Pliability is a concept from the late 80’s that evolved throughout the 1990’s.
It has recently come back to the forefront, due to legendary NFL quarterback Tom Brady stating its inclusion in his workouts is one of the secrets to maintaining his high level of performance into his 40’s.
The problem is that many people don’t understand what pliability actually is, and simply confuse it with flexibility and mobility.
While the three certainly share some common elements, they are all slightly different functions.
That’s why, in today’s article, I want to help you understand a little more about pliability. We’ll look at what it is and the benefits it offers.
That way you will be well informed, know if you want to include it in your workouts, and, if so, understand how best to go about doing so.
What Is Pliability?
The concept of pliability revolves around a muscle’s ability to adapt to the demands of an activity.
It is directly related to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the performance of the muscle.
It is quite a broad term that includes elements of flexibility, mobility, and neural toning, which relates to the level of activity and tension within a muscle.
Improving your pliability means finding a perfect balance of all these elements, allowing you to perform at peak levels.
Why Muscle Pliability Is Important
The benefits of pliability are wide ranging, although some of the claims admittedly don’t have as much evidence to support them as others.
The most well-known benefit of pliability is that it can increase both mobility and flexibility. The resulting increase in resilience will help the muscles to better absorb and disperse force or impact.
This will reduce the potential for injury, and help the muscles move through their full range of motion.
Another benefit is that it can increase blood flow, as well as improve the oxygen saturation of that blood.
All of these factors will combine to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the muscles.
As a result, your performance will be improved, allowing for quicker reactions, and the ability to carry heavier weights or move greater distances.
Flexibility vs Mobility vs Pliability
Flexibility relates to the ability of soft tissues, such as muscles, ligaments, and tendons, to lengthen or stretch temporarily.
Meanwhile, mobility relates to the ability of a joint to move through its full range of motion.
Pliability, on the other hand, refers to the level of effectiveness, efficiency, and resilience in those same soft tissues.
The greater your level of pliability, the better your body will absorb force or impact and adapt to the stimuli it is exposed to.
Resistance Band Pliability Exercises
The most popular way to increase pliability revolves around performing resistance band exercises.
Generally, you will perform exercises in a circuit that stimulate the muscles and other soft tissues, without putting them under too much pressure.
You can perform these exercises for either a set length of time or to a desired number of reps. While this can vary from person to person, the average is around 10 to 20 reps or 20 to 30 seconds per set.
With resistance bands being readily available, with high quality, low price options that take up very little room, this is an option most people can enjoy from the comfort of their own home.
They are also a product equally suitable to train both your upper and lower body.
Resisted Bird Dog
Position yourself on all fours and wrap a resistance band around your hips.
Anchor the band to the side of your body and engage your core to maintain stability and balance.
Slowly lift and extend an opposing arm and leg simultaneously, for example your left arm and right leg.
Straighten your fingers and toes to point directly in front and behind you and hold for a moment, before returning to the starting position.
Repeat the same process for the other arm and leg and continue repeating until you have completed 10 reps with each combination, alternating every time.
Now, reposition yourself so the anchor is on your opposite side and go through the whole routine again.
Banded Pallof Press Squat
Anchor a resistance band at shoulder height and grip the end with both hands.
Fully extend your arms in front of you and turn to create a 90-degree angle between the band and your arms.
Slowly perform a bodyweight squat and as you go down gradually pull the band into your chest.
Then, as you stand back up, push the band away again, performing everything in one fluid motion.
Perform 10 reps like this, before turning around and repeating the process on the other side.
Resisted Lateral Walking Plank
Wrap a resistance band around your waist and anchor it to the side of your body.
Take a position as if you had just completed a push up, with your toes and palms of your hands on the floor.
Walk your hands and feet sideways away from the anchor, until you have moved each limb 5 times, then walk them back in again. Turn around and repeat the process again on the other side.
Resisted Running In Place
Wrap a resistance band around your waist and anchor it behind you.
Run on the spot for 20 to 30 seconds, ensuring you maintain tension in the band at all times.
Turn your body 90 degrees and do the same again. Turn a further 2 times and repeat to complete a full circle.
Banded Core Rotation
Anchor a resistance band at chest height and grip the end with extended arms directly in front of you.
Turn so that the band is at a 90-degree angle from your body and engage your core. Keeping your feet in place, rotate your arms and upper body away from the anchor point as far as you can.
Repeat this movement 10 to 15 times or continuously for 20 to 30 seconds before turning around and doing the same again on the other side.
Low-To-High Rotation Press
Secure the resistance band at knee height and stand with it at a 90-degree angle from your body.
Bend your knees slightly and grip the band with arms fully extended, just outside the knee closest to the anchor.
The band should run parallel with the floor in front of you.
Diagonally raise the band across your body, bringing it to head height, while ensuring your arms remain straight throughout.
Complete 10 to 15 reps or repeat for 20 to 30 seconds, before turning around and doing the same on the other side.
Squat To A Row With Bands
Secure a resistance band at chest height and grip the end while facing the anchor point.
Sand far enough away that there is a small amount of tension while keeping your arms fully extended in front of you.
Perform a squat while keeping your arms extended.
As you push back up into a standing position, simultaneously pull the band towards your chest to perform a row.
Extend arms again as you go back down. Perform either 10 to 15 reps or 20 to 30 seconds of continuous movement.
Single Leg Stability Chest Press
Begin by anchoring a resistance band at chest height and grip the end with one hand. Turn so the anchor is directly behind you and hold it beside your chest.
With your elbow bent and forearm parallel with the floor, move forward enough that there is tension in this position.
Simultaneously drive your hand forward, until your arm is fully extended, and step a similar distance with the opposite leg.
Perform 10 to 15 reps before repeating with the other arm and leg.
Banded Lat Pull-Down
Start by anchoring two resistance bands high enough that you can grip them with fully extended arms, either directly above your head or slightly in front.
If needed you can perform this from a kneeling position.
Engage your core and hold the bands just outside of shoulder width. Bend your elbows and pull the bands down, bringing your elbows into your sides and the bands to shoulder height.
Squeeze for a second before returning to the starting position and repeating until you complete 10 to 15 reps.
Wrap the resistance band around your back and shoulders and take one end in each hand.
Get into a push-up position, supported on the palms of your hands and your toes, with feet shoulder width apart.
Pin the band between your hand and the ground, ensuring there is some tension at the bottom of the movement.
Perform 10 to 15 push-ups or as many as you can in 20 to 30 seconds.
Stand on the middle of a resistance band with feet shoulder width apart. Squat down and grip one end of the band in each hand.
Bring your hands together in front of your body, keeping them in contact with your chest.
Ensuring there is tension at this point, perform 10 to 15 squats or as many as you can in 20 to 30 seconds.
Pliability Roller Exercises
Another popular method for improving pliability is to train using roller devices.
These are less like traditional exercises and focus more on stretching and lengthening muscles, as well as helping to remove any knots or tight areas.
Pliability Foam Roller
Each roller will come with their own instructions, but they are generally used in the same way.
While supporting your bodyweight you place the roller underneath the muscle you are targeting and allow enough weight to drop onto it that the roller presses into the muscle.
Gradually roll the muscle over the roller, making sure to spend extra time on areas with lots of knots or tension.
Foam rolling can be performed either before or after a workout, or a combination of the two. It is even recommended to perform it on rest days, to speed up recovery time.
A general rule is to perform 2 to 3 sets of foam rolling per muscle, with each set lasting between 30 and 60 seconds.
To complete a full body routine, you will want to use the roller on your calves, quads, outer thighs, hips, glutes, lower back, and lats.
A vibrating roller can be used for improved effectiveness, while foam rolling has even been shown to increase the results achieved from traditional stretching.
Pliability Vibrating Sphere
A pliability vibrating sphere works in a very similar way to a vibrating foam roller.
The main difference is that the spherical shape lets it get deeper into the muscles and reach places that a normal foam roller can’t, while it can also move in more than one direction.
It can even be used to perform dynamic stretches on top of, making them more effective.
Other Techniques For Pliable Muscles
While the methods mentioned above are the most effective for improving pliability, there are some, more traditional methods that work wonders as well.
Static stretches involve holding a stretch for a set length of time, usually around 30 seconds.
This helps to soften and lengthen muscles after activity, which increases pliability.
This type of stretching should be done after a workout, as performing them when the muscles are cold can lead to injuries like pulls and strains.
Dynamic stretching involves constantly moving in and out of a stretch and is a great way to improve mobility and range of motion.
These produce great results if performed before exercise, as they help to immediately boost your pliability and reduce the chance of injury.
Unlike static stretching, dynamic stretches are a great option for rest days, as they can continue to help improve pliability, without the potential for injury that comes from static stretching when cold.
Massage is an often-overlooked option that can benefit you both mentally and physically.
Not only can it relieve tension in muscles and reduce soreness, but it can also help you to relax and improve your flexibility, mobility, and pliability.
Being worked on by a trained professional also comes with the benefit of them knowing what to look for, so they can focus on stiff or tight areas that you may not have been able to identify by yourself.
Pliability may be a newer concept than many traditional fitness staples, but that doesn’t mean it is any less beneficial.
From improving your results to helping you avoid injury, it is something that offers plenty of rewards, without any real drawbacks.
This article will hopefully have helped you understand everything you need to know about pliability.
That means you should have all the tools to incorporate it in your own schedule, ensuring your body functions at the highest possible level for years to come.