While I’m a big believer in focusing your workouts around compound movements such as squats, deadlifts and overhead presses, I do believe there is a time and a place for isolation work for purely aesthetic reasons.
My favourite way to bring up a lagging body part is the FST-7 method, created by Hany Rambod (AKA trainer to the best bodybuilders in the world!) and introduced to me by my husband about a year ago. When I hit a shoulder plateau earlier this year, I relied heavily on this method – and it worked!
Purpose: FST stands for Fascia Stretch Training, while the ‘7’ refers to the number of sets performed. You perform your workout as normal, but your final exercise is performed via seven intense sets with minimal rest between them.
The idea is to keep the muscle filled with blood while stretching the fascia surrounding it, to encourage maximal growth. Rather than stretching the muscle the regular way, FST-7 supposedly stretches the muscle from the inside out by first voluminising it.
By limiting the rest period to 30 seconds, the blood has little time to ‘escape’ from the muscle – meaning that each additional set will bring more and more blood in to the muscle. You will experience the maximum muscular ‘pump’ that bodybuilders are always talking about in that final set.
Whether or not FST-7 actually does all it promises physiologically is debatable, but I am confident it will shake up your training regime. It is a great approach for those of you who feel as though you’ve tried every exercise and rep range out there, but your muscles are still refusing to grow. I wouldn’t recommend this for beginners!
Execution: Start your workout with three or four exercises performed in the eight to 12 rep range, with 1-2 minutes rest in between sets. These sets should be completed with a heavy weight to maximise strength gains.
You will then perform your FST-7 exercise, for seven sets of eight to 12 repetitions. Try to keep the weight constant and complete as many repetitions as possible within the range. You may decrease the weight once or twice as you continue moving through the sets, but don’t wimp out – it’s supposed to be painful!
Do not perform this style of training more than once per week for each muscle group. You will cause more damage to the muscle than usual, and therefore need a longer recovery.
The best exercises to apply FST-7 to are machine or cable exercises such as leg extensions, leg curls, seated cable rows, cable flyes, lateral raise machine, cable curls and bar pushdowns, as they keep the rest of your body steady while you isolate the target muscle. You can also use free weights, but stick to similar isolation exercises.
Avoid performing compound exercises using the FST-7 method, as they involve many muscles – and therefore defeat the purpose of overloading and isolating the individual muscle group – and should not be performed when you are tired.
Have you tried FST-7 training before?