The Brutality of Mountain Dog Training A How-To Guide and Scientific Perspective
John Meadows with Scott Stevenson, PhD
MOUNTAIN DOG TRAINING 1
Foreward 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).
Dedication 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.
PHASE 1 THE PRE-PUMP ACTIVATION EXERCISE
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) working.
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 well.
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. 6
you easily useable energy to make it through the training sessions. • 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 Supplementation: • 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 synthesis(24-28). • 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 acids(39). • 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
PHASE 2 THE “EXPLOSIVE” EXERCISE
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 Resistance(68).
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). 9
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 Barbell.
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.
Rehabilitation. 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
Assistance. 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
PHASE 3 SUPRA-MAXIMAL PUMP EXERCISES
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 synthesis(80). • 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.
PHASE 4 LOADED STRETCHING EXERCISES
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 action! 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 limitation(104). • 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). 13
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)
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 chains
3. Supra-Maximal Pump
Maximize the pump to elicit growth
Leg press or knee ext.
4. Loaded Stretching
Full ROM under tension
Full, SAFE, stretch
EXCEPTIONS FOR EXCEPTIONAL MUSCLE GROUPS
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.
Arms 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!
Calves 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 principle.
• 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!
Abdominals 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 like. • 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.
ORIGIN OF THE INTENSIFICATION TECHNIQUES
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 isometric) 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.
Partials 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!
Supersets 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 Techniques • 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 end-all-be-all. 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, 150).] 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 new.
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 warm-up(206). 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 √√√
Iso-Holds Partials 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)
1. PREPARATION (2-3 weeks)
2. DESTROYER (6-8 weeks)
3. TAPER (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
• 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 applied.
• 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 Duration
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 training. • 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). 25
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 everything. -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 rejuvenating.
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).
A BIT ABOUT TRAINING VOLUME
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 Guidelines Muscle Group Legs
Training Volume Low Medium High 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
AND A BIT ABOUT TRAINING FREQUENCY 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 weaknesses). 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 Volume
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 heavy(234).
High Intensity Techniques
Eliminate (No partials, forced reps, etc.)
• Changes in appetite(233) and decrease in body weight(234).
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, 233). • Persistent feeling of fatigue(233). • Loss of libido(234).
WEEKLY WORKOUT SPLITS
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 FOCUS
Chest / Shoulders
Chest / Shoulders
Chest / Shoulders
Chest / Shoulders (Pumping)
Chest / Shoulders
Chest / Shoulders
Chest / Sh/ Triceps (6 sets)
Back / Biceps (6 sets)
Chest / Shoulders
Chest / Shoulders†
Chest / Back Legs Shoulders (Pumping*) (Pumping) (Pumping) Off
^Stay off Lower Back
*Stay off Lower Back †No Failure Sets
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.
Post-contest: • 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 again.
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
THE BIG PICTURE
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)
1. PREPARATION (2-3 weeks)
2. DESTROYER (6-8 weeks)
3. TAPER (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
• 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 31
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS.
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 take?
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 chains?
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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