Muscle Memory, Fact or Fiction?

I spoke with a client the other day who had started running again for the first time in a long time. She used to run quite a bit in the past but has not done any now in over 4 years. She tried to go for a few runs this past week and said that it seemed as though she had never run before. She was frustrated, not that she could not run for long distances but that she felt like she had no ability to run with any kind of a stride that resembled what she used to have.

IMG_2297This brought up the topic of muscle memory and if such a thing existed. There is no doubt that our body can develop patterns. I would even argue that we inherit some of these patterns when we are born. Genetic factors play a major role in the development of our muscular systems. I do not have major study results to prove it but raise your hand if you physically resemble one or both of your parents is some way.

How we develop these patterns I think can be attributed to the 4 Laws of Training. If you have not read those posts I recommend that you do. We feel it is the framework for understanding how to train the human body for maximum results. Law #2 states that the more of a specific stimulus our bodies get, the greater the anatomical change you will create. For instance the more heavy weight training you do, the stronger and more dense your muscles will become. In the example of running, my client had developed a pattern in her past when she ran all the time that created what she believed to be her “normal” stride.

Law #1 states that our bodies are designed to respond to stimulus. So the running she was doing was the stimulus that her body responded to. She ran very frequently so the constant supply of the same stimulus created a pattern. I believe this patterns to be what many refer to as muscle memory. The body has no choice but to react to the stimulus you give it. This can be a positive like building a consistent stride to run with, however, it can also be a negative if the stride you are building is not very efficient which will lead to poor performance and ultimately injury.

Our bodies are constantly changing, there is no staying the same. Think of everything you do during the day and the impact it will have on your body. The way we eat, the amount of water we drink, the amount of sleep we get, and of course the type of physical stimulus our bodies receive are constantly changing us. Depending on what type of stimulus you are giving it this can mean a change for the positive or negative.

So I believe there is such a thing as muscle memory. It exists in the form of a pattern that develops from consistently supplying the same type of stimulus to the muscles. If you do it long enough and with enough consistency you will create a pattern. The longer this pattern sets in, the more the body will use this pattern to perform the given task.


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