The 6 Toughest Drop Set Workouts

Brutal Mechanical Drop Sets

Drop Sets vs. Mechanical Drop Sets

Drop sets are a commonly used technique to allow you to extend a working set beyond volitional failure (the last rep you want to do) or technical failure (the last rep you can complete with good technique) to further tax a targeted muscle group.

Mechanical drop sets are different from regular drop sets. Instead of decreasing the weight to extend your set, you switch to an easier modification of the movement, usually with the same weight. This allows you to increase metabolic stress and time under tension to further stimulate hypertrophy... along with a side order of suffering.

If you plan to use these as an intensity technique during the main part of the workout, shoot for 3-4 mechanical drop sets. If you're looking for a finisher after you've already nailed that body part, one set is more than enough. Here are some great mechanical drop set options to try out.

Grab a set of dumbbells that you could do 12-15 reps with. You'll want to be conservative here. It's best done with hex dumbbells.

  1. Knock off 8-10 flyes with good form, staying well short of failure.
  2. On your last rep, without stopping, squeeze the two dumbbells together in the top position and complete 8 to 10 reps of the squeeze press. Squeeze hard and maintain constant tension on the pecs.
  3. After the last rep, again without stopping, try to get another 8 to 10 reps with regular dumbbell presses. Don't be surprised if you fall a bit short.

Grab a relatively light dumbbell or kettlebell. Somewhere from 30-50 pounds will be more than enough for the mere mortals among us. The quad gods can go heavier.

  1. Flip the dumbbell up into goblet position, where it will remain throughout the drop set.
  2. Start off with 8-10 rear-foot elevated split squats per leg. Hit your weaker leg first.
  3. Continue the fun with another 8-10 reps per leg of non-alternating goblet walking lunges. This means you do all of your lunges for one leg (the weaker of the two first again), then repeat for the other leg.
  4. Finish it off with at least as many goblet squats. For example, if you completed 8 lunges per leg, you need to do at least 16 goblet squats. If you really want to throw down, try to match the total number of split squats and lunges combined.

  1. Do as many standard wide-grip pull-ups as you can. Use a weight vest or hang additional weight from a belt if you can do more than 15.
  2. Next, go to volitional failure on eccentric (negative) pull-ups. Jump up to the top position, then lower yourself as slowly as possible.
  3. Drop down under a suspension trainer or a bar and perform as many horizontal rows as you can (feet on the ground or elevated, depending on your level of fatigue). The suspension trainer is preferable as it allows your hands to rotate to maintain optimal shoulder position and to better engage the back muscles.

Set up at a preacher curl station with an EZ-curl bar. Load it up with a weight that you could curl 12-15 times.

  1. Knock off 8-10 reps on the steep, vertical side of the bench. Hold each rep for a 1-second peak contraction.
  2. Swing around to the angled side of the bench and try to match the rep count from the first part of the set, with a slight pause in the stretched position on each rep.
  3. Last, rep out for as many standing curls as you can with the same bar.

  1. At a high pulley cable station, complete 10-12 reverse grip triceps extensions.
  2. Next, flip around and match that rep count with overhead triceps extensions. Hold for a 2-second pause in the stretched position on each rep.
  3. Finally, face the stack one more time and hit as many regular triceps pressdowns as you can.

  1. Start with 8-10 Zottman curls. Curl the weight up normally and then rotate your wrist into a palms-down position and lower the weight.
  2. Follow that with another 8-10 hammer curls.
  3. Rep out with a final 8-10 regular alternating dumbbell curls.
Dean Graddon (B Ed, MA) is a high-school teacher and coach with over 20 years' experience working with athletes from such diverse disciplines as swimming, soccer, volleyball, basketball and triathlon. Dean is dedicated to the promotion of health and fitness and loves a good challenge.