Jun 03

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What is ‘Muscle Memory’? – Explain Stuff – Unconscious Scientific concept of the day.

Explain Stuff tackles an unconscious scientific process that happens in all of us. We all walk, talk, make faces, throw, handle utilities and perform various actions. But, while doing these actions do you ever think or say to yourself..”I need to walk to the rest room now.” or “I need to move my hand to be able to brush my teeth” ? These are some inbuilt activities that we have. But how did they become inbuilt or how can we perform these activities without thinking? Here comes the concept called – Muscle Memory.

muscle memory

Muscle memory can best be described as a type of movement with which the muscles become familiar over time. For instance, newborns don’t have muscle memory for activities like crawling, scooting or walking. The only way for the muscles to become accustomed to these activities is for the baby to learn how to do these things and then practice them with a great deal of trial and error. Gradually, as the baby becomes a skilled walker, he falls less, is able to balance, and finally is able to incorporate other activities into his life such as running.

Although the precise mechanism of muscle memory is unknown, what is theorized is that anyone learning a new activity, or practicing an old one has significant brain activity during this time. The walking child is gradually building neural pathways that will give the muscles a sense of muscle memory. In other words, even without thinking, the child is soon able to walk, and the muscles are completely accustomed to this process. The child doesn’t have to tell the body to walk; the body just knows how to do it, largely because neurons communicate with the muscles and say, “walk now.”

Muscle memory thus becomes an unconscious process. The muscles grow accustomed to certain types of movement. This is extremely important in different types of training for sports. The more often you do a certain activity, the more likely you are to do it as needed, when needed. Typing muscle memory If you’ve kicked thousands of field goals, exercise physiologists assume that the likelihood of being able to kick one during a football game is pretty good through muscle memory. You don’t have to think, “I need to make this kick.” Your body already knows how to do it. Another similar example is driving which involves less concentration with experience in both driving and the route .

This is one of the reasons that with many activities that involve the body’s muscles, like playing an instrument, learning appropriate technique is always stressed. You want your muscle memory to reflect the correct way to do things, not the incorrect way. Your muscle memory can actually play against you if you’ve constantly been practicing something the wrong way.

It does appear though, that despite practice, attitude can interfere with muscle memory. Nerves can lead to clenched muscles that can’t quite perform, as they would probably do if you weren’t thinking about it. A sense of being unable to perform as you would wish may also affect muscle memory. The processes are still complex, and the “confidence factor” needs to be taken into account in future studies on muscle memory.

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.explainstuff.com/2009/06/03/what-is-muscle-memory-explain-stuff-scientific-concept-of-the-day/


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  1. Chris.Cox

    Thanks great post on What is ‘Muscle Memory’? – Explain Stuff – Unconscious Scientific concept of the day.

  2. Bond

    wow! very nice post! I never knew about that. I have gone through the site and I must admit, very good job. I have also read about that lady who can remember everything…. gosh kinda creepy!

  3. Reza Z.

    This was a great post!
    I’m a dance instructor and writer from Orange County, and still explaining muscle memory is a daunting task for me. I felt that you explained it perfectly. I’m linking this article to a blog I’m writing about dance workshops. I know it will be really useful to my readers; so thanks.

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