What Is Muscle Memory In Bodybuilding – All You Need To Know

  • By: Dave Moffat
  • Date: December 16, 2023
What Is Muscle Memory In Bodybuilding

Muscle memory is a cool thing that’s really important in bodybuilding.

It’s our body’s way of remembering and copying movements we’ve done lots of times before. It’s like when you learn to ride a bike – once you learn, your body remembers how to do it even if you haven’t ridden in a while.

For bodybuilders, muscle memory is super helpful because it lets them get back any muscle or strength they might lose if they stop working out for a bit.

Understanding muscle memory can help bodybuilders train better. It can also help them get past tough spots, where they’re not improving, and reach their fitness goals faster.

What is Muscle Memory?

Muscle memory is a really interesting thing that happens in our bodies. It makes our muscles get better at doing certain moves when we do them a lot.

Imagine if you’re working out or lifting weights a lot. Your muscles and your brain start to connect better, which lets you do those moves easier and more accurately.

This happens because the paths between your brain and muscles get stronger and your muscle fibers grow. These things work together to make a “memory” of how to do the move.

So, if you’ve done a certain exercise a lot, your muscles can remember how to do it, even if you haven’t done it in a while.

For people who are into bodybuilding and fitness, muscle memory is really important. It helps them get back any muscle or strength they lost if they stopped working out, and it does this faster. This makes muscle memory a really important part of good workout and recovery plans.

How Does Muscle Memory Work?

Muscle memory is all about how our brain and muscles work together. When we do a new move or exercise, our brain sends messages to our muscles. It uses something called motor neurons to tell muscle fibers to squeeze together and make the move happen.

When we practice this move a lot, the connections between the brain and muscles get stronger. This makes the move easier and smoother to do.

This is called synaptic plasticity. At the same time, our muscles change a bit. Little cells, called satellite cells, stick to existing muscle fibers. They give them something called myonuclei.

These myonuclei are really important for helping muscles grow and fix themselves. Even if we stop working out for a bit, the myonuclei stay in the muscles. This means muscles can grow back faster when we start working out again.

Muscle memory is all about stronger connections between the brain and muscles. Myonuclei stay in the muscles even when we’re not working out. It helps us get strength and muscle back faster after we’ve stopped working out, and it makes familiar moves easier to do.

The science behind muscle memory

Muscle memory is like a super cool science experiment happening inside our bodies. It involves special things called motor neurons, muscle fibers, satellite cells, and myonuclei.

Motor neurons are like messengers that take signals from our brain to our muscles. They tell our muscles to squeeze together to make specific moves happen.

Muscle fibers are the parts of our muscles that squeeze together when they get the message from the motor neurons. When we do a certain move or exercise a lot, the connection between the motor neurons and muscle fibers gets stronger. This makes us better at doing the move.

There’s also something else cool happening in our muscles. There are these things called satellite cells, which are like sleeping cells inside our muscles. When our muscles need to grow or repair, these satellite cells wake up.

The satellite cells multiply and stick to the muscle fibers. They give something called myonuclei to the muscle cells. These myonuclei are really important because they control how muscles grow and change.

What’s really interesting is that once muscle fibers get these myonuclei, they keep them even if we stop working out and lose some muscle.

Keeping the myonuclei lets our muscles grow back faster and stronger when we start working out again. The myonuclei can start making more muscle quickly.

So, muscle memory is all about these stronger connections between our brain and muscles, and the myonuclei that stay in our muscles. It helps us get back any lost muscle and strength faster, and it makes us better at doing moves we’ve done a lot before.

How long does it take to form new muscle memory?

How quickly you can form muscle memory can be different for everyone. It depends on things like how complex the move is and how often you practice it.

Usually, you can start to see improvements in muscle memory after a few weeks of regular training. If the move or exercise is pretty simple, you might see changes even sooner. But if it’s a complex move, it might take longer because your brain and muscles need more time to get used to it.

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It’s important to remember that creating muscle memory doesn’t just happen all at once. It’s an ongoing thing, and the more you practice, the better you’ll get at the move.

As you keep doing specific exercises or activities, your muscles and brain continue to adjust. This makes it easier and more accurate to do those moves.

You might start to see some improvements in muscle memory pretty quickly. However, reaching your best performance might take months or even years of practice. And this can depend on how complex the move is and your natural abilities.

Muscle memory and strength training

Adaptations during initial strength training

When you first start strength training, like lifting weights, your body goes through some big changes. It is to handle the extra work your muscles are doing.

These changes include making the connections between your brain and muscles stronger. Also, more muscle fibers get involved, and they learn to work together better.

Because of these changes, you might notice that you get stronger and better at your exercises pretty quickly in the first few weeks of training. But this early progress is mostly because of these changes in your brain and muscles, not because your muscles are getting bigger. That part usually happens a bit slower.

Retaining strength gains through muscle memory

One cool thing about muscle memory when you’re strength training is that it can help you keep your strength. Even if you take a break from working out.

As we discussed before, your brain connections and the myonuclei in your muscles stick around, even if you’re not training. So, when you start working out again, your muscles can start growing faster.

This means that if you’ve done strength training before and then stopped, you can regain your strength and muscles quicker than someone who’s just starting to lift weights.

Faster recovery of lost muscle mass

Muscle memory is super helpful when it comes to getting your muscles back after you’ve taken a break from working out. This is because of something called myonuclei in your muscle fibers that stick around even when you’re not training.

When you start working out again, these myonuclei help your muscles grow faster. This means you can get back to your old strength and muscle size quicker than someone who’s never worked out before.

So, muscle memory shows us why it’s important to keep up with our strength training. Plus, it’s pretty motivating to know that even if we take a break, we can bounce back faster thanks to muscle memory!

Muscle memory and muscle atrophy

Causes of muscle atrophy

Muscle atrophy is when your muscles get smaller and weaker. This can happen for a bunch of reasons like not using them enough, getting older, getting hurt, or getting sick.

If you don’t use your muscles for a long time, like if you’re sitting around a lot, they can start to break down and get smaller and weaker. This is called disuse atrophy.

As you get older, your muscles can also start to shrink. This is called sarcopenia. It happens because of things like changes in your hormones, not making as much protein, and some cells in your muscles not working as well.

Getting hurt or getting sick can also make your muscles get smaller and weaker. This can happen if you can’t move around as much because of an injury or if the sickness affects your muscles directly.

The role of muscle memory in regaining lost muscle mass

Muscle atrophy can be tough, but luckily, we have something called muscle memory to help us get our strength and muscles back faster.

Remember how we talked about those brain connections and myonuclei things in your muscles that stick around? Well, they stay there even when your muscles get smaller and weaker. This means that when you start working out again, your muscles can grow back faster.

When people who’ve had their muscles shrink start exercising again, the saved brain pathways help their muscles work better together. And those myonuclei quickly start the process of rebuilding the muscle.

This faster bounce-back lets people get their old strength and muscle size back quicker than someone who’s never worked out before. So, muscle memory is really helpful for fighting against muscle shrinkage and getting back in shape faster.

Factors that influence muscle memory


Your age can really make a difference when it comes to muscle memory. Younger people are often better at making new brain pathways and changing their muscles. This is called neural plasticity.

Young people usually have more of certain hormones. For example, they have more testosterone and growth hormone. These hormones help their muscles grow and fix themselves. But as we get older, we have less of these hormones and some cells in our muscles don’t work as well. This can make it harder to form muscle memory and to get back lost muscle.

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Training experience

How much you’ve trained can also affect your muscle memory.

If you’ve done a lot of training, you probably have stronger brain connections and more of those myonuclei things in your muscles. This helps your muscles work better and recover faster.

Plus, people who have been training for a while usually know how to move better, which can help with muscle memory too. But if you’re new to working out, you might need more time to get used to the movements and for your brain and muscles to adjust.


Your genes, or the stuff you get from your parents, can really affect how easily you form muscle memory and how good you are at sports.

Certain things in your genes, like what kind of muscle fibers you have, and how well your brain and muscles work together, can change how easily you remember muscle movements. Also, how your body reacts to exercise could affect this.

If you have more fast-twitch muscle fibers, you might build muscle and strength faster. This could help you form muscle memory more quickly.

Even if your genes give you a head start, you still need to practice and work hard. This will help you make the most of your muscle memory and be the best athlete you can be.

Strategies to optimize muscle memory in bodybuilding

Consistent training

When you’re trying to improve muscle memory in bodybuilding, it’s really important to keep at it. If you do strength training regularly and keep making it harder over time, your brain and muscles get better at working together. This means you’ll have better control over your muscles and can use more of them at once.

If bodybuilders keep pushing their muscles with different exercises, they can make their muscle memory even better. This can make it easier for them to do complicated movements and help them get stronger and build more muscle.

Proper nutrition

Eating right is really important for helping your muscles grow, heal, and perform their best. If you want to improve muscle memory in bodybuilding, you need to eat a balanced diet with plenty of protein, carbs, and healthy fats.

Protein is super important because it helps build new muscle.

Eating enough food and getting all the nutrients you need doesn’t just help you work out better, it also helps your muscle memory. This is because it gives your muscles what they need to adjust and recover after a workout.

Adequate rest and recovery

Rest and recovery are super important when you’re trying to improve muscle memory in bodybuilding, but a lot of people forget about them. You need to give your muscles and your nervous system enough time to recover after hard workouts. Your nervous system sends signals to your muscles.

This helps your muscles grow, keeps you from getting hurt, and lets your body get used to the new movements you’re learning.

Taking rest days and getting enough sleep can help your muscle memory get better. This is because your body needs this time to fix any damage to your muscles, refill your energy, and make changes in your nervous system.

To get the best results from bodybuilding, balance regular training with eating right and getting plenty of rest and recovery.


Muscle memory is really important in bodybuilding. It helps you move more easily and get your strength and muscle size back faster if you lose it.

Building muscle memory is a complicated process. It happens when different parts of your body work together to respond to regular strength training.

Things like how old you are, how much training experience you have, and what kind of genes you have can affect how easily you build and keep muscle memory. This is why it’s important to have a workout and recovery plan that works for you.

Bodybuilders can improve muscle memory in their workouts. This can help them grow muscles, perform well, and succeed in the long run.

It’s really important to work out regularly, eat right, and get enough rest. Doing so helps build and keep muscle memory.

By focusing on these things, you can get better at doing complicated movements. You can also get stronger, build more muscle, and bounce back faster from times when you can’t work out.

If you commit to these strategies and take a balanced approach to bodybuilding, you can reach your full potential. You can also achieve your fitness goals.

Dave Moffat

Hi, I'm Dave Moffat the founder and Chief Editor of steroidsourcetalk.com and certified International Personal Trainer and Certified Nutritionist. My passion has always been bodybuilding but with 15 years' experience in weight loss programs too, it's hard not to mention all that when you're working at your fitness level fullest (I hope). When Im not in the gym or spending time away from my family i often think about what advice would help others achieve theirs goals just like these inspired mine.