Q: So glad you clarified many of the hypertrophic requirements for muscle size in Anabolic Reload [progression, exercise rotation, metabolic stress, etc.]. One that really got me thinking was volumization. I believe it was Vince Gironda who said that more work done in the same or less time creates mass quickly. My question is, What do you think about drop sets instead of rest/pause as the volume addition to each exercise? Seems like you get more work in the same time frame.
A: The drop-set method is one of the best hypertrophic tactics around because it does condense workload into a short time frame. Studies verify the high anabolic effects (more on those in a moment). According to Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D., one of the elite hypertrophy researchers today…
Drop sets involve performing a set to muscular failure with a given load and then immediately reducing the load and continuing to train until subsequent failure. It is believed that this technique can stimulate greater muscular growth by inducing greater [muscular] fatigue. The increased time under tension associated with drop sets would likely also heighten metabolic stress and ischemia, enhancing anabolic milieu.
Now drop sets are easiest with dumbbells, where you can grab a lower-poundage pair immediately to continue your set, or on a machine with a weight stack. Simply move the pin to a lighter weight and continue repping out.
Say you’re using the Pure-Positions STX Workout from our latest Stretch-Overload ebook (Chapter 4). That has you do three quick full-body workouts a week, each with only one of the three POF exercises for every muscle: Monday, contracted; Wednesday, midrange; Friday, stretch.
So Monday for triceps you’d do pushdowns, 1×20, 1×8 R/P 5
Instead of resting for 10 seconds after your heavy 8-rep set, you’d move the pin to reduce the weight and immediately rep out again—no rest.
Pushdowns: 1×20, 1×8(6)
To slightly up the volume at a future workout, simply lower the weight a second time and rep out again.
Pushdowns: 1×20, 1×8(6)(5)
You can do that for each triceps exercise: Monday: pushdowns (contracted), Wednesday: bench presses (midrange), Friday: overhead extensions (stretch).
More from Schoenfeld on drops:
Goto et al. assessed the inclusion of a low-intensity set (50% of 1RM) immediately following performance of a high-intensity set. Results showed that the addition of a drop set resulted in a significant increase in muscle cross-sectional area as opposed to the strength training protocol alone.
Exciting stuff: Significant muscle thickening occurred from the addition of ONLY ONE DROP. As you adapt, you can add more, but be careful. We’ve found that three drops is the limit for most trainees. Shoenfeld warns:
Repeatedly training to muscle failure over time has been shown to increase the potential for overtraining and blunting of resting testosterone levels. It is usually prudent to limit their use to a select few sets in a given microcycle, making sure to intersperse periods of unloading to allow for necessary recuperation.
In other words, use our phase-training approach—take a low-intensity week after a month or so of all-out training to trigger a spurt of new freaky muscle gaining.
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Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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