The muscle memory project is mainly done at the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences (GIH) and in collaboration with the University of Oslo, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Sophia Hemmet and University of Gothenburg.
GIH is well known around the world for their research in the field of sport and health sciences, and the muscle memory project is one of the largest studies in the history of the GIH. The purpose of the study is to investigate if humans do have a so called muscle memory, in other words if someone has previously been well trained their muscle will "remember" and they will get stronger and more muscular faster compared to individuals who are previously untrained. There is a general conception that there is such a thing as a human muscle memory and many individuals attest to this matter. But so far, in scientific studies a muscle memory has only been seen in rats.
The project has been undergoing for almost one year, and the recruitment of participants started over a year ago. In september 2015 the participants (10 women and 10 men) started the first training period which was a ten week unilateral resistance training for one leg. After the first training period the participants rested for five months, meaning they went back to their normal lives which did not include any strenuous activities for their legs. In end of april, they then came back to the lab for the second training period which was a five week unilateral resistance training regimen for both legs. With this protocol we will be able to analyze the data and see if the leg that was trained during the first training period will respond better (for example in terms of maximal strength and muscle growth) compared to the leg that has never been subjected to any training.
For example maximal strength, MVC, muscle thickness and biopsies are taken/measured prior and after each training period. The biopsies will help us too analyze the muscle cells and hopefully we will be able to explain what mechanisms that are in charge of muscle cells ”remembering” previous training i.e. a potential muscle memory.
A potential muscle memory is interesting because of several different reasons. One key area of interest is that of anti-doping, if there is a so called muscle memory all athletes that have previously acquired a abnormally large muscle growth, due to for example steroids, will always benefit from this because of the muscle memory. In this light these findings could suggest a more severe punishment for athletes using illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Another interesting area is that of elderly care and preventive health for the general population. If there is a muscle memory and if one could somehow induce a period of consecutive resistance training within the general population (e.g. through resistive activities in the physical education during school time) the work with preventive health and the population would benefit since the individuals subjected to the resistive activities would have a more easily trained musculature.