Muscle Memory

Family on bicycle on a country road
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Muscle memory is the process of learning and improving motor skills through practice and repetition. It doesn't really happen in the muscles, but in the brain, which is why it is also called motor learning. When you consciously practice or repeat a movement, your body learns to do it quickly and easily in the future—even if you take a long break. It's the underlying principle of the old saw about "just like riding a bike": Once you've learned a skill or set of skills well, you can recall them more easily.

Once you've programmed your muscles to perform a particular skill, like riding a bike or knitting, you can layer on more challenges or intensity. Muscle memory can involve both fine and gross motor skills. It's important for athletes to build strong muscle memory of the basic skills in their sports, so that they can both fine-tune them and access them quickly during a game or competition. It's a big reason why coaches have their players repeat drills over and over, so that bodies can go into autopilot and brains can start to focus on the bigger picture.

A risk of creating muscle memory is that if you learn or practice a skill incorrectly (using poor form or technique), it will be difficult to unlearn. That's why it's important to use proper technique when first learning a new skill and when practicing it.

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Also Known As: Motor learning

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