Drop-Set Training Elicits Differential Increases in Non-Uniform Hypertrophy of the Quadriceps in Leg Extension Exercise

Sports (Basel). 2021 Aug 29;9(9):119. doi: 10.3390/sports9090119.


The study aimed to compare the effects of drop set resistance training (RT) versus traditional RT on markers of maximal muscle strength and regional hypertrophy of the quadriceps femoris. Sixteen recreationally active young men had one leg randomly assigned to the drop-set method (DS) and the other to training in a traditional manner (TRAD). Participants performed unilateral seated leg extensions using a periodized approach for eight weeks. Rectus femoris (RF) and vastus lateralis (VL) muscle thickness (MT), estimated one repetition maximum (RM) in the unilateral knee extension, and peak and average isokinetic knee extension torque at 60°/s angular velocity were measured pre- and post-study. Both conditions increased muscle thickness of the RF and VL from pre- to post-intervention. DS showed statistically greater increases in the RF at 30% and 50% of muscle length, whereas no MT differences were detected at 70% muscle length nor at any aspect of the VL. Both DS and TRAD increased estimated one RM from pre- to post-study (+34.6% versus +32.0%, respectively) with no between-condition differences noted. Both conditions showed similar increases in peak torque (DS: +21.7%; TRAD: +22.5%) and average torque (DS: +23.6%; TRAD: +22.5%) from pre- to post-study. Our findings indicate a potential benefit of the drop-set method for inducing non-uniform hypertrophic gains in the RF muscle pursuant to leg extension training. The strategy did not promote an advantage in improving hypertrophy of the VL, nor in strength-related measures, compared to traditional training.

Keywords: muscle adaptation; muscle growth; resistance training; training methods; training volume.