What are Drop Sets and who invented them?
The Drop Set is a simple technique in which we perform a series of any exercise on failure or simply before failure, then we do one more series with a lower weight and continue to for more reps to failure with this reduced weight.
This method was originally “discovered” in 1947 by Henry Atkins, editor of Body Culture magazine. Atkins called it the “multi-poundage system.”
Why do bodybuilders love drop sets?
Bodybuilders prefer this system as it is definitely geared towards increasing muscle mass (hypertrophy). In contrast, you don’t see a lot of soccer players, sprinters, or other athletes using drops sets , as this system doesn’t lead to gains in strength, endurance, or speed gains. In fact, most athletes want maximum strength, which is why the drop set system is often banned. However, if you are looking for pure muscle mass, then the drops sets are ideal!
How do drop sets work? «Breaking muscle fibers»
Let’s say you’re doing 40-pound bicep curls for a set of 8-12 reps. Repetition number 10 is difficult. Number 11 is extremely difficult, even with a bit of cheating. For repetition number 12 you have to make a supreme effort. You have come to the fault honestly. But if you drop a little weight to the bar – say about fifteen to twenty percent less, you can go ahead with the number of reps.
Although it is possible to reach a momentary point of muscular failure after 8-12 repetitions in a conventional linear series, you have not reached absolute failure, you have only reached failure with the weight in pounds / kilos. As you can see, not all the fibers of a muscle group are activated. You only recruit the number of fibers necessary to lift a special weight for the desired number of repetitions.
As you lose weight and continue the series, you cumulatively recruit more and more “reserves” of muscle fibers.
Drops sets recruit muscle fibers “from the bottom”, causing growth that could not normally be achieved by stopping a single set of six to twelve reps.
Creative Methods for drop sets
– Drops sets with bars:
This was Arnold’s preferred method of bicep training, but it can easily be used in any barbell exercise. All you have to do is put small weights (5kg or 2.5kg for example) on each side of the bar and remove them when you reach failure.
– Drops sets with machines:
Taking the weight off the bars quickly can be messy, cumbersome, and time wasted (unless you have a couple or two). Drop sets are easier with machines. All you have to do is remove the pin from the weight stack and raise it to a lighter weight. On a leg extension machine, for example, you don’t even have to get out of your seat to shift the weight. This allows for a quick weight change, which intensifies the set.
– Drops sets with dumbbells:
This is a great technique for dumbbell exercises, especially curls, side raises, and shoulder presses. For example, if you’re doing side flips, you can start with 20 kilos, do eight reps, then put the 20-pound on the floor, grab the 15, go to failure and then put the 15-pound on the floor and grab the 12 kilos and try to do more reps. Try this technique on the delts and biceps and you will see that the arms and shoulders will inflate like a balloon.
– Drops large sets:
A series of large drop sets refers to a greater decrease in weight between reps. These sets are easier and allow you to do more reps. Due to cardiovascular fatigue, large drops sets are often used on large muscle groups such as the squat, horizontal barbell row, and leg presses. For example, in the squat you can start with 120 kilos on the bar, then you throw a whole 20 kilos plate on each side and move to 80 kilos, almost a 30% drop in weight in kilos. You can then remove another 20kg plate from each side and go with 40kg (a 40% drop). Believe me, 40 kilos never felt so heavy.
– 50% Drop sets:
The “halving method” is a set that allows you to use two completely opposite rep ranges, each of which attack a different aspect of the muscle cell. This allows for excellent muscle growth as well as incredible engorgement! After warming up, start by choosing the heaviest weight you can handle for six repetitions with strict form. Perform six repetitions, then without rest, reduce the weight by exactly fifty percent and continue for twenty repetitions with this weight. An example: In the dumbbell row. If we can do six reps with 60kg max, start with these six reps, and then immediately grab the 30-pound dumbbells and do twenty good reps. You’ll be out of breath and feel something on your lats that you’ve never felt before.
– Drop sets of power: (low repetitions of drop sets)
This was the favorite method of Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia. Scott used this technique to develop monster delts and biceps, even in a less genetically optimal frame. Larry says heavy weight and low reps (six reps) were the best way to build size and strength at the same time. This rep range allows you to use heavier weights, which can help maintain your strength levels and thicken muscle fibers without much of a pump effect. Start with a maximum of six reps, and then drop the weight ten to fifteen percent with each set. Repeat with the lightest weight for six reps.
– Drop sets without rest:
This non-stop drop set system is incredibly difficult and most people, conscious or unconscious, avoid it because they are so difficult. To carry out an “honest” drop set without a break, you usually need a training partner (or two). For example, if you are doing the leg press on your own, you have to get up, walk to one side, remove one plate, walk to the other side, remove the other plate, then sit back down and resume the set. . This process takes at least 20 seconds. In that time, the muscles have already begun to dissipate lactic acid and regenerate their energy supplies. But if you have two sparring partners, they can both remove your plates in an instant to get you on with the series. The difference between 0 and 20 seconds is like night and day. Combined with continuous tension, in which absolutely nothing is resting, this can be one of the most difficult exercises of your life! (Good luck!)
How to maximize the efficiency of drop sets:
– Order and have the equipment you are going to use at hand: To move quickly from one exercise to another, you must have all your equipment configured and ready before starting the first exercise. Instead of putting large plates on a bar or machine, load several with 5, 10, 20, 25, 30 etc, ready to go. If you are going to do the drops sets with weights, align the dumbbells beforehand.
– Train when the gym is not full so you have a set of dumbbells or bars for yourself: Drop sets are not very practical in crowded gyms, nor is it polite to hog three or four sets of weights to you alone for 20 minutes. If you are planning to use this training system, try to schedule your training well for a time when the gym is not crowded.
– Stay in a range of six to twelve reps most of the time: Six to twelve reps is the most productive range for bodybuilding and this general rule of thumb should not change in a drop set. If you want to work on maintaining or building strength, even four to six reps is best. If you want pure hypertrophy, stick to around eight to twelve reps. For muscle congestion, resistance, 15-20 reps is best, especially on your last set.
– Use the drop set system sparingly (as a high intensity method) Drop sets are very intense programs and require caution and common sense. If you wear them all the time, you will quickly burn out and overtrain. A great way to use this system is with the 3: 1 method: perform three sets of an exercise, followed by a series of drop sets.