Going back to the gym after a season is hard. It doesn’t matter if you’ve trained every day for five years; that first day after the holidays or a long bridge You will suffer as if it were the first time. It will be then when you will hear the magic phrase: “Cheer up!, the muscle has memory”. A trainer will surely say it to convince you that next time it will be better because you have “fund”, your muscle is going to reward you for your dedication and discipline in the gym, an effort that now seems to have vanished.
Aaron Santos is an independent personal trainer and has said the consolation phrase a lot. “I am referring to the brain’s ability to remember movement patterns and send the correct order to the muscle. The longer you have trained, the more internalized those movements will be in the brain. If you stop training for a month, it is possible that the first exercises cost a bit, but after ten minutes you will have recovered the rhythm”.
But does muscle memory exist or is it a white lie from the coaches? Apparently, it is possible to speak of something similar to the memory of certain movement patterns, that mechanism by which riding a bicycle is a skill that is never forgotten. However, the latest research underpins the literal meaning of the term and suggests that there may indeed be a memory capacity in muscle fibers.
These studies show that the nucleus of the muscle cells seems to have its own memory, beyond the memory of the motor neurons, which would rather be a merit of the brain. In 2010, a study with mice already showed that the nuclei of muscle cells that multiplied in response to training overload did not disappear during periods of inactivity, but remained retained in the muscle fibers, waiting to be reactivated with training. .
Experts believe that this mechanism is replicated in humans, and that even if exercise is stopped, muscle cell nuclei will be preserved and muscle growth will resume when training resumes. This conceptual change has served to retrain some atrophied muscles, due to injury or disuse, which until recently were considered lost.
This is how Diego Jerez, coach of the Metropolitan Club, explains it. “Muscle fibers are cylindrical and elongated and their nuclei multiply with training. With the bodybuilding work, the fibers thicken and create new nuclei that are not lost even if you stop training and the muscle returns to its previous dimensions. When you go back to the gym, and that’s why muscle is said to have memory, you make three times faster gains in muscle mass because those cores are already built from previous workouts.”
Another theory suggests that the origin of muscle memory is in the way genes adapt to the environment. Physical activity seems to produce certain proteins in muscle cells that facilitate their growth. In the long term, these changes could enhance muscle memory.
In either interpretation, the amount of physical exercise is what determines the power of muscle memory. Without physical activity there will obviously be very little to remember.
A recent study investigating the impact of resistance training on men between the ages of 50 and 70 even suggests that muscle memory may be long. The research examined the effects of an endurance routine followed by rest and then retraining. Each phase lasted twelve weeks. The results showed that training increased strength and power between 10% and 36%. When it was stopped, there was a loss of strength and power that the researchers quantified in between 5% and 15%. But, and this was the great revelation of the study, the maximum physical levels of the first routine were recovered in less than eight weeks of retraining.
That is, it took less than two months to regain initial strength after a three-month break. The authors conclude that the speed to regain fitness depends on the previous state, the duration of the rest, the age and the time of retraining. The better physical shape and longer retraining time, the better muscle memory.
Muscle memory would be like having a good cushion of savings, with the oddity that you will never know exactly how much you have until you train again.
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Source: EL PAIS