Building muscle requires you to work smarter, not harder. That means thinking carefully about the type of exercise you are performing. Do something that will give you maximum bang for your buck. That’s why many people prefer to turn to drop sets. Done right, they have the potential to help you grow muscle rapidly. Even better, they are fairly easy to learn. Here’s your guide to incorporating drop sets into your training routine.

What Are Drop Sets?

Drop sets follow a simple training principle. Push your muscles to failure. This is the point where you are unable to perform another rep with the correct form.

Once you reach failure, you immediately stop. Usually this occurs after eight to ten reps. Continuing could lead to injury. When performing a drop set, you will then move on to another set. Using a slightly lighter weight. Typically, there is little to no rest between sets. Continue with the new weight until you hit failure.

There are plenty of ways that you can incorporate drop sets into your training routine. Most commonly, it’s used as part of your weightlifting routine. Another option is to try it as part of your resistance training.

How To Perform Drop Sets

Drop sets are appealing due to their simplicity. Let’s go through the basics.

Pick An Appropriate Rate

This is one of the most difficult aspects to master. Ideally, you want to get a 10RM weight. This is the weight that allows you to do 10 sets before you hit failure. This will require a little guesswork to get right.

Start with a set that involves little to no weight. Get familiar with how to perform the exercise safely. From there, you can estimate what your 10RM weight should be. If you aren’t sure, aim for a little higher than your believed 10RM weight.

Now, perform one set with the weight. Aim for eight to 13 reps. If you can easily get to 13 reps, you will need to add some more weight. If you struggle to get to eight reps, you are using too much weight. Take two minutes to recover. Adjust the weight if needed. Try again.

Remember that your 10RM weight will change over time. Regular exercise will allow you to boost your strength. Allowing you to lift heavier weights. Because of this, you might need to increase your 10RM weight every few months, to keep training at the same intensity.

Executing The Sets

Doing a drop set isn’t difficult. Start at your 10RM weight. Once you reach failure, adjust the weight. Lose 10 to 30 percent. Repeat for another eight sets. If you want, you can reduce the weight again. Losing an additional 10 to 30 percent. Repeat for a third set of six reps. It’s important to limit the amount of rest you are getting. That’s why this exercise works best for cable machines. It’s also best to focus on single-joint movements.

You need to change the weight rapidly. If you want to use free weights, lay them out before you start the drop set. That allows you to switch quickly. As a general rule, if it’s taking you more than 10 seconds to switch to the lower weight, go to normal sets. In this case, you’ll lift at your 10RM weight limit. Give yourself two minutes. Allow the lactic acid to leave your muscles. Perform another set at the 10RM weight.

When To Use A Drop Set In Your Workout

Drop sets are an effective tool. You just need to figure out the best time to use them. Drops sets are best at the end of the workout. They will leave you exhausted, having pushed your muscles to the limit. You also don’t need to do a lot of drop sets. One to two drop sets per session will be plenty.

Tips To Get the Most Out Of Your Drop Sets

There are a few simple things you can do to maximize the benefits you are getting from your drop sets:

  • Always start with a warmup. Drop sets place a lot of strain on your muscles. Do a warmup to get them prepared. Lower your risk of injury. Five minutes of aerobic training should do the trick. Or try some active stretching.
  • Use a partner. Safety is key in the gym. Your partner will help you stick to the right form. They can also help switch the weight quickly at the end of your last rep. Less recovery time makes for a more effective drop set. Plus, it’s fun to have someone to talk to, keeping you motivated to push yourself.
  • Keep in control. Many people lift weights too quickly. Using the momentum to make them easier to lift. Don’t feel the need to rush your drop set. Instead, aim for slow, controlled movements. Feel your muscle burn

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Performing Drop Sets

Performing drop sets is simple. But there are a few pitfalls that you need to avoid, they include:

  • Falling into the trap of junk volume training. If you want to see results, you need to be pushing your body. Junk volume tricks you into thinking you are working hard when you aren’t. For example, you might add more than 10 reps. The thinking is that the extra reps will push your muscles even harder. In reality, you won’t be getting any additional benefits. Stick to the recommended 10RM sets.
  • Not using enough weight. This problem is linked to junk volume. For drop training, you need to be pushing your muscles to failure. Requiring you to use the right amount of weight. Ideally, a 10RM. If you aren’t going to fail by the end of your 10th rep, increase the amount of weight you are using.
  • Using the wrong form. This is a big problem, particularly when pushing yourself to failure. Let your form slip and the consequences could be painful. No one wants to be forced to sit on the bench waiting for an injury to heal. Wearing a weight belt can prevent this. Depending on the exercise, you might want to have a spotter.

Benefits And Drawbacks Of Drop Sets

Drop sets aren’t right for everyone. There are a few pros and cons to consider before deciding if this training approach will work for you.

Benefits Of Drop Sets

Let’s start with the good news. Drop sets are a great way to build your strength. Training to failure is one of the best ways to build your muscle mass fast. Even better, it can help more experienced bodybuilders go to the next level. Over time, your muscle naturally starts to plateau. But drop sets can allow you to keep pushing yourself. Moving past that plateau. Letting you keep packing on the muscle mass.

Drop sets allow you to work smarter, not harder. Reduce the amount of time you are spending in the gym. No need to drag on your workout for hours. Drop sets let you do the work in 30 to 45 minutes.

Many gymgoers use drop sets to measure the amount of progress they are making. Do them right and you should see your muscle endurance rise. Allowing you to do more sets without needing to stop for a break. So, you need to increase the weight you are lifting. Seeing this progress can be very motivating. Proof your hard work is paying off.

Downsides Of Training To Failure

Like any gym exercise drop sets come with a few risks. As we mentioned, you can get injured if you aren’t using the right technique. But most experienced gymgoers can spot when their form is starting to slip.

The bigger risk is that you overtrain your muscles. Placing too much pressure on your muscles. Increasing your chances of getting a muscle strain. Luckily, there are a few precautions you can take to limit the chances of this happening. First, give your body some time to recover.  Create a workout plan that allows you to target individual muscle groups, so you aren’t hitting the same ones day after day. Also, use drop sets sparingly. Once every few days.

Because of these risks, it’s recommended that beginners steer clear of drop sets. I know, the promise of muscle growth is alluring. But it’s best to focus on learning the basics first. Get the right form. Then, you can graduate to more advanced exercises, like drop sets, to supercharge your muscle growth safely.

Supersets: Alternative To Drop Sets

Another way to get the most out of your workout time is a superset. These can sometimes be confused with drop sets, but the two are very different. In this case, you have two exercises targeting different muscle groups. For example, you might want to perform an exercise that is focused on your upper body. Then you can switch to one that focuses on the lower body. Like a drop set, there is little to no rest between the two. The theory is that the first muscle group is recovering while you are working on the second group.

There are plenty of ways that you can implement a superset. Some ideas include:

  • Barbell rows then bench presses
  • Pull-ups then a quadricep extension
  • Isolation exercises then a compound exercise

Supersets are ideal for people who don’t have a lot of time to devote to the gym. Due to the limited rest, you’ll be able to get your training done faster. Again, though, you need to make sure that you are doing things safely. You will be pushing yourself hard. Kicking your metabolism into high-gear. Making it ideal when you are in a cutting cycle. But you will feel fatigued by the end of your superset. Give your body a few days to rest and recover. Then, head back to the gym and do it all over again.

Compound Exercises: Alternative to Drop Sets

Drop sets aren’t for everyone. The good news is that there are a few alternatives you can try. These hit multiple muscle groups at once. That makes them a great way to build muscle while burning through calories. Here are some of the best compound exercises to try:

  • These are a great way of targeting your lower body. In particular, you’ll be focusing on your calves, thighs, and your core. Due to their popularity, there are plenty of variations available, so you won’t get bored.
  • This is another core exercise. It provides a great full-body workout. In particular, you’ll be targeting your legs, back, core, and building grip strength. One word of warning, though. This exercise puts a lot of strain on your back. It’s vital to get the right form.
  • Pull-ups. The focus is squarely on your upper body with this exercise. You’ll be building your grip strength, biceps, core, and shoulders. For those starting out, a pull-up can be a challenge. An inverted row can help you build the strength needed for a successful pull-up.
  • Bench press. Another popular exercise amongst gym-goers. For good reason. Work your chest, triceps, and shoulders at the same time. Just make sure to use a spotter in case you can’t handle the weight.
  • Push ups. These focus on building upper body strength. They are a good alternative to the bench press. Using your bodyweight to provide resistance, rather than barbells. Work your biceps, core, and shoulders. Even better, you can do them at home. There’s no equipment needed.


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