WHAT IS IT?
Load Drop Sets (LDS) are probably the best known and most popular intensity technique.
After taking a set to momentary failure, immediately reduce the load by ~20-30% and continue to another failure point. Between one and four drops are typical.
HOW TO TRACK PROGRESSION?
Progress should be tracked by load used, total reps achieved (across all drops or per drop), and/or total number of drops. Because of the hyper-quantitative nature of LDS, tracking data and improving over time is an extremely simple task.
WHO SHOULD USE IT?
Done correctly, LDS can be used safely and effectively by anyone and any skill level. Intermediate/Advanced trainees can benefit from the additional volume and effective reps. Novices can use it as a way to get more practice in a fatigued state (as form begins to skip with a higher load, the trainee would reduce the load and continue the set without technical breakdowns), though they should stay at least a few reps shy of failure.
WHO SHOULD NOT USE IT?
Trainees who are sensitive to volume should be cautious with LDS as, more than even intensity, increases in volume are going to be the primary method of escalation. When recovery resources are more scarce (multi-sport athletes, during a steep deficit, etc), use of LDS should be thought through strategically before implementation otherwise deleterious repercussions could result.
WHEN TO USE IT?
LDS should be used primarily in phases of moderate-to-high volumes as they can be incredibly effective for increasing total work while being time efficient, provided external variables are controlled. Along the same lines, I’ve found that LDS can be a phenomenal tool to use when attempting to equate volumes under less-than-optimal circumstances (i.e. time crunch, lack of equipment, travel, etc).
Metabolic and conditioning phases are especially applicable for LDS.
WHEN NOT TO USE IT?
LDS are contraindicated in periods where volume is intentionally being depressed and/or recovery is a limiting factor.
Note: LDS can be done with low reps (i.e. initial set of 4-6 -> drop to another 2-3 reps -> etc) but the volume is still additive and thus impactful on systemic and local fatigue.
HOW TO USE IT?
The crucial exercise qualities to evaluate with LDS are transition time between drops, safety, and stability, so pin-loaded machines and cables will be the closest to optimal. Plate-loaded machines and DBs/barbells/specialty bars can also work well, but there will typically be a forced trade off to one of the above mentioned factors. Because of the volume and risk of cardiovascular failure preceding muscular failure, intrinsic stability with the exercises chosen will be very important for the overall efficacy of LDS; make sure the target muscle is the only point of failure if possible and not balance, lung capacity, low back endurance, or weaker ancillary muscles that might be over-stimulated.
As mentioned previously, a ~20-30% load reduction per drop is standard for the volume-additive effects that we’re looking for with LDS as an intensity technique. A smaller load reduction will generally result in too few follow-up reps while a larger load drop will create a lot of “junk reps” (though every exercise, starting load/rep range, and individual will be slightly different).
1)Cable Curls- Initial set to failure with 100lbs for 15 reps, drop to 80lbs for 7 reps, drop to 60lbs for 6 reps
2)Standing DB Laterals- Initial set to failure with 20s for 10 reps, drop to 15s for 5 reps, drop to 12.5s for 5 reps
3)Leg Extensions- Initial set to failure with 200lbs for 8 reps, drop to 150lbs for 4 reps, drop to 120lbs for 4 reps, drop to 90lbs for 5 reps
HOW NOT TO USE IT?
Movements that are limited by cardiovascular fitness, highly axial loading, take too long to reduce weight or transition between sets, and/or have a higher risk for technical breakdown should be avoided with LDS.
Remember, the goal is to create additional volume beyond the initial set so any variations or execution parameters that would be contraindicated with higher-rep sets and volumes will also be contraindicated with LDS.
1)Barbell Squats- Too many dependencies outside of the primary muscle groups (axial loading, cardiovascular fitness, technical breakdowns, takes too long to rack/rerack/change load, etc)
2)Conventional Deadlifts- Mostly the same issues as we see with barbell squats but with even more axial loading and risk of injury
3)Standing Barbell OHP- Too unstable/risky and too many potential failure points outside of the delts
BENEFITS OF THE TECHNIQUE:
-Time-efficient method for increasing volume
-Huge metabolic effect/stress
-Counterintuitively, not as dependent on intensity as some other intensity techniques
-Can be used by all levels of trainees (with slight execution alterations)
-Very easy to track progressions
-Also easy to execute due to the low complexity of the technique
DRAWBACKS OF THE TECHNIQUE:
-Additive volume can negatively impact recovery if abused
-Best utilized with narrow selection of equipment/modalities
-Easy to overuse due to lower demands on intensity generation and greater metabolic accumulation (i.e. people gravitate towards the pump)
-Efficacy is highly dependent on the correct load reductions