Ask the Experts: How Do I Perform a Drop Set?

Performing a drop set correctly will maximize your gains and reduce your chance of overdoing it. Learn how to do a drop set at

Drop Set

Q: How do I perform a drop set? 

A: The concept of a drop set is simple—you perform a few sets with little or no rest but reduce the weight for each set. However, performing a drop set correctly will maximize your gains and reduce your chance of overdoing it.

Step 1: Prepare Your Weight

Choose a weight you can perform for five to 10 reps. Select a second weight that is 20-30 percent lighter and a third that's 20-30 percent lighter than the second. If you're performing an exercise with a barbell, it's important to strip the same amount of weight off each set. Say you're benching 195 pounds. Normally you'd load the bar (which weighs 45 pounds) with a 45-, 25- and five-pound plate on each side. For a drop set, load the bar with three 25-pound plates on each side.

Dumbbells are easier to use for drop sets. All you need are three sets of dumbbells (i.e., 50, 40 and 30 pounds) arranged so you can quickly move from one to the next.

Etiquette Tip: Don't be the guy who hoards three sets of dumbbells when your gym is crowded.

Changing weight on machine exercises is straightforward and needs no explanation. But remember that lowering the weight by only one plate in the stack may not always fall in the desired 20- to 30-percent range.

Step 2: Do Your First Set

You should have a general idea of how many reps you can perform with the weight you choose. If you can exceed that number, great. Just make sure you complete between five and 10 reps.

Step 3: Reduce the Weight and Rest

After you finish your first set, rest for 15 to 20 seconds. This should equal the amount of time it takes you to reduce the weight.

Barbell exercises take the most time to set up for the next set, so it's a good idea to have a partner or spotter remove the weight from one side while you do the other to speed up the process.

Step 4: Do Your Second Set

Start your second set. You'll notice your muscles start to fatigue quickly, but fight through it. Your goal should be to match or exceed the number of reps you did in your first set, while making sure your total reps still fall within the recommended range.

Step 5: Reduce the Weight and Rest

Same process as Step 3.

Step 6: Do Your Final Set

Your muscles will be screaming at you. Focus on moving the lighter weight quickly and maintain perfect form.

Step 7: You're Done!

Put your weights back on the racks.

In this video, you can watch a demonstration of how to perform a drop set with instruction from Todd Durkin.

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