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Drop Set Countdown

Maximize muscle mass while whittling away body fat in just four weeks with this drop set-centric program.

Drop Set Countdown

Drop Set Countdown Program Snapshot

  • Length: 4 weeks
  • Workouts per Week: 5
  • Training Split: 5-day split, with optional 4-day split
  • Equipment: Commercial gym or sufficiently-equipped home gym
  • Featured Techniques: 10-to-1 drop set technique; reduce weight upon reaching failure and resume reps, counting down from 10 reps to 1 for more intensity, volume, and impact.
  • Rep Ranges: 10-to-1 countdown totals 55 reps per exercise.
  • Rest Periods: 2-3 minutes of rest between exercises; no rest taken except to reduce weight during 10-to-1 drop sets.
  • Cardio: Optional; HIIT cardio between muscle groups or at the end of the workout. 
  • Meal Plan: Dieting 101 for fat loss or Muscle Building Nutrition Rules for muscle gain.
  • Summary: Drop Set Countdown is an ideal program if your primary goal is to build mass in all muscle groups. Its combination of volume and intensity can also promote fat loss for leaner gains. The 5-day split means you’re training each muscle group only once per week. Workouts involve high volume training—3-5 exercises per workout for large muscle groups—followed by a full week of recovery for the trained muscle group.
  • Note: If you’re a beginner or just getting back to the gym after an extended time away (months or years), this program will likely be too intense/advanced for you. If you’re a beginner, consider my Beginner to Advanced Program before taking on Drop Set Countdown. 

I’m dropping the hammer on your muscles with drop sets – an intensity-boosting technique that I’ve used on myself and others for decades to produce stellar results in both muscle size and fat-burning. I call this four-week training program Drop Set Countdown, as you’ll be counting down the reps from 10 to 1 on every exercise as a means of packing on significantly more lean, shredded muscle mass.

If you’ve followed at least a few of my programs, you know I frequently add drop sets to boost training intensity and allow you to train past muscle failure. This leads to greater muscle fatigue, which is a form of overload that instigates muscle growth. I typically employ drop sets on only the last set of an exercise so that your muscles are fresh and rested on earlier sets to maximize strength and workload before going all out to failure and beyond to finish off the exercise. But this isn’t your typical program; I’ve changed things up a bit.

My Drop Set Countdown program uses drop sets constantly and exclusively throughout each workout to maximize fatigue on every major muscle group. This works great for short periods of time to break through training plateaus and push muscle growth or simply as a way to mix up your training if you’re looking for a change.

Defining the Drop 

A standard drop set entails taking a set to muscle failure, then immediately reducing the weight by around 20%-30% and continuing to do more reps until you hit muscle failure again. For a given exercise, you’d typically do 1-3 drop sets, depending on how far you want to push yourself.

For my Drop Set Countdown workouts, I tweaked this format rather dramatically. Here’s what you’ll do for each exercise: Start with a weight that allows you to complete 10 reps. Once you reach muscle failure, immediately reduce the weight enough to allow you to complete nine reps. Once you reach failure at nine reps, immediately reduce the weight enough to allow you to complete eight reps. Continue in this manner, dropping enough weight to do seven reps on the next drop set, then six, then five, then four, then three, then two and, finally, one rep. In essence, you’ll have done 10 sets for one exercise as one grueling, non-stop drop set.

Picking the right weights might take a little bit of trial and error on your part. If you can't hit the prescribed reps on a certain drop set (meaning, you went a little too heavy), no problem – just rest-pause until you hit the reps. If you went too light, just keep going until you hit failure, regardless of how many reps you do (even if more than the prescribed number). And course, keep this all in mind on future drop sets, as you may need to lighten or increase the weight to better hit the prescribed rep counts.

Most people will find that at somewhere around five or six reps they don’t need to drop weight to hit the next lower rep count; the brief rest period you get from putting the weight down and picking it back up again is enough to complete one fewer rep on the next set. You may even find that when you get down to one or two reps, you’ll need to increase weight to make sure it’s challenging enough. If you don’t add weight for the last drop set and find that you can do more than one rep, keep going until you reach muscle failure. If you did the Drop Set Countdown properly, it won’t be more than two or three reps, tops.

Once you’ve completed all drop sets for a given exercise, you’ll move on to the next one. Most large muscle groups will involve three exercises per workout. Make sure to rest about

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