Drop Set Study Collection

Authors
Adam Tzur (Sci-Fit on FB, Twitter)
Brandon Roberts (FBResearchgateThe Strength Guys)

Studies: 23
Published: 21.08.2018 (updated: 21.08.2018)


Drop Set Study Collection Sci-Fit

Plain Language Summary

Read Study Quotes or Browse the Studies

What Drop Sets Are

“Drop sets involve performing a set to concentric failure with a given load and then immediately reducing the load and continuing to train until subsequent failure.“

- Schoenfeld, 2011

Drop sets are typically used by bodybuilders to maximize hypertrophy. Drop sets are also called load reduction sets, breakdown sets,  strip sets, descending sets, and running the racks (and more...)

Drop Sets for Strength

Drop sets do not seem to be superior for improving maximal strength, compared to regular strength training. Yet, we could argue that this is not their primary purpose. More information will be published in our full drop set article.

Drop Sets for Hypertrophy

The evidence is currently mixed on hypertrophy. Our in-depth analysis will follow in the full article.

Other Uses and Fatigue

You can use drop sets to save time. They can be added at the end of a series, but should probably not be used excessively due to concerns about fatigue and overreaching.

There is also a method which is a "child" of drop sets. It is called load reduction, and involves doing drop sets except maintaining about 1 minute rests between drops. This technique can be used to maintain the number of repetitions while lowering the weight between sets. See Quotes for more information.

How we collected the studies

This study collection was created by systematically searching databases such as Pubmed and Google Scholar. Relevant search terms included "drop set", "load reduction", and "breakdown set" (combined with terms such as "hypertrophy", "strength", "resistance training", and so on).

Both authors collected the studies separately and compared the findings at the end. After the database search, we scoured all studies and extracted more studies from study references.

Quotes from Drop Set Studies

“The major finding of this study was that a single high-load (80% 1RM) set with additional drop sets descending to a low load (30% 1RM) without recovery intervals can simultaneously increase muscle CSA, dynamic strength, isometric torque, and muscular endurance in untrained young men. Furthermore, these training effects were achieved with an overall lower training time compared to typical resistance exercise protocols using high load only or low load only.” - Ozaki et al., 2018

 

"Crescent Pyramid and Drop Sets ... do not promote greater gains in strength, muscle hypertrophy and changes in muscle architecture compared to traditional resistance training." - Angleri et al., 2017

 

This study used "load reduction" sets which are drop sets with added breaks between sets: "Load reduction did not yield a difference in hypertrophy or 10RM as compared to CON." - Lima et al., 2018

 

"Drop sets ... have the potential to increase total work completed per unit of time. The resultant fatigue induced has the potential to act as a stimulus for structural adaptations. Thus, increases in muscle hypertrophy and maximal strength may be observed following these methods, although the present body of evidence suggests that they are no more superior than traditional training methods as long as training volume is equated and progressive overload is present." - Howe and Waldron 2017

 

"Superior muscle gains might be achieved with a single set of DS compared to 3 sets of conventional RT, probably due to higher stress experienced in the DS protocol." - Fink et al., 2018

 

"The present study supports previous research that the use of advanced training techniques stimulates no greater muscular adaptations when compared with performing more simplified RT protocols to momentary muscular failure." - Fisher et al., 2016

Strength and Hypertrophy

Study Link Year Type
Effects of drop sets with resistance training on increases in muscle CSA, strength, and endurance: a pilot study Link 2018 Pilot
Crescent pyramid and drop-set systems do not promote greater strength gains, muscle hypertrophy, and changes on muscle architecture compared with traditional resistance training in well-trained men. Link 2018 RCT
Planned Load Reduction Versus Fixed Load: A Strategy to Reduce the Perception of Effort With Similar Improvements in Hypertrophy and Strength Link 2018 RCT
Advanced Resistance Training Strategies for increasing muscle hypertrophy and maximal strength Link 2017 Review
Can drop set training enhance muscle growth? Link 2017 Review
Effects of drop set resistance training on acute stress indicators and long-term muscle hypertrophy and strength. Link 2017 RCT
A comparison of low volume 'high-intensity-training' and high volume traditional resistance training methods on muscular performance, body composition, and subjective assessments of training Link 2016 RCT
Effect of creatine supplementation and drop-set resistance training in untrained aging adults. Link 2016 RCT
The Effects of Breakdown Set Resistance Training on Muscular Performance and Body Composition in Young Men and Women Link 2016 Parallel
Effects of three resistance training methods on maximal strength, strength endurance and muscle thickness of the m. quadriceps femoris Link 2005 RCT
Muscular adaptations to combinations of high- and low-intensity resistance exercises. Link 2004
A single set of low intensity resistance exercise immediately following high intensity resistance exercise stimulates growth hormone secretion in men Link 2003 Parallel
Effect of Maximum Loads for Each of Ten Repetitions on Strength Improvement Link 1967 RCT

Muscle Endurance

Study Link Year Type
Effects of drop sets with resistance training on increases in muscle CSA, strength, and endurance: a pilot study Link 2018 Pilot
The Effects of Breakdown Set Resistance Training on Muscular Performance and Body Composition in Young Men and Women Link 2016 Parallel
Planned Intensity Reduction to Maintain Repetitions Within Recommended Hypertrophy Range Link 2013
The Effect of Load Reductions on Repetition Performance for Commonly Performed Multijoint Resistance Exercises Link 2012
Effect of Load Reductions Over Consecutive Sets on Repetition Performance Link 2010 Crossover
Effects of three resistance training methods on maximal strength, strength endurance and muscle thickness of the m. quadriceps femoris Link 2005 RCT
Muscular adaptations to combinations of high- and low-intensity resistance exercises. Link 2004

Fatigue, RPE, and DOMS

Study Link Year Type
Planned Load Reduction Versus Fixed Load: A Strategy to Reduce the Perception of Effort With Similar Improvements in Hypertrophy and Strength Link 2018 RCT
Effects of drop set resistance training on acute stress indicators and long-term muscle hypertrophy and strength. Link 2017 RCT
Acute fatigue, and perceptual responses to resistance exercise Link 2017 Single-arm
Advanced Resistance Training Strategies for increasing muscle hypertrophy and maximal strength Link 2017 Review
Can drop set training enhance muscle growth? Link 2017 Review
A comparison of low volume 'high-intensity-training' and high volume traditional resistance training methods on muscular performance, body composition, and subjective assessments of training Link 2016 RCT
Neuromuscular Fatigue and Physiological Responses After Five Dynamic Squat Exercise Protocols Link 2016 Crossover
Resistance exercise load reduction and exercise induced micro-damage Link 2014 Crossover

Other

Study Link Year Type
Effects of the Drop-set and Reverse Drop-set Methods on the Muscle Activity and Intramuscular Oxygenation of the Triceps Brachii among Trained and Untrained Individuals. Link 2016 Single-arm
Acute effects of dropsets among different resistance training methods in upper body performance. Link 2012 Crossover
A single set of low intensity resistance exercise immediately following high intensity resistance exercise stimulates growth hormone secretion in men Link 2003 Parallel