A few weeks back, I mentioned drop sets in my Instagram stories, which prompted me to ask y’all if you’d be interested in a whole blog post dedicated to them. But here’s the catch…unbeknownst to me at the time, I, um, don’t actually know how to use Instagram’s poll feature. *Deep sigh* I mean, I know how to initially ask the question, but that whole checking the results thing? Yeah, no idea.
So, with that being said, here’s hoping y’all voted in support of this content (lol) because honestly I have no idea. But, as the mission of Meal Prepping In Heels is twofold—to both inspire and inform—here we go.
First things first, if you aren’t already incorporating some type of weight training into your weekly workout schedule, it’s time to start. Yes, cardio is great and all when it comes to burning calories, building endurance, and supporting your cardiovascular health, but it is only going to get you so far. If you want to see real physical changes to your body—i.e., tone—you need to be specifically targeting your muscles. It’s common sense if you think about it: weight training builds lean muscle mass. Building muscle mass means your muscles are growing larger and more compact. Muscles that are larger and more compact “pop” by showing size and definition. Combine that with clean, healthy eating habits and a few calorie-torching cardio sessions per week and you have the recipe to success, my friends. Believe me when I say it was not until I began scheduling in gym days each week specifically dedicated to working certain muscle groups, known officially as “split training,” that I saw the results I was looking for. Oh, and I’m only going to say this one time: toss any concern of “bulking up” to the side. There are multiple other components required physiologically, nutritionally, etc. to put on “bulk” muscle. It’s simply not going to happen, so pick up those weights, girl!
Now on to the star of the show. What’s amazing about drop sets is that they are an equally useful tool for those who are just starting out in the weight world and those who’ve been deep in it for a minute, as the benefits are manifold. It is a great way to introduce heavier weight, boost the overall effectiveness of your workout, and produce better results in a shorter amount of time.
The basic premise of a drop set is just as it sounds: begin your reps using a heavy, challenging weight; then, when you experience muscle fatigue that causes your form to suffer (think one or two reps shy), drop down to a lighter weight and complete your reps to failure.
By moving between the two “weight classes,” you actually employ two separate muscle fiber groups. To simplify, we will label your larger, “strength” fibers Muscle Fiber Group A and your smaller, “endurance” fibers, Muscle Fiber Group B. When you do a straight set—either less reps with heavier weights or more reps with lighter weights—you’re only targeting one muscle fiber group; in this case A and B, respectively. However, by starting heavy and working to failure, you initially target Group A. Then, by switching weight to get in more reps before reaching failure again, you tap into Group B. Doing so allows you to push your muscles past the point where they would usually “give out,” thereby causing fatigue to both muscle fiber groups and increasing the metabolic stress placed on your muscles.
If that term “metabolic stress” sounds familiar, it’s because I touched upon it in my HIIT blog post from earlier this summer (you can check that out here). Yup, drop sets are another form of “high-intensity interval training,” which means you’re also going to get that awesome EPOC, or “after burn” effect, where your body continues to burn calories even after your workout has finished. Crushing calories and building muscle at the same time? Sign my ass uuuupppp.
One quick note on drop sets before I go…just like the effectiveness of your cardio HIIT workout is driven by the intensity of your effort during each interval, the effectiveness of your drop sets is driven by the exertion you place on your muscles. So you’ve got to put in work, mkay? When I say push it to fatigue, push it. With that being said, just remember that you’re lifting heavier and working your muscles to exhaustion, so your risk for injury is elevated. I can’t stress how important it is to always focus on moving through your reps with control and proper form to avoid getting hurt.
I know I’ve thrown a lot of information at you, so please do not hesitate to reach out to me via DM or leave a comment down below if you have any questions or would like more clarification on anything! Thanks so much for reading and happy lifting!