Muscle Memory PART TWO Strength Training – Last week we talked about Muscle memory as it pertains to motor learning and repetition. This week, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned about the technical aspect of muscle memory when it comes to strength training.
Muscle Memory Mystery
To explain the muscle memory mystery behind our muscles, I need to get a little scientific, so bear with me as I attempt to explain the mystery in our muscles.
Our muscles consist of multi-nucleated cells. Our muscle cells don’t contain just one nucleus but many. When we work out and build muscle as a result of strength training or body building, the cells of the muscle make more nuclei which makes the muscle cells get bigger and therefore the muscles enlarge. These nuclei enable our muscles to grow in size. The quantity of nuclei in our muscle cells actually determines the size of our muscles.
When we stop exercising our muscles for a period of time, it is called detraining. At some point, we look in a mirror and see that our muscles have reduced in size.
Detraining – refers to the bodily effect experienced when one takes an extended break from regular, vigorous exercising. Fitness levels and muscle mass can decline during a break that lasts between weeks, months or years.
If you previously worked out with weights for strength training, then stopped for a period of time, it is natural that your muscles will reduce in size. You could say that your muscle shrivels up or shrinks. When you look in the mirror, you no longer see the muscle tone you once had. Nor, do you have the same amount of muscle strength. There is some truth to the saying, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.”
When we lose our muscle mass, do we also lose the nuclei that were produced during muscle building?
The Good News
Experts say that although our muscles will shrink as a result of detraining, the GOOD NEWS is that we DO NOT lose the nuclei that we once acquired when we performed strength training to increase our muscle mass.
Muscle Memory PART TWO Strength Training
It’s possible to regain your muscle mass by resuming a strength training (resistance training) workout routine. Regaining strength and muscle size is faster than the first time around.
When training is resumed, the muscles rapidly grow in size because the step of adding nuclei is skipped. The nuclei are already there, ready to synthesize muscle proteins again, rapidly increasing muscle size.
Retraining is easier than the first training and is the physiology of “Muscle Memory.”
Building muscle is harder to do as we get older. Those of us who worked out in our younger years and attained strong muscles, will have an easier time re-building our muscle mass in later years thanks to muscle memory.
More than anything, it is important to know that taking just a few weeks off from strength training is enough to slightly reduce our muscles. Going without exercise for months or years can result in muscles that atrophy (waste away/deteriorate).
A consistent exercise routine that includes working out with weights to strengthen and retain your muscles is important. As shared, if you once had muscle mass, the multi-nucleated cells still exist within your muscles. Not only is that good news, it’s great news!
The less time spent detraining, the easier it will be to wake-up the nuclei in the cells and re-gain your muscle mass.
Facing MY FAT,