A very commonly performed action in bodybuilding is the drop set. In which, you do your working sets. Then on the last set, you go to failure, drop the weight, go to failure, drop the weight, go to failure, and repeat however long.

There's no doubt that this feels like it's effective. What I'm wondering is, is there is any research to back all this up? Do people who do drop sets actually build muscle at a faster rate? Or is it a matter of diminishing returns, and all this is doing is adding more work with very little reward?

3 Answers 3


Apparently when volume is equated dropsets sill produce double the hypertrophy.

Normal sets increased muscle growth by 5% and strength by 25% over 6 weeks

Dropsets increase muscle growth by 10% and strength by 16% over 6 weeks

Effects of drop set resistance training on acute stress indicators and long-term muscle hypertrophy and strength

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

Another study shows that dropsets can increase strength, hypertrophy and endurance while cutting training time in half.

Effects of drop sets with resistance training on increases in muscle CSA, strength, and endurance: a pilot study.

To investigate the effects of a single high-load (80% of one repetition maximum [1RM]) set with additional drop sets descending to a low-load (30% 1RM) without recovery intervals on muscle strength, endurance, and size in untrained young men. Nine untrained young men performed dumbbell curls to concentric failure 2-3 days per week for 8 weeks. Each arm was randomly assigned to one of the following three conditions: 3 sets of high-load (HL, 80% 1RM) resistance exercise, 3 sets of low-load [LL, 30% 1RM] resistance exercise, and a single high-load (SDS) set with additional drop sets descending to a low-load. The mean training time per session, including recovery intervals, was lowest in the SDS condition. Elbow flexor muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) increased similarly in all three conditions. Maximum isometric and 1RM strength of the elbow flexors increased from pre to post only in the HL and SDS conditions. Muscular endurance measured by maximum repetitions at 30% 1RM increased only in the LL and SDS conditions. A SDS resistance training program can simultaneously increase muscle CSA, strength, and endurance in untrained young men, even with lower training time compared to typical resistance exercise protocols using only high- or low-loads.


weights is all about time under load. the more time your spend under load the better.i used to train with a body builder who did drop sets. you end up with a lot harder workout. i tend to find just setting yourself goals of hitting the norm 10/10/10 limits your ability to push yourself. doing drop sets lets you really workout until failure. even better is drop sets with a spotter.

  • 1
    I know what conventional wisdom says about drop sets, but I have never seen anything that's actually proven that drop sets are more effective than regular hard training sets. This article for example, says that drop sets yield no different results then simply training to failure on working sets. jasonstake.com/drop-sets.html
    – DeeV
    Nov 19, 2018 at 1:50

im going on personal experience on how i was shown to train. i saw results. this also could have been to to the fact i had a spotter who pushed me to the very last rep. we didnt do drop sets throughout the entire workout but they are a great change to your routine. and muscles react better to change.

  • 1
    Well that's nice, but it's not what @DeeV is looking for. He is looking for (possibly scientific) research to show whether or not it is indeed more effective.
    – MJB
    Nov 19, 2018 at 14:20

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