Add Serious Muscle Mass With Drop Sets
What is a Drop Set?
A drop set is the technique where one performs a set of an exercise to failure, then drops some weight and continues for more repetitions with the reduced poundage. This same technique can be used multiple times without a break until your muscles are completely exhausted.
Who Invented Drop Sets?
According to “Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding,” the drop set method was originally “discovered” in 1947 by Henry Atkins, editor of Body Culture magazine. Atkins called it the “multi-poundage system.” Since then, this muscle blasting technique has gone by many different names including breakdowns, descending sets, triple-drops, down the rack, strip sets, or the stripping technique.
Who Should Use Drop Sets?
Drop sets should be used by anyone seeking to shock their muscles into growth. Veteran lifters, as well as novice lifters, can utilize drop sets as part of their routines as a way to break through plateaus, but novice lifters should not be hitting plateaus at this time, so typical sets are just as useful for them.
Why Drop Sets Work?
I find that the use of drop sets are the most effective high intensity technique for breaking through plateaus and for adding mass for my body type and style of lifting. I have been down the road with all sorts of techniques including supersets, giant sets, pre-exhaustion, negatives, partials, static holds, continuous tension, peak contraction, 21s, 5 x 5s, 8 x 8s, etc. For me, drop sets just work the best to get that pump and for lasting muscles.
Drop sets are specifically designed to stress and break down muscle fibers. As an example, if you are performing barbell bicep curls with 120 pounds for a set of 8-10 reps. After 10 reps, you cannot even get one more rep up at 120 pounds, but if you lower the weight to 100 pounds, you could squeeze out a few more reps. Even though, you have reach temporary muscle failure, it is not a complete muscle failure. Dropping the weight 15-20% allows you to squeeze out another 8 reps or so. After those reps, drop the weight again by 15-20% and you can squeeze out another 8 reps or so.
By using drop sets, you are now reaching a higher level of muscle failure, which means increased muscle mass. They give you the ability to hit those stubborn, pesky muscle fibers that are normally not hit during typical sets. Drop sets are not conducive to strength or power gains, so this is not a technique that would be used by sports athletes. This is a mechanism used by bodybuilders in order to increase muscle size.
How Should You Use Drop Sets?
My strict rule on drop sets is the only use them on the final set of an exercise. I may do multiple drop sets per body part, but only one set per exercise.
Drop Set Techniques
One popular method of drop sets was one of Arnold’s favorite techniques – the barbell strip set. You add small plates on each side of the barbell and then remove small plates to remove 15-20% of the weight for each round of the drop set. Using small plates is important in order to save time between sets. If you have to remove a plate and add a plate to the bar, you have wasted too much time.
Another popular method is to go “up the stack” when using a machine. Using the barbell strip set technique above can be time consuming and cumbersome, but removing a pin and placing up up the stack at a lighter weight takes almost no time at all.
Another drop set method that saves time is to go “down the rack” or “run the rack” with dumbbells. This method calls for performing your heavy set, then grabbing a lighter set of dumbbells, then another lighter set of dumbbells, etc.
There are so many other forms of drop sets that we will touch upon at a later time, but these drop set techniques are the ones that I highly suggest every bodybuilder should incorporate into their workout.