Muscle Memory and Its Role
So you’ve just started working out, you’re doing a lot more cardio and definitely improving. You are able to run faster and further in the same amount of time, great! You’ve decided that it’s time to give weight lifting a shot. Incredibly motivated, you intensely workout and a couple of months later you are stronger and more muscular than ever!
Unfortunately, you stop being able to go to the gym. This could be an injury, lack of motivation or simply lack of time and soon enough you haven’t been to the gym for a couple of months. You look in the mirror and realise you lost all those results you originally gained from going to the gym. You decide to get back into!
This time, however, you start seeing results a lot quicker, your muscles already look the same size and you’re just as strong as before! How have you achieved the same results in less time? This is Muscle Memory.
So what is Muscle Memory
Muscle memory is a theory that explains that fact that it took less time to get to the same level of strength. The theory is that if you train for an extended period of time, take a break and then return to training you will be able to get to same place a lot easier than before.
Although called muscle memory, it has nothing to do with your muscles having a memory. Instead, It is actually to do with your brain. When we learn a new movement pattern or motor skill the ability to do so is stored in the brain. For example, the first time you deadlift it is very foreign and you are very inefficient and performing the exercise. However, the more you practice, the better you become and the greater the “memory”.
Even after a long break, you are still able to perform the exercise efficiently due to your neuromuscular system already knowing the movement pattern. This is why once you learn to ride a bike, although you might be a bit rusty, you will always be able to ride one.
Muscle Memory role in size and strength
So muscle memory explains why we can perform the same exercise but what about my strength and muscle size?
When muscles are trained they increase in size due to a process called muscular hypertrophy. The muscles become bigger and stronger due to an increase in myonuclei. Until recently it was believed that if you stopped training then the muscles would waste away (Atrophy) and the myonuclei would be removed.
Current research shows that this inst the case and the majority of the additional nuclei remain in the muscles cells. This means that returning to training after a long break results in faster hypertrophy and strength gains then first starting!
This is why it would only take you a couple of months instead of 4+ months to get back to the same point as before.
Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle – Napoleon Hill
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