Want to step up your strength game but don’t have more time to spend in the gym? Incorporating drop sets into your training is an efficient way to add variety and intensity to your workouts. This is what this weightlifting technique is all about.
What are drop sets?
Drop sets are consecutive sets of the same exercise performed back-to-back with minimal rest. It breaks only to reduce weight or resistance (usually 10-20%), and stops once the muscle has fully fatigued.
“The term ‘drop’ refers to the progressive reduction in resistance as the set progresses,” Michael Julom, Certified Personal Trainer and Founder of ThisIsWhyImFit.coman online health and fitness community Runner world. “You start your set with a load you can lift for a target number of reps, and when you can’t do another with good form, you select a lighter weight and move on.”
For example, a descending set sequence for bicep curls might look like this:
- Set 1: 15 reps with 25 pounds
- Set 2: 13 reps with 20 pounds
- Set 3: 9 reps with 15 pounds
- Set 4: 17 reps with 10 pounds
Note that rep breaks aren’t particularly clean or even. Unlike traditional resistance training that follows pre-planned rep schemes, drop sets are determined by your level of strength and endurance. “The goal of the drop set is not math; it is in the overload experienced by the muscles”, says Julom.
That said, drop sets are a bit of a numbers game. “Muscles are made up of thousands of individual muscle fibers. The body is designed to be efficient, so as few fibers as possible will be recruited for a task,” says Julom. This is good for conserving energy but bad for muscle development, which, investigate sample, is stimulated by stress. “The logic [behind drop sets] it’s that you rep one weight until you can’t take it anymore, then pick up a lighter weight you can and repeat the process. As the muscle fibers within a muscle tire, more fibers must be recruited for the work to continue.”
Essentially, the drop series allows you to go beyond the body’s natural predisposition for efficiency, increasing the potential for muscle-building stimuli.
How do drop sets benefit runners?
Downhill sets are a tool for building muscle mass, which can help neutralize injury-causing imbalances and improve overall running performance. “Additional lean tissue (muscle) can provide the critical propulsion needed during hill climbs and to finish close races when last-minute sprints are needed,” says Julom.
And for runners who would rather spend their time pounding the pavement than lifting weights, employing drop sets can help cut down on time in the gym without diminishing results. One study published by the Sports Science Journal compared the results of participants who, over the course of eight weeks, performed bicep curls according to a traditional resistance training model or used a drop lifting scheme.
The lifters following the traditional model completed three sets of heavy reps interspersed with rest intervals. Drop-setters performed a single set of heavy weight followed by progressively lighter sets of reps. In terms of hypertrophy and strength gains, the results of the two groups were similar. However, participants who performed drop sets spent significantly less time exercising.
What exercises are best performed as drop sets?
When using drop sets, it’s best to stick to simple, single-joint movements (think bicep curls, leg extensions, cable rows) and avoid highly technical lifts that require precision, such as the barbell snatch, squat or the jerk.
“Active muscles not only perform the lift, but must also support the spine and key joints, so technical fatigue presents a risk of significant injury,” says Julom. “Technically challenging lifts require excellent form for each and every rep; the tank in its form for even a representative could mean very bad news.
How quickly you can drop your lifting weight is also an important consideration, as effective lowering sets require minimal rest time. For that reason, hand weights and cable machines may be more conducive to drop sets than barbells, since it takes much less time and effort to adjust a pin or switch to lighter dumbbells than it does to change plates. weight.
How do you incorporate drop sets into a workout?
Drop sets don’t belong in every workout, Julom says. “They should be used sparingly due to recovery demands. A well-executed drop set profoundly fatigues target muscles to the point that, if performed frequently, overtraining can easily occur,” he says.
If you’re following a periodized training program, try to schedule descent sets in the last few weeks of each cycle before a rest period to allow more recovery time.
For the same reason, don’t start a workout with drop sets, as these will quickly exhaust your muscles and render the rest of your workout useless. Instead, save them for the end of a session when your muscles are already tired (remember: muscle fatigue is the goal!) and save them for just one or two exercises. For example, finish an upper body workout with a drop set of seated lat pulldowns, or end leg day with a sit leg extension performed as a drop set.
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