Gymnasts have been doing suspension exercises (gym rings, high bar, etc.) for centuries. With practice and repetition, they learn how to stabilize their own bodyweight into various suspended positions, such as a plank, bridge, pike, dip, and pull-up. This type of specialized strength training helps them build extreme muscle control from head to toe.
Suspension isn't new to PT. In fact, the physical therapy profession originated from gymnastics in the 1800's. Physical therapists in Sweden were originally called "sjuk-gymnast" which translates into "a person involved in gymnastics for those who are ill." The first physio was Per Henrik Ling (the Father of Swedish Gymnastics) who founded the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics in 1813 for rehab exercise 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. We use a "zero gravity" suspension system called Redcord. It comes from Norway and consists of ropes, slings and bungee cords. Similar to floating in water, Redcord creates a weightless environment where people of all ages, all sizes, and all abilities can safely exercise and rebuild muscle control without pain. Yes, it's totally painless (and fun)!
Just like a gymnast, we teach you how to stabilize your own bodyweight into various suspended positions, such as a bridge or plank. We use slings and bungee cords to assist you through each precise movement. With practice and repetition, these exercises help you gain neuromuscular control across entire chains of muscles (i.e., myofascial chains) for restoring whole body stability and pain-free mobility.
Suspension exercises stimulate your mind and muscles (i.e., the neuromuscular system). When performed with bungee assistance, they become a gentle yet powerful way to reactivate muscles that went dormant from pain, injury and inactivity. This treatment approach is called neuromuscular activation. It's like turning on a light switch to your body's deep stabilizer muscles (e.g., pelvic floor, diaphragm, transverse abdominis, etc.) so that you have the support necessary to move freely again.
Redcord is the gold standard in suspension exercise. It gets faster results than traditional PT and strength training. The difference is felt at a neuromuscular level. When your mind, pelvis and body are all fully connected, the effects are unrivaled.
Developed by Norwegian physiotherapists in the 1990's, Redcord is now utilized by elite physical therapists and fitness professionals around the world as the ultimate neuromuscular retraining system. Many Olympic level athletes use it on a daily basis.
At Activcore, we're proud to be the leading authority of Redcord in the United States. Delivering suspension based physical therapy sort of feels like we’re getting back to the foundation of “Swedish medical gymnastics” that the profession was originally built on.
Redcord has been extensively peer reviewed with 100+ research studies in industry approved publications, such as the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, Journal of Biomechanics, Journal of Human Kinetics, and Journal of Dance Medicine and Science.
Here's how the science behind it works...
Studies have shown that many physical events (injury, illness, surgery, pregnancy, etc.) can alter your brain’s capacity to switch on the right muscles, at the right time, and with the right amount of strength. Known as neuromuscular deactivation, this process is characterized by a loss of control of your smaller (local) muscles that help stabilize the joints of the body. In other words, your local stabilizers begin to shut down.
Some examples of local stabilizers include:
- Deep neck flexors
- Deep shoulder muscles (rotator cuff)
- Deep rotators of the hip
- Pelvic floor muscles
- Transverse abdominis
- Internal obliques
To compensate for this loss of control, your brain naturally sends more signals to the larger (global) muscles which are closer to the surface of your body. Under normal circumstances, these large muscles are responsible for global movements, such as walking, running, squatting, pushing and pulling. They turn on to do a specific task. Then they're supposed to turn off, relax and recover. But now, due to the underlying muscle deactivation, they must stay on to also do the constant work of the local stabilizers.
Basically your larger muscles are now doing two jobs. That's why they feel "knotted" up. These muscles are simply not built to stay on so long. So it's only a matter of time for them to get overworked. Any additional stress could start a vicious cycle of pain...
As the cycle goes around, the pain can eventually interfere with your everyday life. This is typically when most people seek out help from a professional, such as a chiropractor, physical therapist, acupuncturist or massage therapist. However, if the practitioner does not address the underlying muscle imbalances (i.e., the root cause), you will probably only get temporarily relief. The pain could come back and become chronic over time.
Neuromuscular deactivation impairs not just how you move, but also how you recover from trauma. It makes your body more susceptible to recurring injuries. It can even disrupt how you regulate normal bodily processes, like voiding urine (i.e., pelvic floor dysfunction), digesting food and breathing.
Stretching, massaging and strengthening the painful spot won't fix it. You have to find the source of the problem. This is often far away from the painful area. For example, most shoulder problems actually stem from muscle deactivation at the pelvis and hips. That's why you must work on the whole muscle chain, regardless of where you feel pain.
NEURAC (NEURomuscular ACtivation) aims to reverse the pain cycle and normalize the muscle interaction through tailored corrective exercises performed on the Redcord. By applying bungee assistance, your larger (global) muscles can relax and let go, so that your smaller (local) stabilizing muscles can turn back on. It's sort of like turning up a light switch to the local stabilizers that went dim from chronic pain and trauma.
NEURAC builds muscle control from the inside out. With each repetition, you are gently retraining your muscles into a proper neuromuscular pattern to help re-stabilize joints.
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. Based on your response to each exercise, we can adjust how much neuromuscular stimulation to apply. Shaking the ropes heightens the activity. Lightly vibrating the ropes produces a calming effect. Finding a perfect balance of control versus instability is essential for best results. You should feel the muscles working (activating) but without any symptom aggravation.
Redcord is the ideal tool and technique for delivering neuromuscular activation. While it's common to start feeling immediate changes after just a few exercises, it's important to understand that retraining the neuromuscular system takes frequent repetition. After all, we are quite literally remapping your brain’s connection with the muscles.
Every movement should be precise, purposeful, and tailored to your specific needs. Some of the exercises prescribed could include, but not be limited to: bridges, planks, lunges, squats, push ups, and pull ups. Your provider may also use the Redcord to assist with the application of manual therapy techniques, such as joint mobilizations, massage, stretching and myofascial release.
Redcord helps people to a life in motion. As your pain diminishes and function returns, you can continue using the system for performance enhancement and injury prevention. Progressing the routine with less bungee assistance, more rotational exercises, and multi-suspension training can help you build a solid foundation of movement for sports and everything else you do to be active for life.
Click here to learn even more about Redcord.