Peak Performance

Tom Brady’s 12 Recovery Do’s & Don’ts

Why should you embrace a recovery practice for peak performance? Consider what its done for the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft, Tom Brady. Despite being ignored by the scouts 19 years ago, Brady continues to defy the odds of professional football. His fundamental strategy? Working hard but also smart. As to the latter, Brady depends on a disciplined approach to recovery.

As Brady approaches two decades in the NFL — a time highlighted by his leading the New England Patriots to six Super Bowl victories — he links his record of peak performance to the year-round recovery work he does under the supervision of trainer Alex Guerrero.

Peak Performance Demands Peak Recovery

When you consider Tom Brady’s work ethic mantra — treat every practice like a game — the emphasis on recovery is vital. How can you give the best effort day-in-day-out, week-after-week, year-after-year, especially given the grind of the NFL?

The adherence to daily recovery and pliability work becomes even more vital when you factor in longevity. Consider that the average career of an NFL player spans 3.3 years — roughly one-sixth of how long Brady’s been playing in the league.

For Brady to perform at the level he is famous for has been and continues to be directly contingent on the degree he prioritizes and executes his recovery work.

This boils down to daily choices that, in Brady’s case, he integrates into an unbending discipline. Brady’s fierce desire to compete and win goes beyond desire. He translates it into a consistent stream of choices. Both what he does and doesn’t do.

What are the go-to “Do’s and Don’ts”  Brady depends on for peak performance? Here are the 12 cornerstones. Despite age, ability or focus, they have broad application. Put Brady’s routines to work for your training, competition, or simply the demands of everyday life. The benefits transcend athletic performance. You’ll feel and be healthier and be on the receiving end of longevity in the same way Tom is.

Sleep when the body has a chance to repair the body and translate hard work into potential peak performance.

Tom BRady’s 12 Recovery Do’s & Don’ts

Do drink one-half your body weight in ounces of water every day. Brady believes that prioritizing hydration is imperative for healthy, well-recovered muscles.

Do add electrolytes to your water. Electrolytes play an important role in how much water the muscles absorb. Without the presence of electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium, the water molecules cannot permeate the cell.

Water that’s been enhanced with electrolytes passes more efficiently into your muscles. Electrolytes help move nutrients into the cells and waste products out. The upshot is that drinking water with electrolytes helps speed recovery and restore pliability. (More on why electrolytes are essential for recovery).

Don’t skimp on sleep. For Brady, sleep is foundational to short-term and long-term recovery success. Good sleep allows for proper hormonal regulation and both physical and psychological repair and restoration. Chronic sleep deprivation undercuts recovery and performance capacity.  It also can lead to potentially serious health and wellness consequences.

Do get a proper amount of rest. Brady’s sleep discipline is to go to bed at 9 pm and wake at 6 am. He times his workouts to induce better and deeper sleep.

Don’t waste time on recovery tech that doesn’t work.  As in conventional physical therapy technologies lacking the support of strong scientific data. Electrical muscle stimulation, cold laser therapy, ice baths, and ultrasound: Brady doesn’t bother with them.

Eating real food is key to Brady's chase for peak performance.

Do chase pliability. Brady counts on deep-force muscle work (the very kind that you can get in a session with a TB12 Body Coach) both before and after training sessions. This helps his muscles stay long and soft while firing and executing the demanding movements required of an NFL quarterback. Pliable muscles are also better equipped to absorb hits and are critical to managing imbalances that arise from injuries. Tense, shortened muscles make one more susceptible to injuries. Can you perform self-pliability? Yes —  TB12 Vibrating Pliability Devices are a great tool to use in a similar, ritualistic fashion, before and after exercise and competition. Research has demonstrated that vibration therapy can improve muscular strength, kinesthetic awareness, and blood flow

Do eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Brady does this to help keep insulin levels in check. It’s been said that food is “the most powerful drug of all.” Choosing foods that lower inflammation and avoiding foods that raise inflammation can have profound effects on recovery, body composition, and health. 

“it really doesn’t matter how much exercise you do if you’re not providing your body the right nutrients” — tom Brady

Don’t eat junk food. Chronic inflammation short circuits recovery and bad food will do exactly this. Junk foods, fast foods, processed foods that have long shelf lives: These will have an adverse effect on inflammation, insulin levels, and body composition. Brady’s rule of thumb is to avoid anything that comes in a box or bag. He also avoids foods with white flour or added sugars. 

Do the work to keep your muscles firing at 100%. If there’s a peak performance secret to why Brady, now in his early 40s, can perform better than NFL quarterbacks 10, 15 or 20 years his junior, it’s his determination to sustain an optimal state of pliable, balanced muscles. This equates to muscles that can fire at 100% capacity.  

Full muscle pump function is made possible when the nervous system has learned to fire muscles while they’re long and soft rather than when dense and stiff. The opposite — doing physical work while muscles are short and dense — reduces work capacity and ups the injury risk.

Guerrero explains it like this: Everything we do is a learned behavior. So you want to teach your muscles to do the job you want them to do while in an optimal state. This state is natural pliability. Training for sports and playing them will degrade this natural pliability.

Brady’s recovery discipline is targeted toward restoring this pliability on a daily basis.

Using a TB12 vibrating foam roller is one way Brady achieves peak performance.Do use TB12 Vibrating Pliability Devices rather than standard foam rollers. Brady uses TB12 Vibrating Pliability Devices to recover and restore pliability. The technology merges vibration therapy with rolling and activates the nervous system (helping it to learn the desired behavior).  Tissue changes become possible.

As mentioned, this is similar to the deep-force muscle work receives in pliability sessions. Standard foam rollers don’t involve the nervous system and the state of the tissue is unchanged. You will activate and re-educate the nervous system when using a TB12 Vibrating Device.

Do travel with a TB12 Vibrating Pliability Device.  Especially when Brady travels without Guerrero, he packs Vibration Devices to sustain his daily recovery disciplines.

Do perform both pre- and post-workout pliability. Brady’s discipline is to always bracket workouts with pliability sessions. The purpose of pre-workout pliability is to lengthen, soften and “prime” the muscles for the workout.

The post-workout pliability session alters the focus. The goal becomes to flush out lactic acid and stimulate the lymphatic system (think of the lymphatic system as the body’s internal vacuum cleaner).

This will rev up the speed of recovery and usher oxygenated blood into the muscles. Another focus of post-workout pliability is to support the movement learning process.  This means training the brain to store what the muscles have just learned about how to stay long, soft and primed during demanding high-intensity athletic movement.

Consistency & Recovery

The benefits of recovery can seem subtle at first. Brady didn’t fully register the positive effects of an anti-inflammatory diet for two weeks. In selecting disciplines from Brady’s routine and making them your own, make a commitment to using them daily for two to three weeks and pay close attention to how well they work for you. For detailed workouts and action items you can experiment with, download the free TB12 Recovery Guide.