Muscle Memory

The nervous system works very closely with the muscular system to enhance functional movement in all people. When working with clients, the concept of neural facilitation is very important in all movements performed in training as well as sport/life. Muscolino’s text (2011) defined neural facilitation as “the explanation that is given for how all associations are made, as well as why learned behaviors become so rooted in our nervous system” (Muscolino 2011, p. 579). This process has been observed to become easier through higher doses of repetition or intensity of a movement; most likely what is actually happening when people commonly refer to creating a “muscle memory”. The term “muscle memory” is a fallacy for two main reasons: first, a muscle itself has no properties to allow memory as the cerebrum would; secondly, this recognition of previously ingrained movement patterns is a function of the nervous system which innervates a particular muscle group, rather than the muscle group itself.

In the strength and conditioning realm, it is not uncommon to see newer clients exhibiting poor movement patterns that they may previously be unaware of. After a movement screening is done, it is very common to see low scoring in areas of the lumbo-pelvic stability/control. This is often a result of decreased neural facilitation and lack of conscious neuromuscular control to re-create more efficient movement patterns. Chiou et al., (2014) concluded that enhanced neuromuscular facilitation and therapeutic exercises utilizing voluntary muscle contractions is found to help diminish pain and other signs of lower back dysfunction (Chiou et al., 2014).

After moving a certain way for majority of one’s life, these movement patterns have became ingrained from years of repetition, even if they are not efficient/healthy for that particular person. Training efficient movement patterns is, in my opinion, the true foundation of functional training. This is done by first heightening kinesthetic and prioprioceptive awareness. Understanding precisely which muscles are contracting and where one’s body is relative to the load lifted or action performed is the groundwork to enhancing facilitation. Also, readdressing healthy movements with strong bodily posture will further enrich facilitation as well.


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