Dropping The Stack For A Huge Back.

What are Drop sets?

A drop set works by performing a set to maximum natural failure, or just shy of failure and then by reducing ‘dropping’ the weight so as to continue more repetitions. According to Arnold Schwarzenegger* this method supposedly originated in the 40’s by Henry Atkins, who at the time worked as an editor for the popular fitness magazine, Body Culture.

Ideally, all drop sets should be performed with zero rest in-between sets. A lot of people discuss the types of drop sets that can but done and classify a zero rest drop set as a class. This is a mistake, any drop set performed with rest in between sets is rather a ‘rest-pause’ training method. Granted, it’s a technique of similar principle, but the intensity and functional outcomes are different. Always perform drops sets with zero rest.

Why are they especially popular with bodybuilders?

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[column size=”one-half” last=”true”] By hitting failure, you have activated particular muscle fibers to the point of absolute exhaustion for that weight. But by dropping the weight immediately after failure, you can actively use more muscle fibers that would otherwise be [/column] unfatigued. Thus a drop set activates deeper stubborn muscle fibers causing extra growth that wouldn’t necessarily be hit by the more traditional set performed to failure.

Consequently, it’s this stimulating of the muscle, rather than poundage, that make drop sets hypertrophy specific and ideal for bodybuilders.

We’re going to show you howto get the most from your drop sets and give you ways to make this notoriously plateau busting technique even more effective.

Getting innovative with drop sets:

Even though drop sets are hard to adjust to, it’s good to change up the way we traditionally think of drop sets.


#1. Pump rep drops sets

Otherwise known as a high rep drop set, A pump drop set is named after the extreme pump upon completion. In order to perform a high rep drop set, there needs to be a significant weight decrease between each set. Generally speaking, you want to finish the entire drop set on the 30-36 rep range. So each set will be around 10-12 reps. For example, in the bench press a start of 200lbs might reach failure at 12 reps, after stripping the weight to 140lbs you might reach failure at 10 reps. By the end of the 3rd drop you’ll be using a weight you may normally warm up with but it’ll feel 100lbs heavier!

High rep drop sets can be used for both large muscle movements or isolation exercises but because they take their toll on the cardiovascular system, compound movements will be considerably harder.

Extra work: In fact, in the cases where dumbbells are used for drop sets, some people will literally keep going until they can do no more with a 4lb weight. These drops sets often finish in the 50-100 rep range, simply because of the drops available. If you’ve got the guts for one of these endless sets, they should be done as the very final exercise before leaving the gym. Much like a typical ‘pump’ the muscles are pushed even further, fuller and deeper than before.

#2. Low rep drop sets.

A tight drop set refers to a small weight decrease between drops. Tight drops are more difficult, and “tightening” up your drop sets can even be used as a method of overload. The average weight reduction for a drop set is approximately fifteen percent. That would be like loading up 225 lbs on an Olympic bar for bench presses, then dropping to 190 lbs, then dropping to 160 lbs. If you did your next drop set workout at a twelve percent reduction (225 lbs, 200 lbs and 170 pounds), that would be an overload above and beyond the previous workout.

A tight drop set would include any weight reduction between five and twenty percent. Tight drop sets are more often performed on small muscle groups and isolation exercises. For example, if you’re going down the rack on dumbbell curls, you might start with 50 pounders and drop to the 45′s, then the 40′s – a ten percent decrease per drop.


#3. Power rep drop sets.

The power rep drop set is a drop set that will end around the 8-10 rep range. It too has very little change in weight, but the starting weight is much higher. In a standard (not drop) set, you’ll typically lift a weight for around 8-10 rep range. However with a power rep drop set, you still reach failure at the 8-10 rep range, but you’ve now shifted more weight than you thought imaginable, which means same amount of reps but with more weight. To do this, you’d start with a weight you’d reach failure at 5 reps with, you would then drop the weight just enough to reach failure at 4 reps and then again to perform just 2 or 3 reps. Because taking full advantage of this type of drop set requires virtually no rest between the sets the power rep drop set is best done with 1 or more partners or on a stack machine.

#4. Grip change drop sets

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A really great way to change up drop sets is to subtly shift the point of focus within a muscle. This technique involves changing the grip you use or the stance you use. By doing this you can hit the same stubborn fibers from [/column] a conventional drop set but also hit them from every single angle including those fibers which were otherwise less fatigued.

A great example is changing the grip during chin ups and pull ups. Changing this emphasis can target the lats (wide grip) or the inner back muscles (closer grip).

*Source: Arnold’s encyclopedia of bodybuilding


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