Had an injury or personal reason that kept you off the gym for a while and you’re not sure if you should go back?
Do not be afraid anymore! if you have a few years of practice, your muscles will remember the long suffering hours in the gym.
I am writing this article following my wife’s fear who had to stop exercising for six months. I also got some inspiration from Lazar Angelov who at the time of writing this article was unable to go back to gym because of a bad injury.
How our Muscles Work (reminder)
It was within the Rest and Recovery article that we saw how our muscles work.
If you remember, our muscles are made of different muscle fibers responsible for muscle gains.
When you perform your workout, you do not build muscle but have a tendency to destroy these fibers. It’s during the rest period that your fibers rebuild to compensate for this destruction.
The harder and longer you train, the more fibers you will recruit (theoretically). Those fibers will become bigger in order to absorb the impact of the next session leading to a muscle gain.
In fact, this operation turns the myth of muscle memory into reality.
DNA, a precursor to muscle memory
Muscle fibers are consisted of nuclei. These nuclei are actually stimulated by your training. The harder you train your muscle mass, the more nuclei will form.
They are responsible for the increase of protein production and consequently the overall increase of your muscle mass.
When you stop training, your muscles receive some kind of signal. They understand that they no longer need to be big to overcome intensive and repeated efforts. Somehow, this is one of the reasons why your muscles shrink.
It’s the same with nuclei. However, their number does not decrease.
By working out again, nuclei will somehow inflate and restore your muscle volume more quickly than if you started from scratch.
If we proved that muscle memory exists, it has been shown that you had to have a certain level of fitness to get that memory working. Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly how many years of experience you do need but keep in mind that if you have just started bodybuilding for a year, it will probably not be enough.
It’s the same story regarding the quality of your training. As I said in the previous paragraph, your workouts have to be very stressful and intense to stimulate nuclei’s creation.
If you practiced bodybuilding for few years, do not be afraid to have a break in your workout when your body says stop. Obviously, you will lose some muscle which is inevitable however you’ll gain them back pretty quickly if you’ve always trained hard and on a regular basis.