Low stress training is essentially a gentle way of training plants into a specific shape. The technique has two aims. Firstly, to encourage the formation of buds, hence increasing yield. Secondly it aims to keep plants in the optimum shape for their growing area. For example, those working in smaller spaces may use low stress training to be able to fit in the maximum number of plants. There are no real drawbacks to LST other than that it takes a bit of practice. It can be used with pretty much any strain and is the only method suitable for managing the growth of autoflowering strains as they go through their lifecycle too quickly for conventional topping to work.
Low Stress Training in Brief
The basic principle behind low stress training is that the position of the plant relative to its light source will influence its growth pattern. In practice this means training
plants to grow lower and wider so that as much of their surface as possible can absorb the available light. This is generally easier with Indicas, which are pretty much that way inclined anyway, but also possible with Sativas.
Step 1 (Except for autoflowering strains)
When your plant shows 6 nodes top it. In theory this is optional, in practice it tends to make life a lot easier. Basically you are trying to get your plant to grow out rather than up and topping tends to encourage this. Opinion varies as to where you should top. The lower you top the more symmetrical the base is likely to be, but the third node is as low as it's advisable to go. Leave your plant to recover for a while until it has several new nodes.
Step 2 – Start bending and training
The aim of the game is to ensure that the light reaches all stems evenly, which means tall stems have to be brought down to the level of smaller ones. Many growers chose to bend the stems away from the centre of the plant to create a star shape. With autoflowering strains which are untopped, it's essential to bend the main stem. Your life will be easier if you start bending when the plant is young as older stems are harder to bend, but better late than never. Bend gently and ensure that whatever you use to secure the plant is soft and attaches to the plant without cutting it. It's better to use multiple ties on challenging stems than to try to force them down with tight ties. Also it's a good idea to attach your ties to something easily moveable, such as the plant container rather than something fixed like the floor. This makes life much easier if the plant needs to be moved.