What is muscle memory? Does it exist?

August 3, 2009 by  
Filed under The Fitness Bug


How to build muscle and build a lean body with muscle memoryWhen i was training as an athlete, one of the first things i was taught was that your muscles have a memory. At the time i was training in group with others, and as a group our first reaction was…


The trainer said,

”Yes it’s true, it’s just controlled by the subconscious level of the mind and if it didn’t exist you wouldn’t be standing on this track today. Take babies for example, when you were just a little bubba you didn’t have muscle memory for activities like crawling, scooting or walking. The only way that your muscles became accustomed to these activities was to learn how to do these things and then practice them with a great deal of trial and error. Gradually, you became a skilled walker, fell down less, was able to balance, and finally able to incorporate other activities such as running.”

Fast forward to today and similar scenarios occur. When working out , there are inevitably going to be times of long breaks away from the gym . In the early days of building muscle mass, it was a ride for sure. The whole body went through a huge change, facing pain and gain. As time went on i did face interruptions due to injury or increased work load at university/ work. But every time i went back after a few months of no action, the pain from starting again was still there.


The muscle recovery time was much quicker. So was this due to to muscle memory? Since being introduced to it and experiencing it a few times, I’d say yes… it was.

Fine, that all makes sense, but can you back that up with some real life scenarios we can all relate to?

Sure, all of the scenarios below all include some form of muscle memory activity, and without it, some of the great performers that you have come to know of today wouldn’t be so great.


Most top level athletes believe that muscle memory is best developed when the same activities are practiced over and over again, with any corrections of form that are needed. More practice in the correct way leads to records being broken.

‘Muscle memory’


Hitting those high notes. How long has it taken for some of the great singers that we see today to develop and become as good as they are?

‘Muscle memory’

Learner Drivers

If a learner driver ‘goes it alone’ in a practice vehicle before learning to drive (with an instructor) in a method that will allow them to pass their test, they will pick up bad habits. It gets worse the more they practice alone because their muscles subconsciously remember specific movements they make. Movements which decrease their chances of being able to pass their test. This is painful because no amount of time off will help undo their muscle memory. They would need to re-train their body through repetition.

‘Muscle memory’


The same again. It’s a lot harder to teach someone who’s been playing an instrument (the incorrect way) for a few years because the first step is breaking them  free of all the bad habits they’ve acquired, which are now part of the muscle memory.

‘Muscle memory’

Are there any factors that can interfere with developing ‘good’ muscle memory?

If we were all robots then probably not, but we are human, humans suffer from emotions and emotions can affect even the best of the best in there craft. Due to things like:

* Attitude
* Confidence
* Nerves – (clenched muscles)

Our subconscious mind directs the appropriate muscles to respond as they are accustomed. As long as we allow the subconscious mind to control the actions that we take, everything will work as it has in the past.

Myth or Fact? Get at me in the comments.

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