Last updated on October 30th, 2022 at 12:26 pm
So, you want to know, “Should I Drop Set Bench Press?”
We’ve all experienced that worrying time when your bench press progression comes to a grinding halt.
Basically, you’ve been benching for a while now, and you look to regularly add weight to the bar.
However, you seem to be stuck at a certain weight, and no matter how hard you try, you’re simply unable to lift anymore weight.
So, you’ve hit a bench press plateau and you want to know how to get out of it.
One option, which is also known as a fantastic muscle-builder, is to use drop sets.
But, are drop sets something you should try with bench press?
Or should this be avoided altogether.
Allow me to reveal all.
Should I Drop Set Bench Press?
The bench press is a great exercise to use drop sets for. However, you should do your drop sets in the power rack, and preferably with a spotter. This is simply because you are likely to reach technical and muscular failure at some point, so the last thing you want is to drop the bar on yourself. Some of the best bench press drop sets include classic strip, descending reps, and zero rest.
Is Drop Set Bench Press Good?
There are certain exercises that work really well with drop sets, and I would definitely include bench press as one.
In reality, you can actually perform drop sets with just about every exercise, although there are certain factors to take into consideration.
Firstly, you have to remember that drop sets typically involve performing a set of an exercise to near failure.
And then, you continue performing reps, either with lighter weights, fewer reps, and often without any rest between sets.
So, it’s important to realise that you’re going to be very close to technical failure or muscular failure at the end of your drop set.
Therefore, you would typically want to avoid drop sets for an exercise that requires a lot of technical ability, e.g. power cleans, snatches, etc.
Furthermore, you should be wary of your joints, but I would say that you should definitely avoid drop sets of exercises which may affect your lower back.
So, as an example, performing barbell back squats and deadlifts with drop sets would be a definite no-no in my book (although I have definitely done drop sets with front squats).
Basically, there’s too much that can go wrong, plus once you approach technical failure, you could end up putting a huge amount of stress on your lower back.
In fact, this could also extend to your hips, knees, and ankles with both exercises.
Granted, I’m sure there are people out there who regularly perform drop sets with squats and deadlifts, but personally, it’s something I would prefer to avoid.
The Downside of Bench Press Drop Sets
That being said, I guess there is the potential for injury with any exercise, as you approach technical or muscular failure.
But, this is especially true with an exercise when you can’t simply drop the bar and “escape”.
I would actually class bench press as one of these exercises, as once your muscles are done, there is the potential to drop the barbell on yourself.
That being said, I still consider bench press to be a great exercise to perform drop sets with, you simply have to be sensible about this.
Therefore, when performing drop sets on bench press, I would first ensure that you’re using the power rack.
Then, you’ll want to retract your shoulder blades and dig them into the bench, thus helping your chest to rise.
You should always perform bench press with retracted shoulder blades anyway, as this provides a stable base and protection for the shoulder joint.
And, as I say, it literally pushes your chest out higher.
This not only reduces the range of motion, which is ideal when you’re looking to lift as heavy as possible, but it also provides additional safety.
The aim is that your chest is actually protruding slightly above the power rack.
This in turn means that if ever you fail a bench press, you can lay your back flat on the bench, which will lower your chest, thus allowing to “escape” from the power rack.
Finally, even if you’re using a power rack, I would also suggest you use a spotter when benching for drop sets.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times now, you are likely to reach technical and muscular failure, so you need this extra “help” for safety purposes.
Different Types of Bench Press Drop Sets
Okay, so we’ve established that it’s absolutely fine to use drop sets on bench press.
This, of course, means that you’ll need to take safety precautions, as the last thing you want to do is drop the bar on yourself.
Plus, don’t forget that drop sets will take you closer to technical and muscular failure than many other training protocols.
That being said, there is more than one way to perform drop sets, so I’d like to introduce you to my 3 favourite methods.
This is the classic way to perform drop sets on the bench press.
After you’re thoroughly warmed up, set up the bench press with a decent load, one that you know will provide good intensity for you.
There’s no particular rep scheme you should aim for, as you are basically going to be lifting to near failure with each set and subsequent drop set.
That being said, I would generally load the bar up with a weight that I know I can bench for 8-10 reps.
As soon as you find your form starting to waiver, STOP.
You typically want to “strip” approximately 15-20% of the load with each drop set.
Depending on your starting point, and the amount of weight you can bench, this could simply mean removing a couple of 45lbs plates for each drop set.
However, as I say, this will depend on your own abilities.
You’ll want to catch your breath as you’re removing weights, but this shouldn’t be a “proper” rest period.
In fact, you’re typically looking at no more than 15-20 seconds “rest”.
Then with whatever weight is left on the barbell you should keep benching until you feel you’ve reached technical failure, i.e your form is no longer absolutely on-point.
When it comes to strip sets I would typically aim for 4-5 sets in total, including the very first “full-weight” set.
The clue is in the name, and this version of bench press drop sets involves performing fewer reps with each subsequent drop set.
However, unlike strip sets, you won’t be removing a huge amount of weight with each set.
In fact, your aim is to reduce the weight in tiny increments.
Therefore, it may be advisable to load the barbell with a weight that you can bench press say 15 times.
You will then want to add a number of smaller weight plates to each side of the bar, e.g. 2.5lbs, 1.25lbs.
Finally, you pick a very specific rep scheme for each drop set.
A great way to do this is to perform reps of 10, 8, 6, 4, 2.
So, clearly performing 10 reps with your 15-rep max should be a breeze.
However, the simple fact that you’re only getting 15-20 seconds “rest” as you remove the weight plates and catch your breath, will soon catch up with you.
Therefore, your 8 reps at a slightly reduced weight is likely to feel much harder.
The next set of 6 is going to feel even tougher.
Basically, you end up performing 30 reps in a short space of time, with minimal rest, and with a decent weight on the bar for every set.
This will be fantastic for stimulating muscle growth.
No Rest Drop Sets
The final type of bench press drop set I like to perform, which again should be obvious by the name, is no rest drop sets.
For this, you will definitely require a spotter, perhaps even two, as your back will remain firmly planted to the bench throughout.
In other words, you’ll perform a set, your spotter will remove some weight, you perform a drop set, your spotter removes more weight, you perform a drop set, and so on.
Now, when it comes to no rest drop sets, although you have the definite luxury of a spotter, I would use slightly lighter weights than the other types of drop sets.
Basically, with the other drops sets you are getting some rest, even if it is only 15-20 seconds.
You are also getting up from the bench, which allows your muscles to fully relax and rest.
However, when it comes to no rest drops sets, you won’t be able to do this.
Therefore, you’re likely to reach technical and muscular fatigue much sooner.
So, play it safe, and reduce the load slightly on the bar when compared to the other types of drop set.
Massive Drop Set on Bench Press
So, as you can see, it’s perfectly fine to use drop sets on bench press.
Admittedly, you are in a fairly precarious position, especially as you’re much more likely to hit technical and muscular failure with drops sets.
Therefore, you should always perform your drop sets for bench press in the power rack or with a spotter, preferably both.
Furthermore, you actually have a wide variety of drop sets you can use.
Some of my personal favourites include strip sets, descending reps, and no rest drops sets.
All of which are a fantastic way to power you through a bench press plateau.
You can also break a plateau by simply using a completely different training protocol. So, rather than training for hypertrophy, train for strength. You can learn more about this as I discuss the pros and cons of using 3×3 for bench press.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.