Drop Sets Explained: Why, When & How To Use Them
Feb 11th, 2020 - 3 min read
If you don’t know; drop sets are yet another technique used by weightlifters, mostly bodybuilders, in order to build muscle at a faster rate.
The purpose of this technique is to put your muscles through prolonged resistance to increase blood flow and ultimately result in muscle growth (hypertrophy).
What are drop sets?
Drop sets are primarily about training each set to failure – and then repeatedly – to failure.
The ‘drop’ part of the set refers to you reducing ‘dropping’ the weight after you have performed as many reps as possible of the previous weight – and so on until you can’t do anymore.
For the record; you ‘fail’ when you physically can’t perform any more ‘clean’ reps. And you ‘drop’ until you fail at your lowest weight.
‘Clean’ aka ‘good’ form is required for every set.
When to use drop sets
This is an advanced training technique. So we don’t recommend this method for beginners.
For everyone else; the best time to introduce this method to your routine is during your bulking phase.
How to perform drop sets
This will be easier to ‘show’ rather than tell
First; let’s use squats as an example...
Set 1: Perform 10 reps of a weight that challenges you (at least 60% of your one rep max).
Set 2: Strip 5-10kg’s from the bar and rep that weight to failure.
Set 3: Strip another 5-10kg’s from the bar and rep that weight to failure.
Set 4: Strip a further 5-10kg’s from the bar and again, rep that weight to failure.
And so on…
Keep going until it’s just you and the bar.
Then rep the bar to failure.
Now let’s look at bicep curls...
Set 1: Perform 10 reps of a weight that challenges you.
Set 2: Drop 1-2kg’s and rep to failure.
Set 3: Drop another 1-2kg’s and rep that weight to failure.
Set 4: Drop a further 1-2kg’s and rep that weight to failure.
And so on…
Keep going to your lightest weight, and rep that to failure.
This works with any exercise, however; naturally your bigger compound moves will have greater weight reductions than your smaller isolation exercises.
This method is for aesthetics
Drop sets are used most commonly among bodybuilders, simply because they are designed for aesthetics.
We do not recommend this method as a means to building strength & power.
Let's finish with a little history…
The method was first introduced by Henry Atkins – editor of Body Culture Magazine. Drop sets were originally known as the ‘multi-poundage system’, though has also been known as; ‘breakdowns’ ‘descending sets’ ‘working the rack’ ‘strip sets’ and likely more.
Drop sets have been around since 1947. There is a lot of proven history behind this method and the fact that it is still commonly used today is a testament to the results it produces.
Why not ‘work the rack’ in your next workout? You’ve got nothing to lose. Only gains to gain!