Creative Approaches to Drop Sets

Written by Jack Boardman

Drop Sets

Drop sets are a favourite method of mass muscle building for many pro builders. Here we’ve put together some uses for drop sets that you might want to add to your repertoire.

Barbell Drop Sets


Also referred to as strip sets, or descending sets, this involves an exercise using a barbell and an even distribution of weight plates on either side. Perform a set until muscle exhaustion and take a plate off each side for the next. Repeat. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself considered this the best approach for bicep training.

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Machine Drop Sets


This is by far your easiest, simplest approach to drop sets. Think about it, barbell exercise mean that you’ll have to change the weights as soon as you can and often involve partners for safety when exhaustion kicks in. Machines are designed to require no gym buddy an all you’d need to do is lift the pin up a notch on the plates.

Down The Rack


Also known as running the rack, this means drop sets performed using dumbbells. Many people favour these for single joint movements, including lateral raises and curls. Start at a comfortable more moderate weight and work your way down the dumbbells rack towards the lighter end. This is an excellent way to end a session following heavy lifting.

Wide and Tight Drop Sets


You’d be surprised how much of a difference it makes when you opt between a vast (wide) drop set or a tighter set, meaning you lower the weight for the next set by only a small margin. To state the obvious, a bigger drop in weight would make the next set easier and you would be able to perform more reps before exhaustion, but a tighter rep would be a lesser margin – nonetheless lighter – meaning you gain from the heavier weight but the extra reps.

A tight drop set would include any weight reduction between five and twenty percent. Tight drop sets are more often performed on small muscle groups and isolation exercises. For example, if you’re going down the rack on dumbbell curls, you might start with 50 pounders and drop to the 45’s, then the 40’s – a ten percent decrease per drop. As you know, the last reps are the killers. By working on wider drop sets and starting at a higher weight, the lower sets will then feel pretty colossal, meaning you’re making a lower weight work more for you.

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50 Percent Drops


This combines full-on strength lifting and also pumping up. The gist is that you lift a set at its heaviest, for example, five reps of your heaviest possible weight. Immediately after you would perform the same exercise at half the rate at 20 reps.

Power Drop Sets


This is favoured by many as one of the best ways to grow muscle and strength, with less focus on pumping up. The aim here is heavy weights – your max in fact, at sets of five. Refer to the aforementioned tight drops and lower the amount by only around 10 percent at most.

Descending Reps Sets


These go by many names but the aim is to lower the reps, for example, 12 – 10 – 8 and on down at the end of a workout session. The opposite is ascending sets, for which you would lower the weight in order to increase the number of reps.

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