Mechanical Drop Sets: Your Secret to Crushing Heavier Weight and Building More Muscle

This article was originally written for STACK.

Mechanical Drop Sets are one of the most efficient and effective tools for packing on slabs of muscle.

In a typical drop set, you perform a set of an exercise to failure (or near it), reduce the weight, then repeat another set of the same exercise. With Mechanical Drop Sets you keep the weight the same and simply improve the mechanical advantage of the lift from set-to-set.

Here's a breakdown of a Mechanical Drop Set:

  1. Perform Exercise A until failure (or near it, within the 6-15 rep range).

  2. Slightly adjust the leverage, grip, foot positioning, bar positioning, range of motion, etc. of Exercise A to transition into a new, easier exercise (Exercise B).

  3. Perform Exercise B until failure (or near it, within the 6-15 rep range).

Mechanical Drop Sets allow you to do more work with heavier weight. More work with heavier weight equals more gains. It's not rocket science, but it sure does work.

By slightly altering the exercise from set to set, you not only prolong the amount of work performed, but you also hit the target muscle from a slightly different angle. These distinctions may seem minor, but they can lead to an enormous amount of new muscle growth.

Armed with this powerful new technique, here are eight Mechanical Drop Sets to add to your routine.

1. Incline Dumbbell Squeeze Press to Incline Dumbbell Press

The Squeeze Press is an overlooked way to place maximum tension on the pecs. Dropping to the standard Incline Press afterward allows the shoulders and triceps to assist a bit more in the movement.

2. Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown to Underhand Close-Grip Lat Pulldown

The Wide Grip Lat Pulldown (or wide grip Pull-Up) focuses primarily on the lats. Switching to the Close Grip Underhand variation brings the biceps in more to the aid the already fatigued back.

3. Dumbbell Lateral Raise to Dumbbell Upright Row

When performing Lateral Raises, you want to keep your arms almost completely straight (maintain a slight bend), keeping the dumbbells far from your body. When you switch to the Upright Row, you bend more at the elbows, shortening the lever arm, making the movement easier.

4. Incline Dumbbell Skullcrusher to Incline Dumbbell Rollback

For Skullcrushers, the goal is to keep the elbow in place, forcing the triceps to do all the work. For Rollbacks, allow the elbows to drift back and forth to create momentum, initiating a pressing motion rather than a strict extension.

5. Reverse Grip EZ Bar Curl to EZ Bar Curl

With Reverse Grip Curls, the forearms will fatigue first. Simply flip the grip to recruit more biceps and extend the set.

6. Barbell Front Squat to Barbell Back Squat

Front Squats place a greater emphasis on the quads and really test core strength and stability. Moving to a Back Squat puts you at a greater mechanical advantage and allows you to recruit more muscles to keep moving.

7. Glute Ham Raise to Back Extension

Glute Ham Raises almost combine two movements—a Back Extension and a Bodyweight Leg Curl. Dropping to just a Back Extension essentially cuts the range of motion in half.

8. Hanging Leg Raise to Hanging Knee Raise

To complete a full, strict Hanging Leg Raise, the goal is to bring the toes all the way to the bar. For a Knee Raise, however, you just want to bring knees to elbows.

Program these Mechanical Drop Sets into your workouts on the appropriate days in place of any of the standard exercises used here. Use a weight that challenges you for 6-15 reps on the first set. While the idea here is to go to failure on both exercises, it's always smart to leave 1 or 2 reps in the tank.