What’s a drop set?
A technique typically used by bodybuilders to stimulate muscle growth (hypertrophy) by fatiguing the muscle without recovery, drop sets drop the amount of weight after reaching muscular failure at the end of a set so that you can continue an exercise using a lighter weight. For example, at the end of a set when muscular failure occurs, drop the weight down by a specified amount (10 to 20 pounds) so that you can immediately perform another set until failure occurs again. Then drop the weight again and do a third set. While this technique is usually used to squeeze out more reps after muscular failure, you can also use a specified number of reps per set rather than lift until failure occurs. For example, you can do three sets of 10 reps of biceps curls with no rest in between by performing the first set using 20 pounds, the second set using 15 pounds and the third set using 10 pounds. Like any method of strength training that fatigues the muscle, drop sets can increase muscle size. Although muscle size and strength are related, hypertrophy can occur without large strength gains if the muscles hypertrophy from an increase in the sarcoplasma volume (the semifluid portion of muscle) rather than from an increase in the contractile proteins (actin and myosin). Drop sets are more likely to cause the former given the volume of reps and the lack of rest periods, which is why they are used by bodybuilders, who are more interested in muscle size and definition rather than strength. To increase strength, most experts agree that it’s better to use heavier weights with few reps per set (three to eight) and rest at least two minutes between sets.