A drop set is a set where you do as many reps as you can with a certain weight, then immediately lower the weight and do more reps. There should be as little rest as possible between sets.
Drop sets were a favorite of none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Usually, the time between weight drops ranges from zero to ten seconds. Even if you’re doing heavy power drop sets, the rest between sets should still be relatively brief. In general, the briefer the time between the weight change, the more intense and effective your drop set will be.
To move quickly from one exercise to the next, you should have all your equipment set up and ready before starting the first exercise. Instead of putting big plates on a barbell or machine, load it up with 5’s, 10’s or 25’s, ready to be stripped. If you’re doing triple drops with dumbbells, line up all three pairs beforehand.
Drop setting isn’t practical in a crowded gym, nor is it proper gym etiquette to hog three or four sets of dumbbells all to yourself for 15 minutes. If you’re planning to use down the rack drop sets, try to schedule your workout for a time when the gym isn’t crowded and be courteous to others.
Drop Set training with barbell
This was Arnold’s favorite method for bicep training, but it can easily be used on any barbell exercise. All you have to do is put small plates on each side of the bar and strip them off when you reach failure. For example, if you set up an barbell with four ten pound plates (5 kg) on each side, that’s 125 lbs (55 kg) to start, then by pulling a ten off each side (about fifteen percent), you now have 105 lbs (45 kg). After eight more reps, you pull another ten off each side and continue with 85 pounds (40 kg).
Drop Set training with selectorized machines
Drop sets are easier with machines. All you have to do is pull the pin out of the weight stack and move it up to a lighter weight. On a leg extension machine, for example, you don’t even have to leave your seat to change the weight. This allows for a quick weight change, which intensifies the set.
Drop sets training with dumbbells
Going down the rack is a fantastic technique for dumbbell exercises, especially curls, lateral raises and shoulder presses. For example, if you’re doing dumbbell lateral raises, you could start with the 40’s, do eight reps, then put the 40’s down and grab the 30’s, then put the 30’s down and grab the 20’s and rep out some more. Try this technique on your next deltoid or bicep day and your arms and shoulders will pump up like balloons.
There are many variations possible while using the same basic concept of reducing the weight used. One way is to do a specified number of repetitions at each weight (without necessarily reaching the point of muscle failure) with an increase in the number of repetitions each time the weight is reduced. The amount or percentage of weight reduced at each step is also one aspect of the method with much variety.
A wide drop set method is one in which a large percentage (usually 30% or more) of the starting weight is shed with each weight reduction. A tight drop set would remove anywhere from 10% to 25%. These definitions are somewhat arbitrary, of course, and not everyone will agree on the exact definitions.
Drop sets and the technique also go by the names breakdowns, descending sets, triple-drops (when a total of three different weights are used), down the rack or running the rack (when using dumbbells), up the stack (because with a weight machine, the pin is moved up the stack of plates with each drop in weight), strip sets (when you “strip” weights off the ends of a bar), or the stripping technique (so called because of “stripping” weight plates off with each drop in weight).
Drop sets where originally called The Atkin’s Multiple Poundage System after Henry Atkin who discovered this system in the 1940s and written about in his 1949 article The Atkin’s Multiple Poundage System by Henry J. Atkin, which can be found on the “The Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban” blog, and was originally meant to be used with barbells.