Regaining control of your muscles from the inside out

Gymnasts have been using suspension apparatus (gym rings, high bar, etc.) for centuries. Through practice and repetition, they learn how to move, balance and stabilize their own bodyweight into suspended positions, like a plank, dip, pike or pull up. This type of specialized strength training helps them build muscle control from head to toe. It brings out their inner (core) stabilizing system for optimal posture, mobility and performance.

Suspension exercise isn't new to PT. In fact, the physical therapy profession was born from gymnastics in the early 1800's. Physical therapists in Sweden were originally called "sjuk-gymnast" which means a person involved in gymnastics for those who are ill. The first physical therapist was Per Henrik Ling (the Father of Swedish Gymnastics) who founded the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics in 1813 for rehabilitation and manipulation. [source: The Rise of Physical Therapy: A History in Footsteps]

At Activcore, we apply suspension exercises into a physical therapy and fitness setting. The system we use is called Redcord. It comes from Norway and consists of ropes, slings and bungee cords. Similar to floating in a pool, the Redcord suspension system creates a "zero-gravity" environment where people of all ages, all sizes, and all abilities can safely exercise with proper form and without pain. Think of it as aquatic therapy done on land.

Bungee-assisted single leg bridge

Suspension exercises bring the "inner gymnast" out of you. Using bungee assistance, we teach you how to move, balance and stabilize the weight of your own body into specific joint motions, such as shoulder flexion or trunk extension. Each exercise requires precise neuromuscular control across entire chains of muscles (the myofascial chains). Through practice and repetition, your whole body will feel more stable and become less susceptible to injury while participating in sports and everyday physical activities.

Bungee-assisted side plank (hip adduction)

Suspension exercises target the body's joint stabilizers (deep neck flexors, rotator cuff, pelvic floor, transverse abdominis, deep rotators of the hip, etc.). These are your inner core muscles that support the joints to give you upright posture and functional mobility.

Joint stabilizers are supposed to always be ON through continuous muscle activation. But sometimes they turn OFF from some sort of trauma, like a sports injury, surgery, illness or pregnancy. When deactivated for a long period of time, they can become "weak links" in the kinetic chain that could eventually lead to a vicious cycle of pain.

Bungee-assisted lumbar stabilization

We apply suspension exercises to essentially "wake up" these dormant muscles and reverse the pain cycle. This approach is called neuromuscular activation, or NEURAC for short. It's like turning on a light switch to your body's deep stabilizing system that went dim from pain and trauma. By offloading the outer muscles with bungee support, we can gently recruit the inner muscles that stabilize your joints.

Bungee-assisted neck stabilization

Redcord is the gold standard in suspension exercise. It gets faster results than ordinary PT and strength training. The difference is felt at a neuromuscular level. When your mind and muscles are fully connected, the effects are extraordinary.

Developed by Norwegian physiotherapists in the 1990's, Redcord is now utilized by elite physical therapists around the world as the ultimate system for deep muscle recruitment. At Activcore, we are proud to be the leading provider of Redcord in the United States. Doing suspension based PT makes us feel like we are getting back to the foundation of "Swedish medical gymnastics" that the profession was originally built on.

Bungee-assisted pelvic stabilization (prone)

Redcord is a form of evidence-based practice within the fields of physical therapy and fitness. It has been extensively peer reviewed with 100+ research studies featured in industry approved publications like the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, Journal of Human Kinetics, Journal of Biomechanics, and Journal of Dance Medicine & Science.

Here's how the science behind it works...


The Problem


Studies have shown that trauma (injury, illness, surgery, pregnancy, etc.) creates physical imbalances throughout the body by altering your brain’s capacity to switch on the right muscles, at the right time, and with the right amount of strength. This process is known as neuromuscular deactivation. It involves a loss of control of the "local" joint stabilizers. These are the smaller muscles located near your joints. They are primarily responsible for supporting the pelvis, spine, hips and other joints to allow for upright posture and functional mobility. Basically, the body's deep stabilizing system begins to shut down.

Some local stabilizers include the:

- Deep neck flexors

- Deep shoulder muscles (rotator cuff)

- Deep rotators of the hip

- Pelvic floor muscles

- Multifidus

- Transverse abdominis

- Internal obliques

- Diaphragm

To compensate for this loss of muscle control, the brain naturally sends more signals to the larger muscles which are closer to the surface of your body. Some examples of "global" muscles include the lats, pecs, biceps, triceps, quads and hams. Their primary role is to move the body. They turn on to do a task (walk, run, squat, lift, push, pull, etc.). Then they are supposed to turn off and recover. However, due to the underlying muscle deactivation, they must stay on to also do the constant work of the joint stabilizers.

Simply put, the global muscles are now doing two jobs: moving and stabilizing. But they are not built to stay on all the time like the stabilizers. So eventually they will tighten up like a knot. A classic example of this is tight hamstrings compensating for a weak core. It is your body's innate way to protect the unstable joints by stiffening up the hamstrings.

If not properly addressed, these muscle imbalances will set in motion a cycle of pain that could eventually lead to injury, such as a pulled or torn hamstring during activity.

As the cycle goes around, pain will interfere with your everyday life. This is typically when most people seek out help from a professional (physical therapist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, etc.). However, if the professional does not know how to find and fix these muscle imbalances as the underlying source of your pain, you might only get temporarily relief. The symptoms could return and spread out to other areas in time.

Muscle deactivation impairs how you stabilize joint motions. It makes your body more susceptible to recurring injuries. It can even disrupt how you regulate normal bodily processes, such as urinating (pelvic floor dysfunction), digesting food and breathing.


Sports and repetitive use
Broken bone
Injury and pain
Surgery and medication
Sedentary lifestyle
Poor posture
Poor posture
Pregnancy and postpartum
Pregnancy and childbirth

The Solution


Simply stretching, massaging and strengthening the painful spot won't fix it. You have to first locate the source of the problem. This is often far away from the painful area. For example, most shoulder problems stem from muscle deactivation at the pelvis, hips and spine. That's why you must address the whole chain, regardless of where you have pain.

NEURAC (NEURomuscular ACtivation) is a targeted treatment approach that applies suspension exercises combined with elevated levels of neuromuscular stimulation to essentially wake up the dormant muscles and reverse the pain cycle. It's like turning on a light switch to your body's deep stabilizing system that went dim from pain and trauma.

Bungee-assisted shoulder stabilization

The Redcord suspension system gives your body the support it needs to engage the right muscles, at the right time, and with the right amount of strength. By offloading your outer muscles with bungee assistance, we can recruit the inner muscles that stabilize your joints.

We can also adjust how much neuromuscular stimulation to apply during each exercise. Shaking the ropes stimulates the nerves. Gently vibrating the ropes calms the nerves. Finding a perfect balance of "control versus instability" is essential for best results. You should feel your muscles working (reactivating) but without any symptom aggravation.

Bungee-assisted thoracic stabilization

Redcord is an ideal tool for delivering neuromuscular activation. While it's common to start feeling immediate changes with just a few exercises, it's important to understand that retraining muscles into a proper neuromuscular pattern takes repetition. After all, we are quite literally remapping connections between the brain and the joint stabilizers.

Every exercise prescribed should be tailored to your specific needs. The physical therapist may also use the suspension system to assist with the application of manual therapy techniques, such as joint mobilizations, stretching and myofascial release.

Assisted manual mobilizations

Assisted manual stretching

Redcord helps people to a life in motion. Just like gymnastics, it naturally improves the way you control the weight of your own body in space by developing muscle control, optimizing joint mobility, and enhancing performance.

Click here to learn even more about suspension based physical therapy and fitness.



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