• Mountain Dog Training For Intermediates


      by John Meadows, CSCS T-Nation

      As the creator of the Mountain Dog training system, even I'll admit that it can be a little brutal.

      I've received hundreds of hateful emails and profanity-laced text messages over the years from readers and clients telling me that Mountain Dog leg training left them too sore to walk up a flight of stairs or even sit on the toilet.

      And for the last time, no, I do not own stock in any brand of adult diaper.

      This has led many to label Mountain Dog an "advanced" training system, intended for guys who've exhausted most traditional methods. I basically agree, as like in dieting, it only makes sense to "try to get the most out of the least."

      In other words, why hit a balls-out Mountain Dog leg workout and have to be wheeled out of the gym on a gurney when a simple linear progression program of basic exercises will work?

      But then there's the huge category of so-called "intermediate lifters." These guys are bigger and stronger than the fresh-faced beginners, but not developed enough to do damage on a bodybuilding stage or powerlifting platform. Are these guys ready for Mountain Dog? Maybe, maybe not.

      To that end, here's how I classify beginner, intermediate, and advanced lifters:

      Beginner
      • Less than two years in the gym.
      • Strength is poor. Can't bench press or squat their own bodyweight.
      • Not coordinated enough to do heavy compound movements well. Require plenty of hands on guidance.
      • Often can't feel target muscles working.
      • Can't understand most cues such as "tuck your elbows in" or "lift your sternum up."
      • Physiques can vary considerably, but usually will show very little muscle belly fullness or roundness, vascularity, or striations. Might even be skinny fat.
      Intermediate
      • Usually two years plus in the gym.
      • Decent at executing the basic heavy compound movements.
      • Can feel most muscles working well.
      • Understands most verbal exercise cues.
      • Strength is decent. Can likely do a few reps with bodyweight on bench presses (or within 30 pounds of bodyweight for females), and their weight plus 100 pounds in the squat with good form for a few reps (or bodyweight plus 25 pounds for females).
      • Physiques show signs of good development, usually described as "athletic." They might have some muscle groups that are lean with some decent size and fullness. Again, this can vary considerably.
      Advanced
      • Five years plus in the gym.
      • Very good at executing the basic heavy compound movements. Understands how to use machines and align their body to target specific muscles.
      • Understands the little things, such as proper elbow trajectory in a row. Good kinesthetic awareness.
      • Have done drop sets, supersets, and other high intensity techniques successfully.
      • Mentally tough, as they've pushed themselves hard to bust through plateaus.
      • Can feel most muscles working well.
      • Very good at interpreting verbal cues.
      • Physiques can vary, but you might see some striations and vascularity, along with some "under the radar" muscle development such as hamstrings and rear delts.
      More on Beginners

      So to round up, insanity is not required if you're a beginner. Strive to master the basics such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, leg presses, barbell curls, triceps pushdowns, etc. You'll get bigger and stronger just by doing the basics and focusing on pushing up the weights or reps.

      Focus should be kept on beating your logbook and executing perfect form. Don't let the need to push more weight dictate form it should be constant and near perfect. Keep it simple and grow!


      The Next Step: Welcome to Intermediate Mountain Dog Land.

      So now it's time to ramp up the volume and intensity to superhuman levels, right? Not so fast. At this stage I'm going to challenge you a bit more with some high intensity sets and work your volume up some, but not to advanced levels.

      Here's my simple way of explaining the main difference between advanced and intermediate training.

      Volume

      Volume is less for intermediates. See the chart below for a typical 12-week program model:

      Phase 1 (weeks 1-3) Phase 2 (weeks 4-9) Phase 3 (weeks 10-12)
      Intermediate 6-8 sets* 8-12 sets* 6-8 sets*
      Advanced 9-12 sets* 12-20 sets* 7-10 sets*
      * depending on size of bodypart.

      Why such a moderate approach? Again, it's all about getting the most out of the least. The intermediate program is a step up from what a beginner would do but not as much as an advanced. This is still extra stress and muscle breakdown that will set the stage for continued gains.

      What about the deloads?

      For advanced programs, I advise that you go light for a week or take a week off completely if you think you need it. If you've executed the program properly, you'll probably need a break of some kind.

      For intermediate programs, a deload usually isn't necessary. Although you're being pushed harder, you're not being pushed to the brink of overtraining or even overreaching, for that matter.

      What about training frequency?

      For advanced trainees I often build five-day or even six-day training programs. Advanced athletes usually have their supplements and diets more dialed-in than intermediates, which is another factor that allows them to push harder and longer.

      Intermediates will not train more than the standard four days per week. This helps build conditioning and develop good training and lifestyle habits. Shape your habits now, as they'll become a necessity when you're ready to step it up to the advanced level.

      Exercise Rotation

      For advanced programs, I never schedule the same workout twice in a row. At this point in your training you have to constantly find ways to shock the body. The "keep it simple" motto that brought you to the advanced level is no longer the best choice for staying ahead of the adaptation curve.

      For intermediates, we'll keep a basic core movement in the workout in the same place (usually the second exercise performed). We'll change the execution of it, but it will be there every week.

      Here are a few examples:

      Intermediate Chest Workout: Week 1 (8 working sets)

      Exercise Sets Reps
      A Incline dumbbell press 3 8*
      B Incline barbell press 4 12, 10, 8, 6**
      C Dumbbell twist press 3 10
      * after pyramiding up to a heavy weight
      ** the last 2 sets are considered working sets

      Intermediate Chest Workout: Week 2 (8 working sets)

      Exercise Sets Reps
      A Decline dumbbell press 3 10*
      B Incline barbell press 4 10, 8, 6, 4**
      C Ladder push-ups 2 failure
      D Pec minor dips 1 failure
      * after pyramiding up to a heavy weight
      ** the last 2 sets are considered working sets

      You can see the basic exercise remains in the #2 position. It will likely stay there throughout the program, with only some minor variances in how many reps to execute and the form used.

      This lets the trainee maintain focus on a good basic exercise and affords them a means to gauge their strength. Eventually they'll graduate to the advanced level and the poundages lifted will still be important but not as important as the intensity generated during the set.

      Compare this to two weeks of an advanced program:

      Advanced Chest Workout: Week 1 (10 working sets)

      Exercise Sets Reps
      A Incline dumbbell press 4 8*
      B Incline barbell press 5 12, 10, 8, 7, 6**
      C Dumbbell twist press 3 10
      * after pyramiding up to a heavy weight
      ** the last 3 sets are considered working sets

      Advanced Chest Workout: Week 2 (12 working sets)

      Exercise Sets Reps
      A Decline dumbbell press 3 10*
      B Reverse band bench press** 5 5
      C Ladder push-ups 2 failure
      D Pec minor dips 2 failure
      * after pyramiding up to a heavy weight
      ** pyramid using a 5 x 5 rep scheme

      As you can see, the entire selection of exercises changed the second week, and will change again the third week.

      Intensity

      With intermediates I begin to slowly work more intensity into their programs for a little extra push as the program progresses.

      As you can see in the chart below, the main difference between intermediate and advanced trainees is in Phase 2. I believe in throwing everything but the kitchen sink at advanced athletes during this phase, but hold back a bit with intermediates as they're typically just getting used to doing high intensity techniques on a weekly basis.

      Phase 1 (weeks 1-3) Phase 2 (weeks 4-9) Phase 3 (weeks 10-12)
      Intermediate 6-8 sets*

      One of these sets might be a drop-set, a rest-pause set, a set with additional partials, etc.

      This is setting the stage for Phase 2. 8-12 sets*

      Two or three of these sets might be a drop-set, a brutal rest-pause set, a set with additional partials, etc.

      This is setting the stage for Phase 3.

      We've upped the intensity from Phase 1, but done it logically and slowly. 6-8 sets*

      Two or three of these will be very high intensity.

      There are less overall sets to facilitate recovery from Phase 2, which should have been very difficult.

      This lower volume period is when most grow the most.
      Advanced 9-12 sets*

      Two or three of these sets might be a drop-set, a rest-pause set, a set with additional partials, etc. 12-20 sets*

      4-10 of these sets might be a drop-set, rest-pause sets, a set with additional partials, etc.

      This is gut busting time. My goal is to take you right to the edge of overreaching and maybe just past and reel you back in. 7-10 sets*

      Two of these sets might be a drop-set, rest-pause sets, a set with additional partials, etc.

      Again, this is where most see good growth, as we're allowing the body to grow from Phase 2 with a little less volume.
      * depending on size of bodypart.

      Bandwork

      If used correctly, bands are a great way to add intensity to your training. They're not often used in the bodybuilding world, but I've adapted them to fit a hypertrophy model. I also like to use chains when available.

      Phase 1 (weeks 1-3) Phase 2 (weeks 4-9) Phase 3 (weeks 10-12)
      Intermediate No band work A few sets of band work, primarily to learn the technique and to get some added intensity. No band work
      Advanced No band work Six weeks of very structured band work with increasing loads every week. Six weeks will take you to the brink of overreaching or beyond if done correctly. No band work

      Final Thoughts on Intermediates

      While this article is training-based, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the value of proper nutrition and supplementation.

      The more advanced the program gets, the higher your training intensity and volume will be. Your body needs fuel; it needs high quality food and in some cases supplements to deliver maximal results.

      Training and nutrition must always receive equal attention if outstanding results are to be achieved. If your nutrition is bad, I promise you my program will not accomplish much except teach you some cool exercises. If your nutrition is first class, you'll see results, I guarantee.

      Moving on from beginner to intermediate is a major steppingstone as it's where the dedicated bodybuilders start to distance themselves from the many recreational lifters. But jumping from a basic routine to a full-tilt Mountain Dog assault is unwise, unnecessary, and counterproductive.

      Try some of these intermediate steps and take your physique one step closer to the advanced level!

      Any questions? I'll see you in the LiveSpill!

      Source: http://www.t-nation.com/readArticle.do?id=4873074

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