June 17, 2012

How You Can Use A Technique Popularized By Japanese Researchers To Maximize Your Results


Japanese drop-sets, or back-off sets, refer to performing one final set of 25 reps at either the end of your workout, or as the last set of an exercise performed after the primary sets have been completed. Japanese literature suggests that this last set has a very positive growth hormone response, increases blood flow to the muscle, therefore bringing in more nutrients, which increases amino acid and glycogen uptake, and as a result leads to greater gains in muscular endurance (anaerobic lactic capacity), and strength.

Japanese drop-sets can be used as a very effective plateau busting technique for those training for hypertrophy, as they knock off the lower threshold motor units after you’ve completed your high quality heavy work, and further deplete glycogen storage.


Here’s an example of a Japanese drop-set:

Exercise A – 4-5 sets, 4-6 reps

Exercise B (same exercise as exercise A) – 1 set, 25 reps

As you can see, there’s really not much to the Japanese drop-sets, and they can easily be added to anyone’s current routine.


For those who really want a challenge, and truly enjoy punishing themselves (or their clients!) you can modify the Japanese drop-set by turning it into an actual drop-set.

For example, traditionally you are performing the Japanese drop-set as 25 consecutive reps. A weight that you can get 25 reps with when you’re fresh at the beginning of a workout is roughly about 60% of your 1 rep max (1RM), and that’s if you performed it before all of the high intensity work, which therefore means that the weight used it isn’t really a sufficient amount, if you think about it.

But, if you were to start the set with the same amount of weight that you were working with for your primary sets, as in your momentary 4-6 rep max, and reduced the weight by a small percentage each time (5-15% depending on the fiber type, as well as your goal) and attempted to perform as many reps as possible (or AMRAP for short), you could get a much greater result (or just end up in the hospital).

Here is an example of a Japanese drop-set with the intent to cripple yourself (or a client):

Exercise A – 4-5 sets, 4-6 reps

Exercise B (same exercise as exercise A) – 1 set, 4-6 reps, reduce weight by 5-15% and perform AMRAP, reduce the weight by another 5-15% and perform AMRAP, and continue until you get to 25 total reps!

The percentage to which you reduce the weight each time is based on the amount of reps you complete, as well as the muscles fiber type. Slow twitch dominant muscles/individuals can get away with smaller drops (5%) each time and still bang out a decent amount of reps, where as fast twitch dominant muscles/individuals would need to reduce the weight by greater percentages (up to 15%) each time to get the same amount of reps. If you only reduce the weight by roughly 5% for fast twitch dominant muscles, it may take SEVERAL drops to complete 25 total reps that make up a Japanese drop-set, and you’ll probably end up killing yourself (or client) in the process!


It’s not completely necessary to get exactly 25 reps during a Japanese drop-set. The purpose is to simply promote a positive growth response. A general rule is that the weight should be dropped by 50-60% while aiming for 10-12 more reps than you performed during your working set(s).

If your heavy sets consisted of more than 8 reps, performing a Japanese drop-set becomes unnecessary and redundant, since performing 8 or more reps will have accomplished the purpose of the Japanese drop-set anyway.

The amount of weight you’re using for your working sets should dictate how much of a reduction you should make for the Japanese drop-set. Dropping the weight so that you can get 25 total reps may mean you have to use a load that is counterproductive to your strength goal (assuming strength is the goal if using a Japanese drop-set). Therefore, there are some parameters to adhere to for the greatest effect.

If you were using:

90-100% (1-4 RM) for your working sets, you should use 60-70% for the Japanese drop-set and aim for at least 10-15 reps

80-90% (5-8 RM) for your working sets, you should use 50-60% for the Japanese drop-set and aim for at least 15-20 reps

Should you reduce to 40-50% of 1RM, then you can expect to get 20-25 reps, otherwise, as stated above, it’s not completely necessary.

If you have any questions about Japanese drop-sets, and how to implement them into a training program, feel free to contact me at ben@paramounttraining.ca. I'm available for online consulting and personalized program design, as well as one on one training if you are located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).


  1. how much time between your amrep sets? drop weight and continue or take 45s-1min rest?

  2. Good question,

    Since the goal is to accumulate as much metabolic fatigue as possible, the rest should be as minimal as possible to maximize the training effect. With that being said, since you are performing maximal efforts each time, it's likely that racking the weight, reducing it to the appropriate amount, getting back into position, and performing AMRAP could take up to 45 seconds (especially since you will probably feel like you are performing interval sprints).

    So I'd say rest as minimal as possible, but that could be an entirely different amount of time based on the individual, their level of fitness, and also the exercise they are performing. For example, squats, and deadlifts would likely take longer to get in and out of position for then presses.

  3. Thanks Ben for sharing this great post, good health and great body can only be achieved by hard workouts. Burning calories slowly increases the stamina of body. When you reach at a certain point, you'll feel that you've much power to consume for whole day. Many trainers use different techniques to benefit their clients. I believe it doesn't matter which technique you are using, what matters is how better you are getting after doing the workouts.