Plant Training: High-Stress Training for Tremendous Yields

Published: August 23, 2022

Science has learned to manipulate inherent biological traits to obtain higher yields. All you need is diligence and practice.


Award-winning  grower, Kyle Kushman refers to High-Stress Training as “The Chiropractic Technique.” Others call it super cropping, which is a misnomer since it is only a type of HST. Regardless of its name, HST is simply about “mindfully stressing the crops to trigger increased yields.” 

Genetic studies show that the plant triggers survival mode under undesirable conditions, resulting in several desirable perks if approached correctly. As a result, growers have learned to proffer a controlled stress environment to stimulate and manage plant productivity.


Of the several hormones responsible for plant growth, auxin is most prominent. It localizes at the tip of the plant’s stems, roots, and buds. It is a significant reason flowers tend to focus their energies on growing upwards through the apical stalk, leaving the lower and lateral areas malnourished.

While high-stress training might seem traumatic, this method has garnered interest over the years due to its many benefits, especially in lateral bud formation. Furthermore, the natural ability of the cannabis plant to withstand certain high-stress levels encourages growers to try these techniques with adequate caution.


HST induces higher stress levels in the plant than LST does, which means the plant takes longer to recover. However, once it does, there are a plethora of benefits to gain:

  1. Proper Space Management: High-Stress Training can optimize grow spaces through strategic pruning, restructuring, etc. This feature enables better crop management, a less stressful harvest, and bolsters other vital crop functions.
  2. Increased Phytocannabinoid Production: In nature, cannabinoids like THC and CBD are the plant’s natural defenses against pests, diseases, and the environment. Subjecting the plant to stress conditions activates its safety system, causing it to give off relatively higher amounts of phytocannabinoids.
  3. Enhanced Overall Yield: HST coaxes the plant to grow a broader, denser canopy due to the influx of growth hormones. Also, more plants receive an adequate supply of growth factors necessary for improved final yields through better space management. 


Realistically, there are always risks associated with subjecting plants to stress. Plants are often more susceptible and most vulnerable under stress. So, the following might occur, especially if you train the plant too late in the flowering stage:

  • Hermaphroditism: Excessive stress, especially in the flowering stage, will cause the plant to find a way out by developing male and female flowers for self-pollination.
  • Mold: Training wounds become perfect breeding grounds for harmful microorganisms if not properly managed.
  • Broken stems: There might be accidental breaks on plant parts while training due to the rigorous manipulation involved.
  • Stunted Growth: The high stress on the plant may cause temporary retardation in development, which could become permanent if not appropriately managed.

Tips and Tricks

  • Gradually apply stress techniques to the plant. 
  • Complete training before flowering.
  • Sterilize the training tools before and after every training session.
  • Allow the plants to rebound after stress (*Check for branches with thick wooden knuckles to confirm a break is fully healed).
  • Ensure stable and optimal environmental conditions.


There are numerous HST techniques to achieve the best results. However, there is a single rule; apply all training techniques during the plant’s vegetative phase for optimal results.

In training, the grower must ensure the plant is strong enough for the chosen method and if combining techniques (LST and HST), consider the period for training and recovery, with LST going first and HST after. 

That said, some of the top HST techniques include: 

Special Note: If this is your first-time plant training, we advise starting with safer methods and working your way to the top.

  • Defoliation is the strategic trimming of fan leaves for proper light penetration and airflow to budding sites. This technique is not the same as pruning since it involves just the leaves or lollipopping, also a type of plant training, since it is more selective.

To prevent infections and avoid crises, carefully work on only 100% healthy plants, taking extra care with outdoor plants due to the consistent environmental stress exposure. 

To defoliate, you will need a pair of scissors and disinfecting alcohol, although more experienced growers may decide to use just their clean hands. 

The process should be done at least 1-2 weeks into the vegetative phase and can be accompanied by other plant training techniques, like LSTs, lollipopping, topping, etc.

While there is no exact rule to the amount of foliage to take out, removing about 10-15% of a plant’s foliage is safe. For first-time defoliators, leaves are best taken from the bottom half of the plant to manage errors. While more experienced growers can defoliate from about 3-4 nodes to the top of the plant. 

Note: Do not remove leaves near bud sites, as this does not serve the goal and might affect the growth. Also, mindfully defoliate to avoid hampering the plant’s photosynthetic activity. 

  • FIM-ing is similar to topping, but with a twist. According to history, this technique was due to a slip-up while trying to “top” a plant. It, however, turned out to be a happy mistake since the farmer yielded a bigger harvest than expected. 

Unlike topping, fimming is not so simple. You will need a pair of scissors or razor blades for cutting and disinfectant for tool sterilization. Although some growers prefer using curved razor blades to get angled cuts for new sideways growth, its advantage over straight cuts is debatable.

With FIM-ing, the cut is made at a much higher level on the apical stem than with topping, avoiding cuts between nodes. As a result, it gives more foliage, producing four off-shooting branches per FIM site instead of two. However, fimmed plants will require more structural support than topped plants. 

  • Super cropping is somewhat an advanced LST technique and takes advantage of the plant’s natural healing ability. It involves physically bruising the plant during the vegetative phase (without breaking the skin).

To supercrop, ensure your hands are clean and select only the tallest branches for training. Then, starting with the main stem, gently pinch or roll the stem at a point till it weakens and droops. Then, bend it at a 90-degree angle from the weak point towards the desired growth factor.

Support the plant until it fully heals, evident by the formation of thick knuckle-like scars, which ultimately serve as protection and support to the areas. If the plant tries growing vertically, tie it down with a soft material to keep it in place. 


This training unites topping and low-stress training elements. It involves stimulating several symmetric branches from a single node.

Mainlining gives optimized yields by creating an environment where all the buds receive an equal and “optimal” supply of light and nutrients. It is also best done at the vegetative stage and is perfect for indoor and outdoor cultivation. 

To mainline, you will need rubber-covered ties and some grafting or duct tape in case you break any branches. 

The topping phase should start as soon as the plant pops out its fifth nodes and only on soft, bendy stems since they are more malleable. To top, clip the main stem above the third node, at least 5 centimeters between the cut and the lateral branches of the third node, and clear the vegetation below the third node to focus the plant’s energy production. After this phase, you should have only the two shoots borne at the third node and a bare main stem.

Allow the plant to recover from the initial stress before gently tying the shoots down at an angle of 90 degrees. If you accidentally break a shoot, duct tape the part till the plant heals. 

Before topping again, give the plant enough time to recover with new healthy nodes. Then, trim off all vegetation below the selected nodes to have a total of four mains. 

When the new stems are long enough, tie them down and repeat the entire process till you are satisfied with the foliage. Once the process is complete, you can loosen the ties. 


Either technique might work for your field. What matters is your experience level, your plant preference, and your level of availability to nurture the plants after the stressful exercise. Evaluate and select the most suitable method based on these three, and your field will do just fine. 


Using both HST and LST techniques on your plant can yield quite impressive results if done correctly. 

LST technique promises more uniform canopies, better light penetration, and nutrient distribution, while HST promises an increase in budding sites and growth rate/quality. So, why not try both?

Meanwhile, combining both methods might prolong the vegetative phase by about a month. So you should start training by the 3rd – 4th week of vegetative growth or once the plant has developed at least four internodes.


The most alluring benefit of combining techniques is its potential to yield a great harvest. In addition, extra manipulation of the plant may create new bud sites.

It also allows you to exercise significant control over your plants, especially the size. Plus, combining techniques is a great way to practice and improve your growing skills.


If the process is flawed, it may result in stunted growth, androgens plants, or complete plant death. The extended recovery period also means the grower will need to pay extra attention and care to the plant for a longer time.


Plant training has broad prospects, but without adequate caution from the start, results could be as disappointing as a cookie jar without cookies. So, growers should take pre-planting procedures as necessary as the cultivation process.

Ultimately, high risk equals high reward. Therefore, if you  keep track of your methods and the effects, find the perfect technique through trial and error and evaluate growth factors,you can be sure of your next great  harvest. 

Author: Deborah Agboola, Content Editor at Mariposa Technology

About Mariposa Technology

Transformative Ideas
The mission of Mariposa Technology is to deliver simple, point-and-shoot scientific testing solutions utilizing handheld Raman spectroscopy and proprietary data powered by advanced mathematics and algorithms, starting with hemp and other varieties of cannabis.

Our vision is a world of agricultural testing that is user friendly, free of solvents and chemicals, with quick and consistent results, all while meeting or exceeding the highest industry standards.

Our technology will bring the power of laboratory-level testing into the hands of farmers, researchers, regulators and more. PAMAP (Predictive Analytical Modeling Application for Plants), our first commercial offering, will empower the hemp and cannabis industry to optimize their crops, delivering real-time precision farming data at the click of a button.

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