Are you struggling to put on the size and muscle you want? Well, maybe it’s time to give drop sets a try.
What are Drop sets?
A drop set is a training technique where you perform a normal set, but rather than heading straight into your rest, you drop the weight and perform another set until failure.
It’s important to keep your rest as short as possible between sets — with only enough time to reduce the weight. That’s why cable machines and dumbbells are perfect, as you won’t waste time taking weights off a barbell.
Types of drop sets
There are two popular types of drop set:
1) Plate stripping
2) Up the stack
They both share the same idea, to squeeze every last rep out of the working muscles. You should aim to change just one exercise per workout to a drop set.
The great thing about adding drop sets to your workout is that they can be performed during any workout, from legs and abs to cardio!
1. Plate stripping
This can only be used when performing a set that involves a barbell. Between each set you remove plates from the barbell to reduce the weight — hence the name 'plate stripping'.
You'll need a training partner for this, to ensure you aren’t getting a rest period during the set.
The idea is that once you’ve completed the relevant amount of reps, your training partner will take one of the plates off the barbell. But only when you’ve reached failure with the current weight. You continue until there's no weight left on the bar.
Example Bench Press:
2) Up the stack
Probably the easiest way to perform a drop set, particularly if you don’t have a training partner either. So, next time you’re on a weight machine, try this drop set.
It’s much easier to perform with a weight machine as you can simply just pin, and unpin your weight, rather than having to rely on a partner to unstack weight, or having all the required dumbbells available.
This form of drop set is also safer, as once you train to failure the weight won't come crashing down on top of you.
Example Leg Extension:
What are the benefits of drop sets?
Drop sets allow you to maximise muscle growth by working every single muscle fibre in a single set. In a regular set of 8-12 reps, you don’t hit all the muscle fibres in the targeted area.
However, drop sets allow you to do that and hit them stubborn fibres by providing them with added stress with a regular set!
Drop sets can really push your muscle beyond its normal limits, increasing the training volume and muscle’s time under tension — which can boost your muscle growth.
Remember: Due to the high-intensity of drop sets, you shouldn’t perform any more than one per workout — otherwise you're increasing the chances of overtraining.
Drop sets are a great way to mix up your workout and really get the most out of your session. Plus, you'll also get a great pump at the same time!
They're the perfect tool for adding size and strength, no matter what your ability or current strength level. But, remember form is important when you are exhausting the muscle and going to failure. Don’t let your form slip — use your spotter or training partner to help.
If you don’t already have a training partner, find yourself one and get drop sets into your workout to see if you can push past that stubborn plateau!
Dan Speakman is our editor and level 3 qualified Personal Trainer. Having spent time in Australia, he has experience in planning and delivering exercise plans to beginners and advanced athletes — both in the UK and down under.
Dan has also run successful weight-loss camps across the UK, alongside regular training seminars, covering all areas of gym-based training. He also runs weekly fitness boot camps and spin classes.
When he’s not working, or in the gym, Dan enjoys travelling to sunnier destinations, eating out, and trying exciting new foods.