What are drops sets in weight training?
A drop set is a method of extending an exercise beyond failure by reducing the weight so that you can perform more reps. When you reach muscular failure at the end of a set, immediately decrease the resistance by 25 to 40 percent and continue the exercise, squeezing out a few more reps until you reach failure again with the lowered weight. Rest only for the few seconds it takes to reduce the weight. You can repeat this process, continuing to decrease weight until you’ve completed multiple drop sets. In other words, this is continued for four to six more successive sets.
The reductions in weight allow the muscles to continue working after it has reached failure with a heavy weight. The combination of heavy weight and high repetitions is ideal for reaching hard-to-hit muscle fibers and forcing them to grow. Drop sets fatigue your muscles in a short time, get you heart going and give you an impressive pump.
Tips & Recommendations
- Drop sets are a great technique for training past failure, but they should be used sparingly. Using this advanced bodybuilding technique on more than one or two sets of an exercise for an extended period will lead to overtraining.
- We recommend you to decrease the weight by about 20 to 30 percent on each drop.
- You can use drop sets in two ways. You can either do a drop set on each exercise in an entire workout (not recommended) or you can do them on the final two or three exercises of your session in order to get an extra muscle-burning kick before you hit the showers. Whichever line of attack you choose, drop sets are typically done only on the last set of an exercise.
- Drop sets are most efficient if you have a workout partner to change the weights for you. If you do not have anyone around, just do the best you can.
Example of a drop set
Here’s a sample progression of an effective series of drop sets for dumbbell lateral raises. Select a weight that will have you fail at 8 to 10 reps, then decrease the weight in 2,5 kg increments in each successive set.
Immediately after finishing the last rep (using 15,0 kg), put down the dumbbells and begin another set with dumbbells that are 2,5 kg lighter. Perform reps with this new weight until you reach failure. Then grab another set of dumbbells that is 2,5 kg lighter and do as many repetitions as possible. Keep going the same way until you perform the final set. By the time you’ve worked all the way down the rack, it will feel as if someone is blowtorching your deltoids.
Exercises suitable for drop sets
You can perform drop sets on virtually any exercise that you’d like to add intensity to. However, they are more effective with smaller muscle groups, such as the deltoids and calves. Drop sets with a muscle group as big as the thighs or back would be exhausting because of the weights you would be able to use.
Training equipment suited for drop sets
Drop sets tend to work best for an exercise that allows you to decrease weight quickly and conveniently.
You can perform them easily on machines where all you need to do is reposition the weight pin to lower level. The same applies to cable exercises because it takes only a few seconds to move the pin up the stack to lighten the weight.
Also, you can perform drop sets with dumbbells using the down-the-rack technique. Each time the muscle fails, use progressively lighter dumbbells non-stop until the muscles are completely fatigued.
During barbell exercises, you need to strip the weights from the bar. This is time consuming process. That’s why barbells are totally unsuitable for this training method.
Muscle groups especially applicable for this kind of sets
This advanced training technique is excellent for a muscle that is stubborn and doesn’t respond to traditional training methods.
The calves are typically stubborn and often resist growth. Because the muscle fibers of the calves are accustomed to being used all day when we walk or stand, training must be intense before they will respond.
Drop sets are an excellent way to increase intensity. After reaching failure in the first set, the lifter uses a lighter weight for the next set. Use drop set several times during a set, dropping a lighter weight to keep the set going two to four times. Continuing the set beyond that would most likely compromise the form and quality of the set. Drop sets will probably make your muscles feel like they have a curry stewing inside.