What Is A Reverse Drop Set?
A reverse drop set is when you finish a set, then immediately jump to a higher weight and continue performing reps and partial reps until failure.
(A traditional dropset is when you immediately jump to a lower weight and continue reps until failure).
Setting The Stage
It would be helpful for you to read these blogs before we jump into the meat of this conversation:
As discussed in the blog about partial reps, we use this technique strategically to get more out of movements that lack sufficient tension at the “stretch/lengthened” position.
Examples of these types of movements (significantly more challenging at the “short” position):
– DB Lateral Raises
– Rows of any kind
– Leg Extension machine
With the standard implementation of partial reps, you essentially take a set to failure. Once you fail, you can no longer reach the full range of motion (ROM), but you can still achieve a large portion of that range by putting maximum effort into your rep. The ROM will gradually fall off each rep as you fatigue more and more.
How They’re Different
With the reverse drop set, we’re leveraging the same idea; to enhance the stimulus in the more lengthened/stretched portion of the movement. However, the implementation is a little bit different.
- Complete a full ROM set to ~2 reps from failure
- Rest for 15-20 seconds, increasing the weight by 20-25%
- Complete additional set to match reps from the initial set
You may achieve 1-3 “full ROM” reps, then make up the remainder of the reps with partials.
Reverse Drop Sets In Action
First, say you complete 10 reps of Bentover DB Rows at 40 lbs (~2 reps from failure)
Then, increase the weight to 50 lbs.
Complete 2 full ROM reps*, followed by 8 “max effort partial reps”
*If you get more than 2-3 full ROM reps, you sandbagged and went too light on your initial set.
When To Use Reverse Drop Sets
This technique will only be used on very specific movements, where the movement is “short overloaded” and the accessibility of changing the weight can be done quickly. For example, grabbing a heavier set of DBs or switching the pin in a cable machine would allow for a quick and efficient pit stop.
However, using a plate-loaded machine or a barbell would require you to put in much more time and energy during the weight change, and would render the protocol less effective.
Why We Avoid Complete Failure
We want to complete our setup to ~2 reps to failure, instead of complete failure because we want to use the second “heavier set” (the reverse dropset) to get as much as possible out of the lengthened position. We don’t want this to simply be a result of the short position being too fatigued.
Think about when you go to failure. You go into partials because you literally can’t do the full range of motion anymore.
When you do a reverse drop set, you want to have some juice left in the short position. The reason you can’t get the full ROM is that the lengthened position is overloaded (not because the short position is too fatigued).
It’s a subtle distinction, but we can use this reverse drop set as a way to continue progression beyond just partials and to provide even more stimulus to the uniquely effective “lengthened” portion of these movements.
Want To Give These A Shot?
Not all workouts are created equal, and it can be a real jungle out there to find training that’s fun, effective, and actually helps get you where you’re trying to go.
If you’re struggling that helps you progress with evidence-based techniques, you should slide to our Paragon Training Methods Programs page and give our workouts a try.