We all want to optimize our time in the gym and make our workout routines as productive as possible. As you move from a beginner to an intermediate or an elite strength training individual, using some advanced techniques not only helps you get there but can also provide a new stimulus for further muscle growth.
You have likely been performing a workout for some time, you have had results up to this point but you are either seeing the progress slow down or ready for something new to push you further. Going to the gym, doing a couple of triceps sets, and the rinse-and-repeat process is overdue for some improvement. While there are several techniques out there to accomplish this, let’s look at drop sets as a means to improve muscle fiber recruitment and build a better physique.
What Are Drop Sets?
Drop sets are defined as a weight lifting technique that involves dropping weight, immediately after a set, to continue to perform additional reps with that same exercise. You can drop weight 1x, 2x, or as many times as you desire to reach muscle failure. However, a key aspect of drop sets is in order to continue performing the exercise, a lower weight is required. Drop sets do have other names like; superset, descending sets, and strip sets, but the goal is to reach technical failure, with good form, with successively lighter loads, and little or no rest period in between. Sounds pretty simple so let’s dive in some more.
How Do You Do Drop Sets?
You probably have a good idea of how this works, if you read above, but the key to this technique is to rest as little as possible between sets. You should not be resting the length of time you normally rest or taking longer rest periods (this is actually another technique called Myo-Reps or what I call Moderate Rest Period Drop Sets – MRPDS) as your rest should be the time needed to reduce the weight. If you are using dumbbells, re-rack and grab the next pair. If you are using adjustable dumbbells, re-rack and drop the pin to a lower weight. If you are using a barbell, strip the plates off and go after that next set. I do have one suggestion here, if you know what weights you will be “dropping” to, build the weight drops on the bar, to save you some time. For example for a 225-pound drop, build the bar to 135 pounds, 175 pounds, and your starting weight of 225 pounds. This is, of course just one example but hopefully, you understand this time-saving advice.
In my opinion, dumbbells and cable machines tend to work best for drop sets because of what I described above. It can take plenty of time to modify weight on a barbell and this could end up taking almost equal rest as you would for your normal interset rest periods. This is not how you should be performing drop sets.
When Should You Use Drop Sets?
Although you could literally do them anytime you want, a more strategic approach is a good idea. Due to the high-intensity nature of drop sets, I would recommend only performing them on one or maybe two exercises, per muscle group, for just one set. The last thing we want to do is use stimuli to produce growth but end up overtraining or causing too much muscle damage. I prefer to use drop sets on the last set of an exercise when I perform them.
Benefits of Drop Sets
- It’s an effective way to promote muscle growth or muscle hypertrophy. Not only can it assist in fatiguing muscle fibers quicker, but also increase your training volume, the target muscle’s time under tension, and increase metabolic stress-all which can crank up muscle mass growth. Again, if performed properly.
- You can increase volume, in a relatively short period of time.
- You can use them when you are short on time but still want to stimulate your muscles or reach muscular failure. They are very efficient with time.
- They can be used to build muscular endurance.
How Often Should You Use Drop Sets?
- As you read above, you should not complete drop sets for every set, unless trying to accomplish a great deal of volume in a short workout or you are overreaching. You can check out this post to a related article.
- I believe the best approach is to incorporate them into 1 or maybe two sets per muscle group. For example, if you are performing a flat bench press and incline dumbbell presses for your chest, complete a drop set on the last set for each exercise. Doing too much can lead to overtraining. We are targeting muscle gain, not overtraining.
- You could also increase how many drops sets you do if you are leading into a deload week. This is called overreaching before you back off.
How Do You Build Them Into A Workout
It’s pretty simple if you follow the rules outlined above on how often you should use them. However, I would also add that being selective with exercises is also important. You might not want to use them on exercises that you already use at a very low weight as you have limited options on decreasing the weight. Start with a heavyweight and gradually work your way down.
You may also want to avoid them on exercises from hell, like Bulgarian split squats. Those bad boys will crush you on their own! If you are using equipment that will take a long time to modify the weight, find something else. Finally, if you weight train at the gym, stay away from equipment others might jump in on when you quickly step off. What am I actually saying, lose the gym membership and get a home gym as this is never a problem!
Does Renegade Have A Drop Set Program
You bet I do, I have a Moderate Rest Period Drop Set Program you can do. I also have 35+ other workouts you can choose from so there is plenty for you to try. No matter what you like; HIIT, Bodybuilding, Power-building, I got something for you.
What Are Some Other Advanced Techniques
There are literally tons of them but here are some other examples; Graduals, Myo-Reps, Compound Sets, Pyramids, Pause Sets, or like 30 more. You can check out all the ones I have described in my free Advanced Techniques document. You can try them all or just some of them.
Where Can I Get More Workouts?
The same place you can get the MRPDS Workout. There is also a bunch of other free stuff you can grab here.
If you wanted to learn more about drop sets, check this bad boy out from Brad Schoenfeld on Drop Set Training.