Drops sets are a strength training technique wherein you perform a set of any exercise to failure (or just short of failure) – and then drop some weight and continue for additional repetitions with the reduced resistance. Once failure is again reached, additional resistance is dropped and so on.
Drop sets are great for bodybuilders or individuals looking to make gains in muscle size. Simply put, few other training techniques can break down muscle fibers as effectively as drop sets – so if you incorporate drop sets into your routine, you will see significant gains in mass. However, drop sets are not advised for athletes or people looking for gains in strength. Moreover, most athletes want strength or speed without the bulk – and so drop sets will be at odds with their goals.
To perform a drop set, select an amount of resistance that will result in muscle failure after 8 – 12 reps. While you’ve reached failure, you haven’t reached absolute failure; quickly decrease the amount of weight by about 15% and continue. After 8 or so reps, you’ll hit failure again. Reduce the resistance by another 15% and continue. Keep going.
Obviously, drop sets require some planning. Since rest time should be between zero and ten seconds, they’re most popular on machines; adjusting the weight is as quick as changing a pin. If you do drop sets on a barbell, you may need to work with a spotter and/or load the barbell with lots of small weight plates for faster adjustments. If you work with dumbbells, line them up on the floor in advance – and simply work your way down the line.
If you’re purely looking for gains in mass, then drop sets are a great technique to try occasionally try out and incorporate! I think you’ll be pleased with the results.