What is a Drop set? – A quick easy guide

Drop set

Workout is full of creativity, there are many ways to intensify like rest-pause, doing superset workouts, and many other and one of them is drop sets. Using this method properly can help you drastically and strategically improve your resistance training which will deliver far better results and make those sweat, hard work, and muscle soreness worth it.

Well, you obviously have heard about drop sets or at least the word that how you ended up here. so what is a drop set? what are the benefits of drop sets? how to add a drop set to your workout? by the time you reach the end of this article all of these questions will be gone.

What is a Drop set?

The approach of reducing resistance during sets was discovered in the late 1940s by Henry Atkins, editor of Body Culture magazine, to him it wasn’t a drop set he called it a multi-poundage system(1). Adding a Drop set to your workout is one of the great ways to increase your muscle mass because it is a quick and easy way to increase blood flow in your targeted muscle. It will give good fatigue to your muscle to ensure hypertrophy.

Doing drop sets isn’t rocket science. Instead of doing your fixed sets, reps, and weight, you take one set and start off with relatively heavyweight and do as many reps as you can till you reach muscle failure. Once you hit the failure you will continue the exercise by reducing weights and do it till you hit muscle failure again. Reduce weights 3 or 4 times and do this without rest. Whenever we do a normal set we are only using a certain amount of muscle fiber but in a drop set goal is to extend the set so your body will recruit more muscle fiber and fatigue the muscle overall. This helps your muscles grow.

It would somewhat look like this. For example, let us assume we’re doing some exercise…

  • First set – doing 6-8 reps, reaching muscle failure.
  • Second set – dropping weight and doing 8 to 10 reps.
  • Third set – again reducing weight and doing 10 to 14 reps.

As you set ends trained/targeted muscle will feel completely beat. Dropsets are good for you but too much of anything is bad for you so don’t overdo dropsets just one drop set on each body part, once a week and you will see muscle growth.

Normal set vs drop set

You might wonder what’s wrong with the normal set? or why should I do a drop set?. To answer such a question a study was conducted with help of 16 active male college students 8 were assigned to normal sets and 8 were assigned to dropsets. Triceps pushdowns were the exercise on which it was tested the result came in after 6 weeks (2).

In terms of strength, both groups have improved but the normal set group improved their strength by 25.2%, and for the drop set group it was 16.1%. This shows the best way to achieve muscle strength is through heavyweight loads which normal sets offered.

In terms of muscle growth, The drop set group had a 10% increase in muscle growth as for the normal set group it was a 5% increased in muscle growth. The difference might not be huge but with dropsets, you will have twice the muscle growth compared to normal sets.

So it will clearly depend upon your goal. If you want to get stronger you should stick with normal sets however if your goal is muscle growth you should go for drop sets.

Some points in the study – As the study was conducted for a short period of time (6 weeks). It does not allow us to predict the outcome for a longer period of time. This research is only good for small muscle groups using a single joint exercise. It remains undetermined if it will have the same response for larger muscle groups with multi-joint movement.


There are two basic ways to incorporate this technique in your exercises.

  • One way is to lift weight until the failure and then drop to the lighter weights.
  • Another way is to do specific number of repetition before reducing your weight.

Benefits of drop set

This form of training offers various benefits which are helpful if your goal is to increase muscle growth, improving endurance.

  • Good for muscle growth – As I mentioned above about the study that was conducted between normal set and drop set and with help of that we were able to reach the conclusion that if you want to increase the muscle growth you should go with drop set however further studies need to be conducted so we can determine if the results are same with the large muscle groups with multi-joint movement.
  • Improves muscle endurance – In simple terms, muscle endurance is defined by how many reps can you complete. To check if it’s true another study was conducted with the help of 9 untrained young men and it was found out that muscle endurance was increased because of drop setting and it took less time when compared to the normal resistance training (3).
  • Time-saving – It’s a fact that you’re not allowed to rest while drop setting and that cuts down your time spent while resting. While it saves time it doesn’t mean that you can start drop setting each and every exercise and that will be harmful to your body.

Points to keep in mind

While drop setting is easy but no matter how easy a task look there are some basic instruction and if you keep them in mind you will be experiencing a new level of fatigue and that will help your muscle grow.

  • First thing first, don’t overdo it. Choose one exercise and do it one time in a week for the targeted muscle group. Overdoing it won’t do you any good.
  • If you’re a beginner you should wait for some time, Drop setting is an advanced technique to make your resistance training harder because the normal set doesn’t excite you that much.
  • Prepare beforehand, If you’re drop setting with dumbbell or plates keep them lined up this will, in turn, minimize rest time and will maximise muscle workout time. If plates and dumbbell aren’t in reach it will take a few seconds before you get them and continue your exercise that will be counted as a rest period. Rest between drop setting isn’t allowed it defeats the purpose.


For beginners, it might not be the right approach but for people who have been lifting for quite some time and want to intensify their workout drop setting can be a great way to challenge your muscles. While superset is also there for people who are looking for another alternative. if you liked this article there are many other articles that can be helpful in your health journey like food with low calories or what are the food that makes you fat?