Members of Team Conscious Muscle know we are big fans of drop sets, a weightlifting technique where, after doing an exercise to near-failure, you reduce (i.e., drop) the weight you’re lifting and continue doing the exercise until you cannot continue. Talk about intensity! Arnold Schwarzenegger often completed drop sets when doing bicep curls. You can use drop sets when training nearly any body part such as deltoids, calves, triceps, back, etc.
While drop sets have been around for decades, a recent study showed support for their use to build muscle. The study was spearheaded by Brad Shoenfeild, PhD, a well-known exercise scientist and researcher who has authored several popular fitness books and countless peer-reviewed articles on exercise. In this study examining the use of drop sets as a technique to build muscle, young men trained their tricep muscles using either drop sets or a traditional ‘one-set’ method. After six weeks, the people in the drop set group showed nearly double the muscle growth in their tricep muscles compared to the people in the traditional one-set group. The researchers attributed the increased muscle growth to the increased stress placed on the muscles due to the drop sets. Makes sense! The sample size for this study was quite small, and more research is needed. However, this study provides positive initial support for the use of drop sets to accelerate muscle growth.
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Our paper showing a potential muscle-building benefit for drop sets has been pubbed ahead-of-print in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. The study showed that the drop set protocol for the triceps brachii increased muscle growth by almost double vs a traditional routine (~10% vs ~5%). Note that the results did not reach "statistical significance," which may be related to the small sample size and thus resulting in a type II error (i.e. false negative). Also note that it was a relatively short trial (6 weeks) so unclear how findings would pan out over the long-term. These results contradict those of the recent well-designed study by Angleri et al, who showed similar growth increases between drop set and traditional training, so the jury is still out on whether drop sets have a benefit for hypertrophy. That said, there are many ways to integrate the approach into a program. Using exclusively drop sets considerably shortens the time spent working out, so it can be a good strategy for those who are time-pressed. Also, selectively adding drop sets, perhaps on the last set of an exercise, can at the very least increase volume, which is known driver of hypertrophy. Until we get more clarity through research, it's a technique that is worth experimenting with based on needs/goals. I'll be writing a blog post shortly of the study to discuss in detail.
Indeed, the study showed no negative impacts of using drop sets so why not give them a try? Even better, sign up for a Conscious Muscle training package, and we’ll help you incorporate drop sets for maximum results.
Coach Jordan’s newest training video shows how to add drop sets when doing shoulder presses. Give them a try next time you’re seeking to change up your routine! What are your favorite exercises for using drop sets? Let us know in the comments.
Good vibes and gratitude!