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Muscle Memory = Trainer Jargon For "Awesome Workout"

As you know, I usually try to stay away from using too much trainer jargon to describe the effects of exercise, and prefer to keep it relatively simple. Well today is no exception, but what I would like to do is introduce a training concept to some readers, and help other readers understand a little better a concept they may have heard before: 'muscle memory' You've probably heard these words used often in the gym if you're an old-timer, and especially if you trained during the widespread bodybuilding renaissance of the '90s.

"But what exactly does 'muscle memory' mean, and why is it important to your training?"

Well first off , let me tell you about my training session from this morning, and we'll recap by drawing some lessons about muscle memory from it:

Warm up:
10 minutes top-rock, c-walk, boxer/grappler shuffle [new readers, this is 100% legit: kind of like dodging wrenches to learn how to dodge a ball- if you can dance in the gym, you can dance in the club]


  1. Standing Arnold press [alternately, you can do Kettlebell press- not jerk] warm up set of 12, then 3x10 at a challenging weight. Be sure you are careful with form on this exercise, don't fake your way out of results by jerking more weight than you can really handle- there's a time for jerk, but not today.
  2. Military Press - warm up set of 12, then 3x8-10 at a very challenging weight.
  3. Dumbbell lateral raise for 3 reps to squeeze blood into the medial head of the deltoid.
  4. Bat wing flyes on fly mchine - 3x10
  5. Reverse Dumbbell fly - 3x10 with special emphasis on slow, deliberate contraction, not brute lifting force.
  6. Dumbbell Front lateral raise - 3x15 at a very challenging weight, one arm at a time, using a split squat hip drive to catch/throw from the bottom, and squeezing at the top.

Preacher curl - 3x12 at a very challenging weight, with a grip variation in the middle of each set
Heavy Triceps Pushdowns - 3x12 at a very challenging weight
Sumo Upright Row, Dumbbells - 3x12 at a very challenging weight [failure upon last rep of last set]

"Muscle memory is essentially the neuro-muscular action of leveraging your past training for your current goals. Plain and Simple..."

Why It Worked:
Tip 1) Caffeine. We're talking about muscle memory, but let's begin with the pre-workout ritual; the stuff that happens before any weights have been removed from the rack. If it's a morning workout, I usually take between 100 to 300 mg of caffeine anhydrous- the straight stuff. Not coffee, not black tea, not a pre-workout black-box cocktail with who-knows-what inside it. Just caffeine. Why? Muscle memory, of course!!! Muscle memory is essentially the neuro-muscular action of leveraging your past training for your current goals. This is where I'll get a little 'sciencey' on you and say that muscle memory is 80% neural stimulation, and 20% actual 'memory'. If you're dragging your feet through the gym door, good luck getting those two-a-day college football workouts to come rushing back to you in a flash of inspiration. Ain't gonna happen.

On the flip side, if you ensure that your brain is 'talking' to your muscles via the nervous system by getting in a flush of caffeine and/or additional neurotransmitters, well, it's a level playing field, so to speak. In fact, it may even be tilted in your favor; Charles Poliquin, the world-renowned strength and conditioning coach, recently lauded the benefits on caffeine for morning training sessions, and backed it up by citing a double-blind, placebo controlled study [SCIENCE, baby!]

Tip 2) Protec' Ya Neck.
Think of your brain as the computer that controls your muscles, and your spine/nerves as the cables that connect them- because it's literally true. If you ever see photos of me in the gym, you'll notice that my neck is usually adorned with a short towel. It looks like a throw-back to the 1950's amateur boxing scene, but guess what? Those guys were onto something: keeping your neck warmed up throughout the entire training session- and that you are training in such a way that your neck doesn't protrude forward while under tension- ensures that nerve alignment/communication are optimal.

If you're holding the towel in place by gently strafing your head backward [not tilting backward], then you're a lot less likely to pinch a nerve.

[Special note to CrossFitters: this is the most frequently complained-of injury at physical therapy centers. Be careful if a 'coach' ever tells you to stick your neck out for them, and be sure to also get your shoulders/hips forward to strengthen your alignment.]

I learned this tip after working a couple of years teaching bootcamps alongside a couple of stuntmen in their 50's: they were meticulous in their warm-up routines from years of narrowly missed injuries and dodging metaphorical training bullets. One of them, Rae Manzon, always rolled up his hoodie into a neck brace. If he didn't have a hoodie, he'd grab a towel and roll it up.

So now you know my secret. What's yours? How do you stayed jacked and ready to leverage your past muscle memory in the gym? Chime in below!

Stay Strong, Friends.

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