FST-7 is a training program designed by a name you may have heard of if you follow the body building and fitness community closely, that name is Hany Rambod. Hany is the coach to the current and three Mr. Olympia and favourite to regain his title this year, Phil ‘the gift’ Heath. Hany also coaches many other male and female fitness and bodybuilding athletes that have graced, and won, on some of the biggest stages on the bodybuilding circuit. His training program, FST-7, stands for Fascial Stretch Training and the 7 relates to the number of sets performed for the final exercise of the body part in question. This programs foundation is similar to the classic body part split but with smaller body parts such as biceps, triceps and calves being targeted twice a week and included with other bigger muscle groups for one session. For example a seven day split may look like this: Monday= Legs, Tuesday: Biceps, triceps and calves, Wednesday=Off, Thursday=Chest and Triceps, Friday=Back and biceps, Saturday=Shoulders and calves, Sunday=Rest. The typical number of exercises performed per body part would be 3 or 4 exercise, with the first few sets in the classical bodybuilding, tried and tested muscle building range of 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions. Many studies across several populations have shown that training within these repetition ranges and set numbers, targets muscle growth specifically over other training adaptions, stimulating muscle protein synthesis, and targeting both myofibrillar (contractile structures) and sarcoplasmic (storage units of muscle) hypertrophy. If you don’t know what these are do not worry, more in depth descriptions of these can be found in our other article ‘Basics of muscle building’ available right here on the CSN blog.
What's special about this workout?
It is in the final exercise of each body part where things get interesting. This final set really ramps up the volume and the intensity with 7 sets of 8-12 but with only 30-45 seconds rest between sets. This is really going to push blood into the muscle giving you that sometimes elusive pump, with the potential for transporting blood and other nutrients, such as glucose (the main energy source for muscle contraction) and amino acids (the building blocks of muscle) and systemic anabolic hormones (such as growth hormone, IGF-1 and testosterone) into the muscle and to ‘pool’ in there, in theory supporting a more anabolic environment for muscles to grow. For this reason the final movement is suggested to be an isolation movement to really target forcing as much blood into the muscle of interest as possible, and also under fatigue these are generally easier to control, using machines or cables, so as to reduce injury risk. This also has the added bonus of making the inevitable decrease in weight between each set easier than using dumbbells or barbells, meaning you can concentrate on recovering between sets, not trying to find where the 10’s are!
What does FST-7 mean?
The Fascial stretching element of the title is based on the principle that stretching the muscle fascia. Muscle fasciae are a series of connective tissues that surround muscles and groups of muscle which has been proposed to be a limiting factor on muscle growth. The 7 sets with minimal rest is attempting through increasing the volume and decreasing recovery, to rally force blood into muscles. This increase in blood is proposed to have a corresponding increase in pressure on fasciae causing them to stretch, allowing them to increase in size and in turn allowing your muscles more room to grow. However this theory is yet to be supported by scientific evidence. Other training programs such as DC style training, which we have also reviewed in great depth in our CSN blog, have employed this idea of fascial stretching one thing that can’t be doubted is that these training systems, that include fascial stretching through a variety of methods, have shown some incredible results. It remains unclear in successful training systems that approach stimulating muscle growth from different perspectives which elements work and which are superfluous to requirements. Regardless of whether the fascia really does limit muscle growth, the blend of classic repetition ranges we know support muscle hypertrophy, and the combination of higher volume and intensity work, delivering nutrients and increasing weekly volume should make this an effective tool. Alongside this there may be some benefits of training a muscle in an exhausted, oxygen restricted state, which this method will undoubtedly cause. Training the muscle in an oxygen reduced environment has shown awesome muscle and strength building potential. Some would argue you only have to look at Hany’s client list to see some staggering results to support the effectiveness of this system. So if you’re a fan of the classic body part split and looking to add a little extra into you’re routine to push the boundaries a little bit further to stimulate muscle growth, then this is a program that would suit you. Keep an eye out for our other detailed articles on other training systems, we suggest giving most of them a try for a period of 4-6 weeks, figuring out what works for you, forcing the muscle to constantly adapt and at the very least stopping you getting stuck in a training rut. Remember there is more than one way to skin a cat; just some ways may be more effective than others! Thanks for reading, Peace, weights and protein shakes, Paul Rimmer (BSc, MSc).