Doggcrapp and FST-7 are two of the more exotic entries in the world of workout programs, but both promise you fast gains in muscle mass. Can they live up to that promise and do they really make sense?
Yet again the title of the series makes little sense, as looking at these two programs from a bodybuilder’s perspective means observing their qualities in just the context they were meant to be observed – both FST-7 and DC are here to deliver mass, and of course, it goes without saying, lots of it, fast.
The last time we took a look at two training systems in the same article it was because the two were rather similar in practice and basically appealed to the same part of the training population (and this was probably the only installment in which taking a bodybuilder’s perspective onto these routines had some unique qualities). FST-7 and DC aren’t nearly as similar, but they share a fair number of common traits, which makes placing them side to side in an article worthwhile a task. Also, unlike the SS & SL article, there will be no comparisons between the two doctrines given here, since there’s no objective basis for it and no practical conclusions could be drawn from it.
I just used the term “training doctrine,” one you’re rarely see in my writings. The reason for this hesitation is the fact that every training system out there aspires to be a doctrine. Being dogmatic, set on a number of rules that appear sufficiently exotic to the average trainee is a recipe for marketing success. Tell people that the best way to gain muscle is to progress on compound exercises, and they’ll enter the so-called “Meh” mode, because, let’s face it, that proposal sounds both hard and boring (plus you won’t hear nobody who promotes that sort of training saying promising great gains in a time span shorter than a couple of years).
But a short-rest 7 set isolation attack that rushes a tide of blood to your biceps, tearing down the dungeon of deep fascia that keeps them confined and prevents them from bursting to Mr. Olympia size, is a whole different story altogether. People’s minds just work like that – the ancient adage that hard work pays off is way too mundane and bears no enthusiasm. However, promise them magic (and everything about FST-7 is magical, as we’ll see in paragraphs to come) and, well, you have people on the Internet writing articles on your ideas. 😉
So, what FST-7 and DC have in common is that they’re both exotic – the latter much more than the former. A part of that exotics lies in the theory of manual fascia stretching in order to promote massive and rapid muscular gains. The other touching point between the two is that their supposed effectiveness is demonstrated almost exclusively on steroid users. This is where similarities end, and I’d like to tell you right away that I like DC, and dislike FST-7. We’ll go into more detail on why is it so, but I can give you a short summary right away and say that DC, besides being based on sound training principles, has a refreshing breath of honesty surrounding it. I just can’t seem to feel anything similar while reading on or hearing about FST-7.
Muscles’ Solitary Confinement – The Fascia
In my opinion, the specifics of routine design (which differ greatly between these two systems) are of secondary importance – FST-7 is almost mainstream here, DC isn’t, but it’s also not that far out. The interesting thing here is the unusual part, related to fascia and the possibility of it being stretched in order to give the muscles more room to grow. Both programs refer to this part as being almost crucial to one’s success with them (FST-7 even has it in its name – Fascia Stretch Training).
Here are the facts – there’s a layer of fibrous tissue called fascia that surrounds (groups of) muscles, blood vessels and nerves and binds them together, providing support and reducing friction by allowing smooth sliding over one another (deep fascia), and suspends internal organs in their cavities (visceral fascia). Deep fascia creates compartments inside muscles, as well as holding groups of them in place. The important thing regarding deep fascia is that it’s densely packed and strong, which stems from its function, which is to transmit force generated by muscles or coming from the outside onto the bones.
Now, according to people who promote fascial stretching as the means for muscle growth, deep fascia is the bad guy, whose tough, rigid structure confines your muscles, making them unable to fulfill their true potential. The more money someone has to make off promoting such training technique, the more exaggerated metaphors are used, so you can read that fascia is “a prison”, in which your muscles “are trapped”, held with “an unforgiving wrench-like grip” (good God). Basically, it’s fascia that holds back your muscular growth, and manually stretching it will, well, unleash it, or something similar. Of course, according to these people, all of this is not only possible, but so easy that anyone can do it at their gym after watching a few instructional videos (or, if you’re in the FST-7 camp, by pumping out those magical 7 sets). Then they show you a picture of reigning Mr. Olympia Phil Heath and tell you he gained 16 pounds of muscle…
Fascia Stretching For Muscle growth – Fact Or Fiction?
First of all, the whole “fascia limiting muscle growth” story doesn’t hold water. From its main function (we’re talking deep fascia here), it just doesn’t make sense that fascia constricts muscle, nor does it make sense that it would be easy (or desirable) to stretch it to make room between it and the muscle (of course such movement would be microscopical, nobody is talking about making half an inch of space for your biceps to fill up, but given the usual rate of muscular gains, it still doesn’t seem plausible). Also, being a connective tissue, fascia actually grows with the muscle in response to weight training. So, the very initiative behind the efforts that would lead to stretching of fascia are questionable at best. The research doesn’t offer much information either, so we’re unable to draw any definitive conclusions and say that either of the two methods we’ll examine won’t have at least some effect on muscle growth through expanding the fascia.
FST-7 and DC differ in their applied method for achieving fascia stretching – FST-7 uses 7 moderate-to high (8-15) rep sets done with short rest in between (30-45 sec), generally on an isolation exercise, to rush incredible pump into the target muscle and therefore stretch the fascia from the inside, while the DC trainees utilize so-called “extreme stretches”, which are basically weighted static stretches that are held longer than usual (you can find descriptions of preferred extreme stretches for each bodypart in any DC report). (Just a note here, DC-ers actually view extreme stretches mainly as a tool for enhanced recovery, and only secondary for their supposed fascia stretching effect.)
From what I’ve been able to gather, neither of these methods work. I’m not saying that they might not be beneficial for muscle growth generally, but they don’t do much for stretching the fascia. Let’s start with the FST-7 method, because it’s less common (you can find a good number of routines and coaches employing extreme stretches). The main premise behind it, that increased blood flow to the muscle somehow expands the fascia doesn’t hold up against a common overuse injury known as compartment syndrome. In short, in compartment syndrome, you have increased blood inflow (due to decreased blood outflow). However, this increased blood flow doesn’t stretch the fascia, which is exactly why the blood accumulates in the muscular compartment, leading to increased pressure and pain (and, eventually, necrosis). So no, increased blood flow, even when extreme as in this case, doesn’t expand the fascia. Aside from this example, arguments that favor (or bash) the FST-7 method are mostly hearsay bro-science (it tends to come down to: “Hany Rambod says that super pump expands the fascia, you better (not) believe him!”).
Fascia Expansion Through Weighted Stretching
This is a more interesting and fruitful area to examine.
From what I’ve been able to gather, there are no studies supporting the theory that expanding the fascia through weighted stretched leads to enhanced muscle growth. Consequently, there are no studies which would describe a successful procedure for actually accomplishing this fascia expansion. I’m mentioning this because the DC-styled weighted stretching isn’t the only method around – e.g. Charles Poliquin says in an interview that “real fascia stretching is very complicated … it takes 20-45 minutes to learn a single stretch; and that is with constant feedback given by the instructor.”
That being said, weighted stretching (unlike pumping out seven sets) can actually have some merits if included in your training. The first and fairly obvious one is the fact that a weighted stretch actually contributes to your training volume by adding in an extremely long EQI rep, but more on that in the second part of the article, in which we’ll deal with actual training details of both routines. The other thing that somehow springs up in these kinds of discussions in the possibility that weighted stretching leads to hyperplasia.
I won’t go into a lot of detail here, as an entire article could (and probably will) be made regarding the issue. Suffice it to say, a consensus hasn’t been reached on what is the dominant mechanism behind muscle growth related to weight training: is it hypertrophy or hyperplasia. This might seem confusing given the fact that the occurrence of hypertrophy is well-studied and documented, while the other side has little to no evidence (yeah, this might seem ridiculous to say for we’re talking about the number of papers on the subject, which is definitely quantifiable, but all the hyperplasia studies I know of have been refuted by studies done with same methodology whose results favored the hypertrophy mechanism).
Finding out whether or not hyperplasia has occurred is a difficult task, subject to many errors even with best preparation and methodology. The reason is obvious – you need to literally count the number of muscle fibers in a sample. This sample, of course, has to be acquired through biopsy, which makes is a problem to conduct such a studies on humans. Studies on animals have been done, and there’s a particular one that tends to appear in almost all discussions of the theme: a 1993 article by Antonio and Gonyea. It’s usually referred to as “bird study” or “bird experiment.” Two similar papers ( and ) followed. The basic conclusion was that muscle hyperplasia has occurred in birds whose wings have been stretched by adding weights to it (and it was an extreme increase, something like 300% in less than a month). The issue? Well, the birds were stretched 24 hours a day, chronically over the course of the study, which seems a bit different that hold a stretch for a few minutes once or twice a week. We’ll get to more details in the second part of the article.
Don’t Miss Part II!
The second part of the article brings in details of both of these training systems, and speaks about a number of controversies surrounding them.