There are several techniques that can add muscle tensions during your exercise routines. Two common techniques are supersets and drop sets.
Drop Sets: What are they?
A drop set is where you perform a set of an exercise until failure, then drop the amount of weight, then do another set again until failure. This is repeated until the amount of weight runs out, or your muscles become incredibly fatigued to the point where your form begins to suffer. There should be as little rest as possible, if any, between sets.
The drop set technique is also a great way to burn more calories, as you’re creating a continuous burn and tension within your working muscles. The reason why this is so effective is because you work the different muscle fibers during each set. When you lessen the weight, you allow different muscle fibers to work as well. This helps increase muscle growth (hypertrophy), which would be harder to achieve when keeping the same amount of weight that you are lifting.
Variations of Drop Sets
✓ Plate stripping – When you use a barbell, the plates are taken off from each side (equally) until you can no longer perform repetitions with that weight.
Here’s an example routine:
☐ Set 1: Choose a weight that is comfortable for you that would bring you to failure at 4-6 reps. This set should be the heaviest.
☐ Set 2: Strip the weight by 10lbs and perform at 8-10 reps.
☐ Set 3: Strip the weight by another 10lbs and perform for 10-12 reps.
You can continue adding sets by reducing weight while adding in repetitions. Try to rest as little as possible and only if needed.
✓ Run the rack – This technique is performed when you’re using dumbbells instead of a barbell. Choose a pair of dumbbells and perform an exercise until you reach failure. Continue this with a lighter weight off of the rack, and perform as many reps again, with proper form.
This is where the term “running the rack” comes from, as you’ll be performing the exercise until you reach the other end of the dumbbell rack. The same concept is used as if you were stripping plates off of a barbell. The first set stays as the heaviest, and each set that follows will be lighter with additional repetitions.
What About Supersets?
A superset is when one set of an exercise is performed immediately after a set of a different exercise without rest in between. However, after each superset “pair” of exercises, you may reset up to 1-2 minutes to recover before performing the next superset. The benefits of this technique increases the heart rate quicker and also cuts the training duration by at least half due to less rest time being used.
☐ Leg press machine (3×10)
☐ Lying leg curls (3×15)
☐ Lat pulldown machine (wide grip) (3×10)
☐ Pushups (3×15)
☐ Standing barbell press (3×10)
☐ Cable side lateral raises (3×12)
You can use supersets by either adding them during certain parts of your workout, or using them as an entire workout. Although supersetting exercises can reduce your training duration, that doesn’t mean that you need to perform as quickly as possible. Supersets aren’t performed for time.
Take Home Message
Dropsets and supersets are both a great way to increase muscle mass. The techniques are an efficient and quick way to increase blood flow into the working muscles. Increasing intensity during training helps elevate your heart rate for longer periods of time, and fatigues muscles for definite hypertrophy.