probably
quarter squat nearly 500. (See Figure Above.)
Every exercise or machine has its own resistance
curve as well, which may or may not match your
individual strength curve. (See Figure below.) Using
bands and chains allows us to modify the imposed
resistance, so you can make the hardest parts of an
exercise easier and the easiest parts harder.
Hypothetical Impact of Adding Chains or Resistance
Bands on Imposed Resistance
more links will rise off the floor and add weight to
the exercise. But because they don’t have that elastic
component that bands do, chains don’t provide the
same kind of tension, and as a result, don’t take the
same toll on your body and nervous system. I rarely go
more than 2 to 3 weeks using bands on exercises like
the squat or bench press, but chains can be used for
much longer. They don’t need to be cycled as carefully
as bands.
Science of Bands and Chain Use
• Using bands (like those for sale at EliteFTS.
com) to load to a bench press results in a longer
period of bar acceleration compared to using an
equivalent of amount of resistance coming from
free weights alone(69).
• Adding chains to the bench press increases
maximal effort bar speed. This may be because
chains permit a more rapid stretch shortening cycle (reversal bar direction when eccentric
become concentric contractions), thereby eliciting postactivation potentiation that increases
muscle contractile force(70).
Hypothetical Impact of adding Chains or Resistance Bands
(downward pull) to Resistance Imposed by a Free Weight
In the powerlifting world, bands and chains are employed mainly to increase the resistance as a lift is
locked out. Attach bands to a barbell and perform a
bench press and you’ll feel the bar get heavier as you
press it up. To compensate for the increasing load (and
to keep the bar from, to put it bluntly, snapping back
down and putting the “smack down” on you), you have
to learn to press explosively. This trains your nervous
system to turn on more motor units (groups of muscle fibers controlled by a nerve), making you a more
powerful lifter. Being able to explode a lift with more
speed obviously helps you complete it, so it translates to greater strength.
Chains work much the same way. As you lift the bar,
• Adding bands to the bench press and squat
have demonstrated two to three times the
gains in voluntary strength compared to traditional (free weight alone) resistance training,
even in athletes who already have ~4 years of
resistance training experience(71). Training with
bands and chains has also resulted in practically
(albeit not statistically) significant greater gains
in power even in highly trained strength athletes
like Division I (American) football players(72).
• If using bands and chains means greater loading
and gains in strength (and thus muscle loading),
this also results in a stronger (tensile) stimulus
for inducing muscle growth(73, 74).
In the bodybuilding world, or in my world, where I help
people who mainly have physique goals, these accessories–particularly bands—have many more applications. These include:
Overloading the eccentric.
The lowering (“negative”) portion of any lift is known
as the eccentric, and it’s been shown to cause the
majority of the muscle damage and soreness you get
from training(75). Provided you can recover from it,
more muscle damage is typically a good thing. Bands
really intensify the power of eccentric muscle contractions—if you don’t lower a rep under control, the
band will pull the weight down fast, which is extremely dangerous. For this reason, bands have to be used
with great care and must be cycled, but they’re highly
effective for inducing hypertrophy by way of eccentric
overload. Good examples of their use for this purpose
would be on the leg press and bench press.
Banded Bench Press
handles of a chest press machine or dumbbells to
change the angle of pull and thus activation(76).
Facilitating higher reps.
There are some exercises that just lend themselves
better to being done for high reps with bands than
with free weights. Face pulls and lateral raises, for instance, are easier to rep out on for a huge pump when
the resistance comes from bands.
Since bands accommodate resistance, they allow you
to feel tension on movements that you sometimes
can’t feel any other way. I find that over and back
shoulder stretches are more effective with bands than
a broom handle, and really help to improve mobility in
the shoulder girdle as well as pump the area up.
Not all of these uses for bands apply to the explosive exercise you’ll do second in your workouts, but all of them
may be applied over the course of a training program.
Attaching Bands For Reverse Bench
Bands can also be used to make an exercise easier.
You can rig them to the top of a power rack for bench
presses, so that when you lower the bar to your chest,
the band is actually pulling the bar upward for you at
the same time. This means the load feels lighter off
your chest—your weakest position in the lift—and it
can help you work with heavier weights with less risk
of injury. The resistance curve changes to a straight
line with no weak points in the lift. As a result, you
keep the set going longer with a heavier weight, increasing the exposure your muscles get to that load.
The same setup can be used with the squat.
Take Home Message of Phase 2
(Explosive Exercise)
The Explosive Exercises are the “meat and potatoes” of
your training sessions, using heavy loads and sometimes spiced up with bands and chains to help move
past plateaus.
Stronger muscle contraction.
Because bands can be used to tailor the imposed
resistance, they can affect the activation pattern and
feel of a movement. Bands can be looped onto the
At this point in the Base workout, your muscles will
be well pumped and you’ve completed your heaviest
strength work for the day. Now it is time to really hammer the high intensity techniques and pump the target
area to its limit — “top it off” with blood, if you will —
and thereby create high levels of growth-promoting
metabolic stress. Whether achieving an obnoxious,
attention-getting pump really causes growth of muscle, or just the ego, has long been a topic of debate. As
I had hoped, there is now a growing body of research
to support what I and many other bodybuilders have
known for a long time: The pump-associated metabolic stress does indeed stimulate muscle growth.
Supra Maximal Pump Techniques
One applicable technique I love is partial reps. For
example, at the end of a set of chest presses on a
machine, I may do another 5 to 20 partials completing
quarter-range reps to failure.
I also like Iso Holds (static reps using isotension).
These are particularly brutal. Picture going to failure
and then holding a weight in a fixed position while
your partner adds even more resistance. Not fun, but it
produces results.
There are many other techniques we use here too such
as drop sets, supersets, adding extra eccentric resistance, etc. These are probably not new for you, but using them at the right time in the workout is how I feel
you unlock much of your true genetic potential. You
are going to have to develop pain tolerance here. That
is what the limiting factor is. How much can you take?
You have to destroy what you think your pain threshold is and learn to do this on a regular basis.
The “Supra-Maximal Pump” to Pump Up
Your Gains
Several lines of evidence support how the pump
(cell-swelling) may promote muscle growth(77).
• Dehydration / cell shrinkage is associated with
muscle protein breakdown in disease(78, 79) (so
this should be avoided).
• Increasing cellular hydration increases glycogen
• Insulin’s anti-catabolic effects are partially mediated through ion exchange that increases cell volume(79).
• Type II muscle fibers, noted for their growth potential(81-83), have high glycolytic capacity and membrane porosity(84) and thus may swell in particular
after a great pump up set(77, 85-87).
• Cellular hydration due to creatine supplementation(88-90) may explain how it induces satellite
cell proliferation and incorporation into skeletal
muscle cells(91-93) and triggers many genes controlling cellular remodeling and protein synthesis(90).
So in this workout Phase, we pump up with more familiar bodybuilding exercises, but not all of them
should be done the way you’re probably used to. Check
out my YouTube channel and carefully watch the exercises I use and special tweaks that go along with them.
Take Home Message of Phase 3
(Supra-Maximal Pump Exercise)
I like the pump, and I think it can be an excellent barometer for muscle growth in that the pumped up
muscle uniquely reflects progress in that area. I usually program one or sometimes even two supra-maximal pump exercises into a workout.
I believe it’s safest to stretch your muscles under load
after they’re primed to their limits with blood (and the
tendons are warm). That’s why I end Base workouts
with an exercise that puts the target area into a stretch
while overcoming resistance as well. For example, leg
workouts may finish with stiff-legged or Romanian
deadlifts to give the hamstrings (very often underdeveloped on lifters) extra incentive to grow. A chest day
could end with machine flyes, or even a movement I
call stretch pushups where you lower your body between two steps or boxes so your pecs are elongated /
fully lengthened in the bottom position.
Exercise scientists have known for years that “stretch
overload” is a tremendous stimulus for increasing
muscle size. For decades, bodybuilders picked up on
the value of loaded stretching—that is, using weights
to increase a stretch – as a means of increasing muscle growth in addition to improving flexibility. Like
most techniques used in bodybuilding, the precise
mechanisms for why loaded stretching exercise works
are not entirely clear. From stretching fascial connective tissue that encapsulates muscle (making “more
room” for muscles to grow) to more immediate way
direct mechanisms, there may be many ways that
loaded stretching exercises stimulate growth. (See
Scott’s Science of Loaded Stretching section below for
more on this.) I wouldn’t say it is out of the question to
theorize that there might be some hyperplasia occurring here as well if done intensely and consistently
over time.
Both Dynamic and Static Stretching
So, the last Phase of a typical Mountain Dog workout
will include an exercise that focuses on getting full
and safe range of motion, especially when the target muscle is elongated, using a challenging load. In
addition to using these “stretch-component focused”
dynamic exercises, I also encourage (loaded) static
stretching at the end of your workouts, too. Just make
sure do these with some kind of load, as well, so you
get a deeper, more active stretch.
Check out the “Loaded Stretches” playlist on my YouTube channel to get a better idea of how this looks in
My top 3 exercises used for this technique include:
• Dumbell presses – Go to failure and then hold
them in the stretch position while your partner
gently pushes down on the weight for 10-30 seconds.
• Squats – After completion of set lighten weight and
just sit in deep squat while maintaining erect posture for 10-30 seconds.
• Hanging with weight – Attach some weight to you
and hang off chin up bar as long as you can while
allowing lats to stretch.
Take Home Message of Phase 4 (Loaded
Stretching Exercise)
As a final stimulus for muscle growth (and improved
flexibility), I incorporate Loaded Stretching Exercises
Science of Load Stretching
• Loading in the stretched position may facilitate
muscle growth in several ways:
• Contractions at forces above 50-60% of maximal
effort will occlude blood flow during the set(9497), which in and of itself creates an impressive
growth stimulus(98-103)
• Exertional compartment syndrome (e.g., shin splits)
may be caused by a muscle growth outpacing it’s
enclosing connective tissue fascia, suggesting that
stretching a pumped muscle may circumvent this
• Studies have suggested slightly different respons-
es of myofibrillar and collagen protein synthesis
after resistance exercise, depending upon type
of contraction(105) or the magnitude of response
(less for collagen)(106). If performing exercise in
the stretched position (with a pump) selectively
promotes connective tissue remodeling to withstand stretch overload(107), or simply entrains
better coordination of contractions in the stretched
position(108), Loaded Stretching may help prevent
muscular injury.
• Warming up a muscle (thus increasing it’s
temperature can increase tendon pliability(109))
may reduce injury risk(110).
that emphasize tension in the stretched out position, as well as loaded
static stretching. I think it’s safest to do these at the end of a workout,
when the muscle is warmed up and pumped full of blood and the connective tissue is most warm and pliable.
Workout Structure Summary
So, your typical Mountain Dog workout will include four Phases, which I’ve
summarized in the table below:
Phase (Exercise)
1. Pre-Pump
Pump up beyond warm
up; prepare for Phase 2
Not pre-fatiguing per se
Prone ham curl
2. Explosive Exercise
Core heavy lifts; focus
and load progression
Bands and chains
Low inc. bench with
3. Supra-Maximal Pump
Maximize the pump to
elicit growth
Intensification techniques
Leg press or knee ext.
4. Loaded Stretching
Full ROM under tension
Full, SAFE, stretch
Stiff-legged deadlift
I have a little different take on arms, calves, and abs. In
my opinion, they grow best with an approach slightly
different that the standard Four Phase approach of a
Mountain Dog workout.
For arms I think it is a mistake for most people to try
and go heavy, or explode during an exercise here. What
I have seen over the years is that tendonitis is likely
headed your way if you are trying to set PR’s on barbell
curls and skullcrushers on a repeat basis. Arms are
funny. Even though we know progressive resistance
works well for size, this is a body part that seems to do
much better when lighter weights are used with strict
form and shorter rest breaks. I have seen this be the
case over the years time and time again.
Special Note: When training arms ditch Phase 2 of the
Workout Structure!
For calves, these stubborn SOB’s seem to respond
best to high frequency training. When I say high frequency, I mean high frequency. Think 4, 5, 6 maybe
even 7 days a week. We still want to use the 4 phases,
but we have to limit our volume on these, and we don’t
need a huge variety of exercises. Also, the biggest calf
mistake made (other than skipping them) is to ignore
your tibialis anterior. I think loading your lower leg with
blood results in fantastic gains, but loading it also
means using your tibialis anterior as well. This is one
reason why I believe doing bis and tris together works
so well. Training your gastrocnemius and soleus along
with your tibialis anterior together follows the same
• Standing calf raises – Just sit in stretch position for
30 seconds. Do this 2 times.
• In between all sets do 20 reps of tibia raises.
This should blow your calves up, and will take no more
than 10 minutes!
Abs routines are typically way more complicated than
they need to be. I simply like to start with an exercise
in which you move your pelvic girdle toward your torso such as a hanging leg raise, and then finish with
an exercise in which you take your torso toward your
pelvic girdle, such as an incline sit up. 4 sets of each
done 2 to 3 times a week should be plenty. (Yes it’s
that easy!)
These are my favorite choices and what my clients use.
For “lower” abs:
• Hanging Leg Raises
• Leg raises with your elbows supported on pad
• Leg raises on a decline board/bench
• V ups
For “upper” abs:
• Incline sit ups
• Rope pulldowns/crunches
• Band crunches
In the following Chapter, we’ll focus on the stuff that
makes Mountain Dog Training just plain fun: High Intensity Techniques!
Here is an example of what a calf workout should look
• Standing calf raises 4 x 10 – Start light to activate
and pump calves and then move down the stack
and try to use as heavy weight as you can with a
full range of motion to get your 10 reps.
• Standing calves raises – 2 x 20 with an additional
10 partials out of the bottom.
Chapter 2
Intensification Techniques
Welcome back to Chapter 2 of the Science of Mountain Dog Training Series.
It’s time to get down to the nitty gritty “difference makers,” the Mountain
Dog Intensification Techniques that you’ve seen demonstrated by John and
his trainees on YouTube. In this article, John first describes the techniques
one by one. Thereafter, Scott breaks down the exercise science, the
physiological method to John’s madness, so to speak. If you’ve not already, it’s vital to have studied and understood Chapter 1 of this book. In
particular, you should note that the Chapter focuses entirely on techniques that would most typically be used for Phase 3 – Supra-Maximal Pump Exercises. (If you’re asking yourself what that means, definitely go back to read the first Chapter.)
Mountain Dog training has taken my training and
growth to the next level. John is a bit crazy but you
learn that everything he does has a purpose a good
reason for doing it, and above all, it just works. I look
forward to many more years working with John.
- Ken Jackson, IFBB Professional Bodybuilder
These are the techniques that will make a huge difference in your program for
breaking plateaus and moving forward!
Come Prepared
The first thing I would advise is getting a like-minded training partner that will
push you and who also wants to be pushed. A great training partner is worth
his/her weight in gold. Some of the intensification techniques are much easier
to execute with a partner (or even impossible without one). So again, find that
partner (and repeat as necessary!).
These advanced techniques also require the mental discipline to use perfect
technique. One of the biggest things I try to teach people when they are here
is to make every rep a quality rep. Don’t just push the weight from point A to
point B. (Leave that to the powerlifters!) We want to feel everything work.
When the pain starts to build up and you want to quit during these techniques,
stay focused on the stimulating the muscle, not just moving the weight for the
sake of doing so. Don’t get sloppy and embrace the pain.
Now, where did all these ideas come from? Well the
honest truth is they have been around forever. As far
as I know, these intensification techniques were first
really formalized as the Joe Weider principles. Perhaps
it’s their lack of newness and novelty, or simply the
pain they engender that explains why (in my opinion)
they are underused and underappreciated.
Drop sets
This is probably my favorite technique and it’s simple. Do a target amount of reps and then, upon failure,
drop the weight and keep going. Repeat this again and
maybe for a 4th time on occasion. One little tidbit I
would share with you though: Learn how much to drop
the weight. This will depend heavily on how hard you
pushed the previous set. If you are doing Smith machine incline presses for example and go to complete
failure on the first set, you will have to drop the weight
more than if you had left a rep or two in the tank. This
is common sense, but just be aware of it when you
are planning your drops (e.g., in how you sequence the
plates you load on the bar).
Forced reps
This will require the aid of a partner. You will go to failure meaning you cannot do any more reps with good
form, and then a partner will give you just enough help
during the concentric part of the movement to allow
you to keep your good form intact and complete a rep.
Good form is a must on forced reps. Your concentration will need to be at peak levels as you will be fighting through excruciating pain.
Iso-Holds against resistance (maximal
This is a technique I learned from Tom Platz. This is a
little different than a standard isometric contraction.
You will go to failure (remember this means you cannot
do any more reps with perfect form), and then hold
the weight at midpoint (possibly a little closer to the
shortened contraction point). As you hold the weight in
place, your partner will add enough pressure to ensure an isometric contraction “hold” while you struggle
against (and the weight). This is brutal, this is really
tough, which means I love it. Timing wise I like to do
this isohold for 7 to 10 seconds at the end of the set.
This is another one of my favorites. Once you have
completed all the reps you can with perfect form, you
maintain your form, but only do smaller, half reps,
sometimes quarter reps. Keep your body posture in
correct alignment on this. I see way too many people that are doing presses for example, and then they
will lose the arch in their chest, bounce the weight etc.
These should be done strictly!
This is when you do one exercise followed by another. Many times the first exercise is to pre-exhaust
the target muscle before hitting it with a more basic
movement such as doing flyes before bench presses. Don’t be afraid to do this the opposite way though.
Doing leg extensions after squats can be insanely
painful and productive!
Occlusion Stretches
Occlusion stretches are normal muscle stretches, but
are performed with a pumped muscle, which will create a metabolic stress and further stimulate muscle
growth (see below). Don’t try to force the stretch beyond your normal active range of motion as this can
be dangerous to the joints and possibly even cause
muscle tearing. Again, do these with a fully pumped
muscle! I can’t emphasize that enough!
You will find a few examples on my YouTube playlist
listed here:
Loaded Stretches
Now what you will see is a stretch done at the end of
a set (the chest dumbell press), and sometimes even
during the set as you see with the Hammer machine
lat pulldowns. Either way doing these with a pumped
muscle gives you the benefit we are looking for.
During the stretch it is important to allow actual
stretching, so don’t fight it ok. This can be dangerous
if done with too heavy of a weight, which is another
reason why I like to put these in the workout or after
a dropset or technique where you end with a more
moderate weight.
Occlusion training
This type of training has recently become a “hot” topic
[...] he asks me how
many reps he should
do on the dumbell
bench press with 150
lb dumbbells. I reply
“Twenty five.” His jaw
drops, as he doesn’t
think it is even possible.
Then he does it. Bam.
in the bodybuilding community, but what exactly is it?
Well you use wraps or some device around your upper arms or thighs depending on what you are training
to restrict blood flow. The goal is NOT to completely
restrict blood flow altogether, however. Most experts
say to wrap with a perceived tightness of 7 out of 10
(where 10 is the tightest you can imagine wrapping).
Personally, if I see a limb turning purple, well that may
be overdoing it! Also remember this is about acute
blood flow restriction, not chronic. I do not believe occluding a muscle for long periods of time is safe (could
cause tissue death). We are looking for more fast
twitch recruitment. This happens because the blood
flow restriction causes metabolic accumulation and
fatigues the muscle, thus necessitating the involvement of high threshold motor units. Lactate and GH
increases for example, have been documented using
this training technique. (See below.)
Before using this technique I would urge you to look at
the work of Jeremy Loenneke. He is one of the leading
experts in this field, perhaps the best.
For advanced bodybuilders, I think the jury is still out
on this as to the specific ways occlusion training can
be employed, given what I am hearing anecdotally.
(Maybe it still seems just weird to me?) What I do know
is that I myself and others have used this technique
during periods when training heavy was not an option
and it worked very well for maintaining muscle size. It
doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this
could be very valuable during training cycles in which you are crushed, or just having a bad day, as well. This method without
question produces very painful pumps also.
That is not debatable, which I think gives
validity to the potential of growth via cell
swelling or the pump. Don’t drop all your
basics for this technique, but give it a shot
time to time.
A Mountain Dog Special:
Challenge Sets – Test Your Will,
Feed Your Ego
You will also see “challenge sets” periodically sprinkled into the program.
If you have seen my chest training video
with IFBB Pro Antoine Valliant (see here), you
see a scene in which he asks me how many
reps he should do on the dumbell bench
press with 150 lb dumbbells. I reply “Twenty
five.” His jaw drops, as he doesn’t think it is
even possible. Then he does it. Bam.
These kinds of moments that happen during
this cycle are the moments that I value the
most. You think to yourself, wow, I can’t
believe I just did 45 reps with 1000 on the
leg press. You leave the gym dead, but in
a happy euphoric state knowing you did
something you didn’t even think was possible. These are very taxing, and they exist to
elicit a shock (novel stimulus at this intensity), but also to toughen you up mentally.
Challenge sets are to be used sparingly
though, as they are taxing. One challenge
set per workout is plenty if done to maximum intensity, and I wouldn’t do them every week. I would rather see you do them
every 2nd or 3rd week in general.
Science of Mountain Dog Intensification
• The Mountain Dog Intensification Techniques are most
definitely designed to make training more “intense:” They
make training more difficult and painful, even to the point
of being downright excruciating. Scientifically speaking,
however, we’re not talking about increasing intensity in
terms of how much weight you lift per se [i.e., using a higher percentage of one’s one-repetition maximum (1RM)
(111)], or careful manipulation of your rating of perceived
exertion during exercise(112). The purpose of these Intensification Techniques is simple: Increase the muscle growth
stimulus, propel your gains, and make you a better bodybuilder. John’s been torturing people like this for years, but
what’s cool is that exercise science research bears out
mechanisms underlying these training techniques that tell
why they are such good muscle growth stimuli(113).
• The most obvious stimulus for muscle growth is mechanical tension: By requiring your muscles to produce extraordinary tension, repeatedly, it responds appropriately by
building up contractile mass. However, an acute aspect
of the training stimulus, the metabolic stress that you
perceive as muscle fatigue and pain during exercise, also
plays an important role in fostering growth. You probably
also figured that muscle damage, manifesting as our old
friend, delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), is likely
involved in the muscle remodeling process.
• These exercise components that drive hypertrophy are at
work simultaneously, and thus are somewhat indivisible
and overlapping. The relative impact of each component on
muscle growth depends, of course, on how one trains and,
in the case of MD training, what Intensification Techniques
are applied. We know that the work output of heavy resistance exercise creates tremendous energetic demand(114),
which in turn results in metabolic stress. However, metabolic stress can be greatly amplified when lifting only very
light loads by using occlusion techniques to trap metabolic
waste products. At the other end of the spectrum, eccentric contractions (negatives) are much less metabolically
stressful than concentric contractions(115-117), but contribute the most to muscle damage(75) most likely because
of how intensely they load the contractile elements(118).
Exercise studies have demonstrated that, albeit “lacking” in
their counterpart stimulus, both occlusion training(98) (low,
tension, very metabolic stress-focused) and eccentric only
training(119, 120) (mechanical tension-focused with little
metabolite accumulation) are effective means of producing
muscle growth.
Mechanical Tension
Above all else, the muscular mechanical tension
is what sets weight training apart from most other
forms of formal exercise training. As you may have
noticed, although not a perfect correlation, the stronger the bodybuilder, the larger his / her muscles(121).
Research suggests that when it comes to regular old
“vanilla” straight set strength training, relatively heavy
loads (75-90% of your 1RM, i.e., weight you could lift
for about 5 to 15 reps to failure(122)] seem optimal for
packing on muscle mass(67, 123).
Muscle tissue is primed to adapt to tensile stress.
Simply by stretching(124, 125) developing (test-tube)
muscle at rest will trigger protein synthesis and local
inter-cell signaling molecule production (e.g., prostaglandins), as well as internal signaling molecules
(like phophatidic acid)(126-129). There are numerous
lines of scientific evidence demonstrating that heavy
muscular loading is a powerful trigger for muscle
growth(73, 127, 130, 131), and that the signal and resulting enlargement is indeed a function of the load
lifted(132, 133).
Of course, Mountain Dog Training is not powerlifting,
so maximal weights and load progression are not our
end-all-be-all. However, because muscle is inherently stronger during isometric and eccentric contractions(118), we take advantage of techniques like
Iso-Holds to amplify the tensile stimulus. Because
essentially all MD Intensification Techniques prolong
a set, they de facto create greater “time under tension”
as well. These last few agonizing reps are especially
potent, because the closer to muscular failure and the
greater the fatigue, the greater the number of motor
units (and muscle fibers) called into action(134-137).
In other words, the intensification tactics ensure loading across a maximal number of motor units and thus
muscle fibers. That’s one reason why John calls these
“the difference makers.”
Metabolic Stress
Hans Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) posits that adaptation counters the stresses placed upon
the body(138).
As mentioned above, the energy demand of muscle contraction specifically creates metabolic stress,
i.e., an imbalance of demand (ATP required to lift the
weight) and energy supply (metabolic ATP to do so).
The obvious result is fatigue and the accumulation of
metabolites(139) such as lactate, protons (H+; leading
to acidity) and inorganic phosphate (Pi)(140).
Per GAS, it makes sense that if this rapid accumulation of metabolites during highly strenuous resistance
exercise efforts is an especially important stressor, it
would promote higher levels of those enzymes of energy metabolism. However, substantial enzymatic adaptations do not consistently occur during the course
of exercise-induced muscle hypertrophy(82, 141-143).
This likely reflects the simple fact that not all training
programs are metabolically stressful enough to warrant enzymatic adaptation(144). So, while it may be
comforting to know gains in size and strength(145) can
result without exorbitant metabolic stress, Mountain
Dog Training isn’t always about being comfortable.
[...] Mountain
Dog Training is not
powerlifting, so maximal
weights and load
progression are not our
Really though… How much muscle are we missing out
if we focus on training loads and skimp on (painful)
metabolic stress?... Occlusion training [aka, blood flow
restriction (BFR) or Kaatsu(99) training] gives us some
insight here.
Occlusion training uses (otherwise embarrassingly)
light weights(146, 147), but generates impressive metabolic stress because metabolite clearance is prevented during a series of high rep sets(148). (For more
on occlusion training, see above and John’s youtube
playlist.) Despite the puny weights, BFR training has
proven a highly potent hypertrophic stimulus(98-101).
In fact, one BFR study(103) employing occlusion work-
outs twice daily for two weeks generated one of the
fastest rates of muscle growth recorded in the research literature(123). [This high training frequency
may be more feasible because your typical BFR protocol may only incur minimal muscle damage (103, 149,
So, what’s going on with the metabolic stress during
BFR exercise to produce muscle growth? Anyone who
has done BFR knows the that the metabolite accumulation and blood pooling creates a massive pump,
which may have an anabolic effect (secondary to cell
swelling) unto itself(151, 152). Metabolic fatigue necessitates a high reliance upon high threshold motor
units (despite the low loads)(153, 154), which explains
why large increases in type II fiber size are possible
with BFR training(155). We also know that occlusion
training recruits satellite cells(156) and reduces myostatin expression(157), just like various other loading
scenarios that increase muscle mass(158-170).
Mountain Dog Training is about utilizing all the anabolic tools in the bodybuilder’s toolkit, be they
old (Weider principles) or relatively new (e.g., BFR
training). Metabolic stress is a component of many
of these strategies and may explain the extreme fiber-specific(67) hypertrophy(171) (and even hyperplasia(162, 172, 173)) seen in bodybuilders, who, albeit
weaker than powerlifters, still outsize and typically
outwork them during metabolically stressful workouts(174).
Muscle Damage
Muscle damage is not the goal per se of MD training,
but we know that it comes as a result of heavy loading. In particular eccentric actions cause muscle dam-
Mountain Dog
Training is about utilizing
all the anabolic tools in
the bodybuilder’s toolkit,
be they old or relatively
age(75), and, compared to concentric contractions,
eccentrics may be more effective at increasing muscle
protein synthesis acutely(105), as well as strength(175,
176) and muscle growth over the long haul of training(119, 177-179).
If it’s occurred to you that John’s intention is prolonged, miserable DOMS, remember (see Chapter 1)
that he strongly promotes peri-workout recovery
supplementation, in part because it can substantially
reduce muscle damage(40, 41). The purpose here is to
generate a tremendous training stimulus, but mediate
excessive inroads into recovery through a targeted
nutritional strategy.
When it comes to finding the “right” amount of muscle damage, also note that non-steroid anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like aspirin limit (but don’t eliminate) prostanglandin synthesis(180, 181). NSAIDS
will thus reduce muscle damage(182-184), as well as
post-exercise protein synthesis(185, 186) and satellite
cell proliferation(187-189), which is vital for muscle
growth(158, 161, 164, 190-192)]. On the other hand, at
least one study suggests chronic NSAID use may actually promote muscle growth due to resistance training(193). Although puzzling(194), these results lend
credence to the notion that there is a sweet spot for
muscle damage and inflammation when it comes to
optimizing training gains. (We’ll cover finding the right
dose of training stimulus via periodization in the next
Chapter of the Science of Mountain Dog Training series.)
Activation Pattern
Training hard and taking sets to and beyond failure is
a powerful strategy to increase motor unit recruitment, and thus the stimulus to the muscle fibers
themselves(132-137). Variety in training – using a wide
selection of exercises as John always does – is also
an important strategy to optimize muscle growth(113).
Indeed, we know from magnetic resonance imaging(195) and electromyographic studies(107) that activation strategies vary substantially depending on
the exercise you choose for a given muscle group.
The spatial organization of motor units(107) clues us
in as to why numerous studies have demonstrated
region-specific increases in muscle size, i.e., that it’s
possible to change the relative shape of a growing
muscle or muscle group as it grows(107, 196-200). (These changes are
subtle, however. John’s not promising you’ll develop biceps peaks rivaling
Ronnie Coleman’s using his methods.)
Mountain Dog Training not only varies exercises on a regular basis, but
also, specifically when doing supersets, creates a one-two punch by coupling fatigue with two or more different movements for the same muscle
group. Frequently rotating exercises may also prevent those neurological
adaptations that contribute to a “repeated bout effect” (there is less muscle damage the second time, when repeating a given damaging exercise
bout)(201-204). On the other hand, excessive fatigue-related muscle
damage is somewhat limited intrinsically: The weights you can handle are
de facto reduced (e.g., at the end of a brutal drop set). Under controlled
circumstances, exercise-induced muscle damage does not seem to be
worsened by fatigue(205) and may actually be reduced if you do a good
The summary Table below shows you how the Mountain Dog Intensification Techniques synergize several hypertrophy-inducing exercise components. Each Technique exploits the mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy in
a slightly different manner. Leave it to John to add variety to intensity.
Mechanical Tension
Drop Sets
Forced Reps
Metabolic Stress
Muscle Damage
Activation Pattern
Occlusion Stretch
Occlusion Training
Super Sets
Summary Table: How MD Intensification Techniques impact the major factors that stimulate muscle growth.
[√ = Minimal impact; √ √ √ √ √ = Strong Impact]
Naturally, the key to making these techniques work is careful application
in appropriate measure. Reckless abandon is not the name of the game
when it comes to applying these MD Training Intensification Techniques. In
the next Chapter, we’ll show you how to employ these techniques when
devising up workout splits, and how to organize them into a grander
scheme of training periodization.
Chapter 3
Periodizing and Building Your Plan
Up to now, we have covered how to structure a workout and tie in the high
intensity techniques that make the training bouts highly effective. In this last
chapter, we take a step back and look at the big picture training parameters:
frequency of training, sensing when to push harder and when to back off,
and how to periodize your training overall, the Mountain Dog way. As before,
John covers the Mountain Dog training and Scott interjects exercise science
to explain why this way of training works so well.
Three Training Microcycles
(over ~3 months)
(2-3 weeks)
(6-8 weeks)
(2 weeks)
Varying Weekly Splits
(Train 4-7+ x/week; Base + Optional Pump Workouts)
Basic Workout Split
(Unless Pre-Contest)
Weekly Split Options
• Muscle Group
• Pre-Contest
• Post-Contest
Maintain Split
• Reduce Volume
Four Stages of Each Workout
4 “Stages”
• Pre-Pump
• Explosive
• SupraMaxPump
• Loaded Stretch
This chapter shows you how to build a periodized training macrocycle using
Mountain Dog workout structure and Intensification techniques.
The Figure above outlines the big picture of Mountain Dog training. In the sections to follow, we’ll cover the three training microcycles that comprise a
Mountain Dog macrocycle.
There are two important points to keep in mind here:
1. Most people don’t need periodization, but people
training our style do.
2. Periodization should be more about instincts, i.e.,
how you personally feel, as opposed to just following a structured template that does not account for individual differences.
Periodization: For Animals Only
I don’t believe that most people train hard enough to
even need periodization. There is a lot of talk about
overtraining these days, but do this. Go to your local gym tonight and look around: What you’ll see is
the majority of people “training” are talking on their
phones, texting, flirting, etc. For these individuals,
there is likely little need to periodize and “overtraining”
is really nothing more than a boogeyman. You, on the
other hand, are not the average gym goer. You train
like an uncaged animal in the gym, so this topic warrants discussion.
Science: Periodization for the Advanced
Periodization: Follow Your Instincts.
So how do you apply this to your training? This concept
has always been intriguing to me. I have never bought
into it in the way it has been presented as a simple
numbers game. For example, why would you train 3
weeks hard, then back off for a week if you feel awesome after three weeks and are still smashing records
and growing at a fast rate? Do you think it is wise to
just slow down then? I do not. I am a strong believer in
a much more instinctive approach to periodization.
We are not mirror images of each other in terms of
recuperative ability. So, when it comes to Mountain
Dog training, there are guidelines we generally follow,
but with some flexibility in the duration of each microcycle. If you fall outside of these numbers, follow your
instinct! For example, if you feel awesome after 1 week
of tapering, feel free to ratchet intensity back up. If you
feel decimated after 4 weeks of a destroyer microcyle,
it’s ok to back off intensity for a week. Listen and get in
tune with your body!
Science of Instinctive Training
• The law of diminishing returns after years
of training: Strength gains are not as easy in
advanced trainees as in beginners(207-210),
suggesting a different strategy should be
• Bodybuilder regimens are notoriously
extreme(213-217). However, training volume
does have a practical limit, beyond which training
adaptation (e.g., strength gain) suffers, even in
highly trained athletes(218).
• To wit, simply changing training variables
(employing a new training regime) may impact
gains(207, 211). This effect is so profound that
some researchers have taken the time pre-train
participants before beginning interventions(51),
e.g., to eliminate neural adaptations(212) from
the effects of muscle hypertrophy on strength.
• More specifically, Recent research has demonstrated that training in progressive but “autoregulated” fashion (progression based upon performance in the gym) produces superior training
gains compared to a linear (pre-set pattern)
periodization approach(219).
The Preparation Microcycle – 2-3 weeks
The Destroyer Microcycle
5-6 week duration
Now for those of you doing my programs, you will be
working hard, so this is important. Generally speaking
I like to start a program off at lower volumes with high
intensity. Almost everyone I work with gets pretty sore
from this, and I don’t think high volume is needed just yet.
The next phase is going to be “balls out” intensity. It will
be higher in volume as well. This in my opinion is the
training that separates the champions from the “also
rans.” This is where your desire and your will are tested.
I want you to start thinking about this rule all the time.
Get the most out of
the least.
What I mean by this is maximizing each step in the process and most importantly, giving yourself somewhere
to go to take that next step. You need to progressively
increase your training stimulus, and in a very calculated way. In my programs, progression is primarily the
volume of the training load itself. This is the Mountain
Dog way to create a training adaptation that makes
you a better bodybuilder! If you go into a training cycle
right out of the gate with “guns blazing” all-out intensity and high volume, how can the training stimulus be
increased? More importantly, a lesser training stimulus may be enough and one upon which you can build
during the ensuing weeks. The first microcycle lasts 2-3
weeks typically. We slowly build up volume. This will
prepare you for the brutality that lies ahead.
There is no way you can train like this indefinitely
though! You need to put the brakes on at some point.
For most people it’s around 5-6 weeks of this, and
they hit the overreaching stage pretty hard. During
this phase, I like for people to discover what they are
capable of. Many times I ask people to do something
and they sort of shake their head and reply, “Seriously?” We mentioned this in chapter 2 (above), when I
challenge Antoine Valliant to perform 25 reps on the
dumbbell bench press using the 150lb dumbbells. His
jaw drops initially, but he doesn’t back down: He simply does it. Another example was when Scott was up
to train with Dave Tate and me at the EliteFTS™ compound. Dave set up a partial deadlift loaded with three
plates on each side and enough chains to sink a battleship. Here’s a video of the two of them having at it:
Challenge set - PhD vs Meathead
Science of the Preparation Microcycle.
• Training periodization is rooted in Hans Selye’s
notion of a general adaptation syndrome(138),
characterized by an “alarm” reaction to each
exercise stress. Accordingly, only the appropriate, sufficient dose of exercise stimulus results
in adaptation (muscle growth), whereas excess
training is simply non-productive(220, 221).
• Because an initial bout of a novel exercise is more
damaging tha follow-up training sessions(repeat-
ed bout effect)(202, 204), less stressful training
sessions are likely adequate after a break from
• Indeed, a recent study found that starting a training macrocycle with a short (3 week) “Preparation Microcycle” eliminated muscle soreness and
damage compared to training with initially higher
volume, but that muscle size and strength gains
were equivalent(222).
Sets like these, where you test and exceed previous
limits, are what make the Destroyer Microcycle stand
out. I value these kind of moments the most – for me,
they equate to an out of body experience. You think to
yourself things like, “Wow, I can’t believe I just did 45
reps with 1000 on the leg press.” You leave the gym
exhausted, but in a happy euphoric state from your
personal achievement. Most people will never understand this, but when this kind of passion is inspired,
you are on the fast road to success.
As I mentioned above, overreaching usually starts to
rear its head about 6 weeks into this microcycle, and
overtraining is becoming a possibility. At this point,
with some exceptions, it’s time to move on to the next
phase. Again, this is not black and white though. I am
just providing a general guideline.
Passion trumps
-Dave Tate, Elite Powerlifter,
Founder and CEO of EliteFTS™
The Taper Microcycle
2-3 week duration
This phase is characterized by tapering down volume
greatly. We keep intensity high, but by bringing down
the total workload, the person very quickly comes out
of overreaching. This is usually when a trainee sees
a lot of “gains” and PR’s also. It is common to mistake
the lower volume as the driver for these gains per se,
but it’s more than likely the fact that the taper of volume is allowing adaptations to take place simply from
the overreaching phenomenon. This phase is a very
loved phase by people who work with me. They seem
rejuvenated many times just from 1 week of this. In
fact I have actually built programs where we kept this
phase to less than 2-3 weeks because it can be so
Taper Microcycle Science
• Research suggests that, as long as training intensity is maintained, even reducing training volume
by two-thirds [by way of weekly frequency(223)]
can be enough to maintain muscle size.
• Similarly, research studies have borne out repeatedly that maintaining training intensity(224, 225)
while reducing training volume is the most effective means of tapering when it comes to muscular
strength(226, 227).
• Naturally, when coupled with adequate nutrient intake(228) (shifted toward positive nutrient
balance via reduced caloric expenditure in the
gym), hoisting heavier loads when tapering translates into a very powerful stimulus for muscular
growth(74, 133).
Sometimes I feel it’s silly to talk about training volume
as many times it is just semantics, e.g., does a warm
up set count the same as only the heaviest or toughest (“real”) working set? The same workout might
mean a wide range of “sets completed,” depending on
who’s counting. Without clarifying this, the meaning of
high vs. low volume is lost in semantics.
In the Mountain Dog training framework, a “working”
set need not be an absolutely insane set to failure and
beyond, but should be somewhat effortful. Knowing
that, here are typical sets / workout ranges as it applies to volume for a given muscle group, within the
Mountain Dog framework.
Mountain Dog Training Volume
Muscle Group
Training Volume
8 - 10
11 - 15
16 - 20
8 - 10
11 - 14
15 - 18
9 - 10
11 - 12
10 - 11
12 - 15
16 - 20
9 - 11
12 - 16
9 - 11
12 - 16
Pump Workouts
In Chapter 1 I describe the four phases of a mountain dog “Base” workout.
The other type of Mountain Dog workout is a “Pump” workout. These are
employed to:
1. Add frequency to your plan.
2. Increase the number of anabolic opportunities you have (fix
3. Reduce the need for excessive cardio.
I love to train. I cannot stand taking more than 1 maybe 2 days off a week.
Many people I coach are the same way. You have to be careful though.
These pump days need to be done intelligently.
Again, Pump workouts are how we increase training frequency. These are
workouts that do not use the four stages described in Chapter 1. These
workouts are all done to simply get the greatest pump possible without
excessively stressing your connective tissue and/or joints. Here are the
basic rules of Pump day workouts:
• We do not use barbells on a pump chest or shoulder day
• We do not squat or leg press heavy on pump leg days
• We do not deadlift or do extremely heaving rowing on pump back days.
• We often superset, or triset, or giant set on these days.
• Just get an insane pump!!!!
As mentioned in Chapter 1, it is absolutely essential to get peri-workout
nutrition nailed in order to recover well enough to implement these pump
days. This is something we simply can’t emphasize enough. You should
not be sore longer than 1 or 2 days, and honestly, I don’t even want you
sore at all really, maybe just a little pain when you stretch your pecs out
the day after training them, for example.
Typical Signs of Overreaching
Ok, so you have finished a brutal 12 week program or
maybe you are in week 7 and just need a week to back
off because you are listening to your body. Deloading
is how we prevent staleness and “reset” to ensure
continued gains and prepare for the next training
macrocycle. So how do we do this?
Basic Guidelines for Deloading
Training Parameter
Weekly Frequency
Changes with Deloading
Reduce to 3 - 4 days / week
• Loss of “pop” when training(230). Weights that
are normally lifted with a clean, crisp motion now
seem to take a little too long to execute the rep.
Your limit strength may be decreased or your tolerance for overall volume may decrease.
• Difficulty elevating your heart rate(231)
• Feeling of simultaneous tightness and stiffness(232). You may also experience discomfort in
your tendons(233) on the first few eccentric motions of any set.
Intensity / Effort
Cut sets short of failure by
2-3 reps
Training Session
Reduce Number of Set by 20%
(from end of Taper)
• Delayed onset muscle and tendon soreness(232),
even after low volume or low intensity training.
This could be accompanied by a feeling of being
High Intensity
Eliminate (No partials, forced
reps, etc.)
• Changes in appetite(233) and decrease in body
That’s it – Deloading the Mountain Dog Way!
More Than Overreaching
So how do you learn to be more instinctive? How do
you know when you are overreaching versus overtraining?
Both overtraining and overreaching result in performance decrements as a result of excessive training
and/or non-training stresses. The signs and symptoms generally lie along a spectrum ranging from
those that require caution (overreaching) to the more
severe (overtaining). Overreaching occurs over a
shorter time scale (a matter of weeks or months)
and may be considered a normal outcome of high
level training. Most importantly, recovery from overreaching can occur within a couple weeks(229). Here
are some signs and symptoms of overreaching that I
would generally associate with overreaching:
• Mental fuzziness and loss of focus during training(233).
Here some the symptoms that, I believe, tend to reflect
a more severe state of overtraining.
Typical Signs Suggestive of Overtraining
• All of the above symptoms of overreaching, potentially increased in severity(229).
• Loss of motivation in and outside of the gym(233).
• General loss of focus(233).
• Sleep disturbances(232).
• Mood related issues or a general irritability(232,
• Persistent feeling of fatigue(233).
• Loss of libido(234).
So how do we set up a weekly split?
The basic Mountain Dog split calls for four training “Base” days per week to
start. As your nutrition becomes more finely tuned (especially peri-workout
nutrition) and you adapt to this training style, I expect you’ll be able to add
additional “Pump” style workouts that potentiate further gains.
Eventually, you’ll be able to train up to six or even seven days per week if
you choose to, for a period of time. The Table below and notes thereafter
summarize Mountain Dog weekly splits and special considerations for:
• The Basic (4x / week) workout split.
• Bringing up particular muscle groups (Chest/Shoulders, Back, Legs and
Arms, respectively).
• Pre-contest splits.
• Post-contest split.
Summary of Mountain Dog Weekly Workout Splits
Basic Split
Chest /
Chest /
Chest /
Chest /
Chest /
Chest /
Chest / Sh/
Triceps (6
Back /
(6 sets)
Chest /
Chest /
Chest /
^Stay off
Lower Back
*Stay off
Lower Back
†No Failure
Basic Workout Split:
• Legs and back are separated to keep lower back
from getting too beat up.
• Arms are after torso so they won’t potentially limit
chest and back training.
Chest and Shoulders Focus:
• Here you are giving your chest 3 days rest after the
big workout, plus two days rest after the pump
style workout before hitting it again.
• I have one of my most popular programs (called
“Creeping Death”) set up this way.
Arms Focus
• I do not like to add in extra arm days (generally
speaking) because between arms workouts and all
the torso work it’s easy to end up with tendonitis
and joint inflammation. (Age has its perks!)
Pre-Contest Split:
• This 7-day split pre-contest would presume you’ve
mastered peri-workout nutrition and are thus
ready to dive into the deep end and train every day
of the week.
• After a contest I like to have people revert back to 4
days a week.
Back Focus:
• NOTE: During back pumping workout you should go
easy on your lower back as you will be doing heavy
legs the next day. (Keep that lower back healthy!)
• Do not take sets to failure. The approach is still a
high volume approach, however.
• Use a limited number of exercises.
Legs Focus:
• 3 days of rest after the base day
• 2 full rest days before hitting the heavy base day
A Post-Contest Back Workout Example
• Back - 18 sets:
• Use different exercises for this but stick with this philosophy of less exercises and more sets, but none taken to failure.
• Dumbell Deadstop Rows - 2-3 warm up sets of 15. 8 sets of 8 reps. Moderate weight, not super heavy in keeping in line with this week’s theme. 8 total
working sets.
• Stretchers - 6 sets of 8. 6 total working sets.
• Hyperextensions - 3 sets to failure w/ bodyweight only.
3 total working sets.
• If you have access to a reverse hyper machine, do that instead.
• Hang with weight - Hang off chinning bar (wearing straps) with same weight
as last week. See how long you can make it this time. 1 working set.
Three Training Microcycles
Once again, here is the Figure that pieces together the Big Picture of creating a
Mountain Dog Training macrocycle (see
below). After reading the FAQ below, you
should have all the basic pieces needed
to generate your own Mountain Dogstyle Training Plan.
(over ~3 months)
(2-3 weeks)
(6-8 weeks)
(2 weeks)
Varying Weekly Splits
(Train 4-7+ x/week; Base + Optional Pump Workouts)
Basic Workout Split
(Unless Pre-Contest)
Weekly Split Options
• Muscle Group
• Pre-Contest
• Post-Contest
Maintain Split
• Reduce Volume
Four Stages of Each Workout
4 “Stages”
• Pre-Pump
• Explosive
• SupraMaxPump
• Loaded Stretch
I’ve been training for over almost two decades now and I don’t have a
medium speed. My training has always been very intense but not really
well thought out.
John has taught me a lot but mainly that training intensely is important,
but training with a purpose is MORE important. He’s taught me it’s not
about slaughtering your body to the point of no return, it’s about stimulating new growth and if you puke in the process that’s ok too.
I have to say without John I don’t think I would have made the gains I
made in 2013 & 2014. John has really changed the way I look at training
and not only am I getting better, I’m stronger, train more often, and am
recovering faster.
John’s methods will go down in bodybuilding history. I’m glad and proud
to say he is my coach and is taking me along for the ride.
- Fouad Abiad, IFBB Professional Bodybuilder
Q: Where can I find some workouts to try before
building my own?
A: Right here. http://mountaindogdiet.com/ You will
find over 40 workouts and also some “pump” style
workouts mentioned above on the member site.
Q: Won’t I get weaker if I do a big compound movement like a deadlift after a more isolated exercise
like a dumbbell row?
A: For the first few weeks, you may not be able to use
the same load on the explosive exercise. The prepump exercise might fatigue you enough that you
won’t be able to do a major barbell exercise like a
deadlift, squat, or bench press with as much weight as
you could if you were completely fresh. However, your
body will adjust. You’ll be back up to your old poundages shortly, and then you’ll surpass them. More importantly, you’ll be able to handle those heavier weights
more safely because you’ll be much more thoroughly
warmed up when you get around to using them.
sonable level of strength yet throughout your body,
you obviously can go a long way before you’ll need
bands or chains to help you go further. What is a “reasonable level of strength”? Benching your body weight
(or within 30 pound of it for females), squatting your
body weight plus approximately 100 pounds for a few
reps (plus 25 pounds for females), and generally being
able to handle dumbbells from the heavier side of the
rack is a good barometer. If regular people are impressed with your muscularity and call you “athletic”,
I’ll wager that the time has come for you to experiment
with bands and chains a bit. But I usually have people
who are brand new to my system go two 12-week cycles before using bands and chains. The novelty of the
intensity is typically enough by itself to spark tremendous gains, so there’s no need to push it harder.
Q: How do I know which level I’m at, beginner or intermediate?
A: See the answer to the above question on bands and
chains. As for advanced lifters, they know who they
are already.
Q: I don’t have bands or chains. Do I have to use them
to get results?
Q: How long does a typical Mountain Dog workout
A: No, especially if you haven’t been training for at
least a few years and don’t have a well-developed
mind-muscle connection or a solid strength base.
However, when you’ve reached the intermediate level,
bands and chains can open up a new world of gains to
you and allow you to progress to the advanced level
much faster. Unfortunately, the ones your gym already
carries probably won’t work. You need continuous
loop bands (not the tube kind) that resist wear and
tear, and you’ll need a variety of sizes and tensions.
I’ve always used the ones sold by EliteFTS™.
A: About 45 minutes for arms, an hour for chest and
shoulders, a little more for back, more than that for
legs (maybe up to 2 hours on legs). It depends on what
phase of training you’re in and how strong you are. The
stronger and more experienced the lifter, the longer it
will take him to work up to the loads that are appropriate for his work sets. For most intermediate lifters,
blocking out 90 minutes of training time will be plenty.
Q: How do I know when I’m ready for bands and
A: It’s a hot topic and maybe even faddish right now
to say you have special exercises for females. I put
my bikini, figure, physique, and bodybuilding women
through the same workouts as men. They don’t do
decline work for chest and rarely do trap work. That’s
about it in terms of differences. Women are at a hor-
A: This is a great question, but unfortunately, I don’t
have the greatest, most definitive answer. If you’re a
beginner, you’ve never trained in the Mountain Dog
style before, or you simply haven’t developed a rea-
Q: I’m a woman. Are the workouts in this book designed for men exclusively? What modifications
should I make to them so they suit my needs?
monal disadvantage, so taking it easier on them seems silly. It’s hard
enough to put good muscle on women as is. Thinking there are special
exercises that are unique for women is equally as silly. Bottom line is that
my women grind hard.
Q: Can I perform Mountain Dog training at home?
A: Maybe, assuming that you have a good variety of equipment. Leg press
and hack squat machines aren’t common in home gyms, so most of my
clients train in a big facility. I often get asked about modifying workouts for
home use or coming up with a minimalist Mountain Dog system or bodyweight only approach, but I don’t see how these options could be anywhere near as effective. You simply must have access to standard weight
training equipment to do these workouts and get results. The wider the
array of stuff you have access to, the more you can do and the more stimulation you can provide your muscles.
Q: Calves and arms seem to be trained differently than the other body
parts. Why don’t they follow the four-phase system?
A: Calves, biceps, and triceps are relatively small and uncomplicated muscles. To put it simply, you just need to go for a pump to make them grow.
You can apply intensity techniques like drop sets and three-second eccentrics to them, but apart from what I said about them in the body-part
training guide and the weak-point training guide, they don’t need to be
trained with bands or chains, nor do they need to follow a strict multiphase approach. I also think that going too heavy on arms puts you at a
high risk for elbow tendonitis. Calves I like to train as often as I possibly
can. I actually train them as much as 6 to 7 times a week during stretches.
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