The concept of muscle pliability may seem a bit foreign to you. Still, it's become more popular in recent years due to Tom Brady and the release of his "TB12 Method," which focuses heavily on improving muscle pliability. Brady attributes much of his athletic success during the latter portion of his career.
So, what exactly is muscle pliability?
Well, when you think of muscle pliability, you may associate it with flexibility or mobility (as these terms are commonly used interchangeably in the fitness lexicon, though they mean very different things).
Mobility describes the components of actively moving a joint through its fullest (pain-free) range of motion with control. Things like scar tissue or a tight joint capsule can lead to pain and/or reduced mobility in a particular joint.
Flexibility relates to the passive range of motion around a joint. More specifically, flexibility refers to the ability of connective tissue (muscles, ligaments, tendons) ability to elongate or stretch temporarily. Limitations in flexibility can be due to tightness in the joint's muscles, as opposed to something being wrong with the actual joint itself.
Now, when it comes to pliability, it describes an effective tissue.
Having "pliable" muscles means that they are soft and resilient. This allows them to absorb and disperse forces, helping them operate more efficiently.
Unlike tight, knotted-up muscles, pliable muscles allow you to move, train, and perform to the best of your abilities while minimizing the risk of injury.
Basically, by having pliable muscles, performance is optimized, enabling you to train harder, recover faster, and prevent injury.
Why Does Muscle Pliability Matter?
Pliable muscles have greater blood flow and oxygen saturation, cell permeability, and neuromuscular efficiency.
As a result, muscle repair and recovery are accelerated, and joint mobility is stabilized. This both helps prime the body for greater movement and performance while guarding against injury.
How to Increase Muscle Pliability
Regular (i.e., daily) pliability work helps to prepare your muscles for the demands of training and everyday life while also helping them recover more optimally so that you can keep crushing it day in and day out.
Pliability can be enhanced in a number of different ways, including:
Foam rolling has been commonplace in fitness for going on for a decade. Its purpose is simple -- to help improve circulation, range of motion, performance, and recovery.
Research in the Journal of Sports Rehabilitation found that foam rolling combined with static stretching could increase the range of motion to a greater extent than stretching alone. 
Foam rolling can be performed either pre or post-workout, and it can also be performed on non-workout days to support recovery and reduce soreness.
It's generally recommended to perform 2-3 sets of foam rolling lasting between 30 and 60 seconds per muscle group.
Manual Therapy (Massage)
Getting a massage is one of the best ways to relieve tension, unwind, and relax. It’s also a phenomenal way to reduce soreness, improve flexibility and motion, and increase muscle pliability.
Using this hands-on approach, massage helps break up tight spots in muscles that accumulate over weeks, months, and years of tough workouts.
Regular massages can also help improve flexibility and range of motion, enhancing resiliency and making your tissues less prone to strain or injury.
Taking time to properly cool down and stretch after a grueling workout, or even on an off day from the gym, can help “lengthen” the muscles and reduce feelings of tightness, keeping them supple and soft -- which increases pliability.
Stretching post-workout is particularly ideal because your muscles are still warm, and the risk for pulling a muscle is less than if you were to stretch when you're "cold."
One thing to keep in mind is that it’s best to avoid holding long static stretches (stretches held for more than 30 seconds) before your workout.
Prolonged static stretching before training has been shown to reduce muscle force output, which limits performance.
Therefore, if you want to stretch before your workout, make sure to perform dynamic stretches, which reduce the chance of injury and improve performance.
Proper hydration is critical for just about every biological process, including performance, recovery, and overall health.
Did you know that muscles are ~75% water?!
This means that if you aren't sufficiently hydrated, your muscles won't perform, respond, or recover optimally.
Insufficient hydration also impairs cognitive function.
Therefore, if you want to perform and recover to your max, both physically and mentally, you need to consume enough fluids and electrolytes each day.
Many individuals struggle to consume enough water each day on account of not enjoying the taste of plain water.
If you find yourself in this predicament more often than not, then you can try drinking sparkling water, filtered water infused with fruit slices, and/or mixing up a big shaker full of Steel Fuel and sipping it throughout the day.
Steel Fuel® contains a comprehensive blend of essential electrolytes along with 5 grains of 2:1:1 BCAA to support hydration, performance, and muscle recovery.
For even greater hydration support, it may be helpful to add in a serving of SteelFit® Creapure Creatine Monohydrate with your serving of Steel Fuel®.
Creatine is often thought of as a "muscle building" supplement (which does help), but creatine also enhances hydration since it encourages your muscle cells to soak up and retain more water.
Much like proper hydration plays a key role in muscle pliability, not to mention overall health & wellness, so too does nutrition.
Your body requires a certain amount of protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals daily to function optimally.
The majority of your diet should be based around high-quality foods like lean proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
A little “junk” can work its way into your diet, but the vast majority of your daily food intake should consist of micronutrient-dense foods.
Get Enough Sleep
If there’s one aspect of life that isn’t emphasized heavily enough, it’s sleep.
Sleep affects every aspect of your life, from your hunger/satiety signals to your performance in the gym (or in the office) to your mood.
Not getting enough sleep is known to impair performance and recovery, increase feelings of hunger, decrease satiety, reduce feelings of well-being, and disrupt hormone production.
All of this is to say that you MUST get enough sleep every night if you want to improve muscle pliability (and, therefore, performance and recovery). Typically, this means getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
If you have trouble getting to sleep each night, consider some of these pointers:
- Go to bed at the same time every night
- Avoid blue light 2 hours before bed
- Avoid sources of stress in the hours before bed (news, social media, work emails, texts, etc.)
- Limit caffeine intake after 3 PM
- Eat a carbohydrate-rich meal two hours before bed
- Make your room cool and dark
- Wear loose-fitting clothes
- Have a cup of herbal tea before bed, such as chamomile
- Stretch or perform light yoga
You can also try a nighttime relaxation and recovery supplement such as Steel Dreams®.
Steel Dreams® contains natural, non-habit-forming ingredients like KSM-66® Ashwagandha, L-Theanine, and Valerian to help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and promote calm, relaxation, helping you achieve the deep, restorative sleep you need every night.
The end game for all of us (competitive athletes or not) is functional, pain-free movement.
Remember, the body is an integrated system, and disruptions in one area or region of the body can have far-spanning effects across the system. For instance, disfunction at the ankle joint can lead to pain in the hips or low back due to gait and weight distribution complications.
Therefore, it's important to focus not only on getting bigger, stronger, and faster in the gym but also on taking care of your mind and body outside of the gym to ensure you're able to keep training (and living a pain-free life) for years and years to come!
- Mohr AR, Long BC, Goad CL. Effect of foam rolling and static stretching on passive hip-flexion range of motion. J Sport Rehabil. 2014 Nov;23(4):296-9. doi: 10.1123/jsr.2013-0025. Epub 2014 Jan 21. PMID: 24458506.