Drop Sets for Increased Size & Strength

In Blog, Strength Training, Training by Dave Scott-McDowell

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Athletes that have been training for long enough will start to noticed reduced effectiveness from their normal training routines. When this is the case the best way to kick start the effectiveness of the training program is to use some advanced methods to continue progress. Enter the drop set. The drop set is an advanced technique that can be utilized by athletes, and people looking to build muscle and strength quickly.

Drop sets work by allowing you to increase the amount of work that you perform in each set, this allows for more fatigue to be created and greater improvements. These types of sets are often used to bust through training plateaus, or increase muscle mass quickly.
However, like any type of training to failure this type of training should not be used for extended periods as it may increase the likelihood of an overtraining effect. Failure training is best used in short durations for a short-term stimulus to keep progress rolling.

How to Drop Set?

Typically, when trying to increase muscle mass it is advantageous to lift until the muscles are no longer able to perform work. This is termed muscular failure. However, unlike traditional failure training when you hit this point in a drop set you will decrease the weight of the exercise and continue to perform more reps with the lighter weight. This drop-in weight is typically between 5-20%. A drop-in weight can be performed an additional 2-3 more times which will allow for even more work to be completed and thus increase the effectiveness of the training session.

A Sample Drop Set Workout

For this example, let’s use a dumbbell bench press. Drop sets work well with dumbbell exercises because it is very easy to grab another pair of dumbbells when you are changing the weight. I treat my drop sets similar to rest pause or clusters sets by adding short breaks in between the drops. This allows the athlete to slow down and make sure to compete the exercise with proper technique, instead of rushing through to try and get the work done.
When programming the drop set it should look like this.

A1 – Dumbbell Bench Press – 6-8Drop2

This means that an athlete will choose a weight they can perform between 6-8reps with, then continue to drop that weight 10% for 2 drop set rep outs.


Perform 8 Reps with 80lbs
Rest 15-20s to grab next weight
Rep out with 70lb
Rest 15-20s to grab next weight
Rep out with 60-65lbs
End of set 1.

This type of set structure is best used for the main movements of the day during a muscle building phase. This can also be used during accessory movements in a strength heavy phase to maintain a hint of muscle building stimulus when attempting to go heavier on main exercises.

Final Recommendations

As previously mentioned make sure to only use drop sets or other high intensity methods for short durations. These methods are extremely effective in increasing muscle mass and strength over short term periods, however when utilized for too long they can tend to lead to over training. These types of workouts are going to create a lot of fatigue and soreness in the muscle so it is best to spread them out over the week and avoid training the same exercises twice in a row. Finally when attempting these workouts since failure is the goal of the training for safety it is recommended that a spotter be used on drop sets.

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