Pillars of Greatness? My Thoughts on the TB12 Method

At the beginning of the year, I made it a goal to read as much wellness and fitness literature as possible. Now, I have a towering stack of books on my nightstand. I am making progress and have read about several health books so far.

Recently, I finished reading and (mostly) implementing the insights from Tom Brady’s book. Titled The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance‘. This book was released in 2017, and to say it sparked polarizing opinions would be an understatement.

Today, I am sharing my key impressions and takeaways from this book. Hopefully, it will help you decide if his methods are right for you, or if it piques your interest enough to add the TB 12 Method to your own library.

So let’s get this out of the way first. I live in New England and I like football. I am not necessarily a Patriots fan nor do I feel that any of my opinions about this book are biased by Brady’s football career or achievements.

Now onto the book…

The TB12 Method. The new, the old, and everything in between.

The book starts with a nice summary and recap of Brady’s early years, including both his baseball and football careers. It touches on everything from training to weightlifting to injuries and brings the reader to his present-day NFL career.

The direction of the book is foreshadowed by the mention of Brady’s 12 Principles. These serve as his pillars for peak performance and the book is organized to reflect a section for each pillar.

There are a few novel ideas presented in the TB12 Method. Let’s start with what’s new.

Pliability.

The first concept, and perhaps most debated is that of muscle ‘pliability’. While no precise definition is provided, pliability seemingly refers to muscles that are able to fully relax between exertions.
The thought is that if our muscles cannot fully relax, but remain contracted and stiff, we are more prone to injury or stresses and strains on our ligaments and joints. The idea is similar to the concept of ‘flexible fascia’.

Whether you chose to call it pliability or think of it in terms of flexible, smooth muscles and tendons, it is an under-utilized aspect of strength training. It’s usually missing from most workout plans too. It makes sense that the stiffer the muscle, the more prone it will be to injury.
An already tightly stretched rubber band is more prone to completely snap than one that is not already maximally stretched. Tension can make an area more vulnerable to injury.

According to this book, by focusing on relaxing, lengthening, and softening (his words) your muscles can increase in pliability. This can be done via foam rollers, vibrating exercise balls, and hands-on massage. Massages focus on deep tissue release while the athlete simultaneously contracts and relaxes the areas being worked on as quickly as possible. The resulting increased flexibility and range of motion can help preserve functionality and maintain conditioning as we age.

Strength training and resistance bands.

Perhaps one of the more surprising parts of this book, is the lack of weightlifting advice or exercises focused on weights. According to the TB12 Method, Brady is focused on strength training. His workouts are a combination of body weight and resistance band exercises. You can find detailed photos of both bodyweight and banded exercises in the book.

Inflammation is the enemy.

The book is focused on an anti-inflammatory approach to both nutrition and fitness. Managing and minimizing the entire body’s inflammatory response is a key principle of the TB12 method. Brady goes to great lengths to avoid certain foods that are considered acidic or known to cause inflammation. These include foods in the nightshade family such as tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes.

He highly recommends an alkaline based diet. Foods that are known to be alkaline include artichokes and dandelion greens. Brady also recommends forgoing foods known to create acidic environments such as butter, dairy, and some meats. Acidic foods are more likely to cause inflammation so by increasing your intake of foods known to be anti-inflammatory and alkaline in nature, inflammation from dietary choices can be minimized.

From the fitness aspect, Brady recommends that by avoiding heavy weight training and certain conditioning exercises, you can minimize inflammatory responses. Exercises such as sprinting or running can create inflammation, which stiffens and tightens our muscles, subjecting them to possible injury.

Increasing blood flow for recovery.

So I bet you are thinking this should be in the ‘things we already know category’, but there’s a twist. The concept proposed in this book is via wearable technology. Yes, clothes for recovery! To be more specific, it’s sleepwear for recovery.

The team at Under Armour and the team behind the TB12 Method has created wearable technology designed to increase blood flow and oxygen delivery throughout your body. How? By using small ceramic discs that redirect heat energy your body naturally emits. This re-directed energy stimulates blood flow which increases the amount of oxygen transported to your muscles. More oxygen means faster recovery, better healing, and quality rest.

According to the UA website, the products are powered by Celliant. A quick internet search revealed that Celliant Fiber technology is “a potent mix of thermo-reactive minerals…said to convert heat coming off your body into infrared energy and emit [it] back into your body”. Fancy!

It comes with a fairly hefty price tag though. I have yet to try any of the Recovery Sleepwear, but I could be up for trying it and posting about it. Stay tuned!

Brain training and neural priming.

Another principle for excellence found in the TB12 Method is brain training. The ability to keep the brain adaptable and continuously learning over a lifetime is key for peak performance. Neuroplasticity plays an important role in processing and storing information as well as maintaining focus. Cognitive exercises can keep our brains healthy and help generate new neural connections. Something to think about!

Ok, so those are some of the more interesting concepts and takeaways from the book. The newer and fresher perspectives you likely hadn’t heard about previously. But I hope you are counting because we aren’t even halfway through the 12 principles.

So what else is in the TB12 Method? The rest of the principles you are likely already familiar with but I’ll do a brief recap below.

Holistic health and training.

The idea that our bodies are complex machines and each body system works in an integrative, collaborative environment is nothing new. The TB12 Method spends time explaining this for you! You’ve got to view the whole picture of health and make choices that support these views.

Balance and moderation.

This one is self-explanatory, but the TB12 Method spends some time spelling it out for ya.

Proper hydration.

Another tried and true gem. The key to all your body’s processes is hydration! Be sure you are drinking enough and that you are getting the proper electrolytes as well. (I will touch on this more in a bit.)

Healthy nutrition.

No surprise here. Eating fresh, organic, and as healthy as possible is important. You are what you eat, and eating unprocessed foods as often as possible is the best for your body. Avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates are strongly suggested.

Supplements.

Optimizing your healthy nutrition with supplements can take your nutrition and fitness to new levels! Ensure your body has all the ingredients it needs in the recipe for success.

Rest, re-center, and recover.

Giving your body a chance to rest (with proper sleep) and your mind a chance to rebalance (through meditation or journaling) can help you perform at your best.

Ok, so there you have it. It’s a mix of the tried and true fitness and wellness information mixed with some newer ideas and takes on how to sustain peak performance.

So if you are still on the fence about this book…

Here are a few additional points to consider.

The book, all 300 pages of it, sometimes comes across as more opinion based than fact. It has been called a celebrity self-help book, due to the lack of scientific evidence or rationale behind some of the nutritional and exercise claims.

If you are new to fitness or healthy living and looking to increase energy, wellness, and vitality, this is a great place to start. The book contains the training, workouts, diet, and lifestyle choices he proposes as a great place to start. If however, you are familiar with basics for healthy lifestyle choices, his advice to hydrate, reduce caffeine and alcohol intake, eat raw and natural foods, and go organic when possible come across as common sense. The same goes for the recap to prioritize sleep and spend time rebalancing your mind each day.

Brady also often prefaces’ his content with the phrases “I believe…” Or “This is what works for me…“. Not meant to disqualify the statements, but it is quite heavy on opinion.

The book comes across as a bit sales-y. For every pillar of performance, there is an associated item available for purchase. There is a heavy emphasis on purchasing the TB12 branded items and tools to optimize your performance. There are even TB12 branded supplements, electrolytes, protein bars, etc. Each comes with a hefty price tag which makes the entire book seem like an extended infomercial.

The TB12 Method is not for the average person. Definitely not for those who aren’t disciplined or those who may be strapped for cash. The monthly subscription for electrolytes alone is $ 120. That’s per month!

The book does include a few recipes, but it does not include the entire TB12 Nutritional Manual. This manual is available for an additional $200. Feedback about the plan ranges from positive (noting the delicious food) to negative (citing it as unattainable and too idealistic for those with families). As one reviewer noted, a single recipe requires you to use a food processor, a blender, and two pots, for a simple dinner for two.

A final thing I will mention to aid in your decision-making process is to consider his trainer, Alex Guerrero. Mr. Guerrero has been fined by the FTC (in 2004) for making fraudulent claims about a cancer cure. He was fined a second time for fraudulent claims about other products and services. Take his advice with a grain of salt and an ounce of skepticism.

All in all, I think with a basic understanding of healthy principles and adding stretching and foam rolling to your current routine, you can pass on this book. Invest the money you didn’t spend on all those TB12 branded gadgets, and instead get a good massage fairly regularly.

If you are so inclined, you could even get a functional movement screening, which can uncover underlying muscular problems that may have been missed by a routine health screening. Muscle movement dysfunction is often overlooked until damage has already occurred and a problem presents itself.

If you are truly interested in learning more about muscle pliability, consider researching the concept of fascial fitness. This refers to your connect tissue resilience and can extend peak performance and range of motion as we age. It’s also science-backed!

If you’ve made it all the way though this article, and still want to order the TB12 Method, you can get a copy here!

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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