Blast Through Plateaus with Drop Sets

July 19, 2013 12:01 am Published by Leave your thoughts

 

by Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS

 src=http://images.quickblogcast.com/3/5/4/4/1/320932-314453/branchdips.PNG?a=39></p>
<p> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>Somewhere between entering the gym for the first time and familiarizing yourself with the basics and stepping on stage or on the platform, will fall drop sets.</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>Drop sets have been championed by successful bodybuilders for years as they have been cited as powerful muscle building stimuli. Strength athletes love them as they build mental toughness, improve conditioning, and strengthen connective tissue as the sets wear on with lighter loads. As you will soon read, a certain drop set method can be used to enhance rate of force development, which is the holy grail for athletes seeking to gain speed and explosiveness.</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>Before we delve heavily into the science behind drop sets and provide practical applications governing programming and proper utilization, we’d like to make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding the factors behind muscle growth – mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress. </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>Simply put, when you train you stimulate your muscles using those factors as a channel to gain size and strength.</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>But what can you do when progress starts slowing to a halt and you find yourself not jumping shirt sizes as often? </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>This typically occurs when the newbie gains wear off as you transition into the realm of the intermediate lifter.</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>When you first walk into the gym, anything works. It doesn’t matter if you follow an antiquated body part split consisting of single joint movements performed on machines. Heck, newbies will pack on size juggling neoprene dumbbells interspersed with games of Candy Crush played on their iPhone, provided they eat and rest enough.</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>Progressive overload, movement selection, and consistency will only take you so far. Advanced training techniques should be introduced so progress doesn’t screech to a standstill. </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>Enter the Drop set.</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>Drop sets have been advocated by many renowned bodybuilders as a staple plateau buster for ages. Drop sets subject working muscles to more time under tension, especially pronounced amounts of eccentric stress, which facilitate muscle damage. Drop sets also induce significant metabolic stress as they trigger the accumulation of lactate and hydrogen ions. </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>Let’s see what the research has to say regarding the efficacy of drop sets.</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>A study appearing in this month’s British Journal of Sports Medicine compared the effects of multiple set resistance training versus single set resisted training over the course of ten weeks (1).</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>The study involved 43 subjects who trained twice weekly. Sixteen of the subjects engaged in a single set protocol which called for one drop set to be performed. Fourteen subjects engaged in a multiple set protocol which involved the subjects reaching failure on each set.</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>The results showed that the single set group experienced greater improvements in strength and lean body mass in comparison to the multiple set group. Increases in exercise performance were also noted in the single set group as muscular endurance was likely enhanced via drop sets.</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>Drop Set Variety</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>Traditional drop sets entail a reduction in load over the course of successive sets. Examples would include performing a barbell exercise with multiple plates per side for a predetermined number of reps, reducing the load and performing another set for a predetermined number of reps. </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>A double drop set would involve performing two drop sets following your initial set.</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>A triple drop set would involve performing three drop sets following your initial set and so on.</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>There are two other versions of drop sets that can be utilized.</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>Mechanical Drop Sets</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>During mechanical drop sets, the lifter gains leverage between each set. Mechanical drop sets involve reducing the range of motion is or regressing to less technique intensive exercises during subsequent sets to account for fatigue and reduce the likelihood of injury.</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>Examples would include:</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>Range of Motion Drop Set</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>A1) ATG Barbell Squat with 50% of one rep max x 10 repetitions</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>A2) Parallel Barbell Squat with 50% of one rep max x 15 repetitions</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>A3) Barbell Half Squat with 50% of one rep max x 20 repetitions</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>Movement Drop Set – Lower Body</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>A1) ATG Barbell Squat with 70% of one rep max x 5 repetitions</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>A2) Plate Loaded Leg Press with three second negative x 10 repetitions</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>A3) Single Legged Extensions / Terminal Knee Extensions x 20 repetitions each leg</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>Movement Drop Set – Upper Body</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>A1) Barbell Shoulder Press with 70% of one rep max x 5 repetitions</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>A2) Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press x 10 repetitions</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>A3) Plate Front Raise with Rotation x 20 repetitions</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt>Lightening Method Drop Sets</p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p style=MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt> </p>
<p></font><font style=font-size: 13px; face=Arial><iframe src=//www.youtube.com/embed/boTa051ERj8 allowfullscreen=

Travis Chrystie pulling explosively with the Lightening Method.

 

While these may not be a drop set in a traditional sense, Josh has used the Lightening Method with his lifters to blast through strength plateaus. The key premise of the Lightening Method is to use it to enhance rate of force development (RFD). Lightening Method drop sets are typically performed from with the deadlift and done in doubles with a load that is approximately 40-50% of the lifter’s one rep max. Chains are added to the bar, providing an additional 10-20% of the load. Alternatively, smaller plates, such as 25s and 35s can be used. The first rep is pulled with the chains or smaller plates on the bar. Immediately after the bar is placed on the floor, two people on each side of the barbell quickly pull the smaller plates off the sleeves or yank the chains off the end. A second deadlift will be performed and will likely be one of the most explosive pulls you’ve ever had.

 

Programming Considerations

 

          Drop sets of any variety take a toll on the Central Nervous System and should be used sparingly. Think of drop sets as the enormous fullback who comes out only in goal line packages to punch the ball in the end zone. Like the hulking fullback in our example, they will lose their effectiveness if used too often.

          Drop sets should not involve Olympic lifts or circa maximal lifts.

          Drop sets should not take the place of max effort work.

          Drop sets involving barbells shouldn’t be taken to absolute failure to reduce injury.

          Before you start your drop set, set ballpark goals regarding the number of reps you want to hit on each set.

          Drop sets involving isolation exercises can be used more frequently as comparatively smaller loads are handled.

          With the exception of the Lightening Method, drop sets should not be performed with dynamic effort work.

 

References

 

  1. Eichmann B, Giebing J. Effects of ten weeks of either multiple-set training or single-set training on strength and muscle mass. Br J Sports Med. 2013;47(10):e3.

Categorised in:

This post was written by JoshStrength

Comments are closed here.