build muscle memory

How to start building muscle memory

April 9, 2024
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Muscle memory—you might think of it as the magical force that helps you ride a bike seamlessly, years after you've last touched one. Or, you've probably heard the term thrown around in gyms, music rooms, or any place where skills are honed to perfection.

Muscle memory plays a role in these cases, but how does it work and why is it so crucial? In this article, we’ll demystify muscle memory, explaining how it makes complex movements feel like second nature and increases efficiency in everything we do. 

Understanding muscle memory

Muscle memory refers to your ability to remember how to do certain activities without thinking too hard about it. And even though it's called "muscle memory," it's not your muscles that are doing the remembering. It's actually your brain and nerves working together. 

Every time you practice something—like riding a bike, playing piano, or even doing math homework—your brain gets better at remembering how to do it. So, the more you practice, the easier it becomes to perform the task without thinking about it. This is because your brain has made a special path that makes doing this activity feel automatic.

The science behind muscle memory

Muscle memory breaks down into two categories: motor learning and strength recovery. Both processes highlight the brain's adaptability and the importance of practice and repetition.

Motor learning supports you in acquiring new skills. The process helps you form a new brain pathway when you learn a new skill, and it gets stronger and more efficient each time you practice. It's like creating a shortcut in your brain for performing that particular action. 

Strength recovery is a bit different because it refers to your body’s ability to regain muscle strength after you’ve taken a break from an activity because of an injury or something else. So, when you start training again, your body doesn't just build muscle back; it also 'remembers' the strength and movements it had mastered before. This makes it easier to maintain progress and return to where you were before your break. 

Techniques for building muscle memory

Now that you have an understanding of how muscle memory works, you might be wondering how you can make the most of this superpower. Here are some strategies that you can use to maximize its benefits: 

  • Repetition: Repetition reinforces the neural pathways associated with specific movements, making them more automatic and requiring less effort over time.
  • Visualization: This technique involves rehearsing a movement or activity in your imagination. Picturing every detail of how the moment will look and feel will help you build skills without physical practice. 
  • Progressive complexity: Starting with simple movements and gradually increasing complexity or difficulty ensures continuous challenge and growth. 
  • Feedback: Immediate feedback can help you adjust and perfect movements in real-time, allowing you to get movements right and preventing the reinforcement of incorrect techniques. 

The role of rest in muscle memory formation

The techniques mentioned above are crucial in building muscle memory but there’s one more foundational aspect that can be hard to embrace in our culture of hustle and achievement. 

Enter: Rest. 

It’s important to reframe rest and realize it’s not just taking a break. 

When you rest, your body gets a chance to strengthen your muscles and your brain starts to lock in what you've learned. Plus, striking the right balance between practice and rest can help prevent burnout and prime your brain to continue building new skills the next day.

Overcoming challenges in building muscle memory

Plateaus, frustration, and injuries are challenges that you might encounter on your way to building muscle memory. With the right techniques, you can acknowledge and push past challenges as part of your journey.

  • Adjust practice routines: This could mean incorporating more rest or challenging yourself more deeply. It’s all about monitoring and adjusting along the way. 
  • Set achievable goals: Goals are like progress checkpoints. Making them realistic can help you see your progress over time, giving you a basis to celebrate your wins and status-check your challenges. 
  • Seek guidance from experts: Even experts started somewhere! When you consult an expert, you learn what works from someone who has already spent time in your shoes. 

Build muscle memory with fun brain games

Whether you're learning to play a new instrument, playing sports, or picking up a different skill, with continuous practice, patience, and persistence it can become second nature, thanks to muscle memory.

Muscle memory is a testament to your incredible capacity for learning and growing. By working to build muscle memory, you can master new skills regardless of your age or starting skill level. And if you’re looking for a tool to enhance your learning journey, consider downloading the Elevate App. 

Elevate is a dynamic brain-training app designed to help you boost cognitive skills directly related to building and retaining muscle memory. With personalized workouts tailored to your goals, Elevate helps you develop better focus, faster processing, and more effective problem-solving skills. Download on iOS or Android today and start unlocking your brain’s potential. 


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