T Nation

Muscle memory

Hio. What are people’s experiences with this process? Who’s had an injury or layoff, lost muscle mass but put it back on quickly and if so, how much?

I had a shoulder and knee injury last September. Went to PT and tried to go to the gym to maintain. But still lost a ton of strength and size. Then I injured my other shoulder in December. That healed up by the end of March. But I still have off and on pain with my other shoulder and knee. I’m just now getting back to lifting heavier with lower reps. So far, I’m doing okay. I’m still in the beginning phase of using heavier weights, so I started below what I can do so that I can progress each week adding 5-10 pounds. I’ll let you know in a month or two how well I’m doing.

Last October i hurt my knee and couldnt do leg work until february. I didnt lose any bodyweight but i could see my legs getting smaller. MY upper body grew while my legs shrank. When i started working legs again i gained about ten pounds in two weeks. My leg strength is almost all the way back now.

Hello Phatt. I had a 3-1/2 year layoff after lifting for about 15 years. I just got burned out. Thanks to discovering T-mag, I had it all back to previous levels in about 1 year. When I stopped, I was about 190 lb, maybe 10-12% bodyfat. When I started back, I was 203 lb, soft and who knows what % fat (lots). I stripped off the fat, went down to 178 lb, and gained mass back to 210 lb (maybe 12-15% bodyfat now) over a 16-month period. I think it tends to come back faster after a layoff because you already know how to train and eat as opposed to a beginner. It definitely gets harder to come back when you get older, though. Good luck and try not to lay off completely to begin with if you can help it. - Nylo

I had a bad rotator cuff injury and couldn’t do any serious lifting for about 18 months. Thanks to ART I’m back and in four months I’m lifting more weight for reps than I was before the injury.

Got sick last year with an ankle joint infection (don’t know how I got it) – and wound up in the hospital for about 10 days. Wound up losing 25 pounds.

Was extremely weak when I got back to the gym – strength levels were about 50% of where I was pre-illness. Put all the weight (and strength)gradually back approximately 4 months later.

Thanks for the reflections guys. My problem was one of money. Couldn’t afford membership & supps for a few months and had very little home equipment (couldn’t train heavy). Lost about 20lbs damn it. I know my legs will be back in a very short time, but i’m not sure bout upper body as i’ve never shrunk so quickly before.

Phatt, if money was the problem then you should have started doing a bunch of bodyweight exercises and maybe sprinting. If you’ve seen our threads on “Combat Conditioning” or “Combat Fitness” you’ll see the many options you have. Also, check out matt furey’s site at combatwrestling.com. You will find many exercises you can do without weights, and you will be able to increase your strength and size and get in good shape. I have his book on Combat Conditioning. It’s great stuff. And I have incorporated it with my routine. I was doing it six-to-seven-days-a-week, but since my weight training is becoming much more intense, I’ve had to cut back to two days a week. Check into it bro!

From what I see on your posts about combat training correlated with weight training, it sounds like you are overtraining alot. I could be wrong. Please clarify because I would hate to see you lose muscle because of burning out.

Thanks Nate Dogg. Actually, i was incorporating some of his exercises in my workouts, namely, hindu squats. Still, IMO, nothing packs on leg mass like heavy squatting and leg-press, and heavy benching for a thick chest. That’s exactly what i’m back to doing now (except leg-press), and it feels good!

jdrocks, you bring up an excellent point, bud. I’ve found in the past that doing too much or not fueling myself adequately for my activity level has caused consequent drops in strength and mass. A short time later, my strength and mass would recover, but only to the levels they were previously or slightly greater. This is a complex situation in which supercompensation is not allowed to occur and the strength curve continues to fall. Careful monitoring and observations are key.

I just wanted to be the bearer of bad news and just clarify that muscles themselves do not have memory.

jdrocks, you’re right, it is easy to overtrain. At first, I had no problem hitting the weights and doing combat conditioning nearly every day. Once I started upping the intensity of my weight training, I just did not have the energy or recovery abilities to do the combat conditioning as frequently.

Right now, I’m doing the infamous 5x5 method of training on Mon, Wed, Fri followed by 20-30 minutes of some low-intensity cardio. Tues and Thurs are reserved for mountain biking or stadiums + combat conditioning. Sat and Sunday are usually outside days where I might in-line skate, mountain bike, toss the frisbee, swim or do some combination of the above and also some combat conditioning. So I’m staying active at least five-to-six days a week.

And so far, I'm recovering. Sure, there are some days when I'm feeling a little less energetic, but I train hard and eat right and get plenty of rest. My non-weight training days are not always as intense as they seem. I may just do 20 minutes of stadiums or go for an "easy" mountain bike ride. I don't go balls-to-the-wall every time! If I feel like I need more rest, then I'll take a day off. But I feel better when I'm staying active almost every day. I just feel refreshed after doing something.

Nate, I really think you are overtraining. I would say to maybe work out 4 times a week, since you do cardio alot anyways. Prob lift twice a week and do combat conditioning twice a week.

I find that my muscle memory is very limited to size and strength. As a martial artist, I blew out my hamstring about 6 months ago. After a month and a half I began lifting again, and in about 3 weeks the size came right back…in 4 weeks the strength was back. However my flexability is still not what it used to be with that leg, nor is my speed and kicking power, and this is after 6 months. So I think strength and size come back quickly, however activity specific use, especially if it is a “trained” movement…such as hook kicks and the like, take far longer.

jdroks, I could be overtraining, but don’t feel like I am. And like I said, if I am feeling less energetic, I’ll take an extra day of rest. I just can’t sit around three days a week. I like to go outside and play. And some of the other activities I do are just that…play! I do it for fun. To get some fresh air, sun and extra exercise. The three weight training workouts are intense. But I don’t want to cut back on my activity because I’m eating a lot and still gaining weight. And I also want to be leaner. But I don’t want to cut calories to do that. I’d rather eat correctly and take in enough to maintain and then up my activity level to make up the difference.

i had surgery twice on my shoulder within 6 months, one minor, one very major. i droped about 30lbs of fat then put on 20lbs of muscle, adn now fluctuate as my shoulder gets stronger and work throgh problems, i’m 17 fairly big 167-170lbs bench from 295 to 200 when shoulder is strong and weeks of good work outs, but i have hit times wher i couldn’t work out for long periods of time, muscle turns to fat, but it very quickly turns back for some odd reason