Science behind Drop Sets - unique method for busy lifters

Muscle Madness
Muscle Madness


Science behind Drop Sets - unique method for busy lifters

Drop set is a method of strength training in bodybuilding with a decrease in the weight of the burden in one set and performing the maximum number of repetitions of the exercise in a pumping manner.

Different athletes have their own name for this technique. The most commonly used are:

  • dropsets, 
  • descending sets, 
  • strip sets, 
  • the multi-poundage system the stripping method, 
  • triple-drops, 
  • down the rack, 
  • running the rack

Initially, it was called the multi-poundage system as it was described in the late 1940s by Henry Atkins, editor of Body Culture magazine.

The method is simple: it requires doing as many reps as you can. After that, immediately drop the weight by 10 to 15 percent and try to squeeze out a few more repetitions, and then use even less weight and do as many reps as you can again. Keep going until you can’t do any reps. 

There are also reverse drop sets: increase the weight with each set and decrease the reps. 

Today Drop sets are widely known thanks to Joe Weider's Weider System.

Frequently, in order to create more hypertrophy athletes use this method which helps them to increase greater muscular fatigue.

According to Joe Weider, compared to straight sets of heavy work Drop set allow builders to increase metabolic stress, time under tension (TUT),  total volume, and ischemia in less time.

In a study performed by Fink, 16 men were split up into two groups and given different strength protocols over six weeks. One group performed a traditional 12 reps with 90 seconds rest in three sets on a tricep pushdown.

Training for the other group consisted of 1 set of 12 that included two drop sets done with the same exercise. Remembering that the amount of training volume across both groups was the same, the results were shocking: the drop set group’s triceps responded with almost two times growth increase after six weeks.

Muscle and Strength reports that in another study by Ozaki, participants were split into three groups and given different protocols over eight weeks. Each participant had either an extended rest while bicep curled a heavy weight with, moderate rest with light weight, or lifted heavy with four drop sets.

Regarding hypertrophy, all groups compared similarly even though it took considerably less time executing the protocol for the drop set group. This case shows that limited time in the gym doesn’t always have to mean limited hypertrophy.

Masahiro Goto from Ritsumeikan University in Japan and co-workers found that in trained people, drop sets resulted in higher power output, motor unit activation and muscle hypoxia (low oxygen) than reverse drop sets. This should trigger greater gains in muscle hypertrophy. 

There were no differences between training methods in untrained people. Time under tension and motor unit activation are critical for muscle growth. This study showed that drop sets produce mechanical and metabolic stress necessary for muscle growth.