What is a drop set? Fitness trainers answer the most googled questions

Posted by for Strong Women

What is a drop set? Here’s how to use the muscle building technique, according to fitness trainers. 

Right now, we’re all looking for ways to refresh our training in order to continue to be excited and motivated for our workouts. One way of doing that, with limited equipment, space and time, is by mixing up our sets and reps.

Whether it’s doing strength-endurance training, plyometric workouts or isometric holds, there’s lots of ways to do this. Drop sets are another advanced way to keep the muscles growing. 

Each week, we ask fitness trainers the most googled questions from women who want to get into weight training. This week, Strong Women ambassador Emma Obayuvana and Zara Ozard, from Energy House Fitness, are here to explain what a drop set is and how to use it effectively in your workouts. 

What is a drop set?

ZARA OZARD 

“A drop set is a technique we can use when muscle failure has been achieved in order to push the muscle fibres a bit further. In a drop set, you perform an exercise until the muscle has been exhausted and then you drop down the weight. For example, if you’ve been using 6kg for 10 reps, drop to 4kg and repeat the exercise but push through to a higher number of reps, then reduce the weight again and continue for a further set. One important thing to note is that we don’t have a rest in between sets.”

EMMA OBAYUVANA

“A drop set simply involves dropping the weight down after a set to further exhaust your muscles. You might do this with squats, shoulder presses, bicep curls, or anything where it’s easy to reduce the weight. Don’t do a drop set with an exercise that will involve taking time to unrack and rerack the bar, for example.

“On the last set of the exercise, complete your normal amount of reps, then swap to lighter weights and do more reps until you fail to get anymore out. Then, drop again and continue doing reps until failure.”

Does a drop set build muscle?

ZARA OZARD

“It is a technique of hypertrophy, which means muscle building. By fatiguing the muscles it will increase muscle mass and strength.”

EMMA OBAYUVANA

“They do because they’ll increase the volume of weight that your muscles are lifting which will maximise muscle growth. The important thing is to avoid doing drop sets too often because then you’ll end up overtraining and you won’t get that muscle growth you’re after.” 

What is the point in a drop set?

ZARA OZARD 

“Other than building muscle, a drop set allows you to train both types of muscle fibres in one go. The first is the type of fibre that makes you more powerful, and the other type of fibre is for endurance. In a normal training routine you’d only be able to train one of those at a time.

“It’s really intense, a bit of a HIIT workout for the body, so I do recommend only doing it once a week and at the end of a session.”

EMMA OBAYUVANA

“Because the intensity of training is increased, it’s definitely going to increase your heart rate. It’s another way to make your session a little bit more intense and demanding so you will be working on endurance as well as power.”

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