Aug 26th, 2017
Author: Cocoon Web Design
While there are a number of different methods that can help promote muscle growth and increases in muscle definition, one of the most effective methods is called drop-setting. *Bodybuilders have used this technique for years for one reason…it works. According to Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, the drop-set method was originally “discovered” in 1947 by Henry Atkins, editor of Body Culture magazine. Atkins called it the “multi-poundage system.” Using drop sets can be an effective strategy to create the necessary overload to initiate physiological changes in the size and shape of the muscle.
Drop-setting involves performing an exercise with a specific amount of weight to start, executing as many reps as possible until momentary fatigue (unable to complete another single rep), resting just long enough to remove some weight — “dropping” the weight — and then continuing to work until another moment of fatigue. To perform an effective drop-set, it is important to continue dropping the weight and working until the muscle reaches a point of absolute fatigue. In a single straight set performed to failure, you do not usually activate every fiber in a muscle group, rather you only recruit the number of fibers necessary to lift a particular weight for the desired number of repetitions. By stripping off weight and continuing the set, you cumulatively recruit more and more “reserve” muscle fibers. Drop-sets hit the “stubborn” muscle fibers that are deep, causing growth that normally could not be achieved by stopping after a single set of six to twelve reps. (Reference: www.muscleandfitness.com)
Why do drop-sets work? Simply stated: working to muscle fatigue creates mechanical fatigue, which promotes muscle growth. Mechanical fatigue is the structural damage to muscle fibers, which results in physical work. When a muscle fiber is damaged, it signals a repair process that results in the production of new satellite cells to repair damaged muscle proteins. As muscle proteins are repaired, they can experience an increase in diameter. This results in thicker muscle fibers that are capable of generating more force.
Also, increased nervous system activity can help improve levels of definition. Muscle tone or definition is the state of a semi-contraction of a muscle. Using a muscle repeatedly will enhance motor unit activity in that muscle and will cause the fibers to remain semi-contracted after the exercise session is completed.
High volume of work in a drop-set can lead to a short-term increase in the amount of blood in a muscle. This additional blood volume results in an enhanced muscle size for a period of hours. A proper drop-set to complete fatigue can cause discomfort and potentially lead to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Some people can interpret DOMS as pain, which may provide a reason to stop working, but physiological change with this discomfort provides positive results.
Drop-sets can be performed with dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, fixed-bar weights, or machines:
- When using dumbbells, start with one pair and perform as many reps as possible. As soon as fatigue occurs, return the dumbbells to the rack and grab the next lightest pair.
- Barbells and weight plates can also be used, but it takes longer to adjust the amount of resistance. Once fatigue is reached with a barbell, set it down, remove one plate from each side of the bar and continue working. Load the bar with smaller weights (such as 10-, 5- or 2½ -pound plates) to provide more opportunity for continuing to exercise.
- Fixed-bar weights are usually kept in a triangle-shaped rack, with the heaviest weights on the bottom and the lighter weights toward the top. Fixed-bar weights combine the benefits of using a barbell with the ease of transitioning from one weight to another offered by dumbbells. Set the weight in the rack and grab the next lighter weight above.
- Weight machines are the easiest to perform drop sets with because it is easy to quickly move the pin from one place in the stack to another.
*In order to maximize the efficiency of your drop-sets, keep these following things in mind:
- Keep Rest Intervals to a minimum. Usually, the time between weight drops ranges from zero to ten seconds. Even if you’re doing heavy power drop sets, the rest between sets should still be relatively brief. In general, the briefer the time between the weight change, the more intense and effective your drop-set will be.
- Set up Equipment in advance. To move quickly from one exercise to the next, you should have all your equipment set up and ready before starting the first exercise.
- Use Two-Weight Drops (three different amounts of weight). The most common drop-set method is a triple drop, where you use three weights and two weight reductions.
- Begin and Stay in a six-to-twelve rep range most of the time. Six to twelve is the most productive rep range for muscle growth purposes. If you start with a weight that is too light, you will not reach the deep muscle fibers with those initial six to twelve reps. You should reach failure or close to it with each weight before stripping off weight.
- Use Drop-Sets sparingly as a high intensity method. Drop sets are intense and they require caution and common sense. If you used them all the time, you would quickly burn out and over-train. One great way to use drop sets is the 3:1 method: you perform three straight sets of an exercise, followed by one drop set. Due to the high-intensity nature of drop-sets, you may experience soreness, so for best results and to reduce the amount of soreness, limit the use of drop sets to only one or two muscles groups (or movement patterns) per workout and only use drop-sets when the next day will be a complete rest day.