Are you tired of doing every single workout with the same stale setup? If you’re not challenging your muscles with increasingly heavy weights or new techniques, you’re not going to see any growth. If you want introduce a new challenge to your lifting session without necessarily ramping up the load, you’ll want to try out drop sets.
For this strategy, you need to know how to approach your workout right—especially because it’s such a killer way to pack on additional volume, too. Let Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. and associate fitness editor Brett Williams guide you through the technique’s subtleties, saving you from going about it the wrong way and keeping you from unlocking your fitness potential.
Before you start running racks, take note that it’s extremely important to pay attention the format. There are more than one style of drop sets, and your timing means more than you might think. Let’s break down everything you need to know.
Use Both Varieties
Eb says: There are two kinds of drop sets: Standard load-based drop sets, where you start with a heavy weight, and then “drop” to a lighter weight, or mechanical and technique drop sets, which have you doing reps with a technique to create challenge early then “dropping” the technique for standard reps late.
Both varieties have value. I love mechanical and technique drop sets especially, because we get to create the metabolic stress needed for growth without always pounding our body with weight. At the same time, we need the overall load that load-based drop sets can offer in order to spark total body growth. Use both varieties in your workouts.
Eb says: Especially with load-based dropsets, push yourself to go heavy before the drop. Aim to use the heaviest good-form training weight you would for an exercise, because once you drop, you’ll get your chance to pile up reps. If you start too light, you’ll wind up doing massive sets that total 20-25 reps, but once you’re landing at those numbers, the entire dropset is losing value, and you’ll also lose focus, too.
Focus On the Back End
Eb says: Once the weight gets lighter, it’s incredibly easy to start cheating. You’re tired and you know you’re going lighter, so it’s easy to step back on the mental engagement. Don’t do that, though.
Work to lock in your form and make the back end of each drop set perfect. Think of the back end of each drop set as a chance to focus on the movement, not as a chance to simply get through the movement.
Don’t take time to rest between the start of a drop set and the drop. Instead, move quickly. You should be dropping the weight you just did, then picking up your next weight and quickly starting your next set. Or you should be changing out plates as quickly as possible if you’re on a barbell move (have a partner help you) so you can get back to work on the second phase.
Too many people take 10, 15, 20 seconds to do this. Then you’re not doing a drop set. You’re just doing another set.
Want to master even more moves? Check out our entire Form Check series.
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