Article

Can Drop Set Training Enhance Muscle Growth?

Abstract

Some researchers have postulated that training to muscular failure is obligatory for maximizing muscle hypertrophy. This has to the speculation that drop set training may be an effective strategy to more fully fatigue the musculature and, in turn, enhance muscular adaptations. Herein we review the evidence on the topic.
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... A brief research review by Schoenfeld and Grgic [103] identified drop-set RT as an effective way to accrue high levels of training volume and to stimulate significant muscular adaptations in a short amount of time. To perform a drop-set, the initial set of RT with a fixed external load (e.g., 80 % 1-RM) is performed to muscular failure. ...
... To perform a drop-set, the initial set of RT with a fixed external load (e.g., 80 % 1-RM) is performed to muscular failure. From there, the load is immediately reduced by 20-25 % (i.e., no rest) and the lifter performs a subsequent set to muscular failure [103]. Although it is not strictly defined, the authors suggest that two to three drops are performed during one drop-set, and that the rest interval between drops should be kept to a minimum (i.e., just long enough to adjust the load and ensure that the lifter is in a proper starting position) [103]. ...
... From there, the load is immediately reduced by 20-25 % (i.e., no rest) and the lifter performs a subsequent set to muscular failure [103]. Although it is not strictly defined, the authors suggest that two to three drops are performed during one drop-set, and that the rest interval between drops should be kept to a minimum (i.e., just long enough to adjust the load and ensure that the lifter is in a proper starting position) [103]. When following these guidelines, it is likely that a lifter will perform 20-30 consecutive repetitions at intensities that correspond to 40-80 % 1-RM in just one set of exercise. ...
Article
Generally, skeletal muscle adaptations to exercise are perceived through a dichotomous lens where the metabolic stress imposed by aerobic training leads to increased mitochondrial adaptations while the mechanical tension from resistance training leads to myofibrillar adaptations. However, there is emerging evidence for cross over between modalities where aerobic training stimulates traditional adaptations to resistance training (e.g., hypertrophy) and resistance training stimulates traditional adaptations to aerobic training (e.g., mitochondrial biogenesis). The latter is the focus of the current review in which we propose high-volume resistance training (i.e., high time under tension) leads to aerobic adaptations such as angiogenesis, mitochondrial biogenesis, and increased oxidative capacity. As time under tension increases, skeletal muscle energy turnover, metabolic stress, and ischemia also increase, which act as signals to activate the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha, which is the master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis. For practical application, the acute stress and chronic adaptations to three specific forms of high-time under tension are also discussed: Slow-tempo, low-intensity resistance training, and drop-set resistance training. These modalities of high-time under tension lead to hallmark adaptations to resistance training such as muscle endurance, hypertrophy, and strength, but little is known about their effect on traditional aerobic training adaptations.
... breakdown sets) [2]. The drop set method involves performing a set to momentary muscular failure (MMF), then immediately reducing the load (generally by 20% to 25%) and performing as many additional repetitions as possible [3]. If desired, double or triple drops can be employed to heighten stimulation of working muscle fibers and thus perhaps enhance muscular adaptations [3]. ...
... The drop set method involves performing a set to momentary muscular failure (MMF), then immediately reducing the load (generally by 20% to 25%) and performing as many additional repetitions as possible [3]. If desired, double or triple drops can be employed to heighten stimulation of working muscle fibers and thus perhaps enhance muscular adaptations [3]. ...
... The drop set method is largely based on the premise that muscles are not fully fatigued when sets are carried out to MMF, as they are still capable of producing force at lower loads [3]. Thus, performing additional repetitions at a decreased magnitude of load immediately after reaching muscle failure in a set may elicit heightened fatigue of muscle fibers, potentially leading to a superior anabolic response [4]. ...
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The study aimed to compare the effects of drop set resistance training (RT) versus traditional RT on markers of maximal muscle strength and regional hypertrophy of the quadriceps femoris. Sixteen recreationally active young men had one leg randomly assigned to the drop-set method (DS) and the other to training in a traditional manner (TRAD). Participants performed unilateral seated leg extensions using a periodized approach for eight weeks. Rectus femoris (RF) and vastus lateralis (VL) muscle thickness (MT), estimated one repetition maximum (RM) in the unilateral knee extension, and peak and average isokinetic knee extension torque at 60◦/s angular velocity were measured pre- and post-study. Both conditions increased muscle thickness of the RF and VL from preto post-intervention. DS showed statistically greater increases in the RF at 30% and 50% of muscle length, whereas no MT differences were detected at 70% muscle length nor at any aspect of the VL. Both DS and TRAD increased estimated one RM from pre- to post-study (+34.6% versus +32.0%, respectively) with no between-condition differences noted. Both conditions showed similar increases in peak torque (DS: +21.7%; TRAD: +22.5%) and average torque (DS: +23.6%; TRAD: +22.5%) from pre- to post-study. Our findings indicate a potential benefit of the drop-set method for inducing non-uniform hypertrophic gains in the RF muscle pursuant to leg extension training. The strategy did not promote an advantage in improving hypertrophy of the VL, nor in strength-related measures, compared to traditional training
... The strategy involves performing a traditional set, reducing the load, and then immediately performing another set (or multiple sets). Typically, 1-3 drops are used with a 20-25% reduction in weight, with all sets performed to muscular failure [80]. A proposed rationale behind this method is that drop-sets elicit a larger metabolic stress and potentially heightened muscle damage, which in turn could increase the hypertrophic response [80,81]. ...
... Typically, 1-3 drops are used with a 20-25% reduction in weight, with all sets performed to muscular failure [80]. A proposed rationale behind this method is that drop-sets elicit a larger metabolic stress and potentially heightened muscle damage, which in turn could increase the hypertrophic response [80,81]. ...
... It should also be noted that most of the studies on the topic were carried out using single joint, upper-body exercises. A recent review stated that while drop sets can be used for both single-joint and multi-joint exercises, the strategy is most suited to singlejoint training from a practical perspective [80]. Due to safety concerns, it might not be advisable to include drop-sets in certain compound, free-weight exercises such as squats. ...
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Lack of time is among the more commonly reported barriers for abstention from exercise programs. The aim of this review was to determine how strength training can be most effectively carried out in a time-efficient manner by critically evaluating research on acute training variables, advanced training techniques, and the need for warm-up and stretching. When programming strength training for optimum time-efficiency we recommend prioritizing bilateral, multi-joint exercises that include full dynamic movements (i.e. both eccentric and concentric muscle actions), and to perform a minimum of one leg pressing exercise (e.g. squats), one upper-body pulling exercise (e.g. pull-up) and one upper-body pushing exercise (e.g. bench press). Exercises can be performed with machines and/or free weights based on training goals, availability, and personal preferences. Weekly training volume is more important than training frequency and we recommend performing a minimum of 4 weekly sets per muscle group using a 6–15 RM loading range (15–40 repetitions can be used if training is performed to volitional failure). Advanced training techniques, such as supersets, drop sets and rest-pause training roughly halves training time compared to traditional training, while maintaining training volume. However, these methods are probably better at inducing hypertrophy than muscular strength, and more research is needed on longitudinal training effects. Finally, we advise restricting the warm-up to exercise-specific warm-ups, and only prioritize stretching if the goal of training is to increase flexibility. This review shows how acute training variables can be manipulated, and how specific training techniques can be used to optimize the training response: time ratio in regard to improvements in strength and hypertrophy. Graphic Abstract
... Schoenfeld and Grgic (7) noted recently that muscles are not completely fatigued at concentric muscular failure, and the muscles are still capable of producing additional repetitions if the resistance is reduced. They cited and discussed the methods and results of five training studies (8)(9)(10)(11)(12)) that compared the efficacy of a drop-set training protocol with different traditional resistance training protocols. ...
... There was no significant difference in muscle mass between groups. Schoenfeld and Grgic (7) claimed also that the drop-set group increased thigh muscularity by another 2% during the next 4 weeks. However, Goto and colleagues (8) reported that neither group showed a significant change in muscle hypertrophy during the last 4 weeks (p = 0.08). ...
... Despite the lack of evidence to support its efficacy, Schoenfeld and Grgic (7) constructed a table of drop-set recommendations for specific training variables such as the load (resistance), rest intervals (between the last set and the drop-sets), training volume (number of drop-sets), tempo (rep duration), exercise selection (single or multiple joint exercises), and frequency (how many times per week to use drop-sets). However, each recommendation is extremely vague and they did not cite any training studies to support any of those recommendations-perhaps because there is none. ...
Article
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Researchers have expressed concern recently for standardization of resistance training protocols so that valid comparisons of different training variables such as muscular fatigue, time under tension, pre-exhaust exercise and exercise order, pyramid and drop sets, amount of resistance (load), range of repetitions, frequency and volume of exercise, interset rest intervals, etc. can be more closely studied and compared. This Critical Commentary addresses some recent review articles and training studies specifically focused on the stimulus for muscle hypertrophy in participants with several years of resistance training experience. It reveals that many of the recommended resistance training protocols have their foundation in some long-held, self-described bias. Blinding of assessors and statisticians, self-plagiarism, authorship responsibility, and conflicts of interest are briefly discussed as well. The conclusion is that most of the published peer-reviewed resistance training literature failed to provide any compelling evidence that the manipulation of any one or combination of the aforementioned variables can significantly affect the degree of muscle hypertrophy, especially in well-trained participants. Although the specific stimulus for optimal gains in muscle mass is unknown, many authors are desperately clinging to their unsupported belief that a greater volume of exercise will produce superior muscle hypertrophy.
... Schoenfeld and Grgic (7) noted recently that muscles are not completely fatigued at concentric muscular failure, and the muscles are still capable of producing additional repetitions if the resistance is reduced. They cited and discussed the methods and results of five training studies (8)(9)(10)(11)(12)) that compared the efficacy of a drop-set training protocol with different traditional resistance training protocols. ...
... Schoenfeld and Grgic (7) claimed also that the drop-set group increased thigh muscularity by another 2% during the next 4 weeks. However, Goto and colleagues (8) reported that neither group showed a significant change in muscle hypertrophy during the last 4 weeks (p = 0.08). ...
... Despite the lack of evidence to support its efficacy, Schoenfeld and Grgic (7) constructed a table of drop-set recommendations for specific training variables such as the load (resistance), rest intervals (between the last set and the drop-sets), training volume (number of drop-sets), tempo (rep duration), exercise selection (single or multiple joint exercises), and frequency (how many times per week to use drop-sets). However, each recommendation is extremely vague and they did not cite any training studies to support any of those recommendations-perhaps because there is none. ...
Presentation
Full-text available
Researchers have expressed concern recently for standardization of resistance training protocols so that valid comparisons of different training variables such as muscular fatigue, time under tension, pre-exhaust exercise and exercise order, pyramid and drop sets, amount of resistance (load), range of repetitions, frequency and volume of exercise, interset rest intervals, etc. can be more closely studied and compared. This Critical Commentary addresses some recent review articles and training studies specifically focused on the stimulus for muscle hypertrophy in participants with several years of resistance training experience. It reveals that many of the recommended resistance training protocols have their foundation in some long-held, self-described bias.
... Schoenfeld and Grgic (7) noted recently that muscles are not completely fatigued at concentric muscular failure, and the muscles are still capable of producing additional repetitions if the resistance is reduced. They cited and discussed the methods and results of five training studies (8)(9)(10)(11)(12)) that compared the efficacy of a drop-set training protocol with different traditional resistance training protocols. ...
... Schoenfeld and Grgic (7) claimed also that the drop-set group increased thigh muscularity by another 2% during the next 4 weeks. However, Goto and colleagues (8) reported that neither group showed a significant change in muscle hypertrophy during the last 4 weeks (p = 0.08). ...
... Despite the lack of evidence to support its efficacy, Schoenfeld and Grgic (7) constructed a table of drop-set recommendations for specific training variables such as the load (resistance), rest intervals (between the last set and the drop-sets), training volume (number of drop-sets), tempo (rep duration), exercise selection (single or multiple joint exercises), and frequency (how many times per week to use drop-sets). However, each recommendation is extremely vague and they did not cite any training studies to support any of those recommendations-perhaps because there is none. ...
Presentation
Full-text available
Researchers have expressed concern recently for standardization of resistance training protocols so that valid comparisons of different training variables such as muscular fatigue, time under tension, pre-exhaust exercise and exercise order, pyramid and drop sets, amount of resistance (load), range of repetitions, frequency and volume of exercise, interset rest intervals, etc. can be more closely studied and compared. This Critical Commentary addresses some recent review articles and training studies specifically focused on the stimulus for muscle hypertrophy in participants with several years of resistance training experience. It reveals that many of the recommended resistance training protocols have their foundation in some long-held, self-described bias.
... These approaches consider the manipulation of RT variables focusing on putting a greater overload into the muscles beyond that allowed by the conventional model, so such strategies may enhance metabolic stress and mechanical tension [4]. In this context, some techniques result in a higher training volume and/or density, the same training volume in a shorter time [3,8]. ...
... Argumentation A plethora of specialized techniques is used for potentially enhancing muscle hypertrophy. For example, in the drop-set, subjects need to accomplish a set until the concentric muscular failure, to remove about ~15-20 % of the load, and then perform another set to failure after a minimum rest period [8]. Another specialized technique is the rest-pause, which consists of performing additional repetitions after the concentric failure following short rest intervals (10-20 s), without reducing the load [12]. ...
Article
Specialized resistance training techniques (e.g., drop-set, rest-pause) are commonly used by well-trained subjects for maximizing muscle hypertrophy. Most of these techniques were designed to allow a greater training volume (i.e., total repetitions x load), due to the supposition that it elicits greater muscle mass gains. However, many studies that compared the traditional resistance training configuration with specialized techniques seek to equalize the volume between groups, making it difficult to determine the inherent hypertrophic potential of these advanced strategies, as well as, this equalization restricts part of the practical extrapolation on these findings. In this scenario, the objectives of this manuscript were 1) to present the nuance of the evidence that deals with the effectiveness of these specialized resistance training techniques and – primarily – to 2) propose possible ways to explore the hypertrophic potential of such strategies with greater ecological validity without losing the methodological rigor of controlling possible intervening variables; and thus, contributing to increasing the applicability of the findings and improving the effectiveness of hypertrophy-oriented resistance training programs.
... [2][3][4] higher volume induces a more significant acute anabolic response 5 and metabolic stress, 6 which may contribute to muscle growth over repeated stimulus. 7 Studies have reported that applying strategies such as systematic manipulation of the configuration of the sets allows the accomplishment of larger volumes and can improve the neuromuscular responses to rT. 1,8,9 in this regard, advanced systems such as agonist-antagonist paired-sets, drop-sets, and pyramids have been used to increase the rT volume 1, 10 from the manipulation of training variables such as loads, repetitions, and recovery interval (ri) between sets. 11 thropometric measurements, application of health history questionnaire and 1RM test for the 45° leg press exercise, and familiarization with a perceived exertion scale on two occasions. ...
Article
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BACKGROUND: The rest interval between sets can affect the responses to resistance training. Thus, the purpose of this study was to compare the effects of different rest intervals (RI) on volume, density, and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) when adopting a crescent pyramid (CP) system. METHODS: Twenty young women (21.1 ± 2.6 years, 1.59 ± 0.06 m, 58.5 ± 9.3 kg) participated in this study. All participants performed three experimental sessions of the leg press exercise in 5 sets until voluntary muscular failure at 60, 65, 70, 75, and 80% of one-repetition maximum (1RM). A randomized and crossover design was used so that in each session one of three RI (RI-1 = 1-min, RI-2 = 2-min, and RI-3 = 3-min) was tested. RESULTS: The participants performed a significantly larger volume in the RI-3 (12820 ± 3134 kg) when compared to RI-1 (10367 ± 3053 kg) condition (P < 0.05). The volume did not differ between RI-2 and RI-3 (P > 0.05). The density was higher (P < 0.05) in RI-1 (43.1 ± 12.7 kg . s-1) when compared RI-2 (25.6 ± 5.8 kg . s-1) and RI-3 (17.7 ± 4.3 kg . s-1). The RI-2 presented higher density compared to RI-3 condition (P < 0.05). The RPE was not different between the three conditions (P > 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: The use of 2-min of rest interval between sets allowed the performance of a high volume-load and density of the session in young women. In addition, the three experimental sessions provided a high perception of effort.
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Background: We investigated the effects of 2 different resistance training (RT) protocols on muscle hypertrophy and strength. The first group (n = 8) performed a single drop set (DS) and the second group (n = 8) performed 3 sets of conventional RT (normal set, NS). Methods: Eight young men in each group completed 6 weeks of RT. Muscle hypertrophy was assessed via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and strength via 12 RM tests before and after the 6 weeks. Acute stress markers such as muscle thickness (MT), blood lactate (BL), maximal voluntary contraction (MVC), heart rate (HR) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) before and after one bout of RT. Results: Both groups showed significant increases in triceps muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) (10.0 ± 3.7%, effect size (ES) = 0.47 for DS and 5.1 ± 2.1%, ES = 0.25 for NS). Strength increased in both groups (16.1 ± 12.1%, ES = 0.88 for DS and 25.2 ± 17.5%, ES = 1.34 for NS). Acute pre/post measurements for one bout of RT showed significant changes in MT (18.3 ± 5.8%, p < 0.001) and MVC (-13.3 ± 7.1, p < 0.05) in the DS group only and a significant difference (p < 0.01) in RPE was observed between groups (7.7 ± 1.5 for DS and 5.3 ± 1.4 for NS). Conclusions: 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.
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Purpose The aim of this study was to compare the effects of crescent pyramid (CP) and drop-set (DS) systems with traditional resistance training (TRAD) with equalized total training volume (TTV) on maximum dynamic strength (1-RM), muscle cross-sectional area (CSA), pennation angle (PA) and fascicle length (FL). Methods Thirty-two volunteers had their legs randomized in a within-subject design in TRAD (3-5 sets of 6-12 repetitions at 75% 1-RM), CP (3-5 sets of 6-15 repetitions at 65-85% 1-RM) and DS (3-5 sets of ~50-75% 1-RM to muscle failure) protocols. Each leg was trained for 12 weeks. Participants had one leg fixed in the TRAD while the contralateral leg performed either CP or DS to allow for TTV equalization. Results The CSA increased significantly and similarly for all protocols (TRAD: 7.6%; CP: 7.5%; DS: 7.8%). All protocols showed significant and similar increases in leg press (TRAD = 25.9%; CP = 25.9%; DS = 24.9%) and leg extension 1-RM loads (TRAD = 16.6%; CP = 16.4%; DS = 17.1%). All protocols increased PA (TRAD = 10.6%; CP = 11.0%; DS = 10.3%) and FL (TRAD = 8.9%; CP = 8.9%; DS = 9.1%) similarly. Conclusion CP and DS systems do not promote greater gains in strength muscle hypertrophy and changes in muscle architecture compared to traditional resistance training.
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The purpose of this paper was to systematically review the current literature and elucidate the effects of total weekly resistance training (RT) volume on changes in measures of muscle mass via meta-regression. The final analysis comprised 34 treatment groups from 15 studies. Outcomes for weekly sets as a continuous variable showed a significant effect of volume on changes in muscle size (P = 0.002). Each additional set was associated with an increase in effect size (ES) of 0.023 corresponding to an increase in the percentage gain by 0.37%. Outcomes for weekly sets categorised as lower or higher within each study showed a significant effect of volume on changes in muscle size (P = 0.03); the ES difference between higher and lower volumes was 0.241, which equated to a percentage gain difference of 3.9%. Outcomes for weekly sets as a three-level categorical variable (<5, 5-9 and 10+ per muscle) showed a trend for an effect of weekly sets (P = 0.074). The findings indicate a graded dose-response relationship whereby increases in RT volume produce greater gains in muscle hypertrophy.
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Breakdown (BD) training has been advocated by multiple commercial and academic publications and authors, seemingly as a result of the acute hormonal and muscle activation responses it produces. However, there is a relative dearth of research which has empirically considered this advanced method of resistance training (RT) over a chronic intervention whilst appropriately controlling other RT variables. The present study considered thirty-six male and female participants divided in to three groups; breakdown (BD, n=11), heavy-load breakdown (HLBD, n=14) and traditional (CON, n=11), performing full-body resistance training programmes 2 x / week for 12 weeks. No significant between group differences were identified for change in absolute muscular endurance for chest press, leg press, or pull down exercises, or for body composition changes. Effect sizes for absolute muscular endurance changes were large for all groups and exercises (0.86 - 2.74). The present study supports previous research that the use of advanced training techniques stimulates no greater muscular adaptations when compared to performing more simplified resistance training protocols to momentary muscular failure.
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