Everything You Need to Know About Muscle Memory

Man doing exercise in gym

If you’ve spent enough time in any fitness circle, you’ve probably heard the term “muscle memory” tossed around here and there. It’s an invaluable asset for any workout routine. So if you want to get serious about fitness, there’s no time like the present to start developing your muscle memory. How do you develop it, though? Here’s everything you need to know.

What Is Muscle Memory?

Muscle memory is exactly what it sounds like– the ability to recall and repeat physical movements. Let’s use the common example of riding a bike. When you were a child, riding a bike was difficult. You had to use training wheels to keep yourself from falling over. Once you learned how to balance on the bike, though, riding a bike became extremely simple. 

Now, even if you haven’t ridden a bike in years, you can still hop on a bike at any time and ride perfectly. This is because training as a child helped you to develop it. The stance, movements, and micro-adjustments you need to stay balanced while riding a bike took conscious effort when you were learning. Now that you’ve fully learned, though, they’re second nature.

While this phenomenon is most commonly seen in skills like riding a bike or playing a musical instrument, it can be applied to just about any workout.

How Do I Develop?

Man riding bike

If you want to develop muscle memory, the process is simple. Figure out what action you want to develop it for, and keep doing it. It might seem overly simplistic, but it’s not. The process really is that easy. As you perform the same action over and over, you’ll start to develop body memory. Once you’ve done so often enough, that action will become almost completely automatic.

Is Muscle Memory Actually in the Muscles?

Muscle memory

Considering its name, it’s a natural assumption that muscle memory is in the muscles themselves. Surprisingly, though, you’d be wrong in this case. Muscle memory is actually stored in a part of the brain known as the cerebellum. The cerebellum is responsible for things like balance, movement, coordination, and other high-level motor functions. Though we used the word “stored,” that’s a bit of an oversimplification of how muscle memory works.

As we learn new skills, we form something called a neural pathway. A neural pathway is a collection of several neurons. If you think of your brain as a computer, a neuron is essentially a segment of wire that transmits an electrical signal from one part of the computer to another. A neural pathway is a collection of several wires that allow for more complex signals. As you repeat an action over and over, more “wires” are formed, and unnecessary “wires” are eliminated through a process called synaptic pruning. By the end of the process, you have an extremely optimized and efficient neural pathway for this specific action, and muscle memory is formed.

Muscle Memory Safety

Boy playing basket ball

Note that while muscle memory is extremely useful to have during workouts, it can be dangerous if developed improperly. They say that old habits die hard, and this applies to muscle memory just as much as anything else. Most exercises like weightlifting and running have particular forms that are ideal for getting the best gains while avoiding injury. 

If you don’t know the proper form for a workout, you may develop muscle memory using poor form. Once you’ve done that, it’ll be harder to correct your form when you do learn, so when you’re just starting out with your workout routine, we recommend doing so with a professional trainer. This allows you to develop muscle memory using good form early in the process, so you’ll be able to keep that good form moving forward.

Does It Help You Regain Muscle?

Woman doing yoga

Believe it or not, muscle memory can even help you regain muscle that you’ve lost. Say, for example, that you had to take an extensive break from working out due to a pulled muscle. You’ll have lost a lot of strength in that muscle once you return to working out. However, you’ll probably notice two things: you still remember how to do your old workouts, and you’re having a much easier time regaining muscle than you expected.

This is because of the muscle memory you formed during your pre-injury workout routine. Because your brain remembers how to do certain movements, as well as the muscles used for those movements, it’s far easier to get back into a rhythm and rebuild the muscles you lost while resting.

Looking for more great tips, tricks, and products to stay healthy and active? Feel free to visit our site at NineFit today!

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