Muscle memory. You’ve no doubt heard of it and probably even said it, but what if I told you muscles have no memory centers?
The term “Muscle Memory” implies that if we were to perform an exercise repeatedly over and over, your muscles will remember, supposedly making it easier to perform the more you do it. Technically this is true, but not for this reason. The problem with implied muscle memory is that your muscles do not have the capacity to create or recollect memories.
When people talk about Muscle Memory, whether they realize it or not, what they are actually talking about is Neural Memory.
Different groups of neurons, or nerve cells, which are the cells responsible for different thoughts or perceptions, drift in and out of action. Memory is the reactivation of a specific group of these neurons, which has been formed from persistent changes in the strength of connections between neurons.
Memories come from the brain. Consistently doing repetitive movements each day over a long period of time will create a brain to body memory formation. So-called muscle memory is in the brain and the nervous system, not in any muscles.
A better name for this might be “subconscious memory” as the information is stored in the brain, and is most readily accessible by non-conscious means. Simply put, this is the brain's capacity to train up what could be called “subroutines” that exist outside of our conscious reality.
When you perform a new exercise you are creating a micro habit. Your muscles are full of tiny neurons that are attached to your nervous system. Any movement you make requires brain activity. You probably don’t even realize as the movements we make every day have become micro habits, so we don’t need to think about actually trying to do them--we just do them. The more a movement is repeated, whether simple or complicated, the brain begins to get triggered into noticing recognizable patterns. You repeat a movement enough times and very soon you have a new learned motion that will require much less brain power to do in the future.
While your muscles themselves cannot actually remember anything, they are full of neurons attached to your nervous system that play a role in motor learning. Any movement requires brain activity, and repeating a movement, even complicated ones, enough times triggers recognisable patterns in your brain regions responsible for motor skills. Thus leading to a learned motion that will require less brainpower in the future.
Let’s use babies as an example. They have no concept of crawling or walking for a large portion of their first year of life. At some point, their brain takes the initiative to try to stand, and then they think about lifting a foot and bending their knee. They move their leg forward and put it back down, and they have taken a step. They will no doubt fall over a lot practicing this, but as with every behavior learned as babies, they try repeatedly, and eventually they have taken two steps, then more and more until they have taken multiple steps in a row. They no longer need to consciously think about lifting a foot and bending a knee anymore, it’s become a micro habit and the brain subconsciously takes over and does what is needed automatically.
So knowing all of this, how can FITLIGHT® help?
Last month we hosted our first FITLIGHT® certificate program, and in we learnt that muscles do not have memory. Instead, what is happening is, every time we perform a new exercise we create micro-habits.
FITLIGHT helps engage the neurons needed to perform the repetitive drills needed to activate neuron memory. As a neuro-cognitive training tool designed, it works by helping to engage the neurons in your body to perform the repeated actions and create what is known as neuroplasticity. It will completely change not only the way you exercise and train, but it will also measure your performance.
FITLIGHT® provides a solution to improve upon the relationship between the brain and the body, enhancing the attributes of human performance. The lights act as your visual stimulant. Impact and proximity sensors are built in, and it is these sensors that measure response time and physical feedback. It sounds very simple on the surface, but chances are your response times are likely much slower than you would have anticipated. Over time your brain will build up those neural pathways we already talked about, with the aim of helping your brain move faster.
During your training session, you can choose how to deactivate the lights, whether it’s full contact or motion movements. As soon as you’re done training, you are able to see your results in real time. Save your feedback and data to allow you to locate any specific areas of improvement, allowing you to adjust your training regimen in the future.
To generate more repetitive movements in specific ways you can use FITLIGHT® to activate the neural patterns and pathways Just as a plastic water bottle becomes pliable when heated, your brain is being influenced and shaped by how you train and what movements you do. Building ‘muscle memory’ can be quite fun and easy if done correctly in a deliberate way. The most effective way of doing this can be done using the lights in a repetitive manner each day.
Simply set your workout up which may consist of two reaction training drills with a minimum of 20 hits with a 0.5 second rest (you can start off basic by completing basic FITLIGHT drills such as the "go-no-go" drills). Do this each day without a break for a minimum of 4 weeks. Each 4 week period should build in terms of strength and length. The secret to building this motor-learning pattern is by mimicking the activity you want to get better at - by performing this repetitively each day you will build faster neuronal pathways.
- Gundersen K. Muscle memory and a new cellular model for muscle atrophy and hypertrophy. J Exp Biol. 2016 Jan;219(Pt 2):235-42. doi: 10.1242/jeb.124495. PMID: 26792335.
- Snijders T, Aussieker T, Holwerda A, Parise G, van Loon LJC, Verdijk LB. The concept of skeletal muscle memory: Evidence from animal and human studies. Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2020 Jul;229(3):e13465. doi: 10.1111/apha.13465. Epub 2020 Apr 3. PMID: 32175681; PMCID: PMC7317456.