New research shows muscles have a memory of previous growth, which is structured in DNA genes. Muscle memory is reality and not a myth. There is scientific data to show how muscle growth is 'recorded' in DNA genes and how these genes can be activated later in life. This memory of earlier growth is an important discovery as it could be the foundation for better injury recovery and even a re-considered action plan for those using banned substances.
Muscle growth at DNA level
A 2018 study[i] at Keele University found that DNA genes were responsible with muscle growth in later life. Human skeletal muscle has an epigenetic memory. It means that those training with weights for muscle growth can actually 'record' this growth at an epigenetic level. The anabolic stimuli at gene level are activated with muscle hypertrophy at a later stage.
The study was made using genome-wide techniques. Marked and unmarked genes were seen to grow together with the muscles and then return back to normal. Later in life, hypertrophy training saw the genes growing again. These epigenetic modifications tell the genes when to grow.
So even if the genes go back to normal, they can start growing later in life. Their growth is considerably higher when there has been previous hypertrophy training. It is why the discovery can have a wide range of applications.
One of the applications of the research can refer to injury management for athletes. If a person gets injured, it could help to know the genes which have the 'recorded' muscle memory for faster recovery. But one of the areas which could see significant changes due to the results of the research comes with bans from using performance-enhancing drugs.
Banned substances can come with an anabolic effect on human muscles. It means that if an athlete is caught cheating, a short ban might not do justice on the long-term. Due to the fact that these athletes can come back with a major advantage over competitors, the way in which bans are given could be challenged. This, of course, remains true even if the returning athlete is not taking these drugs anymore. However, even the researchers suggest further investigation to show the extent to which performance-enhancing drugs influence muscles at a later point in life.
Muscle growth can influence the expansion of certain DNA genes. This impacts the DNA for the rest of the life. Those who take a break from muscle growth can even see muscle loss. But even in this case, muscles can grow back at an enhanced rate later in life, compared with those who did not previously trained for muscle growth.
The recent study made with the latest genome-wide techniques can be one of the main triggers for those seeking to return to training. This includes athletes or weight lifters who took a break or those who are recovering from various injuries. As with other research, the 2018 study can be further investigated by seeing the extent to which these genes are impacted by banned substances such as testosterone-boosting steroids, especially later in life. The good news is that natural testosterone boosters are available as an alternative until then.
[i] R. Seaborne, J. Strauss, M. Cocks et.al (2018) Human Skeletal Muscle Possesses an Epigenetic Memory of Hypertrophy, Scientific Reports Journal. Available at: