The following is excerpted from No One Man Should Have All That Power: How Rasputins Manipulate the World, by Amos Barshad, out today. Published by Abrams Books.
After ten or so minutes, Alex Guerrero appears and takes me beyond the tall blue wall. He’s in blue running pants and a heather gray TB12 shirt that curves over a slight paunch. His hair is cropped short and neat with bits of gray speckled in the sides. There are light wrinkles around his kindly eyes, as well as a few light liver spots. He greets me with a slight, sly smile, which he holds often. He has the slight air of a marionette come to life. We sit in a massive glass-walled conference room, side by side, and he tells me how he built his empire.
Guerrero grew up in Southern California to Argentine expat parents. As a kid he played baseball and tennis and Pop Warner football, but he wasn’t a natural athlete. “I didn’t gain much size,” he points out, with a bit of winning self-deprecation. He also wasn’t always such a fanatic about the far reaches of human ability. “I would say probably when I was in school getting my master’s degree in traditional Chinese medicine—that’s when I really began to understand what a marvelous thing the body was.” (According to Boston magazine, Guerrero’s master’s is from Samra University, “a school in California that no longer exists.”)
While in school he was certified in massage therapy; he supported himself in part by churning out massages, $60 a pop. By his mid-twenties, he was working in physical therapy. “When I first started, my vision wasn’t what it is today,” he says. “I started originally in track and field, and it was all injury rehab. Then I was able to get them better and faster. They would go and get personal record times, and I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, that is a really cool thing!’”
By the 1990s, Guerrero was working with pros. One of his most loyal clients was Willie McGinest, a former Patriots linebacker. In the mid-2000s, McGinest led Guerrero to Tom Brady. And early in their professional dalliances, Guerrero proved his mettle.
It was the offseason, 2007. Brady had already won three Super Bowls with the Patriots by then, but the team’s last season had ended in a disappointing AFC Championship loss. He was a few months shy of thirty, an age by which lots of players have washed out of the NFL altogether, and he was suffering serious groin pain. There would have been reason to believe that this was the beginning of an inevitable decline.
According to reporting from the New York Times, Brady was scheduled for surgery to cut a tendon that was pulling his adductor muscle. The Patriots told him the operation was necessary. Guerrero talked him out of it. Instead, he showed Brady a series of workouts to create the aforementioned, all-important pliability. Brady says his pain dissipated in days. By most accounts, he’s been a true believer ever since.
At the heart of Guerrero’s work with Brady has been what would commonly be understood as, well, massages. No half-hour sessions for the QB, though. These are deep, intensive affairs.
Guerrero is methodical, constant, and tireless in his approach. Brian Hoyer, Tom Brady’s former backup, has recalled seeing Guerrero spend an entire day by the QB’s side, through meetings and practice, steadily working one of Brady’s injured fingers.
Brady and Guerrero believe the term “massage” vastly undersells the impact Guerrero is having. As Brady once told the Times, “It’s like giving a chef flour and eggs and saying, ‘OK, we’ll make biscuits.’ Well, sure, everyone is going to make them different.” But Alex’s biscuits, Brady explained, would be “perfect.” They say Guerrero is “re-educating” muscles. They call it “body work.”
I ask Guerrero if he teaches his proprietary “body work” techniques to his employees. Can he pass along the secret of his magical hands?
“That’s a great question,” Guerrero says. “Tom asks me that all the time. I can teach the theory, but I just don’t know how”—he crumples his fingers in the air, demonstrating the elemental source of his power—“to teach this.”
Guerrero’s relationship with Brady is the source of much speculation. (The Times called him Brady’s “spiritual guide.”) I ask Guerrero to define it.
“Tom and I, we’re, you know…” he trails off, smiling, then swoops back in. “He’s my best friend! And we’ve been together for a long time. We never really disagree. We’ve never really had issues. We certainly hear all the stuff and read it, too, and we snicker and laugh at it. We always laugh and joke, ‘Nobody knows us better than us.’”
As we spoke, the Patriots were halfway through their 2017 season. Once again, they were one of the powerhouses of the NFL. Once again, Brady was one of the league’s best, most consistent players. “When we look at the program, we evaluate two or three years ahead of time,” Guerrero says. “The Tom Brady that everybody sees today—we planned for that a couple of years ago. He’s getting better with age. They call him, who’s that”—Guerrero pauses, fumbling for the name—“Benjamin Button!
“You see these other quarterbacks going out,” Guerrero says, ticking off the injuries that had piled up that past NFL season. “Aaron Rodgers, breaking a collarbone. Carson Palmer, breaking his forearm. Matthew Stafford, hamstring. Marcus Mariota, hamstring. Sam Bradford, with his knee. And then here’s Tom Brady, who is forty and sustaining a lot of impact and he’s playing every game.”
There is a certain unblinking certainty to the way Guerrero speaks. He does not like to attribute any part of Brady’s fortunate good health to pure luck. Effectively, Guerrero is suggesting that he can predict the future.
“I know how Tom feels every day,” Guerrero assures me. “He says, ‘I don’t have any soreness. I’m ready to play again. Those are things that we thought would happen, and now we’re seeing the reality of them happening. Do I think Tom can play to a high level at forty-five? Absolutely.”
“OK. How about fifty?”
Guerrero laughs. “I mean, why not? I’ve never put limits on myself, and I’ve never put limits on any of my clients. I’m a big believer that everything is learned behavior. You tell an athlete, ‘You’re gonna be done when you’re thirty,’ well, the brain begins to believe that, and all your neuro-programming is based on, ‘OK, I’m thirty, I’m old.’ But I don’t think the brain understands the concept of time. It doesn’t understand age. Right? How would your brain know you’re whatever age you are? I always tell Tom, we’re not gonna tell our body what we wanna do. We’re gonna tell our body what we want it to do.”
Excitedly, Guerrero tells me about some of the clients he works with at the TB12 facility. A seventy-year-old woman who runs marathons. A seventy-year-old guy who plays in soccer leagues with folks half his age. An eighty-seven- and an eighty-five-year-old, a pair of best friends, who went out last summer and cycled the Tour de France route together! “We laugh. Age is a number to us. Everything is learned behavior. Wire your brain to understand that. To me, that’s sustaining peak performance. That’s living.”
It is here where I cannot deny that I am being yanked forward by this line of thought. I’ve never been a good athlete. But I’ve loved playing basketball my whole life. I’ve also known that one day I would have to stop.
Or—if I follow Guerrero’s logic—could I rewire my brain with the TB12 method? Could I be pulling up for threes when I’m ninety? Could I sustain peak performance? Could I, too, in my way, live forever?
At one point in our chat, Guerrero tells me about the first time he helped an athlete recover from an ACL injury. The standard at the time, Guerrero says, was nine to twelve months of rehab. Guerrero says he got his client back in six. “They thought I was out of my mind. Everybody said, ‘Oh, Alex, you’re gonna hurt this athlete.’ At first I was an absolute loon. Now guess what everybody’s rehab time on ACLs is? Six months.”
Guerrero is acutely aware of skepticism toward the TB12 model. First, it’s the grandness of the promise that raises hackles. Then, it’s the vagueness of its underpinnings. (“There’s biomechanics and Feldenkrais massage technique and reiki and craniosacral therapy,” Guerrero tells me at one point. “I couldn’t say there’s any one thing that really inspired me.”)
As much than anything, though, it’s the money that seems to bother people. Because nearly all of the stated innovative TB12 methods come paired with high-priced TB12 products. The variety pack of superfood snacks is $50. The protein’s $50 a can. A vibrating sphere will run you $150.
“The whole damn thing feels like a con,” the ESPN personality Bomani Jones once railed on his radio show. “Imagine somebody walk up in your crib talking about ‘That’s my homeboy, he say he got the cure for cancer [and] I’m out here exercising my brain to where I know that when I get hit I tell my muscles what to do, and you, for the very very low price of $250, can get started.’”
“You know, Tom and I always say, ‘If you’re explaining, you’re losing,’” Guerrero tells me, by way of explanation. “So we don’t! I wait for people to come around. Most of the people that have said a lot of funny things about us are now coming in and are clients! And now they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I just didn’t understand.’ You know, in the book Tom says, ‘I drink a lot of water, therefore I don’t get sunburned.’”
Guerrero’s not bringing it up to deny it—the “avoiding sunburn by drinking water” technique really is in the book. There were many other quirky details. (“Try not to drink too much water during a meal, as it can interfere with digestion,” Brady counsels. “Wait an hour or so after you’re done eating before you drink water.” The book also heavily recommends staying away from “nightshades”—that includes potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplants, and okra—altogether.) But the water-sunburn quote became one of the most widely shared passages from The TB12 Method.
“And then people use that to say the TB12 method isn’t based in science,” adds Guerrero. “Well, it’s all science!”
If Guerrero were just another trainer with quirky ideas on wellness, there wouldn’t be anything particularly notable about him. But with Brady’s influence at his disposal, he’s now uniquely positioned to spread those ideas far and wide, and to make a lot of money doing it. And this from a man once busted for pushing phony cancer cures.
I bring up the criticism and the serious charges illuminated in Boston magazine’s reporting on Supreme Greens. “How do you respond to those allegations?” The calmness in his voice never wavers. The smile, in the trained manner of late-era Tom Cruise, never cracks.
“I don’t. I don’t respond to it,” he tells me. “They never talk to me. The research into the things they write about it is erroneous. They never source anybody! It’s always, ‘Sources say. Sources are talking.’ Say whatever you want. I don’t have to agree with what you say.’”
Boston’s reporting was not based on anonymous sources, but on FTC filings. Furthermore, they reached out to Guerrero himself, and had conversations with his lawyer.
In a statement, Boston would later tell me, “To the extent Mr. Guerrero may be referring to Boston magazine’s coverage, he is incorrect. The magazine has contacted him and his representatives multiple times for comment before publishing, and he has never responded to our inquiries. Nor have we become aware of any inaccuracy in our reporting about him. All of our pieces are thoroughly fact-checked before publication, and we are confident that our coverage of Mr. Guerrero has been both accurate and fair.”
I ask Guerrero, “Do you feel like you’ve made mistakes?”
“There’s a lot of things that I would do differently. But the mistakes that people talk about me making are not the mistakes that I’ve made. One day I’ll tell my story. When I feel compelled to, I’ll tell my side.”
“You don’t want to tell me?” I asked. “Now?”
“Nah. I don’t feel like I need to give up my power. And if I come out and express my story then they’re just gonna ask more questions. And then I’m just giving up my power.”
The day after Boston magazine first reported on Guerrero and Supreme Greens, Brady went on the Boston sports radio station WEEI. In a wide-ranging interview, the QB vociferously defended his friend.
He soft-pedaled at first. “Everything in life is more than meets the eye,” Brady told WEEI, addressing the Supreme Greens scandal specifically. “A lot of people were involved in that business. Alex has said that he wishes he had done things differently.”
But when it came to Guerrero’s actual ideology, he went full bore: “When you say, ‘Wow, this sounds like quackery,’ there’s a lot of things that I see on a daily basis in Western medicine that I think, ‘Wow, why would they ever do that? That is crazy. That doesn’t work’… you guys may think I’m full of crap, but I’m the proof, what you see on the field.” He added, “I’m the best advertisement I could ever have.”
It went without saying that he was the best advertisement Guerrero could ever have, too. It was a remarkable bit of radio. A live performance of rare, unceasing loyalty.
From No One Man Should Have All That Power. Copyright 2019, Amos Barshad. Excerpted with permission by Abrams Books.