Friday, January 3, 2014

Do muscles "remember"? Implications for training

The term "muscle memory" has been used to describe the observation that muscle function related tasks seem to be performed more effectively after a period of detraining in previously trained muscle groups compared with the control ones. Additional evidence on this phenomenon has been published on October 28th 2013 by Egner, Bruusgaard and colleagues in the Journal of Physiology.

What they did?
  •  Mice were treated with testosterone for 14 days. This treatment resulted in 66% increase in the number of myonuclei and 77% increase in fibre cross-sectional area.
  • Fibre size was decreased within 3 weeks of treatment removal. However, myonuclei number remained elevated for at least 3 months post-treatment. 
  • At the end of the 3 month post-treatment period, exercise that lasted 6 days increased cross-sectional area by 31% in the group with elevated myonuclei without any change in the control group.

Potential practical applications
Based on these findings, the authors speculated that muscles might "remember". It can be assumed that previously trained muscles/individuals might improve at a faster rate when they resume training after a period of detraining compared with the control ones. "Muscle memory" could also explain, at least in part, why some individuals improve more with training than others.

Future challenges
Does strength training early in sports life, which results in extra nuclei, maximize the athletic potential?

Egner, Bruusgaard, Eftestol and Gundersen (2013). A cellular memore mechanism aids overload hypertrophy in muscle long after an episodic exposure to anabolic steroids. Journal of Physiology DOI: 10.1113/physiol.2013.264457

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