In the first part of this article we collected some general notes on the DC and FST-7 training systems, but the focus of the article was on a very specific aspect of the two, and that’s the concept of fascia stretching. We can now continue onto more practical stuff, and examine the very structure of proposed routines for these two systems.
Doggcrapp – Technical Notes
I mentioned already that I honestly do like DC, for two reasons: sound principles and honesty. Let’s take a look at the practical part of the duo.
DC routines are alternated double-split (meaning there’s an A workout and a B workout) 3 DAW schedules (typical non-consecutive protocol, meaning Mon-Wed-Fri, or Tue-Thu-Sat, and so on). Each workout (A and B) nominally trains 5 body parts – these are (in exact order): chest, shoulders, triceps, back width and back thickness for A days, and biceps, forearms, calves, hamstrings and quadriceps for B days. I think I mentioned somewhere that I often do use body parts to label different workouts in routines I design, but mostly do so because this is something that people are accustomed to and are quicker to accept (and presume it works, of course).
My process of thinking during the very process of routine programming is closer to thinking in movements instead of muscles, although the latter is also important and naturally present since we are, after all, discussing bodybuilding here. You’d therefore probably expect me to roll my eyes at this “body part” organization scheme of DC training, but that’s really not the case, since beneath these trivial and de facto misleading labels lies a great exercise choice structure.
You see, DC is very compound-centric – most routines utilize isolations only for biceps, forearms and calves parts of the B day (and this is definitely a plus). So, e.g., the beginning of the A day (chest-shoulders-triceps) actually provides full training for the pressing muscles of the upper body, employing all the necessary classes of movements – an example would be having flat bench press for the chest portion, seated overhead press for the shoulder one, and finishing with dips for the triceps part. The same goes for the back width – back thickness finisher of the A day, which might seem unusual at the first glance, but turns out to be perfectly logical if you picture back width as a vertical pull, like chin-ups, and back thickness as a horizontal pull (rows) or a deadlift.
This allows us to extrapolate that DC has nearly perfect training frequency – the muscle you worked out today won’t be hit again for at least 4 days (more if the weekend’s coming up). There are obviously some exceptions/objections here, mostly regarding the fact that elbow flexors (both the “biceps” and “forearms” parts of the B day train them – “biceps” exercise choice mostly targets biceps brachii, while the “forearms” is a brachialis targeting exercise such as hammer curls) are basically worked every other day. Theoretically, this isn’t a problem, since smaller muscle groups recuperate faster than larger ones, but it’s still more than I’d recommend doing. The other thing that bugs me is deadlifting for back width and then having a brutal leg workout two days later. This isn’t that much of an issue since DC has built-in exercise rotation, so such a situation would occur only once in two weeks, but it’s still worth mentioning. If these two problems weren’t present, DC would present a typical upper-lower split.
Doggcrapp – Volume
Volume is an interesting thing here. Some people wrongly interpret DC as an HIT routine. Despite recommending just once set per exercise, and just one exercise per body part, DC does, though both excellent training frequency, body part pairing and reliance on compound exercises, provide its trainees with sufficient amount of volume. It does have a blood-and-guts approach, which majorly presents itself through the prevailing use of rest-pause exercise technique.
A DC set basically looks like this – you start the set, and bang out until you hit failure (in which rep range should this occur can be calculated based on prescribed number of reps for the given RP set – e.g., a 15 RP should probably hit failure in the 8-10 rep range). After this, you rack/put down the weights, take 10-15 deep breaths to recuperate (equals to 20-40 sec worth of rest), start again, hit failure again (being fatigued already, you’ll probably end up doing less than half the reps you did on the first set). Then you repeat the process once more, doing just a rep or two on your last part of the rest-pause set.
So what basically happens is that this one set ushers almost 50% more reps than you’d expect when someone mentions a one-set approach, and without sacrificing intensity in the process (most objections I have on regular usage of shock techniques is that they, besides being very taxing on the nervous system, mostly force you to drop intensity and thus yield inferior stimulation). Stack the effect of similar “bodyparts” exercises (20 RP on bench + 15 RP on seated press + 15 RP on dips), multiply it by 1.5 (three A workouts and 3 B workouts in a two-week period), and you’ll probably end up not very far from the volume a typical split routine doer blasts on his chest day (Monday). Is this perfect – in my opinion, no; I wrote on dangers and drawbacks of regular training to failure, and am against regular, continuous use of shock techniques, but DC is still placed very high on the list of routines that have their variables sorted out.
Lastly, let’s just mention that DC also has a simple periodization scheme, two phases called blasting (in which you train as hard as possible) and cruising (in which you do very light workouts or don’t work out at all). This is excellent because acknowledging the fact that deloading and resting are a vital part in ensuring continuous progress and training longevity is a hallmark of any great routine.
Doggcrapp – Controversies
We’ve shown that fascia stretching as such is a myth, which basically brings down the basic premise for doing extreme stretching, which is an integral part of any DC regimen. The other problem is that weighted stretching, especially if done for such prolonged times (DC stretches often go above 30 sec) and with as large a ROM is extremely dangerous. Even if it could double your muscular gains, I still wouldn’t recommend it to anyone – the risk simply outweighs the reward by a huge amount.
On a hypothetical level, I’ll just note that not everything about extreme stretching (or, to generalize it a bit, weighted stretching as a whole) is so grim. Basically, since your muscles have to actively contract against the weights used to stretch them, the weighted stretch can actually be seen as an extremely long negative rep (or, more correctly, eccentric quasi-isometric), and, as such does contribute to overall volume (and even more to total time-under-tension). Another thing good in that is that this loading would occur in the stretched part of the ROM, which is rarely hit my conventional exercises (which are mostly mid-range), and even if an exercise is adequate, weakness that is associated with this part of ROM often makes people shy away from it and resort to poor exercise form with a shortened ROM.
Now for the seemingly less fun part. DC is mostly used by people who are both highly advanced and illegally use anabolic steroids (or, to phrase it differently, these people are the ones who tend to have success with it). This isn’t a secret of any sort – the very creator of the program is open on his usage and gains that he made using it, and the weight increases of clients he uses to illustrate the effectiveness of the method, both by their rapidness and magnitude (220 to 275 lbs in 2 years) show reliance on AAS.
This honesty (which, as I said in the intro, comes as a real refreshment) makes me genuinely believe him when he says that a client of his is clean (either at the moment or being a life-long natural).
Another thing that’s very positive in this entire context is that DC isn’t being sold, nor is Dante using it to market himself (compare this to FST-7). A part of this is in the fact that all DC-ers acknowledge that you shouldn’t attempt such a routine if you’re sub-advanced, i.e. have less than 3-5 years (at least) of solid training under your belt. If you’re a natural, give it a go, but there’s a fair chance it won’t work for you. Steroid users can probably expect miracles on this approach since it’s far superior in its principles than most mainstream routines.
FST-7 – Additional Notes
I would be hypocritical to say that I dislike FST-7 because it’s obviously too much for regular natural trainees, both volume and frequency wise, after admitting that DC, which I had just praised, is also basically designed for steroid users (although, as we have seen, DC fares quite well on these two issues, at least in theory). What honestly makes me say: “Nay!” to this system is its marketing strategy. You see, I personally don’t have anything against steroid users. I don’t endorse drug usage and, in the manner of promoting life-long natural bodybuilding, would always attempt to talk someone out of deciding to take that path. But I have nothing against people who took them to hit another level in training, under one condition – they have to come clean about it, or at least not try to compare (or, god forbid, compete) against natural bodybuilders as equals. FST-7 uses current top pros and claims that it worked wonders for them to promote and sell the system to basically anyone who’s interested in it. This is wrong on so many levels that I don’t know where to start, and it’s probably best that I don’t since such a rant could spoil the entire article (but I can’t help posting a reply by Lyle McDonald regarding this issue).
So let us finish in a more practical tone, examining a sample workout. It’s a five day body part split, and actually among better representatives of that type of workout structure, mainly because its rest days are spaced. It’s still, however, a real body part split (unlike DC) – the body is viewed as a group of body part that each has its own microroutine (we’ll get to that in next paragraph). I said many times that this approach is fundamentally flawed when applied to everyone but the very advanced trainees who have reached such a stage of development at which they: a) have interest in body part isolation for the sake of achieving symmetry, b) their muscles are so large and their M2M so good that they can actually utilize compounds as semi-isolations, and c) are so close to their genetic potential that their gains, slow as they are, don’t suffer from lack of focus on compound movements.
Notice that those three points include being able to make compounds “less compound,” which in essence means that you’re putting more emphasis on the primary movers at expense of secondary ones, thus giving them less stimulus and “sparing” them in a sense of word. No kind of reduced emphasis, however, would help you with this split. For one, you’re working your upper body three days in a row. And regardless of the fact that biceps are a small muscle and consequentially fast to recuperate, doing back one day, biceps the next, and then again do an arm workout after just a day’s worth of rest is simply too much. Ironically, in this same report Hani Rambod says that “FST-7 training necessitates a bit more recovery time than standard training protocols.”
Now, regarding volume. I believe that every exercise you do must deserve its place in your routine. Being beneficial to your training is an obvious and less important requirement – what I’m trying to point out is that an exercise shouldn’t take away from it. It’s fine to do a few sets of push-ups at the end of your workout if you like it and enjoy being able to pump out 50 of them at any time, but these 7 sets that FST-7 revolves around effectively double the volume of your routine, and this certainly has to be accounted for. By simple logic, if those 7 sets don’t do what they’re supposed to do (stretch the fascia), then there’s no point in keeping them.
I don’t plan to have a separate section called “FST-7 controversies,” because some issues regarding its promotion are quite trivial, and you can find a number of theories online on how such a “fascia stretching” protocol will only work with site enhancement oils, which aren’t uncommon in the top pro tiers (and those below, of course, but that’s harder to observe since they get much less exposure). In summary, I find nothing impressive about FST-7. Some of its principles are fine (higher training frequency and reliance on compounds to get the basic job done), but it fails to deliver on other fronts, and its main premise doesn’t appear to hold water (if it did, every gym monkey who does power rack curls every minute of his spare time would have huge arms from all the fascia stretching that type of worthless training would give him).