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Mechanical Drop Sets: Programming Ideas

Mechanical Drop Sets: Programming Ideas

By Sarah Rippel

Author of “Home Program Design Mastery,” “The Ultimate Group Training System,” “Build ‘N Burn 2.0,” & “Build ‘N Burn


A mechanical drop set does not involve “drops” in loading but instead, changes to positions that decrease the “loading” on the body. 


If you missed my first article in this series, go back and give it a read!


Because mechanical drop sets rely on loading position & stance/set-up tweaks, you do not have to amass a small pile of dumbbells or plates as you would with a traditional drop set. Instead, you must plan ahead and know your abilities when working them into a program. 


Mechanical Drop Set Strategies


As I mentioned in part one of this series, you have a few options with regard to how you strategize the “drops” within a workout. For simplicity’s sake, let’s use a mechanical drop set pairing that consists of variation A (difficult but doable) followed immediately by variation B (less difficult)! Variation A is one where you know you can perform five reps max.


The first option is pretty straightforward. You can strive to eke out up to five reps on variation A and then go to technical failure on variation B. By technical failure I mean to the point where you could do 1-2 more reps, but they would be pretty ugly. To be clear, this applies to both variations in this drop set! Basically, if you stop when you begin to notice your form is slipping or you are wanting to cheat the movement, you’re doing it right!


Mechanical Drop Set Strategy 1:

Variation A = Up to a known “max” 

Variation B = Technical failure

*There should be as little rest as possible between variations A & B!


Depending on the difficulty of the chosen exercises, as well as the loading, this strategy could result in some soreness and possibly a ton of reps (if you don’t use sufficient loading or choose variations that are too easy for your level of ability)! In other words, plan accordingly!


Option two is to have a rep goal for the drop set. If you set that rep goal at 10, then knocked out four reps of variation A, you would then aim for six reps of variation B. The rep goal could stay the same across all mechanical drop set rounds, or you could decrease it to account for fatigue (ie: 10 reps for the first round, 9 reps for the second, and 8 reps for the third). 


Mechanical Drop Set Strategy 2:

Variation A + Variation B = X reps


Additionally, a rep goal could be a range, not a set number. So instead of aiming for a goal of 10 reps, you could aim for 8-10 and achieve this across all rounds or decrease it slightly to account for fatigue. 


Plugging Mechanical Drop Sets into a Program


Here’s a sample 3-week program that uses mechanical drop sets & does so in a progressive manner that accommodates all levels. I have provided my preferred variations but as I always say in the programs and resources I publish, you may have other exercises you would like to use instead, so feel free to modify!


What matters most is that there is not only a logical progression within a program itself, but also the mechanical drop sets we are focusing on here. The mechanical drop sets should be set up in a manner that enables everyone to achieve the desired stimulus as the drop sets move from a “harder” variation to one of less intensity. In addition, the programming for the mechanical drop sets should progress across the weeks.


Thanks for taking the time to read this article and check out the sample program!

You can download spreadsheet here: sample 3-week program that uses mechanical drop sets




Sarah Rippel Just Launched: Brand NEW Home Program Design Mastery for Fit Pros: Done for You Program,Templates and More!

Check out some other top level programming and Done for You products by Sarah Rippel :

The Ultimate Small Group Training System”  The most Comprehensive Guide to Semi-Private and Small Group Training for Fit Pros.

Build N’ Burn  – Done For YOU 16 Wk Metabolic Group Training Program for Fit Pros

AND The NEW Done-for-You Build N Burn 2.0 for Fit Pros



Other articles by Sarah Rippel:

KISS Principle for Group Training+(3x3x3 Circuit Workout)

Deceptively Devious Conditioning Circuit

The Smart Program Design Series: Incorporating Variety & Making Progression Seamless Part 5 – Selecting Exercises for Conditioning Work

SGT Workout Breakdown- Program 4  Part 1

The Conditioning Based Warm-Up: 10 Minute EMOM

SGT Workout Breakdown Program 4 – Part 2

Metabolic Circuit Revamp V1.0

Unconventional Cardio: Strongman Conditioning Circuits

Density Training for Metabolic Conditioning & Strength Work

Using Cluster Sets To Spice Up Strength Programming

4 Wall Ball Conditioning Workouts+4 Tips to Improve Wall Ball Technique(Videos)

Using a Tempo Focus with Build ‘N Burn Workouts

Speed Ladder + Static Core Continuous 30-Second Circuit Version 2.0

The Continuous 20-Second Interval Format (“BURN” Circuits w/ Videos ) 

Alternating EMOMs for Small Group Training

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