Hitting the gym regularly definitely blesses you with lean, solid muscles and a fit body. But it hits you hard when you take a training hiatus.
You start gaining weight, and all your pumped-up muscles are gone. I know this is perhaps the worst nightmare for any gym freak. But sometimes, an injury, work stress, or personal issue puts you in such a position that you have no other option than to take a break from the fitness world.
However, the good thing about working out is, you can always come back and start where you left. Feeling surprised? Well, it is possible because of something called muscle memory.
I am sure you have questions on your mind, like what is muscle memory for bodybuilding and how it works. Or how long does muscle memory last for body building? Stay till the end of this article to find out all the answers.
Table of Content
What Is Muscle Memory?
While googling muscle memory, you will come up with thousands of results. So, I won’t bore you with the technical terms. Instead, why don’t I share a story?
At the beginning of the pandemic, my younger brother was too heartbroken because he couldn’t go to the gym. Well, he tried home workouts but eventually gave up. Fats soon took over his lean muscles with the blessing of all those eating.
Now I am sure anyone would stress if it happens to her/him. But my brother was calm and was asked to believe in him. As soon as the gym opened, he started his training again, and boom! Within 3 months, his abs were back.
It took him 6 months to build the body in the first place, but after the break, he did it in only 3 months. How was that possible?
Yes, the story you just heard is a real-life example of muscle memory. It is often described as the phenomenon of regaining the lost size and strength of muscle fibers quicker than it took to build them.
I know the whole thing sounds too good to be true. But it is in our cells, and we all are getting benefits from our muscle memory. It is almost the same with swimming or learning to ride a bike. Once you master the trick, you will never forget how to swim or ride a bicycle even if you are not practicing.
How Long Does Muscle Memory Last?
Even after taking a break from gyming, muscle memory will back you up to get back to the previous form. But for how long?
Many studies and researches have been conducted, but there is no accurate answer for this question. Several experts believe that muscle memory lasts for not more than 3 to 6 months.
However, recently a study has been published where the author claimed muscle memory to last longer than expected. According to his estimation, muscle memory serves 15 years to forever, which is the opposite of the existing belief.
How Does Muscle Memory Work?
I know, to some of you, muscle memory might seem too good to be true. There is no wrong with being curious about the mechanisms of muscle memory.
Our bodies work in mysterious ways. Take cellular memory as an example. It is the very same thing that builds immunity against the bacteria and viruses you have suffered in the past.
In other words, these cells store patterns of the viral diseases we have suffered and lay dormant for years. They back us up whenever the same bacteria or virus attacks us again.
Muscle memory works similarly. Let me explain it to you. When you lift weights or do exercises, your brain subconsiously stores that information. Regular workouts not only improve your muscles but the neuromuscular efficiency. It means your brain and body are more connected than ever.
Every time you perform a task, you’re activating specific pathways in your brains. These pathways consists of neurons and synapses. Your brain remembers these pathways for a limited period. But doing them repeatedly can strengthen these pathways.
So, when you go on a hiatus, these pathways remain remain dormant. But when you resume training, the channels aid you in relearning the moves faster than it took you to master them for the first time. This is because they aren’t created anew like the first time. Rather, you’re activating something that was already there.
Now let’s move to how long does muscle memory last.
How Long Does It Take To Regain Muscle Memory?
Muscle memory is a true savior for bodybuilders. Those who acknowledge it are not scared of taking a short break from training. Because they know muscle memory will always help them regain their lost physique.
However, how fast can you gain back lost muscles? Unfortunately, there is no exact answer to this question either. Experts believe that anyone can get back in shape within 2 to 4 months with a proper diet and regular training. For some people, the time may extend by weeks or months.
Every individual is unique in their physique and gentic make-up. So, the time frame varies from person to person. Some of the factors that play a role here are,
- Duration of training hiatus
- Training level
- Workout intensity
My brother went through intense training and could recover from a 9-month break in only 3 months. I know people who took 2 months of training hiatus and regained the muscles in only 2 weeks. Do you see how the time frame varies?
If you are taking a break from gyming and planning to get back, I recommend you consult with your personal trainer. He would prepare a workout routine that fulfills your goal within the desired period. And, of course, pay extra attention to your diet chart. Then, you don’t have to figure out how long does muscle memory last.
How To Regain Muscle Memory Fast After A Long Gym Hiatus?
Your muscles are more receptive to get back in shape after a break. With a few tips, you can regain the lost muscles fast. Here are some suggestions to help you succeed,
Do Not Force Yourself
If you are away from the gym, chances are you haven’t touched a single instrument in that period. So, it’ll not be smart to start intense training on day one. Anothter thing you have to consider is that detraining for months makes your muscles susceptible to damage or muscle pull. And that’s another reason why you should take the training slowly.
Do regular gyming and practice only two or three sets of each exercise. Give your body enough time to readapt to the strength workout.
Start Lifting Weight
There is no better way to regain the lost muscle fast than lifting dumbbells. Weight training offers you strength and eliminates the unnecessary fat from your body. But should you turn on your beast mode on the first day? Does it impact how long does muscle memory last?
No, like I have mentioned earlier, your body needs time to readapt to the whole situation. Experts advise shooting for approximately 60 to 75% of your previous weight sessions. Lifting weights may seem harder and tiring. But do not worry, as muscle memory will ease the path in no time.
Rest For The Best
Exercises that used to be a piece of cake now seem tiring. You run out of breath faster than before. These are the common scenarios if you haven’t run or practiced any cardio during the break. It happens because your cardiovascular endurance also takes a hit with the hiatus.
What do you do to cope with the condition? Take extra minutes to rest your body and catch your breath. Forcing yourself will only risk your health and increase the probability of an injury.
Focus On Cardio
As I have mentioned, you are no longer capable of doing long sessions. Practicing cardio exercises will bring back your stamina. But of course, do not push your body to intense cardio workouts.
You can try by doing 75% of the cardio sessions you did before. No matter if you cycle, climb stairs, or run, your body’s capacity to endure long sessions will eventually bounce back.
Stretch! Stretch! Stretch!
Dealing with sore muscles is a big challenge after a long gym hiatus. You may follow the traditional methods to ease the tightness, like R&R (rest and recovery), heat treatment, massage, or taking an anti-inflammatory, etc to enhance the period of how long does muscle memory last.
However, some people find stretching helpful to fight muscle soreness after a strength session. Though many experts do not believe in such methods, there is no loss giving it a shot.
To regain your muscles and the lost strength, intense gyming will show a slow effect if you are not eating right. You know diet is one of the fundamentals while building abs. It is no different when you are bodybuilding by reactivating the muscle memory.
So, what should you do? Experts advise eating in a surplus after taking a long gym break. It means you need to provide more fuel to your body than it can burn.
Also, you need to include protein in your diet chart as it is the most important macronutrient that helps your muscle grow. Consulting a nutritionist to prepare a meal plan will be a good idea if you are confused about what to add and what to remove from the list.
After a sweaty training session, your body cries for water. To replenish the lost fluid, you must consume an adequate amount of water. A minimum of 1.5 to 2 liters of water is a must for proper body hydration. If you’re sweating a lot, then you have to drink a bit more.
Your muscles require recovery hours to repair and rebuild the tissues after a long workout session. And this is where sleep comes to play. A straight 7 hours of good night’s sleep helps your muscle tissue to repair.
How long does muscle memory last? Unfortunately, there is no accurate answer to this question. But thanks to muscle memory, which helps you recover and regain muscle loss within a few months.
Does Muscle Memory Stay Forever?
According to the traditional belief, muscle memory lasts only a few months. No studies or researches have come up with the exact time frame yet. Recently, one scientist has claimed that muscle memory lasts for 15 years or, in some cases, for a lifetime. However, the statement is contradictory to the existing theories and has yet to prove its validity.
Is It Easier To Gain Muscle Back After Losing it?
Generally, it takes months or years to master the gym and build a pumped-up body. When you go on a break, your muscles start losing their essence and get back to the usual shape due to the lack of activity. If you are about to start working out after a training hiatus, you will be lucky enough to have muscle memory as your backup. Thanks to the biological system, which helps you regain the strength and toned body in much less time you spent to build it.
When Do You Start Losing Muscles?
From an intense regular gym routine to no exercise at all, your muscles will react to this new schedule. Studies claim that you will start noticing muscle loss after 2 or 3 weeks of total detraining. Building a solid pumped-up body is challenging. But surprisingly, maintaining the tone is not. Heading to the gym twice or thrice a week will keep your body fit, steady, and stable.