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Ep 365 - Assisted Stretch Therapy with Ann and Chris Frederick

Image of a sprinter with animated red streaks showing quickness.

Structurally, the fascia system suspends, supports, and enables all anatomical movement from skin to cells and everything in between. In this episode of The ABMP Podcast, Darren and Kristin are joined by Stretch to Win founders Ann and Chris Frederick to discuss Frederick Stretch Therapy (FST) and its origin, how FST can be integrated with massage therapy and other bodywork, and what the future holds for FST.


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Author Bio

Ann Frederick is the creator of a manual and movement therapy and assisted stretching called Frederick Stretch Therapy (FST). Her technique was originally designed for professional football players in the NFL. It then evolved to the public to address common conditions of pain, movement dysfunction, and lack of flexibility. Ann directs her school of training in FST at the Stretch to Win Institute in Chandler, Arizona, and Toronto, Ontario.

Chris Frederick is an integrative physical therapist/physiotherapist, lead teacher of FST, practitioner of Anatomy Trains Structural Integration, and practitioner of Taiji, Qigong, and Taoist meditation. Chris has specialized in providing manual and movement therapy for several professional dance companies—including the New York City Ballet—and for professional athletes.

Former professional dancers, the Fredericks co-wrote the books Stretch to Win and Fascial Stretch Therapy, both in their 2nd editions. Chris also contributed chapters and other content for eight additional books, most of which are bestsellers in the categories of fascia, movement, and manual therapy. FST is based on original research completed in 1997 and 2017 and is scheduled for another study starting in 2023. The Fredericks are excited to share their experience and thoughts about the exponential growth of assisted stretching, what makes FST uniquely different, and how it is integrated with all forms of massage and bodywork to enhance results and success with your clients.


Darren Buford is senior director of communications and editor-in-chief for ABMP. He is editor of Massage & Bodywork magazine and has worked for ABMP for 22 years, and been involved in journalism at the association, trade, and consumer levels for 24 years. He has served as board member and president of the Western Publishing Association, as well as board member for Association Media & Publishing. Contact him at

Kristin Coverly, LMT is a massage therapist, educator, and the director of professional education at ABMP. She loves creating continuing education courses, events, and resources to support massage therapists and bodyworkers as they enhance their lives and practices. Contact her at





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Full Transcript

0:00:00.0 Speaker 1: Are you a massage or bodywork practitioner who is interested in equipment or amenities for your business? TouchAmerica wants to save you money while providing quality equipment backed by personalized customer service from our family-owned company in North Carolina. TouchAmerica offers a full lineup of treatment tables to go along with halotherapy design and supplies, Shirodhara kits, speakerless sound equipment, relaxation loungers, and more. Receive a 20% discount at by applying your ABMP member discount code found on Visit today. 




0:00:50.5 Speaker 2: I'm Darren Buford. 


0:00:51.5 Speaker 3: And I'm Kristin Coverly. 


0:00:52.6 Speaker 2: And welcome to the ABMP podcast, A podcast where we speak with the massage and bodywork profession. Our guests today are Ann and Chris Frederick. Ann is a creator of a manual and movement therapy, an assisted stretching called Frederick Stretch Therapy. Her technique was originally designed for professional football players in the NFL. It then evolved to the general public to address comic conditions of pain, movement dysfunction, and lack of flexibility. Ann now directs her school of training called the Stretch to Win Institute in Chandler, Arizona and in Toronto, Canada. Chris Frederick is an integrative physical therapist, physiotherapist, lead teacher of FST, practitioner of anatomy-trained structural integration and practitioner of Tai Chi, Qigong and Daoist meditation. Chris is specialized in providing manual and movement therapy for several professional dance companies, including the New York City Ballet as well as for professional athletes. For more information about the work that Fredericks are doing, visit Hello, Ann, Chris, and Kristin. 


0:01:52.8 Speaker 4: Hey, good morning. 


0:01:54.6 Speaker 5: Good morning. 


0:01:55.3 Speaker 3: Hi, Ann and Chris, we are thrilled to have you here and we're going to jump right in. We're going to talk today a lot about fascial stretch therapy now called Frederick Stretch Therapy or FST for short, that'll help us through our conversation. Let's start with you giving a really lovely description of what FST is, so our listeners have a good understanding as our conversation evolves. 


0:02:18.3 Speaker 4: So Frederick stretch therapy, let's just say FST is a whole body approach of both assessing and treating the body using the fascial model of anatomy. So it's really different than most of medicine and other approaches to the body looking at the body as a machine, which is hopefully going to be more and more in the past in bodywork to look at it that way and looking at it more as an integrated system, tied all together by the fascia. 


0:02:50.7 Speaker 5: I think one of the things that we like to out the gate define is the fascial system is probably one of the most powerful things to understand with the communication of the body. And the nervous system runs through it, the lymphatic runs through it, all the chemical system runs through it. The emotions run through it. If you will, consciousness runs through it. And if you look at the body as this beautiful four-dimensional being, that is, as Chris said, not a machine. It approaches the way we handle it in a way that is much more holistic and also not isolated. And I think that's the premise of everything, that I've developed, is how integrated everything needs to be for it to be healthy and happy and move with ease. 


0:03:40.9 S3: Can you describe a few techniques so our learners can start to develop a visual of what the practice looks like?  


0:03:47.4 S5: Absolutely. So when I began my journey, I have danced my entire life. I taught dancing for the first couple decades of my life, and I always understood the potential of human movement. When I decided it was time to shift gears with where I was headed from a teaching dance, it was time to move on. And to be perfectly honest with you, movement to me is the essence of life. And so when I looked at the general population and I looked at particularly the athletic population with how restricted and limited they were because of the heavy strength training, the heavy repetitive movement from an activity standpoint, I realized there was this giant potential that I wanted to pursue. So I'm going to take my dance education and background and I'm going to apply it to these big bulky, stiff athletes. 


0:04:45.1 S5: And I'm going to look at the research, and the research showed me that the joint capsules and the fascial system were the two most restrictive components of the human body. So I thought, "Okay, I'm going to develop a technique that opens the joint capsules and moves through the three dimensional ways that I know how to move as a dancer and I'm going to create this space in the joints, and that allows for ease of the movement." Now, the other thing that's very interesting is coming from a dance background that's pretty aggressive stretching, I am blessed to have pretty extraordinary flexibility, naturally, I never had to work at it, but I also have stability. So that's one of the things that I'll talk about is the fact that there's a spectrum of flexibility that people don't understand very well. Anyway, so I figured out if I could... I'm not quite 5'2", and the gentleman and ladies that I worked with were considerably larger, some of them were four times my size. 


0:05:43.6 S5: I thought, "Okay, I need to figure out a way to get some sort of leverage on these giant people and not kill myself in the meanwhile." So I took the weight belts off the wall that they used to lift heavy. I strapped these guys to the bench presses with their heads hanging off the back, and I thought, "Aha, bondage and leverage, I can get the joints to start opening, I can use my body and come underneath to lift them." And all of a sudden this modality, this therapy started to develop that was gentle. It was biomechanically very efficient on my body. And it also... One of the things that I think makes it very different when you see it from everything else, and we'll talk a bit about traditional versus what we do from a assisted stretching standpoint, we are of the belief that it's a very unique modality, and that I developed it to be not on the person or at the person but with the person. So there's this synergistic communication without words being needed. And it is this beautiful slow, gentle, undulating dance that when you see it compared to traditional, you're like, "What is that? That looks very different from what I've seen before." 


0:07:00.3 S2: So this is the perfect time to follow up with what you have mentioned there. What's the difference between traditional static assisted or PNF assisted stretching and FST?  


0:07:09.3 S4: Well, I'll give you an example. I was trained... You know, I'm trained as a physical therapist, so we learned traditional stretching and traditional stretching in that world, which really is in all the other worlds that do assisted stretching for the most part, is looking at a restriction and attempting to restore the range of motion, where it was lost. So the action usually is a static stretch where you hold the stretch 15 to 30 seconds or more, and you repeat it at least two times, maybe more as well per muscle. And so it's basically a very linear-based system, or sorry, methodology or technique to lengthen tissue and basically disrupt scar tissue or anything that it's in the way. It's basically you have to use some force that usually entails some amount of discomfort to pain, and that's traditional physical therapy. Just to color it a little bit more, when I would approach some of my clients, I would stretch little kids with cerebral palsy and they would cry before... When they saw my face knowing I'm going to hurt them. 


0:08:11.9 S4: I mean I'm doing therapy, but physical therapy can be in these cases, considered a painful thing and usually have to medicate people with some amount of analgesic painkiller, anti-inflammatory 30 minutes before you stretch them. Contrast that with Frederick Stretch Therapy, there is no pain, no discomfort. We never move the body in one line. We never address just one muscle, because actually that's impossible because of the fascial anatomy, everything connects to everything. So even if you have an intention to stretch, say a peck major or a bicep or whatever, you never ever just stretching that because it connects like a spider web, and the information transmits to the neighboring myofascia as well as even further out. So we take into account that it's not an isolated situation, it's a holistic situation. 


0:09:04.3 S4: Based on science, it's fascial anatomy. So we go in omni-directions, not just even triplanar, it's omni-directional, including traction and compression. So it's not just about lengthening, because that's not what it's all about, it's about restoring balance. And it's not always about length, you may have to compress something while you lengthen something somewhere else. So I think it's much more... Has many more factors and that's why the training is extensive for this, because it's not as simple as just taking one muscle and stretching it, that doesn't really work, it's uncomfortable to the client or patient and it doesn't last. So many people just give up stretching 'cause they say, "It never worked for me." We've been doing this for three decades and it's just, we've seen a lot and we know what people want and what hasn't worked for them. And that's why, Ann and then when I joined her three years into her practice, we co-developed this to really go from A through Z on self-stretching, assisted stretching, resisted stretching, all the varieties of stretching and compression, the contrast, and how that should work together to address the entire body, not just one muscle by one muscle. 


0:10:16.8 S3: So, Ann, when you were talking about how you got the inspiration to create and develop this modality, you were talking about initially working with athletes and Olympians and high-level professionals, but it has really evolved, hasn't it? Tell us a little bit about how that modality has translated to the general public. 


0:10:33.6 S5: I think the most amazing thing is I had no idea that it was going to translate to the depths and the width that it has turned into with my students. I stayed in my room, my little treatment room, my little dark, stretch cave for a decade without anybody influencing me one way or another as to what was okay and what wasn't. And I did that very intentionally, because I wanted my creative sources to be able to be developed and not squelched. Because I had the opportunity to work on these incredible high-level athletes, I had direct feedback on what worked and what didn't work. And my whole thing was, if it's to be effective, it has to translate to function. And if it can translate to function, then I'm on the right track. 


0:11:20.2 S5: I did not realize as we started to teach in the mid '90s into the beginning of 2000, that it was going to start evolving into the general population and people with neurological issues, people with PTSD, people with all kinds of chronic things that hadn't been helped. Everytime I have students come back and say, and I'm working with autism, I'm working with this as... It just blows my mind with what it has evolved into. And it thrills me because I never saw that in the beginning. It's just so exciting to see how many different arenas it has now moved into. 


0:12:03.5 S3: Let's take a short break to hear a word from our sponsors. 


0:12:06.9 Speaker 1: Anatomy Trains is excited to be back in person in the lab, with Anatomy Trains author, Tom Myers, and Master Dissector, Todd Garcia, at the Laboratories for Anatomical Enlightenment in Boulder, Colorado. Join us for a new four-day in-person fascial dissection intensive, October 24 to 27, 2023, where you'll have the unique opportunity to see in the most natural conditions possible and dissect for yourself what's under the skin. Visit for details. Let's get back to our conversation. 


0:12:52.4 S2: Tell us a little bit how FST integrates with massage therapy and other bodyworkers? Just because that's going to be the primary audience listening to this podcast today. Tell me a little bit about somebody who is trained in FST only and if that's a possibility, and then whether practitioners from various modalities are coming to you, and how they might integrate that in the session. 


0:13:14.3 S4: Well, I'm also trained in... I'm a structural integration practitioner of Anatomy Trains. So I did that in 2003, I did the 500-hour training, advanced training, and right away I integrated that with FST. So it's not even physical therapy anymore, it's structural integration or bodywork and FST. And so I had my first experiment, so to speak, with professional experiment, this was I had a client and I said, "Do you mind if I do 12 sessions of the Anatomy Trains SI work, structural integration work," which is kind of the series that they do, 12 of those, "And then let's see if we need to do any FST after that?" So it was a wonderful way to to mix the two. 


0:14:00.9 S4: The bodywork was amazing, it did some really amazing things. But then my... He was a physician, but he's an osteopathic physician, so he thinks already about fascia. He's like, "Yeah, let's go for the FST." And so I had a wonderful or almost laboratory experiment to see what the bodywork did, and then what a FST did. And they just complimented each other, they both are standalone services and for some people that's enough. But for this client, he was the perfect example of someone who needs a bit of both. And so that's what we do teach now in some of our trainings, we combine the best of the SI work, I've learned using, I call my hand tools, the fist, the soft fist, the pisiform, all these techniques we all heard of or know, combining with FST, it's just an amazing amalgam to pull them both... The best of both together to give clients what they really need. 


0:15:00.1 S5: And I'd like to answer how... We have lots and lots of massage therapists come study with us, and one of the things that I find, Kristin, I'm sure you can appreciate this, is how hard it is on your body. I have developed a way to make everything easy on your body, because I would have never survived if I hadn't. So what I find is when my massage therapists come in, they've got enormous hearts, they are unbelievably lovely, talented people at reading the tissue, but they're used to working too hard. My whole thing is giving them a new skillset that allows them to work much less to use their body, not their hands, to allow this synergy to happen with the person. 


0:15:41.1 S5: And most of the massage therapists find quite surprisingly for them, that in a very short amount of time, and this is a true statistic, 50%-80% of their sessions turn into FST with the massage work, finishing doing beautiful neck work and things that are just the yummy kind of final touches. I also find that most of the time, once the tissue is cleared up through the FST, that the tissue work has a bigger, longer lasting effect, so it's this glorious marriage of the two. We have always had tissue workers in with the FST, because they are married to each other. And for me it's a way of giving tissue workers a gift of working less and being able to have more success without killing themselves. Just giving them a break because most of the time they come in pretty burnt out from how hard they've worked for so long. And I love that because they have such beautiful, open hurts and they need to be given a tool of not to work so darn hard. 


0:16:47.3 S3: So I know you described the work and its constant movement and its flow. So tell us a little bit more about that. So if you were working on a limb, you lift the limb, you move the limb. So describe that if you will, so that our listeners can get a nice visual of what that might look like. 


0:17:03.1 S5: Absolutely. I learned lifting large gentlemen, typically with the NFL players, that the more that my body could do it and the less my arms had to do it, the more success we were going to have. So there is, as Chris said, FST is clothed, there's no medium, no oil, no lotion. It is something that you do prior to a massage, if you're going to do both. Because trying to do it draped and with slippery is not ideal. And the whole concept is based on your body getting close in order to move from the trunk out, the proximal out. And I find until you get the hips and shoulders opening up, going out to the extremities is not nearly as effective. So everything is core out, if you will. And everything is starting at a very, very base level. Like Chris said, the joint, we are very joint-focused, because if you can think about opening from the joints, everything, lets go reciprocally from that. 


0:18:05.1 S5: So instead of spending lots of time out at the extremities, we come in from the cord and move out. And it's a very visual art, so it's always challenging. Even in the books we've written, it's very challenging to get a feeling for it. So one of the things, Kristin, I could say is the best thing to do is watch video of it, because it's difficult to describe. And my students say, "How do I describe it?" I said, you know what guys? My answer that I almost always come up with is, "Lay down and experience it, because it's such an experiential thing that it's difficult to verbalize something that is such a kinesthetic thing." 


0:18:41.3 S4: New clients will say after their first experience, "That's not stretching." [laughter] And we call it Frederick Stretch Therapy. It's like people are misinterpreting what we do, thinking it's what is done a lot out there, 'cause they've had negative experiences by just having assisted stretching done. And they said, "You're not stretching." So it's like, well, that we're working with two definitions. Traditional stretching works on the definition, basically what I explained at the... Towards earlier in this podcast where it's more linear, a little more forceful, and it's based... Remember on what the practitioner think it as of muscle by muscle by muscle, and so this is done actually with a lot of listening to the tissue before you even move the tissue, it's actually more kind of osteopathic or craniosacral in its approach of listening to the tissue. 


0:19:32.8 S4: It's not digging in with your hands, there's is a time and place obviously to do deep massage and deep tissue work, so I'm not saying that, I do that, but it's more about just working with the body on a much more gentler, listening level. And it's like, it looks like a slow dance with two people, one on the table, one is a practitioner because we're constantly moving and feeling, "Does it need to go this way? Does it need to go that way?" As opposed to, "We're going to stretch your hamstrings this way." No, it's not done that way. So that's what they're comparing, they think that's what stretching is. And when they experience FST, it's like, "No, that's not stretching." So I'm like, "Okay, what do we call it then?" 


0:20:10.2 S2: You actually mentioned something really interesting there. So is the work done... You mentioned work on a table. Is the work also standing up, sitting down, lying down? Can you describe that?  


0:20:20.1 S5: Well, it's developed originally on a... Was on a regular massage table. We now have customized electric tables that have straps, that slide on the bottom and that's... Comfort Craft is the company we've worked with from the beginning. So we can definitely do floor stuff, we can do sitting stuff. The majority of the technique is based on a treatment table, which basically gives you the best leverage that you can have. On the floor, there is advantages, but there is disadvantages from it being harder on the practitioner and harder on the person experiencing it. Unless you are like on a field or something, that's different from a therapeutic standpoint. It's on a table that's actually custom designed, we've got them cut out and it's lovely, but it's also... I'm into what's easiest on both people to receive it, because I think whenever there is discomfort, that limits or inhibits how much relaxation can occur and effectiveness can occur. 


0:21:14.5 S4: Yeah, like Ann said, we do have a whole series on the floor. We decided a long time ago, we taught one class on the floor 15 to 20 years ago in Canada, and we were like, "That was a great class, but we'll never do that again, it's too hard for me and Ann to teach." I mean, but it's very effective, the younger you are, the easier it is to do on someone else. So this is appropriate. We are going to come out with that program, probably an online, we are not going to teach it, we'll just show people how to do it on an online version of it, because it is very good for trainers and people in the gym, who don't have a table, or even some massage therapists working in lots of different contexts. And in the field and outside, inside, we have these jiu-jitsu practitioners, they are on mats like wrestlers, right? And there they have adapted it on the floor into their way of doing things because that's their life. They spend it on the floor, so they actually do stretching, sort of an FST ground-based FST, which again comes from us, but they are adapting it to the jiu-jitsu world. And some very interesting things have been developed that really help those kinds of athletes. So I think it morphs, it's constantly morphing, and that's that's why we are still as passionate as we have ever been about this, 'cause it continues to grow and all these other dimensions like fascia, it's connecting to all these other things out there. So it's fun. 


0:22:38.5 S2: Alright, Ann and Chris, as we bring this podcast to a close today, can you tell me a little bit about what the future of FST looks like?  


0:22:46.3 S5: Well, I think one of the things that is super exciting is that as things evolve, we keep expanding the reach and the touch of FST. It has started to trickle down in the medical field a whole lot. We've got all kinds of things going on with that. We are actually in the process of starting to pursue teaching in Australia and the UK again. So we are starting to go a bit more global. We've kind of been centralized in the United States in Phoenix area and then Toronto, Canada. We also really love the fact that we have still many folks that come and do the training that are looking to expand things. So the folks that come and train, it seems like have wider variety from where they are coming in from, and I love that. I also love the fact that instead of winding down as we are in our golden years, as Chris says, but I think that the golden years are the best. We are revving up where we are headed. So, Chris, I don't know what else you want to add to that, but we are not slowing down, we are speeding up, which I think it is really exciting. 


0:24:00.0 S4: Yeah, I co-authored, in addition to our books, we wrote four of our books and now they are in a second edition. But I co-authored about eight books, where I had the privilege to do a chapter or two in their books. Most of them are about fascia, and there's one I'll pick... As one example, it's "Fascia and Medical Applications". So this book is now reaching the MD, the physicians and all the allied health professionals. And so the exciting thing about that is our work is getting known now more in the medical professions, so that's one thing. It's getting into medicine and I think to get that kind of credibility and hope ultimately to get maybe covered by insurance would be a great thing. We are actually working on that, too, starting with Medicare Advantage. So real quick, we have a student, she's a physician's assistant in the emergency room, in the emergency department. 


0:24:53.5 S4: She says, "I'm now reducing dislocated shoulders because of you guys inspiring me how to do it better." So, guess what? The way they do it now, I don't know if you guys know this, is it involves trauma, additional trauma to put the shoulder back in or hip. It's forceful, it's traumatic, it requires lots of medication to tolerate the pain. Then they are traumatized after it's done and lots of ancillary personnel just in case they have a heart attack and things go sideways, they have the crash cart and everything there, that's a lot of money for one person who dislocation, right? Our student was able to relocate. She did this about 20 times already. So it's proven that she does it better, faster, gentler, hardly any medication, and they are in and out in an hour, and it normally takes four hours. And I'm like, "This is revolutionary. We need to get this out in every emergency department because it's obvious, it would help so many people at a much reduced cost and not traumatize them." And it's like, "Oh, my God, did Ann and I ever think our work would be inspirational for things like this?" That's why we are not anywhere near retired, it's like we have so many things. So this is part of the future, it's emerging properties, which is the quantum theory. It's about things emerging that you couldn't predict, this is what's happening within our work. Oh, can I give a discount offer or no?  


0:26:24.0 S2: Sure. 


0:26:24.3 S3: Yes. 


0:26:24.5 S4: Yeah. So ABMP 23 is the discount code, 15% off of a level one workshop of FST until December of this year. They have until September 1st to put a deposit. 


0:26:41.8 S2: Well, it's definitely palpable to hear the two of you talk with your enthusiasm, excitement and curiosity. And I wish you the best with FST in the future. I want to thank our guest today, Ann and Chris Frederick. For more information about them and the good work they are doing, visit Thanks Ann, Chris and Kristin. 


0:27:00.8 S5: Thanks for inviting us. 


0:27:01.0 S4: Well, thank you for hosting us and being with us. We really appreciate that, spreading the word. 


0:27:05.8 S2: Thank you both so much for that incredible conversation. 




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