Stay Strong All Workout Long

Neural-Drive Drop Sets

Re-Energize Your CNS

Post activation potentiation (PAP) is a powerful tool to heighten your central nervous system so you can perform explosive actions, but it takes strategic programming and execution.

PAP usually involves explosive and twitchy-based movements like jumps, jacks, throws, sprints, and performance ramp-up schemes that involve maximizing the velocity of a relatively light weight. Done right, it leaves you mechanically and neurologically prepared to perform at least the first part of your workout at your neurological best.

The sweet spot for PAP is between 3-7 minutes. That means you should be optimally explosive for anywhere from 3 minutes after completing potentiation drills to about 7 minutes after. The CNS then starts to calm down.

In this 3-7 minute timeframe, you're absolutely primed for the big lift of the day. As anyone who's had experience "training on the nerve" knows, when the CNS peak is high, it's extremely useful. But it also sets up for one hell of a valley.

And for many lifters, that valley hits hard right at the time when you're about to start doing your secondary strength and accessory work, but there's a remedy for this. You can actually re-stimulate the CNS again and re-energize the rest of your workout.

Adding a simple neural drive drop set after the last working set of your main lift for the day can simply re-stimulate the CNS. Here's how it works.

  • Do 2-4 singles in drop set fashion after the final work set of your main lift of the day.
  • Start with the working set bar weight and strip 20-30% of the weight off for each drop.
  • Rest about 10 seconds between single rep bouts.
  • Be as explosive as possible on every single rep.

Now clear the rest of the weights from the bar and rest 2-3 minutes before moving directly into the accessory work for the day. This drop set should feel and function as a stimulator, not an annihilator.

The Details

Seems pretty simple, right? You have to put your weights away anyhow, and you end up simultaneously priming your CNS for continued performance. But here are some more pointers on how to use this method, along with common problems that lifters might encounter:

After the last working set on your major barbell lift, take your normal inter-set rest period and then prepare for a drop set consisting of 2-4 explosive singles. The single reps will be completed in rest-pause style with around 10 seconds between reps.

This is to allow you time to strip the weights if you're training alone, or to safely re-rack and un-rack the bar when using this technique on any squat or bench press variation. This short rest-pause style cluster also allows the cumulative neural charge effect of the CNS from rep to rep to compound.

  • You'll be stripping approximately 20-30% of bar weight each drop. For stronger lifters using multiple 45-pound plates on a side, this simply works out to stripping a plate per side per drop. Others can do drops of 10 or 25-pound plates.
  • The drops are ideally done with a lifting partner or two, which allows you to stay mentally engaged with the set. But again, if you're a lone gym-ranger, take your time between reps and don't rush stripping the weights. Prioritize explosive quality movement over rushing through poorly executed reps.
  • While the percentage of bar weight dropped between sets will be ideally around 20-30%, this is the real world and the chance that you'll calculate your drops correctly when stripping the bar is slim to none.

So before you all feel ashamed that you didn't follow this exact protocol, just approximate drops and rip off one or two plates at a time, no matter the actual bar weight. That's fine. You can also strip forms of accommodating resistance, like chains or bands, from the bar and then continue to strip bar weight.

As long as the bar becomes lighter set-to-set and there are no monumental drops that would shock the CNS and mechanical systems (not in a good way), the method will still work.

Before you jump head first into this method with the "more is better" mentality, do NOT exceed 4 total reps in the neural drive drop sets. The main goal is to focus on the quality, velocity, and force production of each rep.

So, no grinding and no extended drops where fatigue and mechanical breakdown is inevitable. If you can stay within these parameters, you'll be a lot more explosive during the rest of your workout.