Drop sets are without doubt my favourite advanced technique for increasing intensity in a workout. They make for a great workout but especially if you are reduced for time, allowing you to complete a hard workout in a shorter time period. They were originally invented in 1947 by the editor of Body Culture magazine, Henry Atkins and have taken on a number of different names since then, you might know them as strip sets or descending sets.
They are aimed at bodybuilders since the name of the game with drop sets is muscular hypertrophy(muscle size) since it allows you to push past fatigue and recruit different parts of the muscle. So if you happen to be an endurance athlete or regularly compete in sports, this isn’t the most suitable method for you.
There are various ways you can perform drop sets, the most common way is the conventional drop, also referred to as the triple drop. Here you would take a weight, for example 50kg and perform your set of say 6 reps, once this is done, you immediately drop 10kg so the weight is now 40kg and without rest you go straight back into another set, then once again upon completion, you remove another 10kg and perform your last set without rest with the remaining 30kg. You can use barbells, dumbbells and machines for drop sets. Another method is the 6-20 drop set, with this you lift a heavier weight for 6 reps, ie 100kg, drop the weight in half(50kg) and perform 20 reps. If you are using a machine, running the rack is a good option, so you would pretty much just remove the pin after every set and decrease the weight by one plate for every set until you’re down to the last plate in the rack – very effective for leg extensions! There are also strict drop sets, which is using a pre-determined number of reps for each drop ie 8 reps then drop, doing 8 reps again each time you drop the weight.
Pick your exercises carefully, you might prefer to do a typical straight set routine with the compound movements at the start, ie if you were training legs, start off with Squats but for your last exercise only then do a drop set or run the rack with leg extensions. Drop sets with Deadlifts and Squats may not be the safest idea so do ensure you take the neccessary means with safety, equipment and spotters if you try a drop set with a compound movement.
Because of the high intensity involved in a work out featuring drop sets, I do not recommend doing these for weeks at a time, not only does the body adapt but it will quickly lead to overtraining and burn out and this is a sure fire recipe for injury. I also do not recommend a beginner tries drop sets until they have mastered the fundamentals, neither should any advanced technique to required as you should be growing plenty and getting progressively stronger in the starting period when you are new or relatively new to bodybuilding. Give it at least 6-12months of consistent bodybuilding/weight training until you try advanced technique such as drop sets.