When we hear about muscle memory, a lot of questions pop up in our minds, and simultaneously we come by a lot of answers and conclusions. But muscle memory does not function the way you think it does. Unlike octopuses, we do not have brains in our limbs. In that light, your muscles cannot really “remember” things as such. But once you learn some physical activity like swimming or riding a bike or anything which involves the use of muscles, with time, you can do it without even thinking! That my friend is how muscle memory functions.
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What is muscle memory?
Muscles’ memory or a more refined term “subconscious memory” is the information that we store in our brains. Whenever we try to do a physical activity, this memory stored in our minds becomes more accessible, and we can practically get a physical task done without thinking. That is why it’s impossible to forget how to ride a bike once you have learned it.
Muscle memory is one of those things that work better if you forget about it. Your do pushups for years together, then you go off practice for a few days and rejoin your gym. You will not feel the pain of pushups because your muscles remember how to do it. That’s the power of muscle memory.
How does muscle memory work?
What happens when you do a crunch or a bench press on your first day at the gym? Feels weird, right? Gets a little awkward? Yeah. We all have been there. To get it right, we practice it daily and listen to the instructions of our trainer. Once we get in the groove, the movement starts to get more comfortable. We don’t need to be that caution, and we get it done with ease and ace with time. Why does that happen? Is it just practice? Nope! In addition to practice, the growth of stamina, strength, and flexibility, your body gains awareness. With enhanced motor control and neuromuscular efficiency, you perform the exercise better.
Muscle memory is nothing but a brain-body connection that is made stronger, faster and more accurate with time. When we practice an exercise over and over again, we literally pave a new path within our central nervous system. This makes it easy to tell our body what to get done in the next step. To sum it up, muscle memory is what makes practice, perfect!
Is muscle memory real
Yes. Muscle memory is very real. There are two types that we need to consider, and both are real in their own ways. The first type of muscle memory is called “procedural memory”. This sort of memory strengthens the synaptic paths in our brains for precisely coordinated muscle movements. Owing to this movement, Slash can shift the guitar chords with ease without becoming conscious about the positioning of his fingers!
The other type or the second type of muscle memory allows one to remember the muscle movement, which was learned through regular training. As mentioned earlier, this sort of memory makes it easy for one to hit the gym again after years of no practice. The muscles are made to remember the movements, which makes getting back to exercising after years a little easier.
All this sounds good. But we need some empirical evidence to seal the deal with muscle memory. Is there any such evidence? Well, course there is! The researchers conducted a study at Keele University in the Uk to discover the existence if muscle memory.
During this experiment, eight healthy men were subjected to a 21 days training program. These men were subjected to hardcore work-out and were made to lift heavy weight for three days a week for seven weeks. Then they were made to stop exercising for seven weeks and then again subjected to the three days a week exercising session for another seven-week.
The researchers took muscle biopsies of the participants and found marked and unmarked muscle tags. The exciting part of the study was that the tags remained active long after the individuals had stopped exercising and then appeared to have an impression when the men resumed exercising. This study answers the question does muscle have memory?
Muscle memory training
Now that you know muscle memory is real, how can you train it? There are a few simple yet effective steps that you can use to train your muscles.
Practice- Practice the same exercise or movement again and again in a closed environment until you get it perfect. Once you get it done, note down how many tries it took to get it perfect.
Environment- If you are practicing a skill, make sure you do it in a viable ecosystem. If you use the same environment and the same equipment to pick up the new capabilities, it is possible to learn the movement more efficiently.
Random Environment: Once you learn the new skill, practice to perfect the craft in any random place. Obviously, you will not be getting the same environment to practice your skills; you will require to do it in a different place and at different times. The same applies to swim or drive. Since you won’t be swinging in the same water and drive the same car or bike, it’s better to perfect the same skill in different places.
Muscle memory gains
Muscle memory gain does not happen in just one day. It’s all about practice, getting your mind to follow the ways you teach. So, if you are planning on gaining muscle memory, here are three tips that can be of use:
Very often, beginners feel that there is no need to practice unless they can devote a chunk of their time to it. This is a wrong idea. In fact, the opposite is true. If one wants to learn a new skill and perfect it’s, it’s advisable to do it daily even if it is for a few minutes. This gets one’s brain in practice and works better than practicing twice a week for four hours.
Change in mindset:
While learning a new skill, many individuals treat it as a chore. It must be remembered that learning a new skill is in any way, a challenging task. If one treats it as a chore, then it becomes mundane, and people lose interest. This does not give the brain a chance to learn the skill correctly. This mindset must change. If you are learning a new skill, keep on reminding yourself, why did you pick up the task in the first place. If it was for passion, keep the fire burning and chase your dreams. If it was a necessity, then remember the urgency which drove you to learn the task in the first place.
Consistency is the key to success in any trade. Often in our hurry to learn the task quickly, we forget to learn the first stages properly. This leaves us with crooked results in the end. If one wants to gain muscle memory, then it’s essential to learn every step correctly.
How long does muscle memory last?
Muscle memory is indeed real. But the question remains how long does it last? Many studies have been conducted to discover the answer to this vital question. Muscle memory can last for years, and one can quickly regain muscle mass after rejoining the gym after years of break. In a very important study, the researchers found out that the myonuclei stays stable for fifteen years on the run and can even last permanently.
However, it becomes difficult to train the elderly myonuclei. Thus, if one wants a more permanent muscle memory, early training and practice must be considered. If one trains early and then leave the sport or activity for several years, they still might be able to work on their skills. In fact, they might make significant progress in just a few months. Such incidents often go on to show that muscle memory is indeed real. But to find out more about muscle memory and how long it can last, more studies involving teens and younger individuals are required.
We all have heard the phrase practice makes one perfect. It has a lot of truth in it. While we brushed this off as another common saying by our parents, it is, in fact, scientifically proven truth. Practice gives rise to better muscle memory, and that helps us to do an activity with ease for a very long time. So practice harder, and get the skill perfect!