by Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY Sports
Tom Brady sent me his new book, The TB12 Method, and the implication is that, well, his lifestyle principles can work for just about anybody — elite athletes, weekend YMCA warriors, yoga enthusiasts or even middle-aged columnists pressed to make that next deadline.
The New England Patriots star shares some secrets of his success — not all of his secrets, as there are no chapters on Deflategate, Spygate or his habitual dismantling of the Pittsburgh Steelers — explaining why he’s still humming along at an MVP level at 40.
“The reality for me is that without pliability, there is no alternative,” Brady told USA TODAY Sports.
I know I’m inspired. Let me freeze the keyboard, drop and do a few sets of push-ups. No alternative.
Like Rob Gronkowski is a go-to red zone target, pliability is Brady’s go-to term. Translated, it means that his muscles — particularly those in that razor-sharp right arm — are long, loose and primed to fire. It’s the result of a revolutionary, holistic training approach that Brady has developed with his body coach, Alex Guerrero.
Brady, whose regimen includes disciplined nutrition, currently leads the NFL in passing attempts (343), completions (231) and yards (2,807) as he and the Patriots gear up for another potential Super Bowl run You know what they say: What you put in, is what you get out.
Brady epitomizes that. He emerged on the NFL scene as a wonder, sticking despite being a sixth-round pick who was the seventh quarterback drafted in 2000. Now, with five Super Bowl rings, he is another type of wonder after apparently discovering a personal fountain of youth.
The Patriots are seemingly so convinced that Brady still has a few good years left, that they traded Jimmy Garoppolo, his backup and potential heir apparent, to the 49ers two weeks ago.
“It’s been such a progression,” said Brady, who hasn’t missed a game due to injury since tearing up his knee in 2008. “I just feel like I’ve had such a great routine. It’s just gotten better and more refined as I’ve gotten older.”
He isn’t the first to defy the laws of nature when it comes to NFL durability. Jerry Rice had a meticulous training regimen that was legendary. Darrell Green could still run the 40 in 4.4 seconds after turning 40. Emmitt Smith lasted a mighty long time for a running back, 15 NFL seasons.
But who knows — including Brady himself — how long he can keep this up?
“I guess it’s hard to imagine anything different,” he said. “I feel so good.”
One thing is certain: His philosophy began to evolve years ago, with Brady sensing that he needed to take more personal responsibility to incorporate measures that would benefit his long-term health. He was unsatisfied in thinking that traditional strength and aerobic conditioning went far enough, hence the focus on pliability.
“When all of your idols that you’ve looked up to are having back surgeries and hip problems, I’ve had to think about it a different way,” Brady said.
The turning point came around 2004, Brady recalled, when his elbow was in such pain that he had trouble throwing during training camp. Ironically, the idol that he most admired while growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Joe Montana, battled elbow problems that ultimately hastened his departure from the 49ers. Brady suspected that his own issues were the result of cumulative stress over years of throwing — dating back to high school, when he also toiled as a catcher on the baseball team.
The typical advice — “ice it and rest it,” Brady said — didn’t help. The change occurred after former Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest introduced Brady to Guerrero.
Looking back, Brady said his arm was “very dense, very stiff,” with short muscles that didn’t contract. But pliability solved his arm issues, so he ultimately applied the concept to other areas of his body. Now he sees this approach as part of his legacy, ideally impacting the longevity of athletes on a grand scale. There was no hesitation on Brady’s part to make his program available for public consumption with the book. And he’s not worried about providing any boost for competitors.
“I’ve been doing it for 12 years,” he said. “People need to do a lot of work to catch up.”
This comes to mind for this particular non-athlete when checking out the chapter on nutrition, which includes The TB12 Grocery List. It’s a healthy, sensible list, underscoring the merits of a diet heavy on organic fruits and vegetables. The nutrition is crucial to keeping inflammation levels low, which coincides with hydration that keeps those muscles pliable.
Then there’s the inspiring list of foods to avoid, which underscores the discipline needed to flourish on the TB12 plan. Scratched: Bread, pasta, grains, corn, dairy products, sugar, salty snacks, condiments, sugary drinks, breakfast cereals.
Yes, the TB12 plan can work for you — if, like TB12 himself, you’re willing to pay the price.
He's been repeatedly asked over the years how he’s managed to maintain such a high level of effectiveness in the face of advancing age. Mentally, the game has to be easier for him given there are probably very few wrinkles a defense can throw at him that he hasn’t seen maybe dozens, if not hundreds, of times. But physically, he’s like the poster child for the “40 is the new 30” idea.
“I can’t explain it in 30 seconds,” Brady said. “It’s a lifestyle. Lifestyle choices. They’re all cumulative. They all add up. And little things, when you stack them on top of each other, are big things.”
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