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Why Tom Brady’s TB12 Method is a Lesson On Prehab

What kind of fitness advice can we glean from Tom Brady's new book 'The TB12 Method'? The Get-Fit Guy dives into Brady's emphasis on Muscle Pliability, Variable Resistance, and more. 

By
Brock Armstrong,
October 3, 2017
Episode #357

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football on a field representing tom brady's tb12 method

NFL Quarterback Tom Brady’s book 'The TB12 Method' finally hit the shelves of my local bookstore last week, and although it was pretty well hidden behind a book about Hillary Clinton and the latest John le Carré novel, it seems to be selling quite well.

The book outlines Brady’s holistic approach to training, nutrition, and lifestyle that promises to help you achieve a lifetime of sustained peak performance. My colleague the Nutrition Diva dove into the nutritional aspects of the book and I'm going to dive into the training side.

A Little History on Sports and Fitness

Back in 1956, President Eisenhower established the President's Council on Youth Fitness. Sixty years later they are now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, and they strive to engage, educate, and empower all Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and good nutrition.

In 1993 (under President Bill Clinton) the US Government released the Nolan Ryan Fitness Guide, which was made available free of charge to every American who asked for one and more than 850,000 guides were distributed. Nolan was indeed a busy baseball player but not too busy to give (unqualified) medical and nutritional advice to all of America.

So, when I saw Tom Brady following suit, I wasn’t all that surprised. Even if this book wasn’t mandated by the president and will not be given out for free to anyone who asks for it, there is a history of us looking to our sports heroes for their guidance. All of us are secretly hoping that if we emulate their morning routine we can grab a piece of their good fortune or stardom. 

Why Tom Brady?

At age 39, Brady became the second-oldest quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl. He is now 40-years-old and in his 18th season of throwing, dodging and slightly deflating balls. In American football standards, he is indeed an old man but he is also still playing and still winning, so he must be doing something right. Right?

Well, obviously yes. He has definitely tapped into what his unique biology, genetics, epigenetics, and biomechanics need in order to stay at the top of his game. Does this mean his techniques will work for you? Well, just like following any pro athlete’s highly-customized program, probably not. But if you are like me, you checked the book out anyway because heck, he’s a 40-year-old, lean, 225-pound guy who plays like a champ. Why not take a peek under the hood to see how he works?

The TB12 Method

TB12 Method really reads like an injury rehab book. Except that it’s not an injury they are rehabbing, it is age.

It’s debatable just how much of Brady’s success and longevity can be linked to his current TB12 Method or training regimen (which is named after him and his jersey number). There is some good advice in the fitness section of the book (which is where I will keep my focus) but I have to say that it really reads like an injury rehab book. One that your physiotherapist might give you when you finish your final session: "Ok, you are good to go but take this book and follow the program for the next six months and then come back and see me." I find this to be particularly interesting because Brady and his team are actually engaged in a true but rare form of rehab or "prehab" protocol. Except that it’s not an injury they are rehabbing, it is age. I gotta say that I find this book fascinating from that standpoint alone.

One thing I have to point out before we dive in further is that the man who manages Tom Brady’s diet and workouts, Alex Guerrero, is neither a doctor nor a nutritionist and he also doesn’t have the best track record with the FTC. (Alex Guerrero faked being a doctor and made unsubstantiated claims that his products could cure conditions such as cancer and concussions.) So when you are deciding whether or not to purchase this book, consider the source. But as they say (rather dubiously), Orville and Wilbur Wright weren’t pilots but they still invented the airplane, so…onward and upward?

Here are a few things I did find interesting about the TB12 protocol:

  1. Use of vibrating foam rollers
  2. Replacing weights with resistance bands
  3. The science behind variable resistance

Let's dive deeper into each.

The Use of a Vibrating Foam Roller

"Pliable muscles are softer, longer and more resilient: they help insulate the body against injury and accelerate post-injury recovery," explains TB12's website which is absolutely riddled with a catchy but elusive term that I 'd never seen before: Muscle Pliability.

I have been a coach for a while now and I do my best to keep up with the literature so I was curious about this terminology. I have never heard the term "muscle pliability" mentioned anywhere before. It certainly wasn’t part of my coaching certification (which is specialized in, among other things, portable equipment) and a Google search returned a few hits but most of them were written by or about Tom Brady, apart from one paper about flexibility which actually contradicts much of what TB12 is based on.

So basically, Muscle Pliability is a marketing or branding term for the TB12 Method. A pretty good one too.

My guess is that Muscle Pliability is a term that Brady and his team came up with to encapsulate being strong but relaxed and able to move freely through your body’s maximum range of motion. Very much like what the mobility guru, Kelly Starrett, preached when he told us that we all needed to become a Supple Leopard back in 2013. Except for the fact that Starrett is one of the highest respected Doctors of Physical Therapy in the world today, at least when it comes to mobility and sport.

Getting people to improve their flexibility, and to a greater extent their mobility, is a big part of my life’s mission. It would be crazy to me if Brady did not to focus on these parts of training. If he personally didn’t focus on them, he certainly wouldn’t be the athlete he is today, and in the book Brady does go to great lengths and focuses almost single mindedly on this, but none of what he is doing is new or groundbreaking. We were using foam rollers back when I first started coaching—granted, our foam rollers didn’t vibrate.

It was when I dug into Brady’s use of foam rollers, massage, myofascial release, and mobility exercises that I realized I was looking at a program for someone who is locked in an epic battle with Father Time. The approach is quite ingenious (and useful for us old guys) but is certain to disappoint the 20-year-olds who will invariably pick up this book and be stunned by their hero spending more time rubbing his muscles than pumping them up. Not that I think this is a bad thing. I agree with the part in the book where Brady says, “Weights aren’t harmful themselves. What is harmful is how most people use weights.” I agree. Especially when it comes to 20-year-olds who watch too much NFL.

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