Muscle Memory – What is it exactly?

musclememoryMuscle memory is best described as the process where the muscles become accustomed to particular movements over time. This process is achieved by building neural pathways that will give the muscles a sense of: muscle memory it is essentially is an unconscious process. This is extremely important for different types of sport training and the average gym goer. The more often you do a certain activity, the more likely you are to do it as needed.

Repetition is the mother of skill and that practice makes permanent. After repeating the same movement over and over again, the movement seemingly becomes second nature. ‘We all use muscle memory techniques in our everyday life. Whether it is riding a bicycle, typing on a keyboard or entering a common password or pin number, we have taught our muscles to carry out these commands without putting much thought into them. It takes a great deal of practice and repetition for a task to be completed on a strictly subconscious level.

The process of adding specific motor movements to the brain’s memory can take either a short or long time depending on the type of movements being performed. When movements are first being learned, the muscles and other body controlling features (such as ligaments and tendons) are stiff and slow and can be easily disrupted if the brain is not completely focused on the movement. In order to complete the memorization, acts must be done with full attention.

There are three stages in the motor learning process:

  1. Cognitive Stage- begins when you are first introduced to the motor task. This is where the early identification and understanding of the skill is to be learned. Individuals focus on how to do the skill rather than actually practising it.
  2. Associative Stage– is where the practice of the skill begins. You may not be able to perform the skill with a high level but you have an understanding of how it is done.
  3. Autonomous Stage – is characterized by executing the skill automatically with no conscious thought. You can now perform the skill fluently and instinctively.

Once the internal model is formed via the central nervous system improvement of the performance of the new skill can persist for up to 5 months. Although it takes strong concentration to change your current muscle memory, it only takes a few thoughts about your mechanics to interrupt your trained muscle memory patterns, and change your entire performance. Practice: Practice, practice and more practice is the key. The more you practice the sooner it will become engaged into a muscle memory and the action will become natural and you are able to improve both your movement and performance.

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