Drop Sets Are the Secret to Building Muscle Fast

At its base, a drop set is simply a technique where you perform a weighted resistance training set of any exercise to failure, drop some weight, and then continue the set with that reduced weight to failure, then drop more weight, and so on. But what makes this effective for muscle growth and how can you use? Let's take a look. 

Brock Armstrong
4-minute read

How to Do Drop Sets

Unless you have friends who don't mind spending their workout time watching you get all the benefits while they just shuffle barbell plates around for you, you are best off choosing to use exercise machines or dumbells for your drop sets.

On a machine, all you need to do is stop the set, reach over and move the pin on the weight stack (or turn the knob) and you are right back at it. For example, let's take a chest press machine. On that apparatus, you don't even have to leave your seat to change the weight, and quick weight change is the key to taking full advantage of this technique. 

On the other hand, using dumbbells, you can do something called "running the rack." For example, if you're doing dumbbell flies, you could start with the 50 lb weights, lift to failure, then swap dumbells for the 35 lb weights. Then after you go to failure with the 35 lb weights, swap for the 30 lb weights. You just keep going down the rack until you are done or until you hit the embarrassingly small weights and need to take a water break. 

Drop Set Tips

  • Keep your rest intervals as minimal as possible—ten seconds max. 
  • Make sure you have everything you need before you start. Fumbling around will act as recovery time which will allow your muscles to recover and lessen the effects of the workout.
  • Don't be a machine or barbell hog. Pro-tip: do this workout when the gym is at its emptiest so your extended set doesn't upset anyone else's workout. 
  • What is called the triple-drop set is the most effective. After you have dropped the weight three times, the effectiveness also drops. Try to reach maximum muscle failure by your third drop set.
  • Remember that it is important to reach failure on each weight before stripping it. I suggest aiming for the six to twelve rep range for the first few drop sets and then finish strong with a few extras. 

Drop sets, combined with adequate nutrition and recovery, are an effective way to increase your muscle mass. They also take less time than a traditional weight training session and are an easy way to raise your heart rate, increase blood flow to your muscles, and ensure that your workout is fatiguing your muscles enough to create some serious muscle hypertrophy.

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All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Brock Armstrong Get-Fit Guy

Brock Armstrong was the host of the Get-Fit Guy podcast between 2017 and 2021. He is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute.