In this post, we’ll unpack all you need to know about Muscle Memory, defining exactly what it is, the science behind how it works, how long it lasts, how it relates to body bodybuilding and more.
What Is Muscle Memory?
Muscle Memory (MM) refers to a neurological process that allows us to regain skills after an extended period of inactivity.
The Science Behind Muscle Memory
The more we engage in a particular skill ― whether it be mental, emotional or physical ― the more we wire an associated neural pathway into our nervous system.
Thus, when we reattempt to perform a skill after an extended period of inactivity, rather than having to create a new neural pathway for that skill, instead we reactivate the old neural pathway.
This process, which we refer to as Muscle Memory, saves us time and energy by ensuring that we do not need to learn how to perform a skill again completely from scratch.
How Long Does Muscle Memory Last?
There is no universally agreed upon answer for how long Muscle Memory lasts. However, according to one study by Gundersen (2016), MM can last for up-to 15 years and potentially even permanently.
MM & Bodybuilding
When it comes to bodybuilding, muscle loss can occur either when detraining or during an extended period of inactivity. Fortunately, our bodies are well equipped to manage this and this is where Muscle Memory gains comes in.
When we work out, our muscles increase in size and strength. When we don’t work out, our muscles decrease in size and strength.
However, muscle fibre nuclei, known as myonuclei, don’t simply disappear. Instead, they are retained in our muscle tissues ready to be reactivated again in the future. It is this process that allows us to regain the size and strength of muscles more quickly after an extended break from training.
Muscle Memory is a neurological process that allows us to achieve previous levels of performance of a particular skill after an extended period of inactivity.
Studies show that MM can last a lifetime, meaning we never truly lose the ability to perform a skill. As the saying goes, form is temporary, class is permanent.