Does your muscle have a mind of its own?
There are different organ systems within our body which create memories. A basic example of this is a childhood memory from your past that is stored in your brain and you are reminded of that event when in a similar situation. Another example is the ability of your immune system to recognise an infection that your body has previously encountered.
You may have also heard of ‘muscle memory’ which is the ability of the body to remember a movement pattern. An example of this is the ability to ride a bike even if it has been a couple years since your last ride. You may start off rusty but gain confidence quite quickly after a few minutes. This is due to the fact that your nervous system and muscles retain a motor pattern learned to be able to ride the bike.
However, this type of muscle memory actually refers more to the central nervous systems ability to retain a movement pattern. But would you believe that our muscle fibers can retain memory?
When we exercise and place our muscles under stress we increases protein synthesis to build more muscle fibers and the size of the fiber, this is called muscle hypertrophy. Say we had an injury though and couldn’t train for three to four months our muscle fiber volume decreases due to the decreased exercise demand, and this is called muscle atrophy.
I have heard many times, when people are battling with a injury, they do not want to stop due to the fact they will loose their gains or improvements in that particular sport. Well, this may not be exactly the case.
Researchers have actually found when a muscle fiber under goes exercise it does not only increase in size but increases the amount of myonuclei within the fiber. Myonuclei are specialised cells in muscles which help a muscle grow and perform contraction. So when a muscle undergoes atrophy the actual muscle size may decrease but the myonuclei remain the same. This means when we start to train again our muscle development returns relatively quickly.
There is also suggestion that myonuclei have a cellular life from anywhere between 15 years to a life time. This suggests once we make muscular strength gains they are their for life. How great is that?!
In conclusion, if you are battling through an injury and are worried about loosing your progress try to allow a break for essential healing and you will pick up right from where you left off.
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