photo: Scott Webb

Every man and every woman in the gym is training to feel and look better. And many of these people worry that if they stop training for a while, they will quickly lose what they have achieved by now and return to their starting point.


Sooner or later, every fitness enthusiast, even the most dedicated, has to take a break from training - be it because of urgent travel, trauma, commitment or something else ... But even after a pause, people who do not give up their goal and resume training, notice that they are actually getting into shape much easier and faster than the first time. Depending on the rest period, a few weeks to a month is enough to bring one back to its usual rhythm.


This is precisely the role of the so-called. "muscle memory". It helps us to get back into shape faster after having successfully built one. And this is not only inherent in the genetically gifted, but for all of us.


What is muscle memory?


Muscle memory is the property of muscle fibers to regain their lost volume and power more readily than they initially acquired. It's like learning to ride a bike. Once you have learned how to keep your balance and pedal, no matter how long you have not ridden, you will always be able to quickly recall and ride it without a problem.


In other words, "muscle memory" is a well-deserved gift from our body to us - for the hard work we put in to build the shape we want. Once achieved, even if we temporarily lose the opportunity or motivation to maintain it, it will be much easier for us to regain it afterwards.

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How exactly does "muscle memory" work?


There are cells in the body that have a nucleus, and there are cells that do not have one. However, there are also cells that have more than one nucleus. The skeletal muscle cells are just that - with more than one nucleus.


The nucleus of a cell contains most of its genetic material (DNA). His job is to regulate the production of different chemicals and to control different cellular processes and functions. One kind, the nucleus of a cell is its "brain". But this tiny brain can work with a rather limited set of information, and its limit also determines the limit of the cell to grow and how many different processes to participate in.


In skeletal muscle cells, one of the core functions of the nucleus is to store the DNA material that organizes muscle production. proteins. With their production, the cell grows. And since skeletal muscle cells have several nuclei, their growth potential is significantly greater than that of other cells in the body. But it is not infinite…

photo: Scott Webb

Each cell nucleus can maintain a certain volume of the cell, so the more a cell grows, the more cell nuclei it needs to continue to grow. The problem is that a muscle cell cannot produce more nuclei on its own. She has to "borrow" them from another type of cell - the so-called. stem cells. Stem cells can be seen as raw building material. They can develop into many other cells as needed by the body.


There are different types of stem cells, especially in muscle growth, the so-called. "Satellite cells". They lie 'sleeping' around the muscle cells and come to the rescue when they are needed to repair and heal the torn muscle fibers (as a result of increased physical activity, such as training, for example).


The "satellite cells" attach to the cells of the skeletal muscle and "donate" their nucleus. So, muscle cells acquire another nucleus, and their growth potential, and therefore strength, increases. This is the way for the body to adapt to increased physical activity and to build bigger and stronger muscles in response.


The more you train, the more muscle cells grow. With them, the need for more cores that they get from "satellite cells" grows. But the more nuclei they collect within themselves, the more durable the muscle cells become. That is why you need to keep an eye on progressive load in his fitness program - Exercise more and more over time to stimulate your body to grow stronger and more durable by developing your muscle fibers.


And here we come to the so-called. "muscle memory " - once a satellite cell has "donated" its core to the muscle, it remains there. How long? "It's controversial. Scientists' opinions range from" a few months "to" forever, "rather tending to the second answer.


So once acquired with more nuclei and greater growth potential, the muscle cells remain so. And even if you lose muscle volume and strength during a break from fitness, once you return to training, you will quickly get into rhythm and form.


But you should also remember that "satellite cells" are not the only mechanism for muscular growth of the body. They only activate when they are really needed - when you have reached the limit of your muscular capacity and it can no longer cope with the load without their help.


Muscle fibers can grow anywhere by themselves, relying only on their initially available nuclei. So if you've been training a bit and gained some muscle mass, but not enough to activate "satellite cells", a longer break (3 - 4 weeks) of workouts can really get you back to your starting point.


But if you have accumulated a considerable amount before stopping muscle mass - at least 5-10 pounds, even interrupting your workouts for a while, and this will lead to weight loss, your muscle cells will be ready. They will have enough cores to allow you to quickly get in shape and regain the lost mass after a load is restored.

photo: Scott Webb

In conclusion…


If I have to summarize what has been said here briefly - you can regain lost muscle mass much faster than accumulating muscle mass that you have never had.


Muscle memory is a great way for our body to show that it appreciates the effort we make to be healthy and strong. But to activate it, we really need to work hard before we can take a break, with the hope that we can quickly get back in shape.

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