How Often Should You Perform Drop-Sets

by Dec 5, 2016Muscle Gain, Strength and Conditioning

You may well have had this conversation in the gym before, it goes a little something like this:

You “excuse me, do you have many sets left on the bench?”

Gym Member “just 4 sets, but I’m doing quadruple drop sets on incline press and dumbbell fly’s and I’ll need to keep all of these dumbbells too”

You *glances to 16 dumbbells on the floor* “……….”

Drop sets are a brilliant tool for hypertrophy, but are often misused. The first thing to know about drop sets is that they are an advanced technique, meaning if you are a beginner you don’t need to use them until you’ve exhausted less advanced methods of training first. Techniques like drop sets are an ace card, so its worth saving for when the game gets interesting.

Secondly, there needs to be a purpose behind using them other than they look cool. Yes, they give you an awesome ‘pump’ but if you don’t know why your using them…you guessed it, they shouldn’t be in there. However, if you have stalled with hypertrophy and have been training with straight sets for a while then this may be a good opportunity to utilise them.

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So how often should you perform drop sets?

  1. Use them on the last set and go all out with them. If you cant give it maximum effort, your not going to get maximum results. Lets say your doing 3 sets of quad extensions. For the first two go relatively hard, around an 8/10 effort. On your last set, incorporate a drop set adding 2 reps to each drop (e.g. 6-8-10) and give it all you’ve got.
  2. Use them on 1-2 accessory or isolation exercises per session. These aren’t for main lifts and big compound movements require a great deal of stabilising, so its likely you’re technique could break down. Use on exercises that require less stabilisation e.g. bicep curls, hamstring curls or leg press.
  3. Here are two programming options: Use them as a focus on hypertrophy for muscle groups you want to increase for a 3 week block e.g. a focus on arms/quads/calves/rear deltoids for a 3 week period then change the group your are focusing on for a further 3 weeks before coming back to the first. This could look something like this: weeks 1-3: quad and tricep focus weeks 4-6: bicep and rear deltoid focus weeks 7-9: quad and tricep focus. OR use them during a whole body training block, with 1 drop set per movement (push, pull, squat, hinge) 1-2 exercises per session for 3 weeks, take 1 week off and repeat. This could look something like this: weeks 1-3 drop sets on quad extension, seated row, dumbbell fly and hamstring curl week 4 no drop sets weeks 5-7 repeat of weeks 1-3

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To sum up:

  1. 1-2 sets per muscle group per week
  2. 1-2 exercises per session
  3. Go all out on drop sets, you MUST give it 100% effort
  4. Plan them into your training by either rotating muscle group focus or taking a week’s break after 3 weeks of using them.

Just to give some real world context, in my past training block I’ve been using drop sets with great effect in regards to hypertrophy. Over the week I’ll do 72 working sets across my whole body, 7 of which are drop sets. That’s less than 10% of my training programme.

Remember, drop sets are an advanced method and so shouldn’t become the entire programme but rather the icing on the cake!

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