Over twenty years of lifting weights, I have seen it all and done most of it. The list of all the various methods that I have tried would be tiresome to list, but that’s fine because today, we’re going to talk about just one method, and it’s a method that I have found to be remarkably effective.
Origins and Nature of Drop-Sets:
The concept of the drop-set is very simple. To start, use your normal poundage and lift until you are exhausted. Drop some weight and continue. This method is good because it allows you to do more repetitions with less risk of injury. The method was invented by Dr. Henry Atkins, a bodybuilding magazine editor. He called it the “multi-poundage” system. As this isn’t really a catchy name, people have called it by many alternate names.
Why Is This Method Popular?
This method is very popular among bodybuilders because it tends to build bulk. Since it does not offer any particular benefits to athletic performance, athletes are less likely to use the drop-set method. If you just want lean muscle mass, this isn’t the method for you. If you want to bulk up, this might be just the ticket.
How the Process Works:
As explained earlier, you start by doing your normal workout. So, let’s say that you normally do a maximum of 12 reps. Go to that 12th rep and then remove some weight so that you can keep going. As a general rule, you should remove 15-20% of the weight on that first drop. It works because it allows you to keep going for as long as possible. When you hit that 12th rep, you have not truly reached a state of muscle exhaustion. You have simply gone as far as you can with that poundage. This process works by activating every fiber of the muscle, producing larger growth in a shorter time frame.
One of the first people to popularize the drop-set method was Arnold Schwarzenegger AKA Conan AKA “the Governator”. Thanks to his influence on the bodybuilding game, drop-sets are commonly used by bodybuilders to gain maximum bulk in minimal time. There are many ways in which you can employ this basic concept, and these are my twelve favorite methods:
Strip Sets with Barbells:
This is the simplest way to use the concept. Load up your bar and go to exhaustion, then, quickly strip the outside weights off and continue. The best way is to use four plates of equal weight on each side and strip one from each side.
Up the Stack with A Workout Machine:
A weight machine has a natural advantage when it comes to drop-set training. This is because the process of reducing the weight is so much faster. This allows for less pausing between reps.
Down the Rack with Dumbells:
Take the largest dumbbells on the rack and lift with them until you can’t do anymore. Then, move down to the next highest size and max yourself out again. Move down the rack until you have maxed out with your smallest weights.
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Decreasing the Weight Margin:
If you want to increase the difficulty of your drop-set workouts, you can tighten up the weight margins. Instead of reducing the weight by 15-20%, try reducing it by 12-15%. This method is best for small muscle groups.
Increasing the Weight Margin:
If you want to maximize your number of reps. You can achieve this by increasing the weight drop. Instead of dropping 15-20%, drop it by 30-40%. One easy way to do this is by using only large plates and stripping one of them off with each drop.
The Halving Method:
As the name suggests, this is an extreme version of option 5, where you drop half the weight on one reduction and go until you are completely worn out. When deciding which weights to use, apply the “six-rep rule.” Use the heaviest weight that you can do six reps with as your initial poundage.
This is similar to method 6. You begin by applying the “six rep rule.” After doing your six, go down by ten to fifteen percent and keep going. This method was very popular with Larry Scott, the original Mr. Olympia.
Ascending and Descending:
This is another method that involves manipulating the drop margin. If you gradually increase the drop margin with every drop, that is called an “ascending” method. If you gradually decrease the drop margin with every drop, that is called a “descending” method.
Changing Grip or Stance:
If you want to hit a wider range of muscles, you can try changing your grip and/or stance with every drop. This means that with every set, you are working on a slightly different muscle group.
This is the hardest variation of the drop-set method. It requires at least one training partner to get it right. In this method, you make sure that there is absolutely no rest period between weight changes. This requires your training partner to work quickly and at just the right moment.
This is probably the easiest method on our list. Instead of having no rest period, you take a slightly longer rest period. 10-15 seconds is recommended.
In this method, you alternate between two exercises, using the drop-set method for each. You choose two exercises that are designed to target completely different muscle groups, start with your maximum on the first exercise and work your way down. Repeat for the second exercise and alternate to exhaustion.
Maximizing Your Efficiency:
- Keep rest times to a minimum if you want quicker results
- Have all your equipment ready in advance
- Time your gym workouts for non-busy times so that you don’t have to wait for weights
- Limit your total weight drops to two for most exercises
- As a general rule, do 6-12 reps between each drop
- Make sure you start with the heaviest weight you can use
- Don’t use drop-set training all the time, as it can be pretty hard on you
In conclusion, it should be mentioned that this method is the single best way to achieve great bulk in the shortest possible time. Having been used by people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Larry Scott, this method has proven its effectiveness time and time again. I encourage you to experiment with all these variations, as this will allow you to reap the maximum rewards.