Muscle memory: the lesser-known fitness aid

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  • Thanks to a lesser-known fitness phenomenon called ‘muscle memory’, your former fit self might not be too many burpees away. 
  • The idea is that once you’ve learnt to build a certain amount of strength and muscle, your body ‘remembers’ it, allowing you to quickly bounce back into shape after a period of neglecting your gym pass.
  • First up, it’s worth noting that muscle memory is a bit of a misnomer, as the learning happens in your brain – not your muscles.

What exactly is muscle memory? 

Your muscles contain neurons that are attached to the nervous system, which are connected to motor learning.

Whether it’s a squat or push up, any movement of the body relies on the brain. Repeating an exercise enough times triggers patterns in the brain regions responsible for your motor skills. 

If a movement is repeated consistently over time, it can be performed with less effort and more efficiency.

READ MORE: If a toned 'peachy' butt is one of your lockdown goals, this glute-focused workout will do the trick 

How can understanding muscle memory help you see better results at the gym?

Muscle memory isn’t just your body learning a task; it’s also learning how to repair and rebuild tissue more rapidly. Repeating the same exercises means these actions can be performed faster, more smoothly and more accurately.

By creating new patterns you can further improve your health and fitness levels. While new movements and workouts may feel challenging at first, the more you train that movement the more your body becomes familiar with it. 

A person with varied muscle memory can reduce their chances of injury, increase their joint strength, have faster reaction times and quicker recovery times, with less delayed onset muscle soreness.

READ MORE: 5 Tips for making the most out of virtual personal training sessions

How can you regain muscle strength if you’ve been skipping your workouts?

Don’t be disheartened – thanks to your muscle memory, it won’t take as long as you think to return to your previous levels of strength. Start with compound exercises include deadlifts, squats and push-ups. These movements utilise lots of different muscles at once, which can help muscle memory and strength return quicker.

Above all, ensure you’ve re-established the basics as too much, too soon can result in injury.

Compiled by Phelokazi Mbude

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