How to Use Drop Sets to Build Muscle & When to Avoid Them

Dropsets are one of my favorite training techniques.

They’re simple, fun, and they’re one of the most efficient ways to maximize hypertrophy gains. But if you overuse them, they can backfire. In this article, I’ll show you how to do them step by step, when you should use them, and when it’s best that you avoid them.

How to do a drop set

In a drop set, you perform a movement for as many reps as possible, you drop the weight, and you do several more reps. This technique lets you do more reps than you would have normally, had you not dropped the weight.

Drop sets are best done with machines or dumbbells (as opposed to barbells, which are cumbersome to unload).

An actual example for dumbbell curls

  • 30 lbs x 10 reps
  • 25 lbs x 3 reps
  • 20 lbs x 3 reps
  • 15 lbs x 3 reps

You want to rest as little as possible between drops—just long enough to pick up your next weight.

Have a look:

Why drop sets work

Drop sets increase tension and metabolic stress, two factors that cause muscle hypertrophy. (Tension is usually best increased by increasing load, but drop sets are actually one of the best ways to increase it without having to do that. This is helpful when you don’t have access to heavy weights.)

Drop sets also likely cause more muscle damage, but there’s more and more evidence that muscle damage does not cause hypertrophy. So again, drop sets most likely work so well because they’re an efficient way to increase tension and metabolic stress.

Don’t do drop sets more than once a week (or even once a month)

Drop sets are a great way to get the most out of your workout, but they can also take a toll on your body. If you do too many drop sets in one workout, it will be difficult for your body to recover, repair itself, and grow your muscles. Because of that, some trainers recommend doing drop sets only once a week. Others even recommend doing them only one week per month. Doing too many drop sets can lead to overtraining and injuries

Don’t do drop sets when training purely for strength

Also, doing drop sets when you train for strength with heavy weights is not the best of ideas. That’s because drop sets are taxing. As you drop the weight and accumulate fatigue, your form is more likely to break down. And if you’re lifting heavy weights, you risk an injury. Also, strength is a skill. Most coaches agree it’s best to perform strength moves with close to perfect technique. With drop sets, your technique tends to deteriorate, which could lead to inefficient neural adaptations.