This post is also available in:
Tamil (தமிழ்) Sinhala (සිංහල)
You’ve probably come across the phrase “muscle memory” used to describe the ability to recall movements or to swiftly regain muscle mass after taking a break from physical activity. However, when this term is used loosely to promote a workout program, it may leave you wondering: is muscle memory a legitimate concept? Can our muscles truly remember our workouts?
Have you ever heard of muscle memory?
It’s the fascinating ability of our bodies to quickly regain muscle mass in muscles we have trained before. Think about it – if you have put in hard work and gained muscle through strength training, then take some time off, you can actually regain that muscle faster than it took to build it up
What is the inner workings of muscle memory?
Contrary to popular belief, this phenomenon isn’t simply due to your muscles somehow retaining information. Instead, the growth of muscle mass through training leads to an increase in myonuclei, the building blocks of muscle fibers. However, the exact amount of strength training needed to trigger this growth is still a topic of discussion in the scientific community.
Discovering how to utilize muscle memory for hypertrophy can be a game-changing revelation for those who have had to pause their training routine due to various reasons such as holidays, injuries, or unexpected life events. While the concept of muscle memory may still be a subject of debate, we can still harness what we do know to our advantage.
When it comes to muscle memory, there are two important factors to keep in mind:
1. In order to see an increase in muscle size, it’s crucial to train with a sufficient amount of volume. This means consistently strength training 3-4 times a week, completing 3-5 sets and 6-12 repetitions of exercises for a period of 4-6 weeks. If you’re a beginner, it’s important to gradually work up to this level of intensity and volume by starting with Stabilization Endurance Training and Strength Endurance Training, both of which require 8 weeks to complete.
2. Maximize your activity level during periods of rest to prevent muscle atrophy. The longer you remain inactive, the more quickly your muscles will decrease in size. Moreover, the less physical activity you engage in during these rest periods, the greater the impact on muscle loss. While taking a week-long break from your usual workout may have minimal effects on your progress, being sedentary for three weeks can significantly decrease muscle mass. It is important to stay as physically active as possible, even while taking a break from strength training, in order to minimize the effects of muscle atrophy
The re-acquisition of muscle appears to be influenced by the extent of physical inactivity during a break in training. For instance, being confined to a bed for a period of time may significantly prolong the process compared to simply pausing resistance training while maintaining regular daily movements.