Muscle Memory PART ONE Motor Learning – Perhaps, like me, you’ve heard the term Muscle Memory and wondered what it really means. I can barely keep up with my normal definition of memory, let alone worrying about muscle memory.
What is Muscle Memory?
Muscle memory is not an actual memory stored in your muscles. However, memories stored in your brain are much like a cache of frequently enacted tasks for your muscles. It’s a form of procedural memory that can help you become very good at something through repetition.
The irony is that just as you can become good at something as a result of repetition, it is also possible to be become absolutely bad as well. If you learn to do something incorrectly, and repeat the same thing over and over, you can become very good at continuing to do it the wrong way.
The term muscle memory has two different definitions and two different applications. The first type of muscle memory pertains to motor learning. The other use of the term muscle memory pertains to the technical aspect of what happens to your muscles when strength training (to be shared in Part Two).
For this post I am going to talk about the MOTOR LEARNING aspect of MUSCLE MEMORY when exercising or doing any strength training routine.
Muscle memory has been used synonymously with motor learning, which is a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition. When a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed without conscious effort.
Shaking Up Muscle Memory
While practice makes perfect (most of the time), it’s good to shake-up your exercise plan or strength training routine once in a while. Yes, you’ve worked hard to learn a particular workout program. Over time, you could probably do it in your sleep. The more familiar the routine becomes, the faster you can get through it.
I’m finding this to be true with doing the Joyce Vedral, Ph.D. Bottom’s Up! workout. It’s getting faster for me to do the routine because I’m spending less time looking at the book. I made myself a cheat sheet and now the routine that took me 50 minutes in the beginning now takes only 30 minutes. I’m thrilled with my progress.
However, is doing the same routine over and over enough? Let’s look at it from a different angle.
If you recently learned how to play the piano, would you be satisfied with learning to play only a few songs? Or, would you prefer to utilize your new skill of reading sheet music and applying it to the piano keys to expand your piano playing repertoire? As a result of practice and muscle memory you can play a few songs over and over without reading the sheet music but at what point do you stop feeling challenged?
I’ve stated more than once that I am committed to the Joyce Vedral Bottoms Up! workout for a minimum of six months. However, this is not the only workout routine I do. My Jazzercise classes allow for new routines every single week. We may repeat particular exercises periodically but overall, the variety and combination of exercises is endless. The variety is what I really love about Jazzercise.
I also enjoy walking. Sunny, warm days like today (unusual in Ohio during February) call to me to go outside to walk a few laps around the block. Some days, I walk inside on the treadmill.
Say NO to a Plateau
Without variety we can reach a plateau. Over time, by doing the same exercise routine over and over, the repetition will result in muscle memory. One one hand, working out becomes a no brainer. On the other hand, your workout can become stale.
Think of it this way. When you “start” any exercise routine, whether it be walking or strength training, you will see results within the first few months. Then slowly, around the third month of doing the same routine over and over, you realize that you are just maintaining.
Shaking up your exercise routine, especially when doing strength training, will help overcome muscle memory.
Muscle Memory PART ONE Motor Learning
As mentioned above, it is possible to develop muscle memory in both a positive and a negative way. In fact, I expressed a similar concern earlier today to one of my Jazzercize class managers. I shared my concern for new attendees who perform certain exercises and movements improperly. On a couple of occasions, after class, I tried to help someone, but I quickly learned that my good intentions were not always welcomed.
The truth is, the class instructors give details on how to perform each exercise properly; however, many people do not always listen. Either they don’t understand the ques or they simply resort to their own exercise style, many times unknowingly performing the exercise in a way that could, over time, cause themselves injury.
In these cases, they are reinforcing their muscle memory (repetitive motion) improperly. Proper form is very important but it can be hard to relay in a group class.
Although I say that I will do the Bottoms Up! routine for six months, “IF” it becomes too easy, I will change my direction and mix it up with other Joyce Vedral’s workout books or routines.
So far, the Bottoms Up! routine is NOT too easy!
Facing MY FAT,