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Are we endowed with muscle memory?

When we speak of the term memory, we mean the process by which the information we possess is stored and stored so that it can be retrieved at a given time. But is it the same in our body beyond the information we have in our brains? Are we also endowed with a muscular memory?

Today we talk about this subject and review a research work that has analyzed how the hypertrophic memory of our body responds when the muscles reach a state of inactivity atrophy.

What happens when we stop muscle activity

A fear of the most widespread in the world of fitness is how our body will react to a training stop, that is, how it will affect the muscle volume we have achieved when we cease physical activity.

Obviously, when a muscle is training frequently and suddenly suffers an immobilization, for whatever reason, it will undergo changes. Inevitably the rate of protein synthesis begins to decrease and a visible reduction in muscle tissue volume will occur from the first week of inactivity.

When we resume the training activity the muscles begin to regain their original state and the recovery is visibly shorter than an ordinary training period, that is, the size of the atrophied fibers is recovered in a much shorter period of time than in the case Of a person who starts with the same muscle volume but who has not previously performed training.

The Science of Muscle Memory

Through the work of Kristian Gundersen it was wanted to analyze concretely how the cellular memory in the skeletal muscle responded through the hypertrophic memory, that is to say, to evaluate how an initially large fiber loses its mass by an inactivity and recovers its initial volume more Faster than in the case of fibers that have never been trained.
Why do people who have been muscular for years find it much less difficult to re-build muscle?

“Developing this type of nucleus, at an early age, could prevent atrophy in old age”

According to Gundersen, when the muscles are in continuous activity they create a kind of memory of their state of form, an information that they store in the form of nuclei (or myionic) DNA containers and that do not disappear even if atrophy occurs due to inactivity. These extra nuclei are the ones that allow the skeletal muscle to recover, in a much faster way, its previous fiber volume.

Prior to Gundersen’s work, it was believed that extra muscle-bearing nuclei, added to muscle fibers, were destroyed when muscles were atrophied , through a process of cell death called apoptosis; But a rodent overload training studied the pattern and concluded that it was not.

How the creation of muscle memory was analyzed

“It has been shown that the use of steroids recruits and encodes nuclei of muscle memory, which should be reviewed in the case of doping and times of sanction.”

It was experimented with a muscular overload training in mice where it was observed that from the sixth day of activity the number of extra nuclei of each cell of the muscle fibers increased, reaching an increase of 54% after 21 days, that is, Added extra cores even before the fibers themselves grew in size and gained in volume (a phenomenon that began to be visible around the ninth day of experiment).

After this finding, which confirmed the growing appearance of nuclei in the fibers, the researchers ceased force activity to check how hypertrophic memory of rodents responded.

As the muscle was atrophied by inactivity, the size of the fibers decreased by 40% but to everyone’s surprise: the number of cores created did not change. There was no apoptosis or no muscle cell death.

“I do not know if it lasts forever, but it seems to be a very long-lasting effect . Any time the extra nuclei do not die, they can prepare to create muscle proteins again, providing a kind of muscle memory” – Gundersen


A work whose results have contradicted previous research and claims regarding muscle memory and the disappearance of extra nuclei but which may undoubtedly be the key to understanding why muscles respond quickly when they are exercised again.

“It contradicts a lot of published studies. The wisdom of the people is meaningless from the cellular and molecular perspective. Gundersen’s group has come up with an explanation that seems more than plausible”- Lawrence Schwartz, cellular biologist at the University of Massachusetts.

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