Muscle Memory: Everything You Need to Know

Muscle Memory: Everything You Need to Know

Last update: 07 July, 2018

When someone stops exercising, even for a long period of time, and then starts again, his or her muscles readapt quickly and visibly. This is thanks to muscle memory.

Did you know that your muscles have a memory? Have you ever wanted to know how muscle memory works? If you have stopped going to the gym, understanding muscle memory might be the motivation you need to return, as it makes working out much easier. In this article, we will explain more about this interesting subject.

What do we mean by muscle memory?

The muscles rapidly adapt as soon as we start exercising again. It is one of the main reasons that they are said to have memory. And it has been proven that it is so much easier to work out a muscle that has already benefited from exercise, than if you have always been sedentary. This is true even if the exercise occurred a long time ago.

Direct view of muscles

A study by the University of Oslo explains that the exercise performed by the muscle is stored as DNA-containing nuclei. The muscles have a nuclei store, information that you may not even remember.

In reality, the muscle fibers are made up of cells featuring nuclei, each cell capable of storing lots of information. This information includes the exercise you have already done, and how the muscles reacted. They are capable of copying the learned exercise, but this time they can do so more quickly.

In addition, working out causes the creation of new muscle fibers, which also increase in number with more exercise. It doesn’t matter how long ago you worked out; these fibers do not disappear. For this reason, even if it has been 20 years, returning to regular exercise will pay you additional dividends.

This is why people say that muscles have memory. It might be more accurate to say that it is a matter of fiber maintenance.

And what if we stop working out?

Of course, this does not mean that if we stop working out, our muscles will stay in the same shape for a long time. When we exercise, the muscle fibers increase in volume, and we create optimal conditions for more fibers to be created.

As a result, when we stop working out, these new fibers deteriorate and lose their thickness. We are not talking about stopping for just 2 or 3 months, but for longer. Just as it takes time to gain muscle, it also takes time to lose it. Do not be afraid to take a month off from working out. On the contrary: you need to.

Woman working out at gym

Muscle memory is similar to how, as children, we learn to ride a bike. We remember how to do this into adulthood, even if we have not done this activity for years.

Why our muscles need exercise

It is true that gyms are full of men and women who want a body made up of pure muscle mass. This is a respectable goal as any. However, it is also true that working our your muscles goes beyond a simple physical change.

Exercised muscles are an endocrine organ, serving as the body’s pistons by processing energy through the fats and carbohydrates we consume. As such, they act as metabolizers and help us to avoid diabetes, blood clots, and cardiovascular disease.

Although we may not all have time to go to the gym, there are plenty of things we can do to exercise our muscles. Do you want to benefit from muscle memory? Start working out today.

Woman running up stairs
  • Download an exercise app. The internet has hundreds of apps that suggest exercise routines for you to do at home in just 10 minutes. This will not produce short-term results, but it does have long-term benefits.
  • Skip the elevator and leave your car at home. Take the stairs and walk. Even if you do not have 10 minutes a day for an exercise routine, you can benefit from a workout like this.
  • If you have to spend a lot of time sitting down (e.g. at work), get up every 2 hours and move your legs, even if you are just walking in place.
  • Dance, jump, or run. There has to be some activity you enjoy that allows you to give your muscles some exercise. Do it every chance you get.

Remember that any effort you make to exercise will produce good results, even if you have spent years without any exercise. As we have seen, muscle memory is real.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.