Muscle Memory Explained (WITH STICK FIGURES!)

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You have likely heard the term muscle memory, but do you really know what it means and what its implications are for your training and workouts? In this video, I’m going to show you how the process of muscle memory exists and why it should ease your mind when you are forced to take some time away from the gym due to illness, family issues, injury or any other reason. No, you won’t lose all your hard earned gains long term. In fact, you might even benefit from the layoff.

You see, as you build new muscle tissue, the muscle fibers grow in size. That said, they ultimately reach a growth potential limit that is driven by the regulators of the fiber size called the myonuclei. These cellular powerhouses are contributed to a growing muscle fiber by the satellite cells that surround the fibers and ultimately bind to it as the result of muscle stress and inflammation (ie. after a particularly hard training session).

Once recruited, these myonuclei tend to stick around for awhile, a long while! Even though the fiber itself may shrink in size due to the inactivity caused by a layoff from your workouts, the myonuclei stay in the same number. This is important because they are ultimately determining the size of the fiber’s growth. With a limited capacity of growth (called the myonuclear domain), the only way to increase a fiber’s size is to ultimately recruit more myonuclei.

The best way to do this is to stress a muscle (either through increased tension, metabolic stress, or increased training frequency) which results in an inflammatory process that kick starts the recruitment of the satellite cells to the fiber. This will lead to a donation of the myonuclei which will set the stage for increased protein synthesis and long term growth.

When you have to lay off the weights because of an injury or illness, you see that you do lose muscle size. That is normal and to be expected. Why? Because your body does not want to try and support that extra tissue metabolically, especially because it is not functionally beneficial while the priority is to fight off an infection or bug. That said, while the fibers may shrink the myonuclei and ultimately the size of the fiber they can support are unaffected or unchanged.

When you get back to your hard workouts, you bounce back fast and your size returns quickly. This is the same reason why taking a forced break from your training every now and then can help to not only reinvigorate your enthusiasm for training but also give your body a chance to recover and grow.

For a complete training program that blends the perfect amount of hard training with much needed recovery, be sure to head to and get the ATHLEAN-X Training System. Start training like an athlete and see just how quickly you can make gains in size, strength and performance with the leading sports physical therapist guiding your every workout.

For more videos on how to overcome overtraining and use muscle memory as a valuable tool for preserving your hard earned muscle gains long term, be sure to subscribe to our channel here on youtube at

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