T Nation

Muscle Memory

I stopped bodybuilding around four years ago. At that point I was 198 lbs at 8% BF. I started again 4 weeks ago. Now, all this time later I am 190lbs. at around 14% BF. Since I was in shape before, is it gonna take just as long get back in shape? Is muscle memory more about muscle coordination for lifting than size?

The speed that you are able to get back in shape depends on multiple factors…I don’t think any of the factors include the fact you were once in shape. Of course a newbie will get faster results than most experienced lifters only because of the new adaptation of neuromuscular abilities and an adequate diet.
Last time I read about muscle memory, the writer was describing the CNS and PNS habitual sequence using different muscles to go through a particular motion. I believe the article was describing Marine Recon hand to hand combat (mainly submission)training. Repitition created a type of instinct in the muscle and CNS. Depending on the angle of attack and environment, the defending body would fire off the correct muscle in sequence.

You’ll get it back, but it has more to do with what age you are now, your nutrition, and if you slowly re-condition your body back into shape, rather than jumping into it head first.

Also, as far as muscle memory goes, as the previous poster mentioned, the CNS is the memory, not the muscle. For high-skill sports/event/movements (i.g. discus throw, martial arts, court room reporter… ) the CNS does “remember” what sequence to fire the correct motor units to complete that task most effeciently. The more reps the more efficient, which is why a sport like the discus throw takes 8-10 years on average to become elite. It’s not so much about your strength (all though you have to be strong), it’s about subtle timing in the technique that takes years to learn.

However, body building and general weight lifting doesn’t rely on CNS memory nearly as much as these high skill movements do. If you want to get into Olympic lifting, than hold the phone. Oly lifts are high skill as well. So, you will have to get back some intramuscular coordination (motor units within a muscle in sequence) and intermuscular (groups in sequence) to lift more efficiently before hypertrophy will start. This process of adaptation can take 4-6 weeks for the brand new lifter, but often just a week or two for a veteran who has taken a lay-off.

Again, I would worry more about your diet and training program than if your CNS will remember you limit strength back in the day.


There was an article I read about the “bag theory.” Is there any truth to this…or is it just another theory?

the bag theory???

[quote]TopSirloin wrote:
the bag theory???[/quote]

It has something to do with the facia around the muscle being the limiting factor. Once the muscles have already been big enough to stretch “the bag,” you’re already half way home.

I had a neuro-pathology prof. once who made a pretty good case for it. It’s hard to tell in the real world though. Too many other factors.

Ah yes, the muscle sheath or fasia. I have never heard of this, but I’m by no means an expert either. I guess in essence what you are saying is that this sheath must stretch to accomodate hypertrophy. This stretching would then slow down the rate at which one could gain muscle? But, if the sheath is already stretched and then some muscle is lost, it can be re-acquired faster than if starting your very first hypertrophy program? Interesting… I can’t say yeah or neah to this one…