Muscle memory: what is it and how to develop it?

The ability of the body to respond to physical activity after a long pause and achieve its former results is explained by the work of muscle memory.

What it is?

Muscle memory develops as a result of physical activity and ensures the restoration of muscle mass after a long downtime. The human body is able to remember the level of muscle tone that occurred in nerve cells and the structure of muscle fibers. Long-term changes occur in the body, information about which enters the motor cortex of the human brain. All information about the number of muscle contractions and about any other physical activity is stored in brain structures. Physical actions, brought to automatism, fall into the memory storage.

The formation of such a memory occurs at an unconscious level. The main purpose of muscle memory is to resume training after a forced interruption and use it at your own discretion. This process provides the athlete with a quick recovery of sports form after a long pause associated with illness, injury, business trip, the birth of a child, or due to another circumstance. People who once played sports recover faster after a heart attack, stroke, and other serious illnesses.

Besides, well-developed muscle memory helps to reduce the risk of injury.

A convincing example is the ability to ride a two-wheeled bicycle. A person, while still a child, who has learned to maintain balance while riding this type of transport, never loses the skill. Actions and movements are reproduced automatically after a large number of years.

Functioning mechanism


Muscle memory works through the interaction of muscles and the brain, the connecting component of which is the nervous system. During exercise, the brain evaluates their level and decides which organs and parts of the body to use. Through the nerve fibers, impulses are sent to the muscles that are able to perform the necessary actions to achieve the desired result. Information is recorded in muscle fibers. If it is necessary to perform such an exercise in the future, the muscles are ready for its implementation.

This type of memory is closely associated with muscle fibers of a certain size. They are a fusion of several cells that unite the cytoplasm. Muscle fiber has a multinuclear system. Satellite cells are capable of dividing to increase the number of nuclei, each of which is surrounded by ribosomes. This is where protein synthesis takes place. These processes lead to the growth of a muscle fiber, which can be 5 times larger than a single-nuclear cell. There are few nuclei in untrained fibers, so they have small parameters.

During a hard workout, the muscles are in a stressful situation. Over time, the overgrown fiber lacks the available nuclei, and the muscles reach their maximum. Muscle memory is based on new nuclei formed as a result of overload. With subsequent muscle atrophy, they are not removed, but are in sleep mode. Inactive nuclei do not synthesize proteins at this time.

The number of additional nuclei that can control the volume of the muscle fiber increases with the resumption of physical activity. Muscles quickly return to their original size.

The work of muscle memory is most easily tracked when observing people involved in bodybuilding. Lack of training leads to a decrease in muscle mass. This does not mean that the additional nuclei formed have begun to die off. They go into standby mode.

When physical activity is resumed, the nervous system provides an increase in the excitability of motor neurons located in the right hemisphere of the brain, and sends certain signals to muscle fibers. The muscles also send impulses to the brain structures. The neuromuscular connection improves. The accelerated growth of new vessels and increased nutrition of the motor block, protein synthesis in the muscles allow a previously trained person to quickly recover after a long break.


How long is stored?


The results of the research indicate the imprinting and preservation in the muscle memory of the once mastered muscle load for a long time. Contrary to the expectations of the scientists who conducted the experiments, the cell nuclei formed by increasing the level of muscle activity are not lost when the intensity of training is reduced. Studies have shown that for 3 months the muscles were not used, but at the same time they were in standby mode. After the person returned to physical exercises, hypertrophic processes became more active, protein synthesis in muscle cells increased. The cores began to fully function. The subjects were able to quickly return to physical form.

The storage period of information in muscle memory is not exactly known. It persists for a very long time, therefore, after a forced break in training, it is much easier and faster for athletes to increase muscle volume than when pumping up body weight for beginners. The cores created by training are retained for at least 2 months. They can stay for many years. An adult can easily return to the sport he was involved in as a child.

How to develop?

At a young age, the process of increasing muscle mass is much faster than in older people. Although there have been cases of muscle building by 90-year-olds.

Prolonged correct training and their rigorous analysis help to give muscles volume and strength. Experts recommend the use of individually designed programs. It is best to do the exercises with the help and supervision of a qualified instructor. Wrong training can harm the body. Incorrect information will be imprinted in the muscle memory, which the muscles will use in the future.

A gradual increase in load is recommended. In this case, the muscles adapt well. Each new weight overcome improves coordination, gives the body strength and endurance. If there is no progress while getting used to certain exercises, you can suspend their implementation. The technique of reproducing training tasks remains in muscle memory, so the efforts to restore it after returning to the gym will be minimal.

Psychological methods based on self-hypnosis help to achieve the desired results faster. They are used along with physical activity.

  • Before going to bed, it is recommended to imagine your perfect body. At the moments of immersion in sleep and at the moments of awakening, you need to mentally reproduce the desired muscles. The image is imprinted and sent to the structures of the brain. At each awakening at night, the manipulation must be repeated again and again.
  • Experts advise mentally imagining a hot ball. It is necessary to clearly feel it and begin to roll over all parts of the body. First you need to try to move this ball to the larynx, then lower it to the solar plexus, then you need to redirect the imaginary object to the hip part of the body and, finally, it should touch the feet. Exercise should be performed 5 times before going to bed. It helps pave a new path to the nerve endings.


Regular physical and psychological training contributes to the development of harmoniously folded muscles. Temporary cessation of classes does not cause much damage to the body. Previous indicators are easily restored in a short time.


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