Tom Brady is defying all odds. For most athletes, performance declines with age. In Brady’s case, he’s playing arguably his best ever at 40 years old and shows no signs of slowing down.
In the past few years, Brady has been quite vocal about how he takes care of his body. His intense diet has been chronicled over and over again, and he’s made several comments in interviews about how he approaches his training.
And one word coming up: Pliability.
Brady has stated several times that his focus on pliability training is the key to his continued success. However, we had never heard of pliability training, nor had experts with whom we consulted. With the launch of his book The TB12 Method, we finally have our answer.
Brady explains the TB12 Method was devised over many years alongside his body coach, Alex Guerrero. Before meeting Guerrero, Brady trained like any other athlete, always striving to lift heavier weight. But he constantly fought through aches and pains. At one point, his throwing elbow hurt so much that he could barely practice. That’s when he sought out Guerrero at the recommendation of a teammate.
Guerrero’s unique holistic methodology helped Brady quickly recover from the elbow pain, which hasn’t been a problem for many years. This was Brady’s “Ah-Ha” moment, proving to him that he didn’t have to accept pain as a necessary evil of playing sports and that the training he was doing was actually making things worse. He also realized that by altering his training, he could fend off Father Time and continue playing football at a high level into his mid-forties.
Brady and Guerrero continued to forge their relationship and refine the TB12 Method, and finally opened the TB12 Sports Therapy Center, located just outside of Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Here, athletes could experience the same methods that Brady credits to his performance and longevity.
However, Brady wants to share his methodologies with more athletes than those who walk through the doors of his facility. He wants to change the way people think about performance training and ultimately help athletes perform better and have longer careers.
He says, “With this book, I’m on a mission to inspire coaches, parents, trainers, athletes and anyone who wants to lead a healthier lifestyle to consider how pliability training, and a commitment to a holistic and disciplined lifestyle, will lead to a more enjoyable life that allows them to achieve any goal they set for themselves.”
We picked up a copy of The TB12 Method to get an insight into how The GOAT actually works out and takes care of his body. Here are some of the some of the highlights:
TB12’s tagline is Sustained Peak Performance. Brady believes that for too long training has focused on maximizing performance in the present, but fails to properly consider longevity. Everything in the TB12 Method is designed to address this issue.
Well, we finally have a definition for muscle pliability training. In Brady’s own words: “Alex and I define pliability training as targeted, deep-force muscle work that lengthens and softens muscles at the same time those muscles are rhythmically contracted and relaxed.” Basically, pliability training is an intense tissue massage or self-myofascial release (SMR) combined rapid muscle contractions.
Brady attributes his focus on flexibility training to his relatively injury-free career—he only missed time in the 2008 NFL season due to a major knee injury, which was unavoidable regardless of pliability.
In short, pliability training returns muscles to a less tense and more relaxed state. These long, soft and primed muscles better handle the stresses experienced by your body, shifting that stress away from your ligaments, tendons and joints.
He explains that an athlete who strength trains and doesn’t focus on pliability will have tight, dense and stiff muscles that can’t properly disperse forces, forcing your structural tissues to pick up the slack. If the force is too high, an injury will occur to those tissues. A pliable muscle acts almost like a shock absorber, helping to absorb and disperse those forces—one of the reasons he believes he can absorb hard hits.
He believes pliability training is the missing component in the traditional strength and conditioning model—a reason why professional athletes’ careers are often limited to a handful of years. Injuries and nagging pain that are often thought of as inevitable in sports can theoretically be prevented or cured with pliability.
Brady does indeed do strength work and conditioning drills. However, pliability is a significant part of his daily routine, not an afterthought like most athletes treat flexibility and mobility work—which are components of pliability. He trains four times per week and half of his sessions—before and after—are focused on pliability. He also does additional pliability work during his off days with the help of Guerrero or on his own.
So how does one make a muscle more pliable? Basically, Guerrero massages the targeted muscle with high levels of force in the direction of the fibers toward the heart of the muscle for about 20 seconds. While he’s doing this, Brady quickly contracts and relaxes that muscle. So if Guerrero was working on Brady’s biceps, Brady quickly bends and straightens his arm. This helps the nervous system learn to keep the muscle in the desired long, soft and primed state.
Brady explains it’s possible to improve pliability without a TB12 coach. He recommends working the major muscle groups with a vibrating foam roller or your own hands and fingers if you’re on the road.
Brady recalled two success stories that caused him to buy into pliability training in addition to the elbow tendinitis story featured above.
He once suffered a groin injury that he was told would require surgery, and that would most likely require a second surgical repair two years later. With Guerrero’s help, he avoided surgery and hasn’t had an issue with his groin since then.
Second, Brady is not known for being quick—anyone who follows sports has surely seen his abysmal performance in the 40-Yard Dash at the 2000 NFL Combine—but he claims he’s gotten faster each year for the past six years, a feat not common for someone approaching their 40s.
Brady questions the traditional idea that you need to lift as much weight as possible and continuously get stronger and stronger. Rather, he recommends training to be only as strong as needed for your position. For example, Brady understands that an offensive lineman will need to lift heavy weights. But as a quarterback, he’s plenty strong to execute every skill required at an elite level and doesn’t feel the need to squat 400 pounds. He believes this would only cause his body to break down faster
Ninety percent of Brady’s workouts are based on resistance band exercises. Resistance bands are great for building power, challenging muscles through their full range of motion and increasing stability. The exercises featured in the manual aren’t all that unique or out of the ordinary; they’re simply resistance band variations of the many exercises you’ll see in any modern training program and across STACK.com.
Much of Brady’s strength workouts are focused on eliminating muscle imbalances that can throw his mechanics and joints out of whack. For example, a common imbalance among athletes is weak hamstrings relative to quad strength, which increases the risk of ACL tears. The TB12 Method would prioritize correcting an imbalance like this to prevent that injury from occurring.
Although this article is about his training, we’d be remiss not to mention Brady’s nutrition. Yes, he does follow a strict diet designed to nourish his body with nutrients and prevent inflammation. However, contrary to popular belief, he does enjoy the occasional hamburger or cheat meal. It’s just occasionally and in moderation.
Finally, we leave you with this quote from Brady that sums up his mindset:
“Playing sports increases the likelihood of injuries because you more regularly confront excessive loads and forces. That’s why, as an athlete, if I want to live a healthier life on and off the field, I have to make great choices that are aligned with my goals.”
So what do you think? There are surely some concepts that will ruffle some feathers, but at the same time, this method has worked tremendously for Brady. We’re curious to hear more success stories and maybe even see studies performed on the validity of pliability training before passing a final judgment.