Workout Routines

How Using Drop Sets in Your Training Can Get You Bigger

Achieve more muscle growth with this proven lifting approach.

Bench Press
Per Bernal

Drop sets are a great way to increase muscle mass, as they're a quick and easy way to increase blood flow into the muscles, get the heart pumping, and most importantly, fatigue the muscles to ensure hypertrophy.

What are drop sets?

Drop sets are essentially a technique where you perform an exercise and then drop (reduce) the weight and continue for more reps until you reach failure. Called the "multi-poundage system," this method was discovered in 1947 by Henry Atkins, who was the editor of Body Culture magazine.

Drop sets work because in any given set, you're only recruiting a certain amount of muscle fibers. By then stripping the weight down and going lighter, you recruit different muscle fibers, which should help the muscles achieve growth that couldn’t be achieved by sticking with the same weight.

There are numerous variations of drop sets. Two of the more popular variations include:

1) Running the Rack:

This technique is performed when using dumbbells. Once you reach failure with a certain dumbbell weight, pick up a lighter weight off the rack and perform as many reps as possible. Continue down the rack until failure.

Sample routine using running the rack with alternating dumbbell curls:

  • Set 1:  Choose a weight you'd fail at 4-6 reps
  • Set 2:  Reduce weight by 5 lbs. / 8-10 reps
  • Set 3:  Reduce weight by 5 lbs. / 10-12 reps
  • Set 4:  Reduce weight by 5 lbs. / 12-15 reps
  • Set 5:  Reduce weight by 5-10 lbs. / 15-20 reps

Rules: 1st set should be heaviest. No rest in between drops sets. "Walk down the rack" selecting weights.

2) Plate Stripping

When using a barbell, plates are stripped from each side until you can no longer perform reps with the given weight. Ideally, you want to have a training partner who can strip the weights for you, so you can maintain your position.

Your training partner can quickly pull a plate off each side of the bar when you can no longer do reps with a given weight. He/she can continue to strip away plates, up to two or three times, until you reach a point very close to total muscular exhaustion.

Sample routine using plate stripping with the flat bench press:

  • Set 1:  Choose a weight you'd fail at 4-6 reps
  • Set 2:  Strip weight by 10 lbs / 8-10 reps
  • Set 3:  Strip weight by 10 lbs / 10-12 reps
  • Set 4:  Strip weight by 10 lbs / 12-15 reps
  • Set 5:  Strip weight by 20 lbs / 15-20 reps

Rules: 1st set should be heaviest. No rest in between drops. Ensure training partner strips weights for you.

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