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Oxford Drop Sets Live Event Transcript

The full transcript from my Facebook tutorial breaking down my Oxford Drop Sets method and how to get the most out of the technique.

oxford drop set training tutorial

Note: This tutorial video was recorded as a live Facebook event. The text below is an edited transcript of the tutorial intended to provide members with a convenient means of referring to and further researching the topics and content detailed in the video.


For those of you who are following along with my Train with Jim series, this week we've been taking on what I call my Oxford Drop Sets technique. I'll be doing Workout 5 today of my Oxford Drop Sets. Today's focus is going to be on single-joint movements. We're doing five different workouts in this Oxford Drop Sets technique: Monday started Workout 1, today being Friday is Workout 5, and we're doing single joints. Yesterday we did more multi-joint movements for most muscle groups, and I showed you how to incorporate supersets with this technique, even pre-exhaust.

The real concept here with the Train with Jim series is to give you a glimpse into how I personally train. These are the primary workouts that I’m doing—I workout and do other things as well—but these are the primary workouts I'm doing, so if you want to train along with me and learn how I get leaner and bigger with no cardio whatsoever, you can follow along and do these workouts with full intensity the same way I'm doing them.

Or if you're following along with one of my other programs—say you're doing my No Limits Challenge for example, or you're doing my Back and Fourth program , maybe you're doing one of my programs on Bodybuilding.com like Shortcut to Size or Shortcut to Shred—it doesn't mean you can't incorporate the Train with Jim workouts. Remember, I'm doing no cardio because of my knee surgery—I'm still recovering from knee surgery—so I've done zero cardio this year and have been maintaining my leanness and my muscle mass just with full body workouts.

So like I said, you can use that to replace your cardio. Would you rather get on the treadmill or the bike, or would you rather do a round of full-body training? So you're doing another program—let's say you're doing my Shortcut to Size—and you want to make sure you're dropping fat and stay healthy. Remember, training once a day isn't enough. You need to stay active all day long. Instead of doing cardio, you can actually do one of my Train with Jim workouts.

Oxford Drop Sets

Now, you don't have to go to full-intensity the way I do, going to failure; it's more about activating those muscle fibers. Now let's get into the Oxford Drop Sets technique particularly. With the Oxford Drop Sets technique it's basically what we call a descending pyramid. Now the way that it's typically run is it's basically 3 sets of 10—it's the old school bodybuilding style of training. With the Delorme ascending pyramid, the weight gets heavier on successive sets. With the Oxford, the weight gets lighter because you fatigue. So typically if you take a weight and get 10 reps on a set, on the second set unless you rest 4 or 5 minutes you're probably not going to get another 10 reps, if you went to full failure on that first one. Because of fatigue, you shouldn't be able to get a full 10 reps. So what the Oxford method allows for is changing the weight so that you stay in that rep range and you focus particularly on that 10 rep range.

Because of that, you never want to use this system for too long. I show you guys how to use it with a 4-week typical split as well—on JimStoppani.com you can check out my Oxford Drop Set program. The way I incorporate my Oxford Drop Sets is not a descending pyramid meaning you're doing 3 separate sets, resting anywhere from 2 to 3 minutes. That's how it's typically prescribed, if you will—you do the first set, you rest 2 to 3 minutes, and then you select enough weight on that second set to ensure that you're still going to get 10 reps despite the fatigue. If you've rested 2 to 3 minutes you really don't need to take off that much weight.

However, when you're doing my version, which is unapologetic when it comes to rest as all my programs are—everybody complains that they don't have time to work out? Well stop sitting around when you're working out. Use your workout to actually work out the entire time, that's that's what I'm about. With my Oxford Drop Set, there's no rest whatsoever. You do the first set, 10 reps, you hit failure, immediately take off enough weight so that you can immediately start doing that exercise again and get another 10 reps despite the fatigue. So you're going to have to drop—don't worry if you don't get it exactly—just try to figure out what it's going to be. It could be anywhere from 40 to 50 even 60% of the weight being taken off, cutting it in half typically works. Then after you hit 10 on that second set you’ve got to drop the weight again to get yet another 10 reps immediately. That's how it's done. That's why these programs are so effective—the intensity is there. You're not only learning new techniques and how to apply them, but you're kicking your ass when you get in there.

A lot of these workouts, aside from a few of these full body workouts that may take you an hour—because there's no rest, even though you're doing 20 exercises today you're getting it done in under 40 minutes if you're willing to work. And like I said, you can truncate these workouts for the Oxford one if it's too much for you, whether you just have a lower level of training experience, if you're just getting back into it, or if you're doing something else and you want to do this in addition. For the Oxford, instead of doing the two exercises for each muscle group I'd pick one. Just do one and do the 3 sets because that's the real foundation of the Oxford, doing that 10, 10, and 10. So pick one exercise instead if you want to lower the intensity.

And another way is not going to all-out muscle failure if you're doing other training in the day. The point, in that case, would be just activating the genes in all those muscle fibers of the body. That's going to keep you metabolically active—that's really how I've maintained my body fat with zero cardio for this entire year. So let me demonstrate for you my Oxford style. The typical Oxford, you do a set, you rest. Check your phone. Go to my Instagram, my Facebook. Then you do another set. Check your phone. What's for dinner tonight, right? That is the typical way—not in my workouts. There's none of that. Check your phone when the workout's over.

What we're going to be doing is—and I'm going to show you on cable crossovers, which is actually one of the exercises in today's Oxford Drop Sets workout that I've posted already—we're going to do cable crossovers. I'm going to show you 10, right? I'm going to get a weight that limits me to right around 10 reps—I should be hitting muscle failure right at 10, or close to 10. Then immediately I’m going to strip off enough weight to allow me to then immediately get another 10 reps on cable crossover. The only rest I'm allowed is to switch the pin. And then once I hit failure there, I've got to do it one more time—drop the weight. Now, the other thing I'll be showing you before I get to your questions is the unilateral version. I'm going to show you how to do this with one arm exercises, which are on the workout for today.

Alright, so all we're going to do is 10 reps to failure, then another 10 immediately—basically 2 drop sets. Oxford drops, 30 reps non-stop. Went a little too light but let's just say 10, hit failure, immediately I'm going to drop about 5lbs here, because like I said it wasn't quite heavy enough. Do another 10, immediately I'm going to go another 5lbs down, and again you might need to go more, so drop at your own pace depending on how you fatigue. Don't worry if you want to go past 10 on that last one. And that's Oxford Drop Set cable crossover. So if that was the first exercise and you're doing two, you would then go into the next chest exercise from there.

For my full-body workouts, we're doing just two exercises per muscle group. It's enough when you're hitting it every day the way that we're doing it, quite a pump. So that's the way to do my Oxford Drop Sets—10, 10, 10—basically 30 reps, non-stop. What I showed you guys with the supersets was you would then do 10 reps on that exercise, go the next chest exercise and do 10 reps, back to the first one, back to the other, back to that one.

Now let's talk about how you would do this for a unilateral exercise. Let's say something like cable concentration curl—how would do this? Would you do 10 with one arm, and then 10 on the other side, and then 10 on the first side? No, that's not the best way to do that, and let me explain why. Because like I said, the real foundation of the Oxford Drop Set technique is those immediate drops—doing the 10, 10, and 10—so you're constantly stressing them. There's no rest. If you're going to do one arm then the next, that's alternating rest pause. So the muscle is getting a rest between those 10 reps. You don't want that.

With single limb exercises—whether it's step-ups, one arm lateral raises, rear delt flies, cable concentration curls—you're going to do all 30 reps on one arm. And I'll demonstrate just so that no one is confused, and I'm not getting questions later. So you're going to do the 10. So you're going to start, I'll start left arm but you certainly can start on the right, just remember you're going to do all 30 reps on the right arm, the do all 30 on the left, 10 at a time. That's a little light but let's say I hit failure, now I immediately drop 5lbs, and I have to get another 10 reps. And again. That's 8—what do we do if I can't get all 10? Rest-pause. Give the arm about 10 seconds, then complete those final 2. Now I go back, switch to the other arm, back to the original weight I started with, with the left arm, and I repeat. 10, drop 5lbs. 10, one last drop. 8, a little rest pause, 9, and 10. Now I've done both arms, I can move on to the next exercise.

Alright, now we've basically covered how to do the Oxford Drop Set bilateral exercises, standard exercises. I've covered how to do it unilaterally, and I showed you what to do if you can't complete all 10 reps on any of the drop sets. You’d better get 10 reps on that first set—if you can't get 10 reps on that first one you went a bit too heavy. But even if you did go a bit too heavy, you would know next time to go a bit down in weight. But you can complete all 10 reps with rest pause on any of those drop sets. If you don't get all 10, you're not done. That is your challenge. You have to get all 30 reps for each exercise.

I'm going to take some questions.

Warming Up

Question: "How do we address warm-up sets with this technique?"

Typically what I recommend on warm-up sets depends on your rep range. Let's talk about warming up in general. One thing that I'm a firm believer in is not doing static stretching. You don't want to be doing this sort of hold and reach stuff prior to training—that's not a great way to warm up. If your trainer's telling you to bend over and touch your toes before your workout they need to check out some of the science that we've only been talking about for the last decade or so, and that's that doing that sort of stretching may actually interfere with the normal nerve impulses that are going to the muscles, those motor units that fire and contract the muscles to lift the weight. That stretching may be interfering with the way that happens, lessening some of that, meaning you lose power—particularly explosive power and strength. So it's bad for athletes like sprinters, jumpers, shot putters, any athlete that needs to be explosive in their sport. Doing that sort of static stretching can actually hinder your power if you do it right before. You want to keep that for after the workout, for that reason. But also for the reason that research shows doing your static stretching after leads to better changes in flexibility overall because the muscle is fatigued. The body tends to be warmer, and that helps with flexibility, so do the static stretching after. It also works great as a cool down, and doing that can help to lower cortisol and put you in a better anabolic environment, meaning a higher testosterone to cortisol ratio. Your testosterone's going to go up during the workout—so will cortisol to some degree—but doing things like stretching, yoga, that style of cool down at the end can help keep testosterone up while dropping cortisol, meaning you get a better test-to-cortisol ratio. Scientists use that as a marker of how anabolic an athlete is.

But let's get back to the proper warm-up, not what not to do but what should you do? Well, more dynamic movements. So literally, the old arm swings, arm circles, high kicks. For warm-ups, you want to be doing more of those dynamic moves. What research shows is that not only does this not hinder performance but it may actually enhance strength and power when done prior to an exercise or an event where you have to exhibit strength and power.

The things that really matter on your warm-up are the temperature that you're in and what is the rep range that you're going to be training with. The warmer the environment and the higher the rep range, the less you have to worry about warming up because if it's hot out I don't really need a warm-up to get my body temperature up. Let's say though that it wasn't, let's say it was one of the colder days in L.A., let's say it was a day where it's 50 degrees, or let's say that I'm traveling and I'm up in Wisconsin where it’s 0, -10, -15 when I’m up there. Then you want to make sure you spend a good ten minutes on general, overall warming up of the body. Can be on the treadmill, on a bike, you could do some calisthenics as well. Doing the dynamic movements is going to actually increase body temperature as well. You could use that as a way to both warm-up prior to the exercise as far as muscle, limb, and joint movement, but also for increasing body temperature. You don't have to sit on the bike and run on the treadmill to bring up your body temperature, you could do calisthenics, dynamic movements.

Now when we get to the actual exercises, let's say you're doing the bench press and you were going to do one of my workouts—might just be the first set or it might be the working set, or on all sets of the workout—the rep range might be somewhere around 12, 15 or higher. If that's the case that weight is so light that you really—if you're going over 12 reps, you really don't need a warm-up set for that exercise. You can if you want, but I would do maybe one set just for a couple reps. You really won't need a warm-up set, those first few reps are going to be your warm-up on that set.

However, if you're somewhere under that—10 or fewer reps and that's going to be your first working set? Then I would recommend doing at least one to two warm-up sets. Now, on these warm-up sets you don't want to go to failure, so let's just say that I was going to do 315lbs for 5 reps, right? I'm not just going to jump on there and do 315lbs for 5 reps. I'll put 135lbs on the bar, maybe do 5 or 6 reps, easy. I'll do them a bit explosively because the weight's so light, so I get both the benefit of fast explosive movement and a warm-up at the same time. Then, I might throw on another 45, up to 225lbs, bang out another 5 or 6 reps. If I'm going to hit 5 reps with 315lbs, that should be easy.

Now here's where I can say “You know what? Those two are nothing. I'm going to go right up to 315.” Or I can say “You know what, let's do 275.” I'll do maybe two reps with that, so my body can progressively feel heavier and heavier weight. Put it down—not going to failure—then I'll do 315lbs for the working set. So, depends really on how heavy you're going. If i was doing, say 275lbs for 10 reps maybe, then I would definitely just do the 135lbs and then 225lbs. I might even just do the 135lbs and then go right up to 275lbs. Heavier weight, I'm going to throw in another warm-up set, but again on those warm-up sets you're not going to failure. The last thing you want to do is fatigue yourself before the working set.

Program Length and Nutrition

Question: "How many weeks is the program? And at my measurements of 6'3, 205lbs, 15% body fat, how much protein do you suggest I use daily while doing this program or just in general"

The Oxford Drop Sets is just part of my Train with Jim series. So go check out my Facebook posts on days prior and you'll see that I post my workouts. The Oxford Drop Set, we'll only be doing for this week—today's the last day. We're then going to start up what I call my 3x3 Rest Rundown system next. The techniques keep changing, but the workouts will always keep coming, so just follow along. And as far as nutrition, go to JimStoppani.com and you can get the article for free, my Dieting 101, to figure out how to build your diet. That'll teach you how to take a snapshot of your own diet and then build your own. Also, take a look at my Muscle Building Nutrition Rules. Those are two critical articles that you guys should be reading when it comes to nutrition.

Adding Cardioacceleration

Question: "Hi Jim, I've been adding cardioacceleration to the full body workouts, either after each set or each exercise. Is that ok or should I just save cardio for after the workouts to make the workout more effective?"

No that's completely fine. As long as you're moving. The real key here is to keep moving, just keep the workout going. So if you're using cardioacceleration that's awesome. Just make sure you're not using it in a way that interferes with things like the Oxford Drop Set, right? You want to be doing those 30 reps before you do cardioacceleration; otherwise, it interferes with the actual technique. However, after you've done that 30 reps sure, go ahead. Do a minute of anything else you want before moving to the next exercise. Just make sure you're incorporating it so that the cardioacceleration doesn't' interfere with the workout style.

My Rest Rundown, for example, which we're going to be doing next week starting Sunday, there'll be 5 workouts. Starts with a minute break—each session you do the same workout again, using the same weight, but you lose 15 seconds of rest until you have no rest in the 5th workout, and you're basically doing 9 reps straight through. So 3 sets of 3 reps. Here you wouldn't want to be doing cardioacceleration in between those 3 sets. While it would be fine on the first workout because you've got a minute, as the rest decreases as each workout progresses you're not going to have enough time for the cardioacceleration. You don't want to keep the cardioacceleration at a minute because then you're going to lose the benefit of dropping the rest time. So make sure that you're using it just so that it doesn't interfere, but great question. Yeah, go right ahead, tear it up.

Modifying with Limited Equipment

Question: "How would you modify the pulley work if the only equipment is a barbell and a power rack?"

Well, I would try to get some dumbbells, because you're pretty limited there on being able to do those other movements. You're just going to be stuck with pressing moves. Obviously, with the barbell, for chest you're going to bench press, reverse grip bench press, incline bench press, decline bench press. You could also do the standing press like I do with the kettlebell for upper pecs, where you stand with a fairly wide grip on the barbell, and then press up and out. That's going to help to hit not just the front delts but actually the upper pecs. So you can try that version as well. It's a good standing reverse-grip bench press, if you will. The other thing I would suggest is getting a set of exercise bands, because with the bands you can mimic cable crossovers. Even if you just use one, and do one at a time.

Adding to the Program

Question: "Can I do a typical 5-6 different exercises using this technique?"

Yeah, as I mentioned, I also have my Oxford Drop Sets as a 4-week program which is I believe a two-day split that you're going to complete twice a week. So a little less frequency—it's not full body—you're basically breaking the body up into two different workouts. So you're doing more exercises per muscle group, not quite 5-6 but somewhere up there around 3-4. Feel free to do 5 or 6 if that's the typical volume that you're used to doing. It'll work quite well.

And then the sets—if you want to repeat the exercise, you could do the 3 sets of 10 and repeat it once or twice for a total of 3 sets, just realize that you're going to be significantly weaker on each successive set because it's pretty high intensity. You're really killing it on that 1 set with those drop sets, pretty much toasting those muscle fibers. So you can move on or you can keep toasting them. It's up to you. But obviously i,t would depend on your experience. The more experience you have the more intensity or volume your body can handle.

In Conjunction with Other Programs

Question: “I do about an hour and a half of intense weight training about six days a week. Been doing this for about a year. What are your thoughts on doing this in a two-a-day style. My normal workout in conjunction with your program?"

I'm guessing you're asking in conjunction with the full body workouts. You definitely can do them, like I said I would sort of lower the volume and or the intensity so that you're not going to all out muscle failure.  And you don't have to do so many sets as well. But you definitely can do—the more frequently you workout throughout the day the better. But remember, the more frequently you work out means obviously the shorter, the less intense those workouts can be. Or if it's going to be very intense they should be short, if you're going to be doing them frequently.

Applying Oxford Drop Sets to Compound Lifts

Question: “Are Oxford Drop Sets good for compound lifts like bench press or squat?”

Definitely. Yesterday's workout actually was focused on compound moves, so—now, again, if your goal is strength, doing the Oxford is not the best system for strength. This is really more of a muscle growth and conditioning technique because you're doing 30 reps pretty much consecutively. But definitely works with any exercise.

Rest Times

Question: "How long of a rest between the two muscle group exercises?"

Whatever you want, depends on how long you want to be in the gym. I don't rest at all, I just move right in. Take a breath and move on.

"And then how long to the next muscle group?"

Same thing. This workout today? I'll probably do less than 40 minutes. I should be able to break 40 minutes today. That means I'm not going to be resting, it's going to be going right into the next muscle group. Because that muscle group hasn't been really working, so there really isn't rest needed. And if you look at the way those exercises are designed, you're hitting 10 different muscle groups and I sort of bounce it around so you're doing pushing then you're pulling—the back isn't going to be fatigued from the pushing exercises; in fact, research suggests that you might actually be stronger on the back pulling after the pushing. Then you go with the legs, so now the upper body gets a break. Then you go into shoulders, so you don't need to rest between legs and shoulders. Shoulders weren't doing anything during legs. So really, it's up to you, as fast as you want to go, or as much rest as you need.

The Origins of Strength

Question: "Is it true the heavier you lift the bigger you get? Can't it be you just get stronger?"

Yeah, definitely. Obviously, there's some correlation between an individual's strength and their muscle mass, meaning the stronger they are the bigger they tend to be. But you can get stronger without getting bigger. In fact, beginners—the first few months, the primary gains that are made aren't in muscle mass size, it's not the architecture of the muscle, there's not much change there to the structure of the muscle. It's actually the way that the nerves fire. They learn just like with any motor skill. Just like learning how to ride a bike. You have to learn to synchronize those motor neurons and all that nerve firing, so you get stronger mainly through neurological adaptations. And it's one of the ways caffeine works to cause an instant and an acute increase in strength is by activation of the nervous system. Same thing with testosterone. One of the reasons I recommend taking Alpha JYM around workouts is to increase your blood testosterone levels. Testosterone actually binds to nerve cells, not just muscle, actually helps at the nerve, and helps with the synchronization and magnitude of the firing of the nerve impulses going to the muscle. So no, just because you're stronger doesn't necessarily mean you're bigger, because like I said a lot of strength has to do with the nervous system.

Weighted Vest Training

Question: "What are you thoughts on doing workouts with a weighted vest?"

Well, you’ve got to be careful on your back and the stress that'd put on it, because there are other exercises—keep the weighted vest for exercises like lunges, step-ups, you can even use it if you want to do walking. "I'm just going to wear it and train", you certainly could as long as you're just aware of the stress it can place on your back.

Alright guys, I've got to run. I've got a tattoo appointment tonight, so I've got to get my workout in before my appointment. Tattoo's at 5 so I need to train a little before 4 today, so yeah I'm gonna be training out of my feeding window for today, but I'll be close. I'll be training very close to the 4 o'clock window, so my post-workout meal will be very close to the workout, that'll break my fast. But I've got to get a lot done, like a live session for you guys. I've also got to plan on those upcoming workouts that we have for the Train with Jim series, a lot of videos to shoot, new products as well I'm working on, and evolving and making the existing products even better all day long. So I've gotta get going so that I can do more for you guys. Hope you're enjoying these live sessions, hope you're enjoying the Train with Jim, learning these new techniques. As always guys, stay JYM Army Strong. 


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