So you’re not as jacked as any of the guys at your gym—including the dude behind the desk. Follow this road map to massive strength and size gains and you can be. It won’t be easy, and results won’t appear overnight, but stay the course and the goal is 100% attainable. The catch? It’s on you to execute the game plan we’ve put together. That includes following the workout plan; forcing yourself to train when you’re dog tired; eating clean; and pushing yourself to finish when all you can think about is throwing in the towel.

Now, we’re sure you have questions, such as, Which exercises are the best? How many reps and sets should I do? What’s the quickest way to see improvements? And you’ll get answers, courtesy of nationally ranked bodybuilder John Meadows, C.S.C.S., and his hand-tailored training method, Mountain Dog.

Meadows’ program removes the guesswork and omits training elements that simply won’t produce results. Whether you want to look the part or eventually compete onstage, set aside the next six months to transform yourself from a beginning wannabe to a full-blown bodybuilder.

While most beginner programs focus on compound moves, such as the Big 3—bench press, squat, and deadlift—performed with heavy weight and low reps, Meadows feels that neglects a necessary component of becoming a bodybuilder: the mind-to-muscle connection. Mountain Dog training focuses on maximum muscle growth (hypertrophy) by using isolation exercises performed on machines as a method of developing this all-important link.

“Isolation exercises develop powerful neuromuscular innervation and neural drive, aka the mind-to-muscle connection, by placing mental and neurological focus on a targeted muscle group,” Meadows explains. “If you cannot contract a muscle in isolation, you’ll never be able to fully contract it in a compound movement.”

We’re not scoffing at compound exercises or strength. Both are necessary, and Mountain Dog training utilizes them. Training for size requires specific intensity techniques and varying sets and reps to stimulate growth. “By using intensification techniques and effective execution of reps, you’ll not only create an opportunity for muscle growth but also greater potential for strength gains on compound exercises,” Meadows says.



Mountain Dog training utilizes three scientifically proven principles for muscle growth.


The breakdown of muscle fibers is achieved primarily through eccentric contractions (the negative potion of a rep). There are associations between eccentric contractions and soreness, elevation of protein synthesis, hypertrophy, and strength increases.


Colloquially referred to as “time under tension (TUT),” mechanical tension is the window of time in which a muscle is actively contracting. Weight training differs from other forms of exercise because more TUT demands maximal fiber recruitment, which leads to muscle growth.


Metabolic stress refers to the high-energy demands that exhaust muscles of their stored glycogen and create the “burn” effect during prolonged TUT (high-rep sets). The “pump” feeling comes from metabolic stress. Lighter weight can cause more metabolic stress than heavier weights, resulting in the accumulation of lactate and subsequent muscle growth.



You’ll train three days per week: two on, one off, one on, one off. On the sixth day, cycle through the split again.

Day 1: Legs

Day 2: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps

Day 3: Off

Day 4: Back/Biceps

Day 5: Off

Day 6: Repeat cycle


Each workout is organized into four distinct phases to achieve optimal hypertrophy while building strength and preventing injury.

PHASE 1: Pre-Pump Activation Exercise

This movement is easy on your joints, tendons, and ligaments. It allows you to feel the target muscle, serving as a warmup for the compound movement. This exercise is not an isolation movement designed to pre-exhaust; it’s used to pump, not fatigue, the target muscle.

PHASE 2: The Explosive Exercise

This exercise is a compound barbell movement in which the weight is lowered under control and driven up hard and fast. Sets are done by gradually adding weight until you lose speed and can barely keep the bar moving.

PHASE 3: Supra-Maximal Pump Exercise

Your intention is to maximize blood flow and metabolic stress. You’ll hammer the target muscle with high-intensity techniques and pump it to its limit with dropsets, partial reps, and forced reps.

PHASE 4: Loaded Stretching Exercise

The goal is to get a complete and safe range of motion with the target muscle being fully elongated. In addition to these dynamic loaded stretching moves, do loaded static stretching at the end of the workout to encourage greater elongation of the muscle belly.



Lying Leg Curl / Sets: 4 / Reps: 20, 20, 12, 10 / Goal: Activate and pump

Barbell Squat / Sets: 4 / Reps: 6 / Goal: Train explosively

Leg Extension (with partials)* / Sets: 1 / Reps: 12 / Goal: Supra-max pump

Barbell Stiff-leg Deadlift** / Sets: 4 / Reps: 10 / Goal: Work muscle from stretched position

Leg Press/Toe Press / Sets: 2 / Reps: 60 seconds / Goal: Supra-max pump

*Use the heaviest weight possible while still achieving a full range of motion. Hold each contraction for 3 seconds at the movement’s apex. Do 10 partial reps from the bottom after the set.

**Bend your knees at the bottom of the lift.



Incline Dumbbell Press / Sets: 3 / Reps: 10 / Goal: Activate and pump

Barbell Incline Press* / Sets: 6 / Rps: 8 / Goal: Train explosively

Seated Machine Chest Press / Sets: 3 / Reps: 10, 8, 8 / Goal: Activate and pump

Stretch Pushup** / Sets: 2 / Reps: 10 / Goal: Work muscle from stretched position

Dumbbell Bentover Lateral / Sets: 3 / Reps: 10 / Goal: Activate and pump

Seated Smith Machine Press / Sets: 3 / Reps: 6 / Goal: Train explosively

Dumbbell Lateral Raise (with partials) / Sets: 1 / Reps: 30 / Goal: Supra-max pump

Rope Pushdown / Sets: 4 / Reps: 12, 12, 10, 10 / Goal: Supra-max pump

Lying Triceps Extension / Sets: 2 / Reps: 10 / Goal: Work muscle from stretched position

*Do not let the bar touch your chest.

**Place two flat benches or raised step platforms about three feet apart. Place one hand on each bench so your body is in a wide-grip pushup position between the benches. Do a pushup, sinking very low. Drive up to return to the starting position.




Meadows Row* / Sets: 2 / Reps: 8 / Goal: Activate and pump

Deadlift / Sets: 4 / Reps: 6 / Goal: Train explosively

Narrow-grip Chinup / Sets: 2 / Reps: Failure / Goal: Supra-max pump

Dumbbell Pullover / Sets: 2 / Reps: 10 / Goal: Work muscle from stretched position

Hammer Curl** / Sets: 2 / Reps: 10 / Goal: Supra-max pump

EZ-bar Preacher Curl*** / Sets: 2 / Reps: 10 / Goal: Supra-max pump

*Place one end of a barbell in the corner of a wall. Load plates on the opposite end. Stand parallel (facing) to the bar. Grab the end of the bar with an overhand grip—this will be the short side of the barbell. Row the barbell toward your rib cage, similar to a one-arm dumbbell row.

**Do 5 partial reps from the bottom after each set.

***On the last set, have a partner give you 4 forced reps or do a dropset.



Train abs twice a week on any two days of your choosing.

Pick one lower-abs exercise from the following list and do two sets of 25 reps.

  • Hanging Leg Raise
  • Leg Raise with elbows supported on pad
  • Decline Bench Leg Raise

Pick one upper-abs exercise from the following list and do two sets of 15–25 reps.

  • Incline situp
  • Rope Pulldown/Crunch
  • Band Crunch