What Is A Drop Set?

And how to use them to gain more muscle.

After you’ve been weight training for a while, you inevitably hit a plateau. That’s when it’s time to take things up a notch.

A drop set is an exercise technique that makes your workouts more challenging. And helps you bust through plateaus to gain more muscle.

In this article, I’ll teach you exactly how to use drop sets in your workout to maximize muscle growth.

drop set

Drop Set Meaning

A drop set is a technique for continuing an exercise with lighter weight after reaching muscular failure. Often they are performed with machines, cables, or dumbbells so the weight can be dropped quickly. But you can also use other free weights if you have a partner to strip the plates.

You can do multiple drop sets in a row using lighter weights each time. Sometimes this is called a double drop set since the weight is lowered twice. Or you may hear it called a triple drop set since there are 3 total sets.

Other common names for drop sets include; strip sets, down the rack, and the multi-poundage system.

Benefits Of Drop Sets

The primary benefit of drop sets is higher intensity. By extending the set you increase time under tension, which means your muscles do more work. And that added stimulus leads to new gains.

Another benefit of drop sets is that more muscle fibers get worked. With a single set, only a fraction of the muscle fibers get used. Whereas reducing the weight allows the muscle to continue contracting, using more fibers.

In addition to the number of fibers, drop sets also recruit multiple types of muscle fibers. Because the heavier set uses more fast twitch fibers, while the lighter set(s) use more slow twitch fibers.

Therefore, you increase the total muscle failure compared to straight sets. And more muscle failure can lead to greater muscle growth.

drop set muscle failure

How To Do A Drop Set

First, choose a weight that you can lift for 8 to 12 reps before failure. After this set, quickly reduce the weight and do another 8 to 12 reps to failure.

Optional: reduce the weight multiple times and do 3, 4, or 5 total sets.

Generally, the subsequent sets are 25-33% lighter than the previous. Also, try not to exceed 10 or 15 seconds between sets in order to prevent your muscles from recovering.

Drop Set Workout Example

As an example, let’s say you’re doing dumbbell bicep curls. On your initial set you use 30 lb dumbbells and get 11 reps before failing.

Then you immediately pick up the 20 lb dumbbells and get another 10 reps before failing. This is a traditional drop set.

Now, say you continue for a third set with 15 lb dumbbells and get 8 reps. That’s a double drop set (also called a triple drop set since you did 3 sets).

In this case, the second set was 33% lighter than the first (30 – 20 = 10, 10 / 30 = 0.33, 0.33 x 100 = 33%). And the third set was 25% lighter than the second (20 – 15 = 5, 5 / 20 = 0.25, 0.25 x 100 = 25%).

On a double drop set it’s common to end up at about half the weight you started with.

Conclusion

Drop sets are great for intermediate to advanced lifters wanting to make their workouts more challenging. Using this technique makes your muscles work harder and recruits more muscle fibers, potentially leading to greater gains.

In addition to making your workouts more intense, drop sets save time. So add them to your toolbox to make your workouts more efficient!

About the Author

Jeremy Fox  –  Founder of Nutritioneering, Engineer, CPT, Bodybuilder, Coach

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