Dropping your weights when finished with a set can be dangerous. I don’t think I need to point that out, really. But dropping weights during a set can be equally as dangerous, and it’s something a lot of people don’t think about.
I’m not talking about letting go of the weights, though. What I mean by dropping is completely deactivating the working muscles and allowing gravity to take over while performing the eccentric contraction of an exercise (aka the lowering phase). This can can happen with bodyweight exercises just as easily as with weights and machines, and it’s never a great practice.
Lowering the weight, on the other hand, requires that you maintain control of the weight throughout the entire range of motion. While you can vary the speed used to raise and lower the resistance, you never lose control and your working muscles never turn off completely.
Why is Dropping Bad?
Risk of Injury
As we’ve discussed, muscles don’t really like surprises. Any loss of control forces you to act quickly in order to regain it, which can lead to pulling or straining muscles.
In addition to the lack of control, dropping weights also carries with it more force than lowering them. To illustrate this, imagine being punched versus being pushed: both can be accomplished with the same amount of force, but the sudden impact of the punch (dropping) is going to cause more damage than the slow impact of the push (lowering).
Formation of Poor Habits
It’s very easy to brush off relatively light weights as too light to cause any damage, but the danger really lies in the habit you’re forming. Movement patterns are grooved whether we’re focusing on them or not, so forming the habit of dropping small weights can very easily bleed over into doing the same with the heavier ones.
Loss of Dem Gainz
Eccentric work can be very effective at building both strength and muscle. So when you skip this portion of the exercise, you’re really only getting half the benefits!
Learning to Lower
Learning what it feels like to lower versus dropping weights is easy: slow down! It won’t always equate to going slowly, but increasing your ability to control the weight through the entire range of motion will only help you in the long run.
This might require you to decrease the weight, too, and that’s OK! You can still get a great workout, with the added benefit of honing your movement skills to better serve you in the future.
So slow down, decrease the weight, and really focus on controlling the weight on the way down.
You’ll be glad you did!