Looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to the way a training program looks on paper, or, more likely, on your phone or computer. A workout can look fairly pedestrian at first glance, while in practice you realize what a heavy punch it's packing.
In the program I'm about to introduce to you, you'll see nothing but "3 sets of 10 reps." Don't think for a minute that this is some kind of beginner program, though. It's a highly intense set of workouts that skimp on rest while helping you build muscle, gain strength, and shed body fat.
I call it my "Oxford Dropsets" technique.
Oxford At A Glance
The overall Oxford method is a popular descending-pyramid technique many people use without even knowing its official name. It's based on sets of usually about 10 reps, a number we've all employed countless times in the gym. My version of the Oxford method, which I call Oxford dropsets, has the familiar set-rep scheme of 3x10—you've just never done them quite like this before.
Those of you following my #TrainWithJim series on Twitter and Instagram, as well as on JimStoppani.com, may recall the DeLorme ascending-pyramid technique. This pyramid showed up on Day 7 in my Circuit Maximus program, which is currently free for anyone to view on JimStoppani.com.
My Oxford dropsets start where DeLorme left off, going in the opposite direction. In my approach, you start out heavy and reduce the weight as you go:
- For the first set, take your 10-rep max weight to failure.
- Rest a few minutes, then reduce the weight just enough to ensure you get another 10 reps.
- Do 10 more reps.
- Rest a few more minutes, then reduce the weight again—just enough to allow you to squeeze out another 10 reps.
- Perform the final 10 reps for a total of 3 sets of 10 reps.
Sound pretty easy? Don't get too comfortable. I'm about to shake things up.
I step my dropsets program up a notch with my whole-body Oxford dropsets. With this refinement, you don't get any rest at all between the 3 sets of 10 reps. Once you start the first set, you don't stop until you finish the third. Technically, you get the time it takes you to quickly strip off enough weight to complete another 10 reps on the exercise, but that's it in terms of downtime.
With no rest periods, you exercise with more intensity than you otherwise would, which accelerates muscle building. You can also get through 3 sets in less time than my other approach. When you're hitting 10 muscle groups per workout, this time-saver is much needed for those of us who don't want to spend all day in the gym.
There's one more catch, though. If, when you move to the dropsets, you don't reduce the weight enough to complete all 10 reps, you'll need to rest-pause until you get all 10 done. Let's say you hit failure on rep 7 of either dropset. At this point, you've got to set the weight down, rest for 10-20 seconds, then do 3 more reps to get your total reps.
This approach makes you accountable for completing all the required work—in this case 30 reps per exercise. It can get tough to get all 10 reps per set but, hey, if you want all the results, you've got to do all the reps!
Whole-Body Oxford Method Layout
When you follow my whole-body Oxford dropsets method, you'll pick two exercises per muscle group, then go through the entire dropset program with each. That doesn't mean you can use my Oxford dropsets technique for full-body training only. It also works well for any number of workout programs and a variety of body-part splits.
Feel free to pick whatever exercises you want for each body part, like flat-bench presses and flyes for chest, lat pull-downs and rows for back, squats and leg extensions for legs. My only suggestion is that you switch up the exercises from day to day so your muscles are constantly challenged with new movement patterns.
Other than that, it's fair game. Pick barbell or dumbbell moves, machines, cables, bodyweight exercises, compound or isolation moves—whatever you want. I'm a big fan of doing isolation exercises before compound ones, which is the classic pre-exhaust technique.
Whole-Body Oxford Dropsets Template
Length of Program: 5 days (1 whole-body workout per day for 5 days)
Muscle Groups Trained in Each Workout: 10 groups (chest, back, legs, shoulders, traps, biceps, triceps, forearms, calves, abs)
Number of Exercises Performed Per Muscle Group Per Workout: 2 exercises (20 exercises total per workout)
Sets and Reps for Each Exercise: 3 sets of 10 reps, performed as 1 set to failure plus 2 dropsets (as opposed to 3 straight sets of 10 reps)
Protocol for Each Exercise: Start with your 10-rep max (10RM) and go to failure. Without resting, immediately drop the weight significantly and do 10 more reps (first dropset). Drop the weight again with no rest and do 10 more reps (second dropset). If on either (or both) of the dropsets you aren't able to reach 10 reps initially, rest-pause until you reach 10. Make sure you reach 30 total reps for each exercise.
Rest Time Between Exercises: Rest as long as you need to between exercises. That's up to you. Just remember, the less rest you take, the quicker the workout!
The #TrainWithJim Series
I design new full-body programs like this just about every week and publish them on JimStoppani.com, as well as my Facebook and Instagram. I call this my "Train with Jim" series. Become a member of JimStoppani.com and you'll have access to my entire "Train with Jim" program archive, which now includes more than 25 total programs…and counting!