Been working your socks off to build muscle but feeling stuck in a very heavily loaded rut? You may wanna try shocking your bod with an intense workout called a drop set.

All sorts of strength training techniques can tease out those giant, swole muscles. Weightlifting regimens use many strategies, like rest-pause and pyramid training, to help you really feel the burn at any fitness level and get the desired results.

The drop set is one of these methods — and it’s pretty darn effective. Here’s how and why drop sets work.

One of the most desirable benefits of the drop set method is that it grows your physique quickly.

The object of a drop set is to exhaust your muscles, including all the smaller muscle fibers. But when you complete a drop set, you’re not working your muscles to the point of failure just once. No siree, Bob. You’re reducing the weight and working your muscles to failure again right away — twice more.

According to a 2019 review, this type of advanced resistance training encourages hypertrophy, which is the enlargement of an organ or tissue such as muscles.

Research from 2018 compared 3 sets of conventional resistance training exercises with a single drop set. The peeps in the drop set group saw superior muscle gains. The authors noted this was likely due to higher muscle stress. Tonk as heck.

Wanna boost your endurance? Drop sets are a great approach for that too. A 2012 study comparing various resistance training methods found that the drop set method is a valuable tool in increasing the total work in a training program.

This research also indicates that using drop sets in exercises involving multiple joints also increases the total work.

Another positive aspect of drop sets is that you can do them in less time than other types of weightlifting and resistance training. The idea is that you move from set to set with as little rest as possible in between, so you cut out any lollygagging.

The take-home? Drop sets allow you to accomplish more muscle gains in a shorter time frame. Winner, winner, chicken dinner (or another suitable high protein alternative).

How often should you do drop sets?

Doing drop sets may get results, but it’s not a routine you should do daily or even multiple times a week. Your body needs time to recover before taking on that kind of stress again.

According to research from 2012, working your body to failure and fatiguing your muscles too much produces elevated levels of a compound called adenosine monophosphate (AMP). Increased AMP levels can cause muscle growth to decrease, which is the exact opposite of your strength training goals.

Many strength coaches and athletic trainers advise incorporating drop sets into your workout just once or twice a week.

Less is more!

To complete a drop set for any exercise, you’ll first want to select the maximum weight you can lift. Then, do as many reps as you can, until you can’t do any more.

After working to failure in the first set, reduce the amount of weight you’re working with by 10–30 percent. Do as many reps at the reduced weight as you can, until you can’t do another one. Reduce the weight by 10–30 percent again and do reps until failure one final time.

Here are two examples of a drop set featuring our friends the biceps curl and the squat.

Standing barbell biceps curl

  1. Adjust the rack to hold the bar at your waist before beginning the exercise.
  2. Choose a weight at which you can do only 5–7 reps before failing. Load the barbell.
  3. Stand with feet hip-width apart, facing the barbell rack.
  4. Gripping the barbell with palms facing up, lift the bar from the rack. Extend your arms to drop the bar, then bend at your elbows to curl the bar upward.
  5. Repeat until failure, 5–7 reps.
  6. Return the bar to the rack. Reduce the weight by 10–30 percent or 10 pounds.
  7. Repeat steps 2 and 3, completing 8–10 reps.
  8. Return the bar to the rack. Reduce the weight by 10–30 percent or 10 pounds.
  9. Repeat steps 2 and 3, completing 12–15 reps.
  10. Return the bar to the rack.

Barbell squat

  1. Adjust the rack to hold the bar slightly below your shoulders before beginning the exercise.
  2. Choose a weight at which you can do only 5–7 reps before failing. Load the barbell.
  3. Stand with feet hip-width apart, facing the barbell rack.
  4. Bend knees to lower your body so you can stand under the barbell. Place it evenly across your shoulders, then straighten your knees to lift the barbell from the rack. Take a few steps away from the rack.
  5. Bend at knees again to a full squat position, until thighs are parallel to the floor.
  6. Repeat until failure, 5–7 reps.
  7. Return the bar to the rack. Reduce the weight by 10–30 percent or 10 pounds.
  8. Repeat steps 3–5, completing 8–10 reps.
  9. Return the bar to the rack. Reduce the weight by 10–30 percent or 10 pounds.
  10. Repeat steps 3–5, completing 12–15 reps.
  11. Return the bar to the rack.

Drop sets help you build muscle, and these tips will help you max out your efforts:

  • Plan your drop sets ahead of time and have your weight loads ready. You’ll then spend as little time as possible transitioning between sets and therefore minimize rest time.
  • Don’t overtrain. As discussed earlier, overuse of the drop set method can decrease muscle growth.
  • Only employ a drop set if you’re in a plateau or looking to boost results. Drop sets are an advanced training technique, so you don’t need to use them if you’re just starting a weightlifting regimen.

Drop sets are an advanced weightlifting method that involves performing an exercise with a heavy weight until failure and then reducing the weight and repeating that process.

Yes, they’re taxing, but they boast benefits like muscle gains and increased endurance.

While drop sets can take your workout to the next level, it’s essential to take care not to overtrain and to exercise (ha!) caution at all times when dealing with heavy loads.