generation ironCan your muscles forget all the gains you’ve made?

You’ve been lifting awhile now, killing it in the gym with every new session. It’s like you’re a machine, built solely for the purpose of lifting and making gains. You’re feel invincible and why the hell not? You put so much work in that you’re more than just a mere mortal, you’re a force to be reckoned with. Well, at least that’s what you’d like to believe. The truth of the matter is that no matter how hard you push, no matter how much dedication you have, there’s going to come a point when you simply can’t perform another rep.

So what do you do when you get to that breaking point? You take some down time, that’s what. Don’t cry about missing a session in the gym, because really that’s what your body is craving. Rest and relaxation is tool that must be utilized if you want all that hard work to pay dividends. But sometimes one day off can become two. Two days off becomes a week and a week turns into a month until you’re feeling like you’ll never want to get into the gym again. All your gains are slowly fading away and you don’t think you’ll ever get back to that rare form. Luckily this rule doesn’t have to apply for you. Muscle memory can make up for your lazy ass.


Think it’s a myth? Well we’re calling bulls**t on that. Why? A little thing called myonuclei. To sum it up, it’s the nucleus of a muscle cell. With consistent resistance training resulting in hypertrophy, the myonuclei can not only increase but remain within the muscles even after they’ve atrophied. It makes bouncing back from down time or even an injury a matter of simply getting off your ass and hitting the weights again.

Myonuclei is needed to retain muscle strength and structure. The more resistance training the more myonuclei is released into your muscles. The more myonuclei released, the more likely your muscles will be able to “remember” its glory days. If you’re a new lifter and you’ve only been at it a few months and think you can just take all the time off in the world and return to the same form you’re in for a rude awakening. Sure, the gains you’ll make when getting back to it will be faster than the first time around, but don’t expect to be cut out of granite. It takes time and muscle maturity for that to happen.

So though you still should be able to regain your former glory it shouldn’t be an excuse to get lazy and take a four month vacation from lifting. Consistency is key to staying in tremendous shape. We all need some time away from the weights on occassion, but what’s the point of getting fat or skinny again, especially after all the hard work? Simple answer: there is no point.

So what’s your experience with muscle memory? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook and Twitter.


Here’s a few sources if you want to get into some deeper reading on the subject:

Click here for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.
Or here for

Jonathan Salmon
Managing editor of Generation Iron, Jonathan Salmon is a writer, martial arts instructor, and geek culture enthusiast. He has been writing about bodybuilding, combat sports, and strength sports for over 8 years. Check out his YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Sound Cloud for in-depth MMA analysis.