Effects of Drop Sets on Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Sports Med Open. 2023 Jul 31;9(1):66. doi: 10.1186/s40798-023-00620-5.


Background: One of the most popular time-efficient training methods when training for muscle hypertrophy is drop sets, which is performed by taking sets to concentric muscle failure at a given load, then making a drop by reducing the load and immediately taking the next set to concentric or voluntary muscle failure. The purpose of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to compare the effects of drop sets over traditional sets on skeletal muscle hypertrophy.

Methods: This systematic review followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. The SPORTDiscus and MEDLINE/PubMed databases were searched on April 9, 2022, for all studies investigating the effects of the drop set training method on muscle hypertrophy that meets the predefined inclusion criteria. Comprehensive Meta-Analysis Version 3 (Biostat Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, USA) was used to run the statistical analysis. Publication bias was assessed through visual inspection of the funnel plots for asymmetry and statistically by Egger's regression test with an alpha level of 0.10.

Results: Six studies met the predefined inclusion criteria. The number of participants in the studies was 142 (28 women and 114 men) with an age range of 19.2-27 years. The average sample size was 23.6 ± 10.9 (range 9-41). Five studies were included in the quantitative synthesis. Meta-analysis showed that both the drop set and traditional training groups increased significantly from pre- to post-test regarding muscle hypertrophy (drop set standardized mean difference: 0.555, 95% CI 0.357-0.921, p < 0.0001; traditional set standardized mean difference: 0.437, 95% CI 0.266-0.608, p < 0.0001). No significant between-group difference was found (standardized mean difference: 0.155, 95% CI - 0.199 to - 0.509, p = 0.392).

Conclusions: The results of this systematic review and meta-analysis indicate that drop sets present an efficient strategy for maximizing hypertrophy in those with limited time for training. There was no significant difference in hypertrophy measurements between the drop set and traditional training groups, but some of the drop set modalities took half to one-third of the time compared with traditional training.

Keywords: Breakdown sets; Descending sets; Resistance; Strength training; Training volume.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review