When we talk about muscle memory, we could either be talking about procedural memory, which is what makes you cycle just as well even years after stopping it. The other aspect is related to strength training, which is what we will focus on today. The idea is that an exercise or workout becomes easier on the second attempt.
We all know from experience that re-training muscles is easier than training and building them the first time round. If you’ve ever taken a break from training and then gotten back into it only to find it easier the second time, it’s because this acceleration in progress is a scientifically proven phenomenon known as muscle memory and we’re going to tell you exactly what it is and how it works, when it comes to running.
A fact about muscles is that muscle cells are rather large and multinucleated, i.e. they contain several nuclei. This is the one of the few cells in the human body of this type. What this means is as you overload your muscles with resistance training, new nuclei are added to the cells, which thereby allows them to grow larger. It is these numbers of nuclei within the muscle fiber that primarily controls muscle size.
Once you stop training, the muscles tend to shrink in size, but the new nuclei added during training are retained for at least 3 months even with no training and inactivity. There is also evidence that the newly added nuclei are never lost. Resistance training induces permanent physiological changes to muscle cells.
Every time you stop and start training, your muscles grow rapidly because the step of ‘adding’ nuclei to the muscle cells is skipped. The nuclei are already present and ready to synthesize muscle protein again.
Since building muscle gets harder as you get older, it’s best that we add as many nuclei/do resistance training when we are young, because we know that we won’t lose the acquired and built up nuclei, which is great. What’s also great is the fact that a few weeks off from working out won’t harm us and ruin our previous effort in training.
Heave a sigh of relief, train hard, and run even faster!