Gyms reopen July 1: start from scratch or have muscle memory? | Right away

Sweating on the spinning bike, the leg trainer and the dumbbell sofa: From July 1st we will finally go back to the gym. Have you been in a bit of a fast shape thanks to muscle memory since then or do you just need to start from scratch?

If you did it during the lockdown to do a home workout at least once a week, your physical condition has remained fairly stable.

“If you do about one-ninth of your normal training volume, you can keep most of your form,” says strength training expert Sander Kers of Diamond Training and the information platform No Strong Stories.

However, if you have mainly hung on the couch, then you have probably passed a few ounces of muscle mass per week. In this case, Kers says, you should consider that the building lasts as long as the period you were inactive. Whether so-called muscle memory plays a role in this is not yet agreed by science.

“Make sure you eat more protein and avoid alcohol, because that breaks muscles.”

Sander Kers, strength training expert

“But there seem to be signs that you will benefit from intensive training for at least five to ten years, even if you sit still for a while,” says the strength training expert. “A kind of gift for hard work.” This would be due to an increased number of nuclei that do not simply disappear.

Luc van Loon, professor of exercise and nutrition physiology at Maastricht University, also says there is clear evidence that people who have trained earlier will be back to levels faster. “It’s because of motor memory and genetics, so it’s because of your talent.”

First strength, then muscle mass

According to Van Loon, the question of whether muscles also have memory is currently a hot topic. ‘Evidence has been found in animals, but so far it has not been proven in humans. But people also seem to get their muscles back quickly, even though many other factors play a role.”

Muscle mass takes a little longer than strength, Van Loon says. “First the muscles start to work more efficiently, only then the body adapts to the consistent training. Then many people have already lost their motivation.”

In the opposite direction it also works: in inactivity, the strength decreases more than one would expect due to the loss of muscle mass. The body prefers not to adapt earlier than necessary.

‘Don’t go crazy again’

The biggest mistake you can make when you start training is to pick up the old training routine too quickly, Kers says. This leads to significant muscle damage that needs to be repaired before the muscles swell.

“Take eight to twelve weeks to build up gradually and build up enough rest between sets,” Kers advises. “In addition, make sure you eat more protein and avoid alcohol because the muscle breaks down.”

“A little muscle pain is part of it, but there is no need to grow muscles.”

Luc van Loon, Professor of Physiology of Exercise and Nutrition

And if you are still on holiday later this summer, continue to train. “Otherwise, what they did in the weeks before was just for show,” says the strength training expert.

Professor Van Loon also says that “you shouldn’t start as a madman.” Not only to avoid muscle pain, but also to prevent injury. “A little muscle pain is part of it, but there is no need to grow muscles.”