The 'Mechanical' Drop Set: A Muscle-Building Tactic You've Never Tried

The mechanical drop set is slightly different than the traditional drop set because we are changing body angles instead of changing loads.

People lift weights to enhance muscular growth, strength and athleticism. Several techniques exist to enhance any one or combination of these qualities.

The level of difficulty for any exercise is largely dependent on the load you're using (how much weight you're lifting). However, your body angle and positioning also change the difficulty of the exercise. The Squat is a great example.

A lot of experienced lifters can stand with 300-400 pounds on their back. A much smaller number of people can actually squat it through a full range of motion. That's because as you descend, external movements at the hip joint increase and the body is required to produce much more force to return that load to the starting position.

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People lift weights to enhance muscular growth, strength and athleticism. Several techniques exist to enhance any one or combination of these qualities.

The level of difficulty for any exercise is largely dependent on the load you're using (how much weight you're lifting). However, your body angle and positioning also change the difficulty of the exercise. The Squat is a great example.

A lot of experienced lifters can stand with 300-400 pounds on their back. A much smaller number of people can actually squat it through a full range of motion. That's because as you descend, external movements at the hip joint increase and the body is required to produce much more force to return that load to the starting position.

If you want a muscle to grow, you need to recruit the relevant muscle fibers and fatigue them. Let's say your Bench Press one repetition max is 225 pounds, making your 10RM (the most weight you can do for 10 consecutive reps) something around 175 pounds. If you do 10 reps with your true 10-rep max, you will go to concentric muscle failure (meaning you're physically unable to perform an 11th rep).

But does this means your muscles are completely fatigued? Probably not, they're just not up to the task of pressing 175 pounds again. If we dropped the weight to 135, you'd likely be able to bang out quite a few more reps. This is known as a drop set.

Conceivably, drop sets work by increasing time under tension and damage to the exercising muscles. While the jury is still out on whether they provide additional hypertrophic benefit compared to straight sets, they're often an easy way to perform more work in less time, which certainly can stimulate greater muscle growth compared to less work in the same period of time.

So, we know muscles must be recruited and fatigued to grow. Traditional drop sets work by reducing the load after fatigue has occurred during a set. Changing body angles can also be a way to change the easy or difficulty of an exercise.

Thus we arrive at the idea of Mechanical Drop Sets.

The idea for a mechanical drop set involves changing body position rather than changing load. The mechanical drop set is slightly different than the traditional drop set because we are changing body angles instead of changing loads. So, although both the traditional drop set and mechanical drop increase training volume, the mechanical drop set may also provide a new training stimulus due to changes in body angle.

Perhaps the most obvious example of a mechanical drop set would be performing an Incline Bench Press, then at the point of fatigue, quickly dropping the incline of the bench and taking advantage of that change in position to perform some more reps.

To create a mechanical drop set, you want to go from the most challenging version of the exercise to the easiest version of the exercise. You can certainly use your imagination to create your own, but below are eight different mechanical drop sets you can try in your routine:

Recommended Use: You don't want to turn every set of your routine into a drop set. Rather, try treating one or two at the end of your traditional resistance training workout.

Try adding one new one for each day of training for one to two sets at the end of traditional resistance training. Alternatively, you can just swap out one of your traditional resistance training moves and do three sets of a mechanical drop set. Don't add this to all your training, rather think of it as a supplement to what you are already doing.

Photo Credit: Ibrakovic/iStock

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Topics: STRENGTH TRAINING | STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING | STRENGTHENING EXERCISES