Drop sets are one of the most overlook tools for building muscle mass.
Hypertrophy is the key to building LOTS of muscle mass and drop sets are a guaranteed way to achieve hypertrophy.
Watch the short video below to see how drop sets should be performed. In this short clip, Gabe is on his last set of decline bench press. He's already knocked out 135x20, 225x20, 275x15, 315x10, and 365x5. So five work sets later, he's already pretty toast. This drop set is gonna be the kicker for fully exhausting these muscle fibers - and it's only the first exercise of the workout!
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What's the right way to do drop sets?
One way to do drop sets that will really pack a punch, is to incorporate them the way Gabe did here. This is on the last set of your exercise. We'll talk more about that in a minute. For now though, let's look at how they are performed.
Typically, on the last set of whatever exercise you're doing, you will use a heavier weight and knock out as many reps as you can. We tend to aim for the 6-12 rep range but don't let that detour you from doing fewer reps with heavier weight. You'll recruit more of your fast-twitch muscle fibers doing fewer reps.
Strip some weight
Then, as soon as you're done with those reps, immediately strip some weight off. The goal is to at least double your reps AND at a minimum get 12 reps. We shoot for 12-20 reps on our first drop set, knowing that there's still some decent weight on the bar and not worrying about getting all 20 reps.
Just go until you're fully exhausted and can't push out any more reps, no matter how hard you try. This is complete failure and it's always a good idea to have a spotter for the compound movements.
Strip some more weight
Now, not everyone has the desire to do double and triple drop sets. A single drop set may be all you need. If your body is getting used to doing single drop sets, then step it up and add another drop.
So for this next drop, without any rest, strip off some more weight. Then back under the bar and bang out as many reps as possible with this lighter weight.
Note - always use good form, no matter how light the weight gets.
For this next drop, we typically shoot for 15-20 reps.
As the weight gets lighter, we want to substitute the load for more reps to keep the volume high and really tax those slow-twitch muscle fibers. This is where hypertrophy really comes into play and you start building some serious muscle mass.
When and where to incorporate drop sets
A lot of people tend to save their drop sets for the last exercise of the workout, which works just fine. You're going to be exhausted after any drop set and the amount of weight you'll be able to push after a drop set, even on your next exercises, will dramatically decrease - at first.
This is why people tend to save the drop sets for the end of the workout. Their egos dictate what they THINK they should be doing, rather than what science and experience has proven to work.
Mix up your drop set placement
The Body Spartan Team will vary when and where they incorporate their drop sets in their workouts.
Sometimes, they'll save them for the last exercise. However, many times they will add drop sets in the very beginning of the workout like you see here and then not do any more until the last exercise.
Other times, the entire workout will include drop sets at the end of every exercise, on the last set.
The more drop sets you do, the more you increase the overall volume of the workout.
Recommendations for drop sets
For maximizing muscle growth and avoiding over-training, our recommendation would be to start incorporating drop sets at the end of your workout.
Then, as you begin to adapt to the work load, switch it up and put the drop set at the beginning of the workout, like Gabe did in the video.
After you've adapted to that and you're able to increase the weight back to normal on the exercises that follow that first drop set, go ahead and start adding in additional drop sets throughout the workout.
Remember, hypertrophy consists of flooding the muscle cell with as much blood as possible for the most intense pump possible. THAT is what drop sets are all about. The more you do, the more you're going to grow.
More workouts with drop sets!
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