A drop set is an advanced lifting technique that involves taking a set to failure and then with no rest, “dropping” the weight, performing an additional set to failure, and repeating 2-4x.
Bodybuilders have been incorporating drop sets into their training for years in order to chase the pump in hopes of producing more mass gains than traditional straight sets.
In this article, we will teach you how to do a drop set, share their benefits, and answer common FAQs about this technique.
Table of Contents
How to Do a Drop Set
Benefits of Drop Sets
- Drop sets are when you take a set to failure, lessen the weight and then perform subsequent sets
- Drop sets add volume to workouts in a time-efficient manner
- There aren’t superior to straight sets for strength or hypertrophy, but can be included in a well-rounded program
- Do them with single-joint exercises towards the end of your workout for best results
How to Do a Drop Set
Drop sets are fairly straightforward, but let’s take a look at a concrete example of how to do a drop set using DB Curls as an example.
Drop Set (reps and weight just for example purposes)
- Sub-Set 1: 12 reps at 45lbs taken to failure
- Sub-Set 2: 8 reps at 35lbs taken to failure
- Sub-Set 3: 6 reps at 20lbs taken to failure
- Sub-Set 4: 5 reps at 10lbs taken to failure
As a general guideline, reduce the weight for each sub-set about 20-50%. The more sub-sets you do, the more fatigued you’ll be, and the more you’ll need to reduce weight in order to complete more reps.
It’s also worth noting that because of the high metabolic demand, save drop sets for the end of your workouts and preferably only with single-joint movements. Doing drop sets for squats and deadlifts might look cool for the gram, but you’ll be toast for the rest of your workout and won’t be able to get much additional meaningful work done (if you survive).
We’d also recommend only doing 1-2x drop sets per workout. We like doing several straight sets and then adding the drop set as a finisher. This way you’ll ensure you’ve gotten your proper training volume in without the potential junk reps that sometimes happen when pushing yourself to the max.
This brings us to our last point about training until failure. When we say failure, we don’t mean that you’re about to keel over and pass out. We mean technical failure. The point of which you can no longer do the movement with proper form. We don’t need injuries to occur from being exhausted and trying to fight for one more meaningless rep. Put the ego away and live to lift another day.
Benefits of Drop Sets
They are time-efficient
One positive of drop sets is that it’s a time-saver similar to supersets. If you can’t spend a lot of hours in the gym to dedicate towards your accessories, add a few drop sets to your routine to knock out a lot of volume in a short amount of time.
Produces strength and muscle gains
Unfortunately, there isn’t much research out there proving that drops sets are superior to traditional straight sets when it comes to strength or hypertrophy. However, there aren’t a lot of studies done that show that they are worse. So what does that mean? Well, they still do help improve hypertrophy and strength training and you can feel free to add them if you’d like without fear that you aren’t optimally training. Just don’t litter your whole program with them and you’ll be fine.
Improves muscular endurance
Drop sets can help improve muscular endurance according to this study in untrained lifters.This makes sense since the goal of endurance is repeated bouts of exercises in a short time without much rest.
Easy way to gauge effort
Drop sets provide solid parameters ensuring that you are in fact training hard enough. There’s no guesswork on the amount of effort that goes into training to technical failure. You can’t fake it. So if you are wondering if you are pushing yourself hard enough, drop sets can provide a measuring stick on where your current limits are in a safe way.
What are other terms used for drop set?
Descending sets, strip sets, multi-poundage system, run the rack, and triple drop are all common phrases for this type of technique.
Are drop sets good for building mass?
Yes. They haven’t been shown to be superior to straight sets when volume is equated, but because they allow you to increase mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress, they are a good tool for hypertrophy.
What are the best exercises for using drop sets?
We like to use them for single-joint exercises such as DB Curls Calf Raises, Leg Extensions, Hamstring Curls, Lateral Raises, and Tricep Pressdowns.
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Brian Oddo CPT
About The Author
Brian Oddo is the founder of Uplift Others and a Certified Personal Trainer through ACE. He also holds specialized certifications in Sports Nutrition and Behavior Change. Brian has been training clients both in person and online for over six years.
As a former Division 1 basketball player, Brian enjoys weight training, plyometrics, and any sports to stay active.