FST-7 is a training principle created by Hany Rambod, the Pro Creator. He has been using this training principle for many years exclusively with his clients to create physiques that win.
FST-7 is a training system I devised after years of research and a great deal of trial and error with many clients. FST stands for Fascia Stretch Training, and the seven refers to the seven sets performed for the final exercise of a target bodypart. I have had many clients use this system for overall growth and especially to improve stubborn bodyparts that were seemingly resistant to just about anything else the person had tried.
FST-7 encompasses several factors both inside and outside the gym.
Is fascia limiting your muscle growth? There are three types of fascia in the human body, but the type bodybuilders should be concerned about is deep fascia. This is dense fibrous connective tissue that interpenetrates and surrounds the muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels of the body. The high density of collagen fibers is what gives the deep fascia its strength and integrity. The amount of elastin fibers determines how much extensibility and resiliency it will have. In other words, some of us have fascia that is thicker and tougher than others. The most genetically blessed bodybuilders have thinner fascia, which is why their muscle bellies appear to be larger and fuller, with that round ‘bubbly’ look that all bodybuilders covet. Ronnie Coleman and Phil Heath would be two prime examples of individuals blessed with thin fascia. Their muscles expand easier. Think of it in terms of it being easier to blow up a balloon as opposed to one of those water bottles that strongmen like Franco Columbu used to.
Jay Cutler and Nasser El-Sonbatty are two men that clearly have thicker fascia.
This didn’t prevent them from building substantial muscle mass, obviously, but neither man ever had that round ‘Marvel Comics’ appearance to their muscles. Yet the average bodybuilder has thicker fascia than either of those two champions. In an effort to expand their fascia and allow growth to occur, some have turned to Synthol and other items that are injected deep into the muscle belly. There have even been some advisors, mainly online, that make it seem as if this is the only solution and must be done. They will also try and insist that all the pro’s use Synthol and site inject, which I can assure you is not true. Synthol and related products are foreign substances, and you can never be certain how they will metabolize in the body. We are starting to see various health issues with bodybuilders that are more than likely related to site injecting. Yes, you do need to stretch the muscle fascia to experience optimal growth, but that is not the way to do it.
All stretching is not the same I am not the first person to recognize the importance of stretching the muscle fascia. First John Parrillo, then more recently Dante Trudel of DC Training fame, incorporate aggressive stretching during workouts as part of their training programs. They had the right idea, but stretching the fascia by elongating the muscle is not the best method. FST-7 is based on stretching the muscle from the inside out by volumizing it. This is accomplished by getting the greatest pump possible while training.
Do I still train heavy, or can I just pump up with light weights? One thing I don’t want anyone misconstruing is that FST-7 is all about pumping. That’s just one component. I also believe that a bigger muscle is a stronger muscle, and you absolutely must train with heavier weights in the 8-12 rep range. I have tried many variations of heavier and lighter training with clients over the years, and discovered that both types are needed. Heavy weights will build thickness and density, but they will not give you that round, full look. Similarly, getting incredible pumps all the time can impart some of that roundness, but you won’t ever get extreme muscle size without training with heavy straight sets. So you need to focus equally on maximizing both your strength and your pump in the same workouts to see optimal results. Here’s an example of a biceps workout, FST-7 style, that shows you how to incorporate both:
Bicep Workout Example
- Alternate dumbbell curls 3-4 x 8-12
- Machine preacher curl 3 x 8-12
- EZ-bar curl 7 x 8-12 (rest 30-45 seconds between sets while sipping water )
How often can I train bodyparts this way? Generally speaking, this type of training is too traumatic on the larger muscle groups to use more than once a week. Due to the sheer volume of muscle cells, soreness tends to linger too long to allow for more frequent workouts.
- Day one: Biceps and triceps, calves
- Day two: Legs
- Day three: OFF
- Day four: Chest and triceps
- Day five: Back and calves
- Day six: Shoulders and biceps
- Day seven: OFF
Which exercises are best suited to the ‘7′ sets? Certain exercises are more appropriate than others for the ‘7′ sets. The big compound free weight movements like squats and deadlifts usually are poor choices, for two reasons. For one thing, they involve several other muscle groups and don’t do a good job of isolating a target muscle. Also, they require technique and balancing, which tends to break down if one attempts to perform multiple sets in such a short time span. Machines are a good choice in many instances because they keep you in a fixed plane of movement and thus make it easier to isolate a given muscle. Those with selectorized stacks also make it very fast and convenient to increase or decrease the resistance as needed. Here are some suggested movements that I have found work very well:
- Back width: Machine pullovers (Hammer Strength, Nautilus) or cable pullovers
- Back thickness: Seated row machines with chest support
- Chest: Pec deck or peck flye machine*, cable crossovers
- Shoulders: Machine lateral raises with pads – my favorite is made by Bodymasters. Hammer Strength, LifeFitness, and Cybex also produce similar models.
- Quads: Leg extensions, leg presses
- Hamstrings: Seated or lying leg curls
- Biceps: EZ-bar curls, machine curls, cable ‘front double biceps curls’
- Triceps: Cable pushdowns using rope attachment, Overhead cable extensions, Skull crushers (for advanced trainers)
- Calves: Standing and seated raises, calf raises using leg press (alternate between these three)
Sample FST-7 (Fascia Stretch Training 7) Routine Triceps
- Close-grip bench press 3-4 x 8-12
- Weighted or machine dip 3 x 8-12
- Overhead cable extension 7 x 8-12
- Skull crushers 7 x 8-12
- Alternate dumbbell curls 3-4 x 8-12
- Machine preacher curl 3 x 8-12
- EZ-bar curl 7 x 8-12 (rest 30-45 seconds between sets while sipping water)
- Leg extensions 3-4 x 8-15
- Squats 4 x 8-12
- Hack squat or leg press 3 x 8-15
- Leg extension or leg press 7 x 8-15
- Incline dumbbell press 3-4 x 8-12
- Incline dumbbell flye 3 x 8-12
- Flat Hammer or dumbbell press 3 x 8-12
- Pec deck or cable crossover 7 x 8-12
- Seated dumbbell press 4 x 8-12
- Barbell or dumbbell front raise 3 x 8-12
- Dumbbell lateral raise 3 x 8-12
- Lateral raise machine 7 x 8-12
- Neutral-grip chin-ups 3 x failure
- Wide-grip pulldowns 3 x 8-12
- Barbell row 3 x 8-12
- Hammer Strength row 3 x 8-12
- Machine or cable pullover 7 x 8-15
- Lying leg curls 3-4 x 10-15
- Stiff-leg deadlift 3-4 x 10-12
- Single leg curl 3-4 x 10-15 each leg
- Seated leg curls 7 x 10-15
- Dumbbell shrugs* 3-4 x 8-12
- Machine shrugs 7 x 8-12
- Dumbbell rear lateral raise 3-4 x 12-15
- Reverse pec flye or cable 7 x 12-15
- Rear laterals
- Standing calf raise 4 x 10-12
- Seated calf raise 4 x 15-20
- Leg press or calf sled raise 7 x 10-12
Nutrition Now we will be explaining how to structure your nutritional intake around your workouts to ensure that your muscles will have all the necessary nutrients to fuel a superior pump, thus stretching out your fascia tissue and permitting growth to occur. Bodypart routines for the rest of your muscle groups will also be provided so that you can get started immediately on your own FST-7 growth experience.
Pre-workout nutrition: Priming the pump Hopefully most of you grasp the importance of solid pre-workout nutrition. This provides the body with all the raw materials it will need to fuel an intense and productive weight training session. I like to see my clients get in a minimum of two solid-food meals containing both lean proteins and complex carbohydrates prior to training. The protein source can be chicken or turkey breast, white fish, or even leaner cuts of red meat such as filet or top sirloin if one is training later in the day. Good carbohydrate sources would be oatmeal, sweet potatoes, or brown rice. These are all slow-burning carbs that will deliver time-released energy, as opposed to fruits and other simple sugars that digest too quickly and can leave you with an insulin crash while training. Equally important to the food intake is adequate hydration. This is particularly applicable to anyone using thermogenic products. Most of these have a diuretic effect, which means you need to take care to drink a bit more water to compensate for the fluid loss. Notice that I said water and not diet soda. Carbonated drinks tend to be too filling and hence you don’t drink enough. A common question I get is, how soon before the workout should my last meal be? Generally speaking, you want your last meal to end about one hour before your workout begins. The exception would be legs. Since heavy leg training is so metabolically demanding, the last meal should be a bit earlier – say ninety minutes. These are just guidelines. If you are the type of person that is starving an hour and a half after a clean meal, you probably don’t ever want to let more than an hour go by from the end of the pre-workout meal to the workout.
If you seem to digest your food more slowly and get nauseous when you eat too close to the workout, adjust your meal timing accordingly. Staying away from high-fat foods or sugary items should help stave off feelings of nausea while training.
Post-workout nutrition Within 15-20 minutes of the end of your workout if not immediately, it’s important to drink a shake to start the re-compensation and recovery process that ultimately leads to muscle growth. There are several different recovery powders I am currently testing with my clients, and I will have the results soon. But in the meantime, you can’t go wrong with a highly bio-available protein source such as whey protein isolate along with a rapidly-assimilated carbohydrate source like dextrose, waxy maize, or maltodextrin. If you are a hardgainer ectomorph type, don’t be afraid to mix two or more carb sources together. You can even add in something like fruit juice for flavor and additional simple carbs. If you are trying to lean out or you are simply a person that gains fat very easily, you will want to take it easy on the amount of carbs in this shake. You still want to always include at least some carbs in this shake, except in the case of the final stages of a pre-contest diet for those that are striving to lose the last vestiges of bodyfat.
1-2 hours later Roughly an hour or two later, you want to have another solid-food meal that should be similar in composition to the pre-workout meal. For the purpose of better absorption, you want to keep the fat content low, particularly saturated fats. The timing of this meal will depend on the size of your shake as well as your appetite. Obviously you can’t eat until you are hungry again. If you are drinking a large shake that is very filling for you, it might take two hours for your appetite to return substantially enough to allow you to eat a solid meal. Conversely, a lighter shake should digest faster and you should theoretically be ready to eat just an hour later. Also note that there tends to be more bloating and gas associated with lower-quality grades of protein powder. They tend to taste good, but contain large amounts of lactose. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and spring for the good stuff.
A note on sodium Many bodybuilders have it in their heads that sodium is bad for them and should be avoided. They intentionally remain on very low-sodium diets year-round when the fact of the matter is, you only need to be concerned about sodium intake in the final few days before a contest when you are attempting to shed subcutaneous water. Without proper amounts of dietary sodium, you simply won’t be able to get a pump. Some of you may have experienced this when competing. If you are trying to pump up and haven’t had more than trace amounts of sodium for a couple days, your muscles will be totally flat and unresponsive, even if you are eating carbs and drinking some water. Then, if you go out and have a burger and fries after the judging, your muscles seem to magically inflate, and you are able to generate an excellent pump for the night show! Sodium helps transport carbs into the muscles, so by all means don’t be afraid to put a bit of salt on your food.
I actually encourage my clients to get their sodium from condiments like ketchup, mustard, and barbecue sauce in the off-season. It should be noted that for any of you with medical conditions such as hypertension or diabetes that require you to adhere to strict low-sodium diets, always observe the guidelines set forth by your physician or your dietician.
Success stories – in progress! Although I have been developing the FST-7 system for several years and have been recommending it to my clients, only recently have I insisted that they consistently incorporate it into their own training. In the near future, I will have some impressive success stories to report.
In the meantime, you will be seeing some of the results of FST-7 on the pro stages this year.
Author: Hany Rambod