Getting the Most out of Drop Sets

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Posted November 24, 2012 by Tiffany Weekes
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Drop Sets
Why do we workout? The simple answer is to get in better shape. Now whether that shape is larger, thinner, more toned more athletic, or something else really depends on the individual. How can we get in better shape? Regardless of our general focus, the specific answer is to stress the body in a manner that causes it to grow stronger, larger, of faster in response to that stress.

That is why techniques, like the drop-set, have been developed. They are a way to push ourselves further and stress the body more to help foster change.

 

Drop Sets

This concept was created way back in the 1940’s by Henry Atkins. Originally they were called the ‘Atkin Multiple Poundage System’. Drop sets are a little easier to say, but you can’t blame the guy for wanting credit for such a marvelous idea. His initial concept was based around using barbells for drop sets. While you can do it with a barbell, using dumbbells or an easily adjustable machine is much more effective.

The general idea is to work a muscle to failure with a weight for low reps. Complete that first set and then strip weight off the bar and immediately do another set. You would then repeat this process a few times increasing the number of reps as the weight became lighter. You can use a barbell if you stack the weight in an easy manner to drop down in decent increments, but most people find it easier just to work down the dumbbell rack.

 

Why it Works

Generally speaking when you hit muscle failure on an exercise you have not truly exhausted all of the muscle fibers. However the majority are taxed and unable to lift that heavy amount of weight. By quickly reducing the weight and continuing on the idea is tax the rest of the fibers until after 4 to 5 sets they have all given out.

It is one way to increase muscle hypertrophy as well as get a wicked pump from all the blood you are forcing into the muscle. This technique is one that should only be utilized on one set per body part, preferably on the last exercise for that body part. If you are truly exhausting every fiber or a high percentage of fibers in the muscle, then what is the point of doing additional work to the muscle? That would just lead to overtraining which is never a good idea.

 

Sample Drop Sets

You can do drop sets on just about any exercise. As we said before, dumbbells and machines are rather easy to use for drop sets. If you have a partner then using a barbell can be effective if they strip weight for you while you then jump into the next set.

Dumbbell Curls

  • 1st set – 50 pounds for 4 to 6 reps
  • 2nd set – 35 pounds for 6 to 10 reps
  • 3rd set – 25 pounds for 10 to 12 reps
  • 4th set – 20 pounds for 15 to 20 reps

For a larger muscle you might do a fifth set at 15 to 20 reps with the fourth using 12 to 15 reps. As you can see, even with 4 sets you are doing 35 to 48 reps which is an incredible amount. That is why it is best only to be used once per body part put training session. In fact you could make a case for doing one good exercise with a drop set and being done. You not only hit the fast twitch fibers on the first set, but the longer you do reps the more you incorporate the slow twitch fibers to really get the maximum effect from this technique.

Dana Goldberg writes for Nutribomb.com. You can follow Dana at our Fitness Blog, Facebook Page, Linkedin, or Google Plus.