Just wondering, is there anything magical about the number seven? I ask because I have been using FST-7 for two months now and seem to hit my peak pump right at five sets. Anything beyond that doesn’t give me a better pump. Is it okay for me to do five sets instead of seven?
There is nothing ‘magical’ per sec about performing seven sets. However, this is the number I arrived at following a great deal of trial and error. In the past, I had various clients try doing five or six sets, and most were not able to achieve their maximal pump. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some people out there that are indeed able to get the job done with five sets. But I would still recommend eventually attempting to increase the number of pumping sets to seven. What I suspect is happening in most cases when trainers feel that seven sets are too much is that they aren’t recovering adequately. This could be from inadequate nutrition, lack of sleep, excessive stress at home or work, or a combination thereof. Once these issues are addressed and corrected, the individual will be able to tolerate a higher volume of training and make gains with it. In other cases, if a person is a beginner or simply not used to high-intensity training, there is definitely a break-in period where the nervous system has to adjust to something so traumatic as FST-7. After a few weeks, most people have adapted and are able to handle this intense type of training.
Are there intermediate or advanced versions of FST-7?
Yes, we are currently testing several variations on FST-7 to rate their effectiveness. One version is similar to the Heavy Duty Dorian Yates style of training, in that only one or at most two work sets to failure of the first three or four exercises for a given bodypart are performed. Following this, two exercises are done in the ‘7’s’ method. Here’s an example for chest. Keep in mind that proper warm-ups are a must before attempting one all-out set to failure.
Incline barbell press 1 x 8-12
Flat dumbbell press 1 x 8-12
Incline dumbbell flye 1 x 8-12
Cable crossover 7 x 10-12 (30-45 seconds rest between sets)
Pec deck 7 x 10-12 (30-45 seconds rest between sets)
The last two exercises can be done individually, or as a superset. In other words, you could do your seven sets of cable crossovers and then do seven sets on the pec deck, or you could do seven back-to-back sets of crossovers and pec deck. We are also experimenting with using three sets in the ‘7’s’ style. Findings and results will be reported here in coming months.
You stressed the importance of drinking water before the workout and especially in between the ‘7’ sets. Does it have to be water, or could I have a carb drink or an energy drink like Redline or Turbo Tea?
The answer to this depends on how well hydrated you are prior to the workout. Ideally, I like my clients to consume a minimum of two liters of water from the time they wake up to the start of their workout. Depending on what time of day you train, this may not be possible. For example, there are many bodybuilders whose work or family responsibilities dictate that they train in the morning hours. They usually only get one meal in before training, and trying to force down excessive amounts of water wouldn’t be wise or comfortable. If you’re a morning trainer, I would drink plain water and plenty of it while training. If you train later in the day, you can probably have a carb drink or an energy drink while you work out. Even then, I would recommend having water as well. You could either alternate between your energy drink and a water bottle, dilute the energy or carb drink with extra water, or try something I often do. Prior to the workout, I’ll have half a serving of an energy drink , then fill the container back up with water (I am talking about a minimum of 16-ounce container, not those little 8-ounce Red Bull cans). I then sip the diluted mix throughout the workout. The point I’m trying to get across is that it’s vital to the success of FST-7 training that you are sufficiently hydrated. Without enough water in your system, there is simply no way you can get a great pump. If you neglect this key factor, you will seriously compromise your chances of success with the program.
A couple years ago I recall reading in one of your columns that you recommended scheduling cheat meals around the training of your weaker bodyparts. Could I apply this same concept to FST-7 training?
Absolutely. I would especially suggest using this strategy if you happen to be following a very low-carb diet. A key point to understand with this is that it takes a certain amount of time for carbohydrates to be converted to glycogen in the muscles, and it also takes time for sodium to get into your system. Many bodybuilders don’t realize this and believe that the meal they eat an hour or two before the workout is the one that makes the difference, when in fact it’s more critical what you eat the day or night before. Getting back to the subject of early morning trainers, it’s even more important for these people to have their cheat meal the day or night before. It takes time for the body to super-compensate its glycogen stores, more so during a low-carb diet. Those of you that have followed the standard carb depletion and loading strategy for bodybuilding competition should remember that it took at least a couple days to properly ‘fill out.’ If you are going to carb load for the training of a weaker bodypart, clean carbs like plain rice or sweet potatoes are good choices, but you also need to make sure you have plenty of sodium via condiments like ketchup or teriyaki sauce. You could also have a high-carb, high-fat meal like burgers and fries, but be judicious. Otherwise, you could set back your fat-loss goals. The large amounts of sodium in foods like these will go a long way toward facilitating an excellent pump, but don’t go overboard with them. So, getting back to the original question, by all means have your weekly cheat meal the day or night before you train a weak bodypart. This will give that muscle group the best possible chance of achieving a maximum pump and stretching out the fascia tissue, allowing growth to take place.
I’ve been using FST-7 for the past month, and I have to say I love the results. My arms have always been stubborn, but they have grown more in the last few weeks than they have in the past year or more! Now, of course I want to get even better results. I was wondering what else you could recommend to maximize my recovery from the workouts? Just so you know, I already eat between 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. I have heard that some top bodybuilders take advantage of massage therapy to enhance their recovery. Is that something you recommend?
I am a huge believer in the benefits of massage therapy. One type I have many of my clients utilize is the PUSH (Power Under Soft Hands) technique. PUSH is a specialized form of muscle therapy designed to relieve chronic and acute pain originating from muscle, tendon, or ligament tension. Pressure is applied to muscles and soft tissue using a unique and systematic approach that restores blood flow and oxygen to tissue, resulting in long-term structural changes to the body. The PUSH techniques and goals are very different from standard massage. PUSH is a system of manual muscle therapy and patient education, which is based on the structural anatomy and physiology of the body. While massage can create a pleasant feeling of relaxation and stress relief, the goal of PUSH is to change the soft-tissue structure of the body so that long-term improvements in function, performance, and pain relief are achieved. Many of my clients visit the PUSH Therapy Center in the Bay Area, but there are many certified PUSH therapists all over the USA. Contact
to find one near you. Many of my clients use both PUSH and deep tissue massage. Deep tissue massage is a type of massage therapy that focuses on realigning deeper layers of muscles and connective tissue. It is especially helpful for chronically tense and contracted areas such as stiff necks, low back tightness, and sore shoulders. Some of the same strokes are used as classic massage therapy, but the movement is slower and the pressure is deeper and concentrated on areas of tension and pain. When there is chronic muscle tension or injury, there are usually adhesions (bands of painful, rigid tissue) in muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Adhesions can block circulation and cause pain, limited movement, and inflammation. Deep tissue massage works by physically breaking down these adhesions to relieve pain and restore normal movement. To do this, the massage therapist often uses direct deep pressure or friction applied across the grain of the muscles. I would recommend one of these sessions a week if you can afford it, or once every two to three weeks if you’re on a budget. A note of caution: there is a certain amount of pain to be expected with PUSH or deep tissue massage therapy. It’s not like a relaxing rubdown at the spa. The pain is necessary to accomplish the results in recovery that will benefit you. Another thing you can do to enhance recovery is to stretch after each workout. This will maintain flexibility, improve blood flow, and prevent your muscles from becoming knotted up and tight. Always keep in mind that an intense workout is only part of the equation. If you don’t recover properly, you can’t make the gains you want to. Please continue sending me your questions and comments on FST-7, as they all help me to fine-tune the system and make it more effective.