What Is a Drop Set? A Beginner's Guide

Medically Reviewed on 7/26/2022
What Is a Drop Set?
A drop set's high workload might cause a temporary increase in the blood supply to the muscle.

Although some people seek the assistance of personal trainers to reduce their weight or build more muscle, many are more concerned with building sculpted, defined muscles. While many techniques can aid in promoting muscle growth and improvements in muscle definition, drop setting is one of the more efficient ones.

What are drop sets?

A drop set, commonly referred to as a strip set, is an advanced technique for resistance training used to build muscle.

  • A drop set entails starting an activity with a certain amount of weight.
  • The objective is to perform as many repetitions as possible until you are momentarily tired (unable to perform even one more rep), relax for just long enough to remove some weight (lowering the weight), and then resume working until another moment of fatigue.
  • If you want to do a successful drop set, it's critical to keep lowering the weight and work the muscle until it is completely exhausted.
  • This is the point at which you are completely unable to complete another rep, which will provide enough training stimulus to encourage muscular growth.

How to do drop sets

There are many ways to perform a drop set, but this is a simple illustration.

  1. Select a weight for an exercise (multi or single-joint) that enables you to complete 8 to 12 repetitions before you approach muscle failure (you are unable to complete the lift with good form).
  2. Reduce the weight by 20 percent and complete as many repetitions as you can before reaching muscle failure (probably another 8 to 10 reps).
  3. Perform the second 20 percent drop as many times as you can before reaching muscle failure.
  4. At this time, your muscles are probably quite worn out, but if you're still up for it, you can do a third drop!

How often should you do drop sets?

Although drop sets can be effective, you shouldn't perform them every day or even frequently throughout the week.

  • Before you subject your body to that level of stress once more, it needs time to heal.
  • According to 2012 research, adenosine monophosphate (AMP) levels increase when your muscles are overworked and exhausted.
  • Increased AMP levels reduce muscle growth, which is completely against what you want to achieve with strength training.
  • According to several strength coaches and athletic trainers, drop sets should only be used one or two times a week.


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How do drop sets work?

  1. Muscle growth is facilitated by both mechanical and metabolic exhaustion: Metabolic exhaustion requires working a muscle until it can no longer do another rep.
    • When this occurs, the muscle is using up its glycogen reserves, which leads to acidosis in the blood.
    • Individual muscle fibers are damaged by acidosis, which sets off a repair process that causes muscle growth.
    • Depleting muscle glycogen enhances the muscle's capacity to store more of the substance. Muscle volume increases because one glycogen molecule can hold three to four molecules of water.
  2. Mechanical fatigue, which is a result of physical work, is the structural degradation of muscle fibers: A damaged muscle fiber initiates a repair process that generates new satellite cells to restore the damaged muscle proteins.
    • Proteins in the muscle may expand in diameter as they are repaired. As a result, the muscle fibers get thicker and can produce more force.
  3. Levels of definition may be enhanced by increased nervous system activity: A muscle is in a semi-contracted state when it is toned or defined.
    • Repeated use of a muscle increases motor unit (consisting of nerve cell and muscle fibers) activity in that muscle and leads the fibers to stay semi-contracted after the workout is finished.
  4. Increase blood volume: A drop set's high workload might cause a temporary increase in the blood supply to the muscle.
    • For a period, this extra volume causes an increase in muscle size. If you're working with a client or giving a class late on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, you can give your customers a small pump for any weekend social outings.

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Medically Reviewed on 7/26/2022
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