Can muscles think? Of course they can’t – at least not in the way that humans do, but they do have a “memory” of sorts. What is muscle memory and how is it important to your workout?
What is Muscle Memory?
When you first start doing resistance training to build lean body mass, you work hard to get muscle definition – especially if you’re female. After many months of working out with resistance bands, lifting weights, or working against your own body weight, you start to see that elusive muscle definition appear. Gradually, you build more definition and even some bulk. But, what happens if you stop working out? Over time, you start to lose that muscle tone and definition you worked so hard to get. This is, of course, quite discouraging.
On the other hand, you won’t have to work as long or hard the second time around to get that muscle definition back, thanks to the concept of “muscle memory”. Muscle memory, also known as neuromuscular facilitation, means that your muscles “remember” the training you did before and respond more quickly once you restart your routine. This makes it quicker and easier to build strength and muscle definition the second – or third – time around. This is good news for anyone who “takes a break” and becomes discouraged by the proposition of starting over.
How Can Muscle Memory Help You Gain More Muscle Definition?
Muscle memory can work in your favor even if you don’t take a long break from working out. Most people who do resistance training eventually reach a plateau where they stop seeing gains unless they challenge themselves by lifting heavier weights or doing different exercises. This is, again, due to muscle memory. The muscles have adapted so well to those particular moves that they no longer have to work as hard – or grow as much. In some cases, taking a break from resistance training for a week or two can help break this plateau and jumpstart muscle growth again. Another way to get around muscle memory when you’ve reached a plateau is to completely change the exercises you do.
What is Muscle Memory?: The Bottom Line
Taking a week or two away from strength training shouldn’t set you back. In fact, if you’ve reached a plateau, it may boost muscle growth and give you more definition in the long run. Muscle memory can work against you by causing plateaus, but it’s a definite advantage if you need to stop working out for a while. Learn how to use it to your advantage.
Oxygen’s The Ultimate Beach Body. 2010. page 82.