“Muscle Memory”: Spoiler Alert – it’s all in your dog’s head! What it ISN’T (myth), what it IS (fact), and why practice doesn’t always make perfect…

“Muscle Memory”: Spoiler Alert – it’s all in your dog’s head! What it ISN’T (myth), what it IS (fact), and why practice doesn’t always make perfect…

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Muscle cells do not have the ability to remember ~ only brain cells do
The muscle anatomy of a dog consists of both involuntary (those responsible to support life: brain, heart, lungs, etc) and voluntary

– those muscles which are triggered by conscious thoughts transmitted from THE BRAIN
For example: the decision to run and jump involves a conscious choice by a dog ~

the brain sends electrical impulses through the nervous system to the muscles required to facilitate movements for running, braking, to lift the body, land (without collapsing), change directions and to run again (aka: motor skills)

The motor skills developed over time are

not stored in the muscle cells

– they are stored in various regions of the BRAIN, which commands all action and responses

Muscle activation occurs when the brain sends signals via the nervous system, which threads through every muscle-tendon unit (MTU), to recruit muscles in the correct order to perform a specific action. These electrical impulses cause the muscles to contract to create movement patterns using the joints to move the bones the muscles are attached to by (for the most part) TENDONS. The absence of electrical impulses allow the muscles to relax so other groups can perform


When your dog struggles to perform: Injury vs Inability
When the muscles are not in optimal condition, they are unable to generate the force necessary to produce the desired result – even though the brain/CNS knows exactly which order to activate them

Movement patterns and accuracy will change due to chronic injury…not because of ingrained “muscle memory”
“Muscle Memory” is as an objective term which might be used in rehabilitation & strength conditioning when determining Outcome Measures, to describe a muscle’s potential to regain tone / size and functional ability after an injury and/or de-conditioning
The Myth of Muscle Memory
The phrase “muscle memory” is often used incorrectly to describe, what is (in fact), MOTOR LEARNING, which is the correct phrase to describe the process of practicing a physical activity repetitively which changes/improves the Central Nervous System until a HABIT [that requires less conscious effort] is formed = skill / exercise ADAPTATION (the more often a “thing” is done, the faster / more efficient the action becomes)
When practice DOESN’T make perfect
When you’ve spent months teaching or using incorrect form! Good news: your dog learned to use one technique, he can learn to use another: and develop new HABITS! Train and exercise the muscle that is responsible for memory: THE BRAIN
Only perfect practice makes perfect: REVIEW / RE-EVALUATE / RE-TRAIN
1. evaluate your dog’s structure: condition those aspects which are weak in order to preserve the strengths he has, and
2. train using techniques that suit his body: Form follows Function. Ask “how does my dog need to ” — ” in order to achieve success?”
3. the devil is in the details: PLAN your work, then WORK your plan,

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Author: Racine Hyatt CCFt CCM