There is a perspective that some professionals in health, sports and fitness hold that regarding assisted stretching in general, "the techniques are all somewhat similar" and "there are only so many ways to stretch muscle/tissue".
This article was written to explain what makes Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST) original, different and unique from other systems of stretching.
Creator of FST, Ann Frederick, first started stretching her dance students in her mother's school at the age of 14. She also noticed that student injuries went down while performance improved after stretching. No one taught Ann how to stretch people but after those results, everyone told her to continue stretching the dancers.
As important it may be to continue telling that whole story, let's fast forward to 1995, by which time Ann had completed the full prototype of her first system or method of assisted stretching, which is now called "Fascial Stretch Therapy" or simply "FST". From that time up until our first book was published in 2006, to our knowledge there were very few people in North America that just offered the singular service of assisted stretching to the public.
According to the biography and description found in his books and on the internet, Aaron Mattes, founder of Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) first published his work about his technique in the early 1990s. He is a kinesiologist who pioneered this particular technique of assisted stretching but as a practitioner combined it with a wide range of other modalities. Phil and Jim Wharton, father and son AIS practitioners who trained with Mattes did the same and published their work in the mid to late 90s. Besides practitioners of ancient Thai massage, which utilize a form of acupressure combined with assisted stretching traditionally done on floor mats, Ann was mostly alone as a practitioner that focused only on assisted stretching done on a massage table as her primary service.
For 10 years, Ann Frederick worked in her small room 7 days a week averaging 14 hours per day. During 1995-1997, Ann also worked as a graduate assistant in the athletic department at Arizona State University (ASU). There she had an opportunity to work on both Olympic and collegiate athletes represented by over 20 different sports. It was there that Ann learned by trial and error how to "use finesse, not force" and how to "romance the nervous system" to get optimal results without fatiguing the practitioner or setting off the stretch reflex in clients.
During that time, Ann got feedback from a multitude of athletes used to being stretched by trainers and coaches. The overwhelming feedback then was, "this is not stretching" and "this feels totally different than regular stretching".
At ASU, the head coach for the USA 1996 Mens' wrestling team experienced one session of FST and immediately hired Ann to be the team stretch therapist (a first at any Olympics at that time).
In 1997, Ann impressed the recently deceased and world renown coach Charles Poliquin with her system of stretching so much, he called her "the world's authority on flexibility through stretching". He also immediately started referring all his students to us for training.
Around the year 2000, we visited Bob McAtee, author of PNF Stretching who, after getting FST remarked that he couldn't believe Ann created a full time career out of just stretching people.
At that same time, Certified Advanced Rolfer and well known author of bodywork literature Jeffrey Maitland, PhD received FST from Ann and exclaimed, "What Ida Rolf was to fascia, you are to stretching". Ida Rolf, PhD was the creator of Rolfing, otherwise known as Structural Integration, which in its early days was known as revolutionary and novel in its particular focus on fascia.
James Oschman, PhD researcher and well known author of several books on energy medicine said after receiving FST from Ann, "You are a wizard" due to the remarkable results achieved.
Michael Alter, gymnastic coach and author of several pioneering books on stretching including the heavily researched, encyclopedic book Science of Flexibility said, "This does not feel like traditional stretching" after receiving his first session of FST from Ann Frederick.
The point of all those previous quotes is this - respected thought leaders in health science, fitness and bodywork who were all familiar with most forms of common stretching techniques unanimously agreed that FST felt very different.
Supporting this is what many FST practitioners already know. That is, many people who have been stretched before will get off the treatment table, shake their head and say the same thing, "I never felt a stretch like that before" or something similar.
Yes, stretching today may all "look similar" in a photo or video and there may be "only so many ways you can stretch muscle/tissue". But these simple and superficial conclusions are proven wrong when knowledgeable and experienced people like those who were previously quoted describe FST as being something completely different. Or when one hears the testimonies of people who demand high performance from their body like professional athletes who have been stretched many times by many practitioners, say the same thing.
The difference between FST and other common forms of assisted stretching is how particular elements (e.g. traction, oscillation, circumduction) that may be identified as stand alone techniques that have long been established as part of the lexicon of manual therapy are safely, anatomically and logically combined, choreographed and systematized into a cohesive method that has been proven valid and reliable many times over for decades. All this came from thousands of hours of honest, hard work, spiritual intuition and the intent to help others by a creative genius, Ann Frederick.
To say dismissively as some do, that FST is a simple derivation of similar techniques that have been around and publicly available for years is like saying Shakespeare or any Pulitzer prize winning author just used words that have been around for thousands of years and conveniently or simply combined them in a manner that is slightly different but similar to other commonly available works. It makes no sense and is ultimately quite insulting and disrespectful.
For those that believe there are only so many ways to stretch muscle or any tissue, consider the following. The spectrum of stretching is a large span with static stretching on one end, ballistic stretching on the other end and a multitude of other options and variations in between. Compounding this exponentially are additional factors like multiple parameters of intensity, duration and frequency that can be combined in many ways.
In conclusion, some take away points:
· FST is an original method of assisted stretching created by Ann Frederick.
· FST is not a spin-off of any other technique.
· FST is not similar to anything else unless it has been illegally copied, pirated or only slightly modified and re-named to appear to the public as something else.