Common sense tells you that if you have been actively lifting weights and working out and then stop for a couple months, you will lose the muscle and progress you have made. But did you know that if you start back with lifting and training, you’ll have a much easier time gaining back the lost muscle? Almost as if your muscle remembers exactly where you have left off. This phenomenon is known as ‘muscle memory’.
Obviously muscle memory is not memory actually stored within your muscles, but rather memories that are stored in your brain that act as a cache of frequently performed tasks by your muscles. Every time we teach our bodies how to do something- whether it’s surfing, yoga, running, etc. – our brain creates a physiological blueprint.
Muscle memory comes from your brain not only learning how to perform a task, but also how to break down muscle tissue and then rebuild it. It’s a procedural memory form that will help you become good at a new task through repetition, or in the same way become terrible at the same thing.
If you are continuously performing squats, the idea is that you’ll continue to improve and build strength. “Practice makes perfect” is an accurate phrase to use because the more you perform a task, the more you build up that procedural memory.
However, your muscle memory can’t instruct you as to whether you’re doing something properly or poorly. For example, if you spend months learning and performing squats improperly, you’ll become really good at improperly performing squats and making the same mistakes over and over again.
Building incorrect muscle memory in fitness is not only dangerous because you are putting yourself at risk, but also it will become extremely difficult to learn how to break yourself of the bad habits and relearn squats properly.
If you are new to the gym or looking to start a new workout routine, seeking out the guidance and knowledge of a personal trainer will ensure that you are developing proper muscle memory from the start. Working with a personal trainer will help you avoid wasting time and energy building incorrect muscle memory followed by attempting to relearn the same task properly. A personal trainer can jump start your fitness routine by working with you to develop a plan for success.