February 01, 2024 2 min read

By Shane Robert

A mechanical drop set is a set that continues past failure (or close proximity to it) by changing certain body positions to gain leverage to keep doing reps. These “sets” consist of doing 3-4 variations of the same-ish exercise with the same weight, without any rest (or at the most 10 seconds). They are very effective for hypertrophy as they allow for additional reps, which means greater muscular fatigue than would be accomplished in a regular set with the same weight, as well as multiple failure points within the set. Though failure is not a necessary hypertrophy trigger, it is a very potent one, and one that you should be within 2-3 reps most of the time. The additional reps performed allow for a greater time under tension and accumulation of lactate, both of which are also triggers for hypertrophy.

Mechanical drop sets are built with the following simple formula:

Weakest → Moderate → Strongest

Here are some of my favorites:
  1. Steep Incline DB Press → Low Incline DB Press → Flat DB Press → Decline DB Press
  2. Wide grip BB Curl → Medium Grip Curl → Close Grip Curl
  3. Overhead Cable Triceps Extension with hands spread → Overhead Cable Triceps Extension with hands together on concentric and spread on eccentric → Overhead Cable Triceps Extension with hands together
  4. Leg press Feet Low and Close → Leg Press Feet Medium Stance in Middle → Feet High and Wide
  5. Deadstop/Pendlay Row → Bent Over Row → Yates Row
  6. Front Squat → High Bar Squat → Low Bar Squat

You can build them however you see fit, as long as it follows the formula of weakest to strongest and is easy to switch to the next exercise with minimal time. 

One thing to keep in mind is you likely won’t match the same amount of reps as you did in the first exercise. This is fine and not what we are trying to accomplish. As long as you push to, or at least close to, failure, you’re doing what needs to be done. 

Mechanical drop sets are incredible for hypertrophy. They are also very challenging and require strict adherence to proper movement mechanics. Cut a set if technical breakdown occurs, even if muscular failure has not. As long as you take recovery seriously, you can use these to your heart's content, as long as you aren’t exceeding your recoverable volume.

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