Blast Through Plateaus with Drop Sets

by Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS

While these may not be a drop set in a traditional sense, Josh has used the Lightening Method with his lifters to blast through strength plateaus. The key premise of the Lightening Method is to use it to enhance rate of force development (RFD). Lightening Method drop sets are typically performed from with the deadlift and done in doubles with a load that is approximately 40-50% of the lifter’s one rep max. Chains are added to the bar, providing an additional 10-20% of the load. Alternatively, smaller plates, such as 25s and 35s can be used. The first rep is pulled with the chains or smaller plates on the bar. Immediately after the bar is placed on the floor, two people on each side of the barbell quickly pull the smaller plates off the sleeves or yank the chains off the end. A second deadlift will be performed and will likely be one of the most explosive pulls you’ve ever had.


Programming Considerations


–          Drop sets of any variety take a toll on the Central Nervous System and should be used sparingly. Think of drop sets as the enormous fullback who comes out only in goal line packages to punch the ball in the end zone. Like the hulking fullback in our example, they will lose their effectiveness if used too often.

–          Drop sets should not involve Olympic lifts or circa maximal lifts.

–          Drop sets should not take the place of max effort work.

–          Drop sets involving barbells shouldn’t be taken to absolute failure to reduce injury.

–          Before you start your drop set, set ballpark goals regarding the number of reps you want to hit on each set.

–          Drop sets involving isolation exercises can be used more frequently as comparatively smaller loads are handled.

–          With the exception of the Lightening Method, drop sets should not be performed with dynamic effort work.




  1. Eichmann B, Giebing J. Effects of ten weeks of either multiple-set training or single-set training on strength and muscle mass. Br J Sports Med. 2013;47(10):e3.