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February 24, 2018 2 min read

At one point in time, each and every athlete faces some sort of life situation, which makes them take some time away from their physical, athletic pursuit. The time off could be from an injury, increased demands at work, or family commitments. Regardless of the reasoning, with time off, the body’s muscles will naturally atrophy. When this happens, they lose size, strength, elasticity, endurance, and tone. Getting back to where an athlete previously was, is a difficult task on its own. It is further complicated when an extended period of time has passed. For some athletes, this can seem like too daunting a task. Too high a hill to climb. Knowing where they were at before being forced to take time off and how different things look now, it can be off putting. They may feel like they will never be able to get back to where they physically were before, so they decide to give it up.

Current research coming from a team comprised of professionals of Keele University and the Universities of Liverpool John Moores, Northumbria, and Manchester Metropolitan, indicates a muscular comeback to exactly where an athlete previously was, is genetically possible. Using the latest genome techniques, the researchers have found that human muscle contains a specific memory of its earlier life growth at the DNA level. This means that previous muscle growth and size is remembered by the genes within the individual muscle, helping and allowing them to grow back to this size at a later date in life. In short, once the muscle gets there, it remembers how to go back.

For any athlete that has to take time off for an injury or some other situation beyond their control, their body has the genetic information saved for them to return to where they once worked so hard to get. This research means muscle memory now means more than the body’s ability to remember how to perform specific movement patterns. It proves muscle memory also includes the body, at a genetic level, remembering just how big and strong the muscles were before a period of time off forced them to atrophy.

Journal Reference:

Robert A. Seaborne, Juliette Strauss, Matthew Cocks, Sam Shepherd, Thomas D. O’Brien, Ken A. van Someren, Phillip G. Bell, Christopher Murgatroyd, James P. Morton, Claire E. Stewart, Adam P. Sharples. Human Skeletal Muscle Possesses an Epigenetic Memory of Hypertrophy. Scientific Reports, 2018; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-20287-3

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