How Many Drop Sets Per Workout?


How Many Drop Sets Per Workout

Drop sets are a classic training method for increasing muscular hypertrophy and even strength gains! If you’ve ever wondered how many drop sets per workout is ideal then I’ve got you covered!

Introduction

  • Part 1: How Many Drop Sets Should You Do In A Workout?
  • Part 2: Drop Sets For Hypertrophy
  • Part 3: Drop Sets For Strength
  • Part 4: Conclusion

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you exactly how many drop sets you should perform in a given workout.

In part 1 I give you a big-picture overview of drop sets training and some general rules you can use to determine how many sets you should perform per workout.

In parts 2-4 we take a closer look at 3 very popular and very effective drop set routines to learn how to apply the information we covered in part 1.

I am quite confident you will find this information helpful!

Part 1: How Many Drop Sets Should You Do In A Workout?

So how many drop sets should I perform per workout?

In my experience with training literally hundreds of clients I have found that most people do best performing 3-4 drop sets per exercise.

If you are doing drop sets on multiple exercises then you can easily do 6-8 or more drop sets in a single workout!

Please keep in mind that these are just averages.

Some people will do great on up to 5 drop sets per exercise, while others will only be able to handle 1-2 drop sets per exercise!

The rules do change a little bit depending on whether you are doing drop sets for hypertrophy or for strength, so let’s go ahead and examine each of these goals.

Part 2: Drop Sets For Hypertrophy

When doing drop sets for hypertrophy I think it is really important to monitor how much weaker you are on each subsequent drop set per exercise.

For example, if your strength is plummeting from one drop set to the next, then that is a sign that you might want to cut your losses and move onto the next exercise!

On the other hand, if you can perform multiple drop sets on an exercise without losing much strength from one set to the next, then you have a “green light” to keep going!

When using drop sets for hypertrophy training I recommend using a 20% performance drop-off index.

This means that when your strength from your first drop set to the last drop set decreases by more than 20% you know your body is very fatigued and it is time to move on to the next exercise.

I first heard about the idea of a performance drop-off curve from Charles Poliquin when I started weight training in 2008 and more recently Greg Doucette has talked a lot about them on his YouTube channel.

Let’s use a simple example. Joe Average intends to perform the magical number of 3-4 drop sets on the bench press.

He knows he can only tolerate a 20% drop off curve, so if his performance on his last drop set dips below 80% of his performance on his first set, then he knows its time to move on to the next exercise.

For example, let’s say Joe Average is doing a 6/12/25 drop set.

With this type of drop set Joe lifts a weight for 6 reps, reduces the load by 50% and cranks out 12 reps, then reduces the load by 50% again and cranks out 25 reps.

For example:

  • Set #1: 200 lbs x 6 reps (+2 drops)
  • Set #2: 180 lbs x 6 reps (+2 drops)
  • Set #3: 160 lbs x 6 reps (+2 drops)

Joe’s first 2 sets go exactly according to plan. However, on his third set Joe has to reduce the load to only 80% of his first set.

Joe’s performance has decreased by exactly 20%, so he knows that he has to call it at three drop sets on the bench press.

He can continue doing additional chest exercises if his routine calls for it, but he cannot do additional drop sets on the bench press.

Part 3: Drop Sets For Strength

The rules for using drop sets for strength are a little different. I still recommend doing 3-4 total drop sets per workout.

However, the rule for the performance drop-off index is a little different when using drop sets for strength as opposed to drop sets for hypertrophy.

When training for strength, I recommend you use a 10% performance drop-off index.

This means that when you have to reduce the weight by more than 10% from your first drop set to your last drop set then it is time to stop and move on to another exercise.

For example, let’s say Joe average is doing standing barbell curls on a 4/2/2 drop set.

In other words, he gets 4 reps on the first part of the set, takes some weight off the bar, does 2 more reps, takes some more weight off the bar, and does 2 more reps to finish the drop set.

  • Set 1: 100 x 4 (+2 drops)
  • Set 2: 95 x 4 (+2 drops)
  • Set 3: 95 x 4 (+2 drops)
  • Set 4: 90 x 4 (+2 drops)

Let’s take a look at how Joe did.

Joe was able to complete 4 separate drop sets without his performance dropping by more than 10%. Nice job Joe!

Joe wanted to do a 5th set but he saw that his performance was already down by 10% from the first set so he wisely decided to move on to some other bicep exercises to finish his workout.

If Joe were to attempt a 5th drop set he would risk overtraining and have a very difficult time recovering in time for his next workout.

Part 4: Conclusion

So how many drop sets should you do?

I recommend 3-4 drop sets per exercise for most people. Of course you could do drop sets on multiple exercises if you so desire.

Some people who do awesome on higher volume routines (John Meadows comes to mind) may do best on as many as 5 drop sets per exercise.

On the other hand, some people who do better on lower volume routines (such as Dorian Yates) may get their best results on 1-2 drop sets per workout.

Also you have to be mindful of the performance drop-off indexes.

If you are training for hypertrophy then a decrease in performance of up to 20% on drop sets is acceptable.

On the other hand, you should only allow a 10% decrease in performance when training for strength before moving on to another exercise.

If you enjoyed this content then I think you will LOVE the following 2 articles where I go in depth on many different types of drop sets:

Drop Sets For Hypertrophy: The Ultimate Guide!

The 4 Greatest Fast Twitch Drop Sets!

Of course I am always available for online coaching if you ever want someone to write you a personalized drop sets training routine or have a specific fitness goal that you want to achieve.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training endeavors!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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