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Ascending Drop Sets Full-Split

This 4-week program modifies the classic drop set technique for better gains in muscle size and strength... while also torching body fat.

Full-split ascending drop sets training program

I'm reinventing the classic drop set technique yet again, flipping it upside down and also making it even more conducive to building new muscle while shredding body fat. 

If you’ve been doing my #TrainWithJim workouts for a while now, you may remember my week-long Full-Body Ascending Drop Sets routine that I introduced last fall (September 2018). It's a standard full-body routine, and it's ideal for fat loss – but full-body training falls a bit short for muscle mass and strength gains. That’s why I developed my Stoppani Full-Split (SFS) system, which combines full-body training with body-part splits.

My new program here is the Full-Split version of Ascending Drop Sets. It's also being extended to a full 4-week program. The extra time length combined with the SFS principles will allow you to really sink your teeth into ascending drop sets and see great gains in size, strength, and fat loss.

For a rundown of the Ascending Drop Sets 20-10-5 methodology, read the original overview here: Full-Body Ascending Drop Sets.

Ascending Drop Sets Full-Split Breakdown

So what's changed structurally from the original Ascending Drop Sets program? The main difference is the training split. You’ll now be training six days a week, hitting all 10 muscle groups (chest, back, shoulders, legs, biceps, triceps, traps, forearms, abs, calves) in every workout. But as with my other Full-Split programs, select “focus” body parts in each workout will get additional training volume in the form of more exercises. All non-focus muscle groups will get just one exercise.

However, the "full-body portion" of each workout is technically optional, and as I mentioned above, it serves to maximize fat loss. But if fat loss isn't a priority for you right now, you can simply follow the split training portion and skip the exercises for the remaining muscle groups. 

Here’s the weekly training split for the program, showing the focus muscle groups and how many exercises they’ll get per workout. (All other muscle groups contained in the full-body portion get one exercise per.)

Workout 1: Back and Calves focus (5 back exercises, 2 calf exercises)

Workout 2: Chest and Abs focus (4 chest exercises, 2 ab exercises)

Workout 3: Legs and Calves focus (5 leg exercises, 2 calf exercises)

Workout 4: Shoulders and Traps focus (4 shoulder exercises, 3 trap exercises)

Workout 5: Biceps, Forearms, and Abs focus (4 biceps exercises, 2 forearm exercises, 2 ab exercises)

Workout 6: Triceps and Calves focus (4 triceps exercises, 2 calf exercises)

Ascending Drop Sets Recap

The training split is different in this version from the original, but the sets and reps for "focus" muscle groups exercise remain the same (with one "twist" I'll share in a moment). In case you haven't read the original Full-Body Ascending Drop Sets article yet, I'll give you a quick rundown here on how the 20-10-5 scheme works.

Simply put, Ascending Drop Sets is a method in which you add weight (hence, “ascending”) and drop the rep count on consecutive sets of a given exercise. This is in contrast to standard drop sets, where you decrease weight during the set. Since you’re adding weight on this version without resting, the reps will obviously need to decrease.

Here’s what one ascending drop set looks like:

Set #1: Do 20 reps to failure with a relatively light weight. The early part of this set will serve as a warm-up, but the weight should be challenging enough to make the muscles work hard on the last 5-10 reps. Having trouble hitting 20 reps exactly? No worries. Your goal for each 20-rep set is to fail somewhere within 15-25 reps. Once you hit failure, increase the weight and go into the next set (your first ascending drop set)…

Set #2: Do 10 reps to failure with the heavier weight. Again, you don't have to hit 10 reps exactly – make it your goal to fail in the 8-12-rep range. Finish these reps, add more weight, and go into the last ascending drop set…

Set #3: Do 5 reps to failure with the increased weight, aiming to fail at 3-6 reps. When you hit failure here, it's time to go in the opposite direction for two traditional drop sets. And that's the "twist" with this program – in the original Ascending Drop Sets routine, these two drop sets were optional. Here they aren't...

Drop Set #1 (D1): Without resting, decrease the weight to what you used in Set #2, and go to failure once again. You most likely won’t be able to get 10 reps again, since you’ll be extremely fatigued already. That’s okay. Don’t try to get all the way to 10 reps – just hit failure and go right into your second traditional drop set…

Drop Set #2 (D2): Drop the weight to what you used on Set #1 for 20 reps, and go to failure one last time. Again, don’t worry about hitting 20 reps; your muscles will be torched at this point. Keep your form strict and hit failure (even if it's just a few reps), and then you’re really done with the exercise and can move onto the next.

One caveat: While sets #4 and #5 aren't technically optional, if you're a beginner, feel free to skip these last two sets. Trust me, you’ll get a great fat-burning, muscle-building, strength-boosting workout just doing Sets #1-#3 for each exercise!

Rest Periods During Ascending Drop Sets

How long to rest between sets of 20, 10, and 5 depends on your main goal. If you want to maximize strength gains, rest around 2-3 minutes between sets. If muscle mass is the main goal, keep rest to about 1-2 minutes. And if fat loss (and/or minimizing your time in the gym) is your primary focus, rest just long enough to increase the weight from set to set.

Remember, your rest periods will influence your strength in successive sets. If you’re going through the sets of 20, 10, and 5 reps with little rest, don't expect to use your true 5-rep max (5RM) when it gets to the 5-rep sets. You’ll be fatigued from the sets of 20 and 10 reps to failure, so err on the lighter side. This makes a great way for people with joint issues or other injuries to train with lower rep ranges without aggravating the joints and injuries too much.

Exercise Order – Standard + Pre-Exhaust

Weeks 1 and 3 follow a standard exercise order where multi-joint exercises are done first for focus muscle groups and single-joint moves are done last.

In Weeks 2 and 4, the order of exercises for focus muscle groups is swapped so that the last exercise done in Weeks 1 and 3 is done first, and vice versa. This means that for most major muscle groups (biceps, forearms, traps, abs, and calves being the exceptions), you'll be doing single-joint movements first, followed by multi-joint exercises – a popular technique call pre-exhaustion

Plenty of Progress – Your Weekly Goals

Each week, the rep goals stay the same for the full-split training (Ascending Drop Sets): 20, 10, 5. But your personal goal should be to try and increase the weight you use for each of those rep ranges over the course of the 4-week program. Each successive week, you'll have certain goals to meet.

Week 2 Goals

In Week 2, exercises will be in the reverse order of Week 1. Therefore, the first two exercises in Week 2 should be easier than in Week 1, when you did them last. Likewise, the last two exercises done in Week 2 should be harder than in Week 1, when you did them first in the workout. Thus, your goal in Week 2 is to use heavier weight on the first two exercises (single-joint moves) than you used in Week 1, and your goal for the last two exercises (multi-joint moves) is to use the same amount of weight used in Week 1.

Week 3 Goals

In Week 3, exercise order swaps back to multi-joint movements first and single-joint moves last. So, your goal in Week 3 is to use heavier weight on the first two exercises than you used in Week 2; and your goal for the last two exercises is to use the same weight you used in Week 2.

Week 4 Goals

In Week 4, you're back to the pre-exhaust exercise order, with single-joint movements first. This week, your goal for the first two exercises is to use more than you did in Week 3. For the last two exercises, your goal is to use the same weight as you used in week 3.

Reps for Non-Focus Muscle Groups

As you'll see in the below charts, each workout is comprised of a split-training portion (hitting "focus" muscle groups) and a full-body portion (all other muscle groups).

In the split-training portion, all exercises are to be done with the Ascending Drop Sets method: 5 sets of (approximately) 20, 10, and 5 reps, plus the two drop sets to failure. 

In the full-body portion, straight sets will be performed for all exercises – but the rep counts here will change from week to week, using the familiar 20-, 10-, and 5-rep counts. In Week 1, you'll do 3 sets of 20 reps for all non-focus muscle group exercises; in Week 2, 3 sets of 10 reps; in Week 3, 3 sets of 5 reps; and in Week 4, you'll do a combination of all three rep counts (3x10 on Days 1 and 4, 3x20 on Days 2 and 6, and 3x5 on Days 3 and 5).

Start Building More Muscle With Ascending Drop Sets!

My Ascending Drop Sets method is simple yet challenging, and it's great for giving drop sets a heavier stimulus for increased strength and size. The full-split version gives it an even bigger hypertrophy boost. 

Give the program a full four weeks with the below workouts, which can be downloaded to your phone and taken to the gym with you. If you have any questions about the Ascending Drop Sets method, please reach out to me on Facebook, or ask someone in the JYM Army. Good luck! 

Ascending Drop Sets Full-Split Workouts

Download All Workouts Here

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4



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Torch fat, gain strength, and get even more muscle gains from this hypertrophy-focused version of my modified drop set program.

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