• Evan Schwerbrock

Mechanical Drop Sets Explained and Applied: A No-Fuss Intensity Technique

A common way of prolonging a set while doing resistance training is a drop set. Traditionally, this consists of lowering the weight used directly in order to allow for reps to be continued. An example is doing dumbbell shoulder press with 30 pounds in each hand. Once you can’t do quality reps anymore, you would switch to 25s and go until you couldn’t. Then you could progress to another burnout in your 20’s. This act of lowering the load lets you push the body further than one weight could. With just the transition time between weights, this technique produces a lot of metabolic stress on the muscles, causing them to grow. However, it does have its disadvantages for the blind and visually-impaired when used in this fashion. Placing weights back and finding the next ones or precisely changing the weights on a machine smoothly and quickly can be too time-consuming. The muscle’s fatigue can greatly dissipate, lessening the effect of a drop set. But not to worry, we have a fix.


Imagine doing a pushup with your hands on the floor. Now imagine doing one with your hands on the wall. The second one is far easier, isn’t it? You already get the premise of a mechanical drop set. A mechanical drop set is simply using angles to make a movement easier or more challenging. By merely putting ourselves in a less advantageous position then shifting towards more advantageous ones, we can prolong sets without having to get up and alter load. Let’s go over several examples. Then, check out the upper-body mechanical drop set workout at the end!


Cable Tricep Extensions

Normally when performing tricep extensions, your arm and the cable are pretty well in line at the bottom of the motion. This allows some respite from the tension the cable is trying to exhibit. In order to put yourself at a disadvantage, you are going to step back slightly from the cable machine so that even when your arm is locked out at the bottom, the cable is trying to pull your hands slightly forward. This will force the triceps to stay active in the bottom position. The further you are stepped back (within reason), the more dramatic this effect can be felt. To perform your mechanical drop set, start doing your mechanical drop set two small steps back from the cable machine. Perform as many good reps as you can, take one small step in and continue. Once you can’t perform good reps here either, step in again so your locked out arm will be directly in line with the cable and finish as many more reps as possible.


Cable Curls

This same exact technique can be used with cable curls. Just be sure to not let your elbow drift forward too much to accommodate for the distance from the cable machine.


Straight-arm Pulldowns

Again at a cable machine, stay tall and pull a bar attached above your head to your thighs in an arcing motion then return to shoulder height. This will work the lats thoroughly, particularly with a mechanical drop set. You are already using long arms which makes the move tougher for the lats but now you are going to be stepped back just as with the extensions and curls. Play with foot position and distance from the machine for your harder portions of the drop set to make sure you are balanced.


Pushups

There are many ways to do mechanical drop sets for pushups. First is the classic, drop to your knees and keep repping them out. Next is having your feet up on a bench and performing incline pushups, then performing floor pushups, then performing decline pushups with your hands up on the bench you just used for your feet. Of course you can always progress up to wall pushups in this instance as well, depending on your needs. Lastly is utilizing a Smith machine. With its quickly adjustable barbell set on a fixed track, you can quickly do pushups with your hands on the bar, moving the barbell to a higher setting and repeating as needed. Keep in mind all of these techniques have one thing in common: steadily moving the hands higher relative to the feet. Find a way to seamlessly do that and you’re golden.


Increasing angle seated dumbbell curls

Sit on a bench slightly inclined so you are leaned back. Let your arms dangle to be perpendicular to the floor. This will put the biceps in a stretched position and make curls tougher. Just be sure to keep your elbows back. Do as many as you can then set the dumbbells on either side of the bench seat. Quickly set the incline up one notch on the bench and perform as many curls you can again. Last set, set the bench to upright or just sit away from the pad and perform as many more curls as you can. Enjoy the soreness.


Seated Dumbbell Press to Incline to Flat

Perform upright seated dumbbell presses. Set the bench to an incline. Perform as many presses as you can. Set the bench to a flat position and perform as many presses as you can one last time. This variation puts your pressing muscles in increasingly advantageous positions but don’t go thinking it will be a walk in the park.


And now, what you’ve all been waiting for. A mechanical drop set upper-body workout. For each exercise, perform 3 sets of a challenging 10 to 15 reps. Then perform one mechanical drop-set with the exercise instructions previously stated. Perform a set just shy of failure, make the position more advantageous, do another set to near failure, switch to the most advantageous position and perform one last set of great reps.


Exercise #1: Cable Tricep Extensions with bar attachment

Exercise #2: Cable Curls with bar attachment

Exercise #3: Straight Arm Pulldowns with bar attachment

Exercise #4: Upright to Flat Dumbbell Bench Press

Exercise #5: Incline to Upright DB Curls

Exercise #6: Pushups, use a variation that makes the 3 sets of 10 to 15 difficult then do your mechanical drop sets from there


This workout won’t take too long but you should be feeling it for awhile!


Evan