Sculpt Your Arms with Drop Sets

Take your upper body to the next level. Ditch your regular straight-set routine and gain sexy arms with drop sets.

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Want arms that command attention? Shelve your regular routine and pick up a drop set program. “Drop sets are a valid and effective training method for women looking to take their bodies to the next level,” says Juliet Deane, CSCS, co-owner of The Training Studio in Morganville, New Jersey. “You push your strength limits as well as really tax the muscle to stimulate lean muscle growth, shaping your physique for a show-ready look.”

Drop sets are simply two or more consecutive sets of an exercise performed with no rest, reducing the amount of weight used with each subsequent set and working to failure. This method pushes your muscles much harder than you would normally when doing a straight set-workout, and that extra effort means a great pair of arms is closer than the nearest Starbucks. “All that stress equals big opportunity for growth during your recovery phase, resulting in those enviable sculpted arms that can be tough for females to achieve,” says Deane.

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Best of all, this technique can be used by anyone at any level. Simply choose an amount of weight appropriate to your ability and use proper form for optimal results. Deane recommends performing drop sets one to two times per week for up to eight weeks at a time. “They are to be used only for intense, extra stimulation,” she says. “If you do them all the time, you risk overtraining and get the opposite effect – breaking down the muscles you want to develop. So use it, don’t abuse it!”

Start your program today and mark it on your calendar: you’ll see stronger, more defined arms in four to six weeks.

Step-by-Step Drop Sets

  • Attach the appropriate handle to the cable machine.
  • To begin with, choose a weight that is challenging but not the absolute heaviest you can move.
  • Do a set at this weight, shooting for as many reps as you can, typically about eight to 10.
  • Decrease the weight you’re using by about 10 to 15 percent, then immediately do another set, trying for as many repetitions as possible.
  • Once more, decrease the weight by 10 to 15 percent and rep it out until you can’t continue with proper form.
  • Beginners should do one drop set per specified exercise. More advanced exercisers should rest one minute, then do one to two more drop sets.

Your Amazing Arms Plan

You’ll begin with a heavy straight set using an EZ bar – skull crushers for your triceps and barbell curls for your biceps – before moving on to your cable machine drop sets. Also remember to warm-up with a light set of 15 to 20 reps of these barbell-based exercises to direct blood to your muscles, which helps prevent injury and stimulates muscle growth. If either your biceps or triceps need help growing, work that part first in your routine when you’re fresh and ready to go.

The Cable Connection

You may have noticed that the drop sets in this workout are done at the cable machine and not with free weights. Don’t fret — there is a method to the madness! Imagine that you’re in a crowded gym and all the benches, barbells and dumbbell racks are stacked with people. It’s going to be difficult to wrangle (and then guard!) three sets of free weights during peak hours. Since cable machines use a weight stack, they’re easily manipulated to increase or decrease resistance without having to hoard a bunch of equipment. That means you can focus on maximizing your efforts without distraction.

Ready to get started? Check out our Sculpt Your Arms With Drop Sets workout.