What Have I Learned From Teaching Suspension Based PT?

Written by:
Tyler Joyce
February 15, 2023

I am always inspired after teaching any course, and this past weekend was no different. We recently hired 5 new Doctors of Physical Therapy at Activcore and it is my job to teach them how to do suspension based physical therapy. I also mentor them on a one-on-one basis to speed up their learning curve. As one of the first physical therapists in the United States to use this "zero gravity" system, I have countless success (and not so successful) stories to tell.

When I began using the Redcord suspension system in 2007, there was no one available to mentor me. The system came from Norway so there weren't any practitioners here in the U.S. for me to observe, ask questions, and talk through my patient cases. There also wasn't much online content available at the time. The Norwegian physiotherapists who originally taught me this treatment method were on a time zone 6 hours ahead which made it difficult to even do a Skype call. So it felt like I was on my own island trying to figure things out for myself. And, for the most part, that’s exactly what I did.

Fast forward 15 years. I am a co-founder at Activcore, the nation's leading provider of suspension based PT and performance. I now use the system everyday to help people overcome pain and restore functional mobility through the power of "neuromuscular activation." I also teach this evidence-based method to physical therapists and athletic trainers around the country, including the U.S. Olympic Committee and some collegiate and professional sports teams.

Here are a 3 key takeaways I have learned along the way:

1. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Since I was one of the first physical therapists trained in this system, it means that I have probably made the most mistakes using it. I think of the acronym FAIL which stands for First Attempt In Learning. I use this as my guiding light. If you don’t make mistakes, you will never learn. When you are first introduced to suspension based PT, you will likely fumble with the ropes too much, forget how to do something, or just think that you are not very good at doing it. But keep in mind that the patient on the treatment table has no idea how good or bad you are. As long as you make them feel better, you are doing your job.

2. Keep it simple.

There's so much to learn when it comes to this system. It can be intimidating. You will first learn the history of suspension exercise and the science behind it. Then you will learn how to adjust the ropes and attach the accessories (bungee cords, slings, etc.). Next you will learn the grading principles, the types of tests, and the corrective procedures that go along with each test. There are also many other exercises you will learn, including ways to progress and regress each one. Finally, you will learn how to apply everything for your clients without making a fool of yourself. Wow, just writing this has made me a bit sick to my stomach!

So let's all take a deep breath. Here's my advice: stick with the basics. Start out with just a few simple tests and exercises, and make them all pain free through bungee assistance. When you do this, good things will naturally happen. I recommend sticking with the "big five" myofascial chain tests: pelvic lift, bridge, plank, hip abduction, and hip adduction — and that's it. Sprinkle in a motor control setting of the lumbar spine, a push up or two, and a few closed-kinetic-chain neck exercises — and you are good to go. Master these exercises inside and out and your clients will rave about you to their friends and family.

3. Get a mentor.

Maybe it’s my older age but I think it is normal to feel like you can help the younger generation of physical therapists with all of the knowledge you've accumulated over the years. For me, it’s more personal than just being older and wiser. It has more to do with not having a mentor in my early days. I eventually had a mentor who became one of my friends to this day. The only problem is that he’s in Norway. But I will say that every time I talk with him, I learn something new. If you work by yourself or in a private room, I implore you to get a mentor. It will make a world of difference.

After many years of pulling on these suspension ropes, making mistakes and celebrating successes, I still have a passion for suspension based PT. I still get butterflies in my stomach when I make a major change in functional mobility and see the smile on a client's face. I often hear them say, “how the hell did you do that?” Sometimes the pain is gone after just one visit! None of these things would be possible for me without suspension based PT.

Some physical therapists feel that they can be a great practitioner without it. But for me that's simply not the case. The system allows me to see things that other people can't. Having the ability to create a "zero-gravity" treatment environment and get to the source of the pain makes me pretty darn good at what I do.

I use the Redcord suspension system because it gives me purpose. I believe that I can make a significant difference for my clients in a very short period of time. And I never lose site of that. I am also proud to help transform the way physical therapy is delivered in the United States.

I can’t help but get emotional when I speak of this. That's because it is all true. I would not be half the PT I am without it. The younger version of myself would never have guessed that I would become an instructor, a mentor, and a thought leader in the fields of physical therapy and professional sports. The list goes on and on but I never say I was lucky. I only felt lucky that Redcord fell into my lap when it did. Although I worked my ass off and made it my mission to be the best PT I could possibly be.

At every course I teach, there are participants who struggle with some aspect of the training. I always say, “If I can do it, you can do it too.” I’m living proof of this and I’m not quitting anytime soon.

If you are interested in getting mentored, please contact me.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.

Tyler Joyce

Co-Founder | Physical Therapist
Tyler Joyce is a 20+ year experienced physical therapist who specializes in helping competitive baseball players and weekend athletes overcome chronic pain and injury through application of the Redcord suspension system. He works at Activcore in Princeton, New Jersey, located just 2 miles from Princeton University.


How Did We Help Two Professional Sports Teams Become Champions?

Let me start right off by saying that I’m not one to call attention to myself, or to toot my own horn. In fact, I've been known to not even tell my co-workers that it’s my birthday. This should give you an idea of how difficult it is for me to write about one of the best kept secrets in professional sports.


Why Athletes Don't Even Know They Need Neuromuscular Control?

Being injured all of the time is not normal. If you're an athlete, it doesn't necessarily mean you will be frequently injured or in pain. Yes, sports do increase your odds of getting hurt, but they don't guarantee it. In fact, I played basketball and baseball throughout my life and I remember less than a handful of injuries. Of course some of that was simply luck of the draw, but now (as a physical therapist) I realize there's so much more to it.


Why Should Everyone Get Tested in the Ropes?

As a physical therapist, testing has been ingrained in me since PT school. I learned that the initial evaluation process should involve testing of specific parts of the body, such as the joints, muscles, and nerves. The results of these tests would then play a role in guiding my treatments. Basically it gave me a starting point.


Podcast Episode: Tyler Joyce Explains Redcord and the NEURAC treatment approach

In this podcast episode, Dr. Scott Curtis from the Princeton Spine and Joint Center interviewed me about suspension based physical therapy. We discussed the Redcord suspension system that I use on all of my clients. It comes from Norway and consists of ropes, slings and bungee cords. I enjoyed explaining how we use Redcord to deliver the neuromuscular activation (NEURAC) treatment approach...


A Tale of Two Physical Therapists

When I was in high school, I read the book A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I can’t help but compare that story to my journey as a physical therapist. When I looked over my old cliff notes in preparation for writing today’s blog, Dickens came right out the gate in his first paragraph with the theme of duality...


Suspension Based Physical Therapy To Overcome Pain

The evidence for treating musculoskeletal pain has remained consistent over the years. It supports two basic aspects of physical therapy: to move your joints and to understand pain science. So why, early on in my career, was it so hard for me to successfully treat patients in pain? I guess moving without pain is harder than you might think. Just ask the old me that didn’t have access to a “zero-gravity” suspension exercise system.


Physical Therapy Doesn’t Have to be Painful!

In my previous blog post I explained the science behind musculoskeletal pain and how Redcord is my secret weapon to overcome it. Today, I’m going to discuss one of the most important aspects of suspension based physical therapy: creating a "zero-gravity" environment so that you can move your joints through pain-free ranges of motion.


There’s A Better Way To Test Your Muscles: Introducing Redcord Testing

I wanted to share something that happened to me while recently evaluating someone for physical therapy. A mother of two elementary school children comes in with complaints of right hip pain and a long history of hammer toes on both feet. Neither of these issues are urgent or in an acute stage. She just wants to prevent them from getting any worse.


Let’s Shake Things Up: The Redcord Stimula

I would like to discuss something that takes suspension based physical therapy to the next level. It’s called the Redcord Stimula. Developed by physiotherapists in Norway, the Stimula is a vibrating mechanical unit that attaches to the suspension ropes in order to provide extra vibration that manual “perturbation” simply cannot match.


The Twelve Tests of Redcord

I wrote this song while sitting in front of my fireplace listening to Bing Crosby’s Twelve Days of Christmas. I recommend getting inspired by listening to Bing’s version first so you can sync my version to his. Happy holidays from the Activcore family to yours.


Anatomy Made Simple: The Myofascial System

If you know me, you know that I love to simplify things especially when it comes to physical therapy. That’s why I love Redcord. It is a simple yet effective tool. Now don’t get me wrong, it looks intimidating with all of those ropes, slings and bungee cords. But once you learn how to use the equipment and understand the testing and clinical reasoning process (known as Redcord NEURAC), it makes treating people so much easier.


Anatomy Made Simple: Inner Muscles vs Outer Muscles

In my last blog post I talked about how to simplify explaining anatomy to clients by way of the myofascial system. Before we dig into each myofascial chain, I would like to discuss another simple concept that has also dramatically improved the way I treat and educate my clients.‍ The concept of inner muscles versus outer muscles was introduced by Anders Bergmark in 1989.


Anatomy Made Simple: The Deep Front Line

In my last two blogs, I explained how our muscles (and hence our bones and joints) are connected to each other through a series of myofascial chains. I also explained how we have inner muscles that stabilize our joints versus outer muscles that move our joints. ‍In the spirit of keeping things simple with regards to explaining the myofascial chains, I am going to break them down from the front of the body, back of the body, and sides of the body.


Anatomy Made Simple: The Front Functional Line

In this blog series, I am breaking down the myofascial chains (chains of muscles that work together to perform movements) into the ones in the front of the body, back of the body, and sides of the body. I highlighted the Deep Front Line in my last post. Today I'm going to talk about the second of three myofascial chains located in the front of the body: the Front Functional Line.


What Have I Learned From Teaching Suspension Based PT?

I am always inspired after teaching any course, and this past weekend was no different. We recently hired 5 new Doctors of Physical Therapy at Activcore and it is my job to teach them how to do suspension based physical therapy. I also mentor them on a one-on-one basis to speed up their learning curve. As one of the first physical therapists in the United States to use this "zero gravity" system, I have countless success (and not so successful) stories to tell.


Anatomy Made Simple: The Superficial Front Line

To be honest, when I talk about the myofascial chains located on the front of the body, I seem to mostly refer to the Deep Front Line and the Front Functional Line. That's because I often find "weak links" along these chains upon testing them, especially in the hip adductors or inner thigh muscles.‍The Superficial Front Line is more of an afterthought, if everything else tests normal.


Treating Low Back Pain: Medication vs Exercise?

Instant gratification is all around us every single day. We get our news immediately from our phones. Our meals come prepared and ready to heat up and eat in several minutes. And we get anything we want from Amazon with literally the click of a button. Our world is moving so fast compared to years ago. So why would recovering from a lower back injury be any different?


How Conventional Physical Therapy Failed a College Baseball Pitcher

I come from a baseball family and more specifically a family of baseball pitchers. My grandfather pitched for the Braves and the Yankees in the 1930’s and 40’s. He stood a lengthy 6 foot 7 inches tall soaking wet. My dad was a 6 foot 5 inch lefty pitcher from Portland, Maine who played one season with the Kansas City A’s. I was a pitcher in high school but an injury to my elbow ended my career before it even began.


What Does a Good Shoulder Treatment Look Like?

There is strong evidence to support suspension based physical therapy for shoulder rehabilitation and performance. So it’s perplexing why it has taken so long to become the gold standard of care. This type of treatment intervention is common in Norway, where it originated. But here in the United States it barely exists. I guess one reason for this is that the profession of physical therapy began in this Nordic region of the world in the early 1800s. Therefore they have about a hundred more years of clinical experience than we do.


How a Snake Bite Helps Explain Pain

I felt inspired to write this blog after re-watching a 2011 TED Talk by Lorimer Moseley on the topic of pain. I have seen this episode multiple times and it always makes me laugh. He knows how to tell a good story that merges science with comedy. He actually makes learning (about pain) fun!


Suspension Based Physical Therapy for Postpartum Pelvic Pain

For over 15 years, I've been teaching suspension based PT to physical therapists across the country. I have seen all different types of clinics incorporate the Redcord suspension system into their daily practice. During these classes, many pelvic floor physical therapists have exclaimed how great suspension exercise is for postpartum moms. I would hear this over and over again. But I didn't know exactly why.