Can muscle memory help you regain pre-lockdown fitness?


If you’re wondering whether lockdown has thrown off your fitness journey, you’re not alone. Unless you’ve signed up for our Train Away programme, chances are you haven’t trained as hard without a PT to push you. However, whether you’ve been working out at home or taking a break from the burn, there’s one good reason to feel confident in your post-lockdown fitness. Enter something called ‘muscle memory’.

What is muscle memory?

Good question. You might have heard the term ‘muscle memory’ thrown around before, but you may not be aware of how it works, or why it could benefit your body. Put simply, the theory behind muscle memory is that your muscles remember your fitness history, making it easier to get back into your workout routine after a break.

Even if you’ve lost some muscle over the course of the past year, your muscle memory will help you regain your gains quickly once you start training again. It’s good news for anyone who worries that their hard work pre-lockdown has gone to waste. And, better yet – it could mean delayed muscle onset soreness (DOMS) is reduced when you return to your PT.


So, how does muscle memory work?

There are two types of muscle memory we hear about. The first is better known as ‘motor learning’, and it applies to the practice of doing something so many times (like a workout) that it becomes a habit. The other, according to studies, is all about your myonuclei. These are the many thousands of tiny ‘control centres’ (nuclei) that manage the growth and repair of muscle fibres.

The bigger a muscle fibre is, the more myonuclei it has. This means when you build a muscle up, you’re building more myonuclei, too. You might think that losing muscle mass would result in a loss of myonuclei, but research suggests that these teeny control centres stay around – even while you’re taking a break from training.

It’s thanks to these myonuclei that your muscles feel more prepared for a return to working out. They aid growth, helping you achieve gains quicker than if you were starting from scratch. That’s not to say that you’ll be instantly back on the same level you were at six months ago, but muscle memory means you should find it easier to get back into your routine.


How can I ‘trigger’ muscle memory?

You can’t trigger it exactly. Your muscles gained those myonuclei when you were training hard, so muscle memory should begin to kick in from your very first Artisan PT session. There are a host of other ways you can get back to fighting fit post-lockdown. Follow these four steps for a full-force return to personal training...

1. Get moving again

You don’t have to work out on the level you were reaching with your trainer just yet. The burn is coming. Instead, ease your way in with easy exercise, like a thrice weekly run or some living room yoga.

2. Talk to your trainer

If you’re nervous, talk to your Artisan PT trainer about any reservations you might have. There’s no judgement here; we’ll simply figure out a plan that gets you hitting your fitness goals once again.

3. Take your time

Even with muscle memory at play, DOMS can and will happen when you go back to training. That’s why we recommend taking your time and listening to your body. We’ll tailor your post-lockdown fitness plan to ensure your muscles have time to recover between workouts.

4. Try sports therapy

Now is the perfect time to explore sports therapy (if you haven’t already). It promotes muscle maintenance, helping you avoid injury as you ramp up the intensity and weights. We recently opened our own clinic, Artisan Sports Therapy, which offers everything from yoga to physio to acupuncture. Better still, your sports therapist and PT can work together for a holistic approach to fitness.

Looking for more post-lockdown fitness advice? Read up on the real benefits of weight training versus cardio.