Those of us of a certain age are admittedly gloating over The GOAT’s win over The Kid in Super Bowl 55. Not just a win, but a decisive one at that!
Now, I don’t want to argue football; I have a husband for that. That same husband switched me on to a book called “The TB 12 Method” a few years ago. Around the same time, I stumbled upon a workshop in Santa Barbara (as I often do) extolling the virtues and techniques of combining resistance work with yoga. It was practice-changing, eye-opening, and joint saving!
Flexibilty and Strength Training vs. Pliability
Tom Brady (TB) takes an entire chapter of his book to extoll the virtues of pliability training over strength training + some stretching. Why? He is trying to basically de-program multiple generations of football players and fans out of their fixed mindsets and conventional thinking.
Knowing the crowd, I’m not sure 30 pages is enough! I still see so much conventional thinking in my son’s football experience over the years ( How many kids can possibly sprain their ankles in one game?). My husband learned first hand the dangers of trying to question conventional “wisdom.” In spite of getting a D-1 full ride and his brief stint for the Buffalo Bills and an amazing network around the country of his colleagues now coaching their own kids, his input wasn’t welcomed by most of our local high school parents, eager to apply the same methodology they learned in their high school programs. It’s risky for me to even write this I suppose, but, I’ll take my chances…they don’t seem like the yoga blog types. (Please do feel free to surprise me though).
If you come to class, you know a lot about pliability already. Long story short, or perhaps I should say, “short story long,” because the gist is, you want longer, pliable muscles that are better lubricated and do a better job of distributing load over a broader area of fibers. Short, defined, “cut” or “ripped” muscles look great, but they’re more prone to injury, full stop. Moreover, they don’t contain the qualities most necessary to succeed on the field in most positions, or, in life. They are the result of a lot of “hard” work, but not smart work. The muscles themselves aren’t as intelligent or as responsive as they could be, and that’s what TB and his trainer Alex started to realize. Keep in mind, the average length of an NFL career is 3.3 years, so let’s give the ol’ GOAT a listen!
What is pliability anyway? Can’t I just stretch out after strength training?
Pliability as a principle is very yogic as it puts an emphasis on finding the right balance for your body, your sport, your life, and your practice/workouts. It’s not about the “maximal” training athletes do in their teens and twenties as in, “Dude, I maxed out on 225 for bench.” Kids get away w/ a certain amount of this kind of stuff because their muscles still have some of the natural pliability retained from childhood. We’re all born pliable, but it diminishes over time. Don’t believe it? Teach kids’ yoga for ten minutes.
In TB’s case, he defines pliability as “the daily lengthening and softening of muscles” along with “targeted deep-force muscle work.” It’s a kind of pressure point massage and lengthening of the tissue, done by a trainer in TB’s case, while TB contracts that tissue in intervals–it’s not the massage you had on vacation, let’s put it that way!
TB and his trainer are essentially contracting and stretching the muscle at the same time which makes for a smarter, better firing muscle and less damage, recovery time, or pain. A regimen of lifting weights/strength training with a bit of stretching afterwards separates the two tasks, as though muscles are binary and either in a fully off/on position. But to function optimally, muscles have to be more on a “dimmer switch” and have a kind of intelligence as to when to engage and how much–makes sense doesn’t it? If not, you may need the 30 pages so get the book!
Good for Tom, but I’m not married to Giselle and I don’t have a trainer!
Well, I suppose that’s why you can buy The TB 12 Method and drop about $300 on the gear to try and mimic the effects our lucky-duck QB gets daily–from his trainer that is 😉
Or, you could take a classical yoga practice, heavy on lengthening muscle; and, couple it with pose-specific techniques to contract the tissue at the same time. In other words, you could try a yoga practice that involves some eccentric and resistance stretching within your own unique parameters. I mean, while the TB12 system is unique and certainly patented, the kind of stretching it promotes has been around a long time and is starting to show up in the yoga world. What’s unique in the yoga world is that it doesn’t make this big assumption or put a huge priority on flexibility–no over-heated rooms or over-zealous instructors. You don’t want to sacrifice the joints and soft tissue.
Even if you’re a dude who hasn’t touched his toes in a while, you’ll find “pliability yoga” a lot more conducive for your body type and safer than a conventional yoga class. You may not be meant to touch your toes and you may not need to. Let’s find your “optimal” for longevity so you can keep doing all the other non-yoga stuff you love!
If you look at TB, he’s pretty long and lean–a strike against him in his draft report which explains him being the 199th pick!