By: Steve Holman
Q: Have you heard of FST-7 training, and if so, what’s your opinion of it? It has to do with stretching the muscle fascia from the inside with seven sets of a big-pump exercise at the end of a bodypart workout.
A: The idea of stretching the muscle fascia, the fibrous encasements that surround muscle fibers, has been around for a while. The original method had you use a rigorous, painful stretching regimen after you trained a bodypart. For example, after working hamstrings, you’d sit on the floor, legs straight and together, and your trainer would force your torso forward to fully elongate the hamstrings—it brought tears to the eyes.
Fascia stretching makes sense because the encasements are made of tight tissue that can constrict the muscle and restrict growth. Stretching those sheaths gives the fibers more room to grow. It’s comparable to stretching a balloon before you blow it up; the prestretching enables you to fill the balloon with air much more easily, without collapsing a lung or forcing your eyes to pop out of their sockets.
FST-7 was created by trainer Hany Rambod. In it, you end your bodypart workouts with seven additional sets of eight to 10 reps of a continuous-tension isolation exercise, like pec deck flyes or cable crossovers, taking 30 seconds of rest between sets. Those seven finishing sets engorge the target muscle and, theoretically, stretch the fascia from the inside.
It’s a great idea if you have the time and recovery ability to handle that many more sets in a workout. If not, you’ll get better results by simply going back to a stretch-position exercise, such as dumbbell flyes for chest, after a full Positions-of-Flexion workout.
The additional stretch set or sets, if you do more than one, is an incredible anabolic accelerator after a full Positions-of-Flexion bodypart workout. The target muscle should be pumped to the max from any standard POF routine. That’s because you train it through a full range of motion—two sets each in the midrange, stretch and contracted positions—maximizing fiber activation. Full-range stimulation is a key method of achieving maximum muscle engorgement with minimal sets.
For example, for lats you’d do chins or pulldowns (midrange), dumbbell pullovers (stretch) and stiff-arm pulldowns (contracted) and then go back to pullovers and hold the stretch position for 45 to 60 seconds. In other words, after you “POF” a bodypart, you simply return to the stretch exercise, in this case pullovers, and hold the full-stretch position.
There’s another way that’s even more efficient. In fact, Jonathan Lawson, my training partner, and I found it so effective that we included it in the latest X-Rep program in our latest e-book, X-Rep Update #1. Basically, you superset the contracted-position exercise, like stiff-arm pulldowns, with the stretch-position move, like dumbbell pullovers, in a standard POF program.
You can do higher reps—15 to 20—on the first exercise if you’re training a hard-to-pump bodypart, then you immediately do the stretch exercise. You can do standard reps on the second exercise, which will loosen the fascia effectively each time you elongate the engorged target muscle. Or you can use the StatS technique, a 50-second static-hold stretch, and short pulses can help amplify the effect. (Bonus: Remember the animal study that got a 300 percent muscle mass increase in one month using progressive stretch overload? The researchers used a technique similar to StatS, as explained in Chapter 4 of the e-book X-Rep Update #1.)
So, while FST-7—getting a big pump with a lot of sets at the end of a bodypart workout—is good for stretching the fascia, we prefer one of the two more efficient recovery-oriented methods:
- Simply use a full POF bodypart workout for a big pump, then add one or two static stretch-hold sets (StatS) to elongate the fully engorged target muscle for about 50 seconds.
- Superset the contracted-position exercise with the stretch-position move within the POF bodypart workout, which is even more efficient than the first method. You can use StatS on one set of the stretch exercise.
If you train in a crowded gym and supersetting is impossible, you’ll have to use option 1 most of the time. You’ll feel either method working. Stretch overload is a mass accelerator on a number of levels, including fascia expansion.
The key is to combine a full pump with a complete stretch. That will eventually create an anticonstricting effect and unleash new muscle growth. Yes, it hurts, but it works—and it may be just what you need to achieve your next level of extreme muscle size.
Copyright ©2015 Iron Man Magazine (virtually reprinted with permission)