When you’re just starting out on your bodybuilding journey, following the tried and true “3 sets of 10” will help you build muscle. But as you progress and your goals become more ambitious, you need to expand your repertoire of lifting techniques. It’s time to move beyond plain old straight sets and start incorporating advanced set-and-rep schemes like supersets, tri-sets, monster sets, and pyramid sets into your routine. By doing so, you’ll be able to mix things up, increase time under tension, boost training volume, and break through exercise plateaus. The result? Consistent progress and a stronger, more muscular physique.
Intro to mechanical drop sets
If you really want to maximize your results, however, there’s one more technique you must add to your arsenal: mechanical drop sets. This muscle-building method often flies under the radar of most trainees, but it’s a favorite among top bodybuilders and strength athletes.
So, what exactly is a mechanical drop set? You’re probably familiar with traditional drop sets, where you perform successive sets of the same exercise with lighter weights to thoroughly fatigue your muscles. Mechanical drop sets achieve the same goal but in a different way.
Instead of reducing the weight between sets (commonly known as “running the rack”), you manipulate your grip type, grip position, foot position, range of motion, or even switch to a different exercise altogether. In other words, with mechanical drop sets, the weight remains the same, but the exercise becomes easier as you fatigue.
However, don’t mistake “easier” for “less challenging.” Even though the exercise becomes more manageable, your target muscle is still being pushed to the limit. Each set should still be tough to complete. The advantage of mechanical drop sets lies in the fact that they allow you to do more work with a heavier load. When executed correctly, this translates into greater gains.
How to perform mechanical drop sets
Now, let’s talk about how to perform mechanical drop sets. One classic example is transitioning from overhead triceps extensions to bench presses both using an EZ bar. By starting with an isolation exercise like overhead triceps extensions and then switching to a pushing exercise that keeps your elbows close to your sides, you can emphasize the triceps and recruit the pecs to help you achieve more repetitions.
Another excellent option is a rear delt flye straight into a wide-elbowed row, straight into a dumbbell row. This ensures that your target muscle (in this case, your rear delts) remains under constant tension for a longer duration.
Regardless of your exercise progression, there are a few key points to keep in mind when performing mechanical drop sets:
- Keep the weight and target muscle consistent throughout each set.
- Change the exercise to make it “easier” using the suggested variations. Generally, you’ll want between 2-4 exercises in your mechanical drop-set.
- Choose a weight that challenges you close to failure on the first exercise you’ll use in the drop-set. You don’t have to reach technical failure every time, but you should come close.
- Your target repetitions on the first exercise should be within the typical hypertrophy repetition range. For example 8-12 reps, although sometimes it may be 5-7 and on rare occasions 15 or over.
Mechanical drop sets can be incredibly taxing, so it’s important to only incorporate them once or twice per workout, focusing on one or two muscle groups at a time. They also tend to work best as finishers, performed at the end of a lifting session. Just like traditional drop sets, the results of mechanical drop sets are usually noticeable quickly, which is why both techniques deserve a place in your training program.
If you’d like to have a more advanced understanding of mechanical drop-sets and some ideas of exercises then you’ll want to watch this video:
For the exact game-plan and implementation learn more about joining the Elite Physique Training Team HERE!
I build Olympians, Cover Models and those who want to look like them. Author or “Ultimate Abs” available in all good book stores.