Weight Training: The Benefits of Doing Drop Sets

istock_000003699890xsmallSometimes when you’re trying to build lean body mass, you reach a plateau where your muscles stop growing. That’s when you have to pull out all the stops and challenge your muscles in a different way. One way to do that is to do drop sets. Adding drop sets to a weight training routine challenges muscles to work a little harder than they’re accustomed to, which means more growth and muscle definition.

What Are Drop Sets?

To do drop sets, you lift to the point of near failure using the weight you’re accustomed to. Once you’ve reached your maximum using that particular weight, pick up a weight that’s 20% lighter, and repeat the set again after resting no more than 5 seconds. To challenge yourself, even more, drop the weight again by 20% and repeat.

Some people repeat this process four or five times. This pushes your muscles beyond the point they’re accustomed to and can stimulate further muscle growth. It’s a good technique for breaking out of a muscle building plateau where you’re not getting the results you’d like.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Doing Drop Sets for Muscle Development

Drop sets work your muscles to exhaustion. That’s great for muscle growth, but it’s important to give your muscles a chance to recover or you won’t see growth. Don’t do drop sets every time you go to the gym, and only do a few sets per muscle group during any given workout. You’re working your muscles beyond the point of failure, so you can count on being sore and giving your muscles a chance to recuperate.

Tips for Getting the Benefits of Drop Sets

Use drop sets to challenge your muscles, but don’t neglect form. It’s easy to get sloppy as you transition to lighter weights. Maintain your focus until the very last repetition is done. To get the most benefits, don’t rest more than 5 seconds between each set. This technique is best for machines and dumbbells as opposed to barbells where you have to take the time to remove weights between sets.

The Bottom Line?

Drop sets can add a whole new dimension to your workouts. It’s a good plateau buster if you’ve reached a point where you’ve stopped seeing gains in lean body muscle mass. It can also give your muscles the “shock” they need to restart the growth process. But listen to your body. It’s easy to overtrain using drop sets. Don’t do them every time you hit the weight room. It’s a great way to break through plateaus, but don’t do it every time you go to the gym.



Oxygen Magazine. April 2011.
“Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning”; National Strength and Conditioning Association; 2008.
Bodybuilding.com. “Creative Drop Setting”


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Do You Really Need More Exercise Recovery Time as You Age?

What is Deloading and How Does It Apply to Resistance Training?

Resistance Training: How Long Should You Rest Between Sets?

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