You were a couple of short months away from reaching your perfect weight. Or you might have reached it already. You made sure to find the time to workout. Even when it wasn’t convenient. It was hard. But when you saw results, it was worth it. Then you pulled and strained a muscle, which meant you had to take a long break. And when you finally got better and were ready to hit the gym, your muscles were half the size they used to be. It took you over a year to get to where you left off and in less than three months you had to start from scratch.
Well, not all hope is lost.
Most people find that after a break it is actually easier to get back to where they left off. And that’s because of muscle memory. No, it does not mean your muscles can retain information like things you learned. But muscle memory is what helps many bodybuilders and just regular people get back to where they were before an injury, without taking nearly as much time as it did to get there.
First, it starts with your muscles.
I’m sure you remember waking up the next morning after a killer workout and feeling your muscles cry for help. Every muscle in your body was sore. And the ones that weren’t sore were stiff. Many scientists believe that this soreness is because of tiny tears in your muscles that happen after your workout. The thought of having tears in your muscles may scare you at first. But it’s really needed for muscle growth. Because of these tears, your muscles now need to fix them and heal. More muscle fibers (or muscle cells) begin to grow where those tears were. Your muscles recover and are now stronger and bigger and now with more muscle cells. Muscle cells are also very different from the other cells in our body. Every cell has a nucleus. Which is basically the brain of the cell. But muscle cells have more than one nucleus. These nuclei help the muscle cells recover faster. And muscle cells can actually get more nuclei from satellite cells when you workout to help repair your muscles.
How does muscle memory work?
After your injury or long break, your muscles shrink because they are not being used the way they were before your break. Even though the muscles shrunk, those new muscle cells and nuclei are still there. While the muscle is smaller, it’s still made of the same amount of cells and nuclei as before. Now reaching your goal after recovery won’t mean starting from zero. Your muscles won’t have to create as many muscle cells as they did when you first started working out, because you get to skip the whole step of making new cells and collecting nuclei.
So even though muscle memory does not mean your muscles will remember to stay big, it does help you get back to where you need to be. Muscle memory can be used as a tool to get you back at it. Know that it won’t be like you’re starting from square one. If you’re feeling discouraged about going back and regaining what you lost, remember that muscle memory has your back.
Destiny Pagan is a health and fitness expert and content writer. When she’s not at the gym or in front of her laptop, she is chasing her Corgi Max around because he most likely stole a sock. You can find out more about her at destinypagan.com