COVID-19 has forced many of us to take an unplanned, long term hiatus from the gym. Breaks from training can be good for the body, but if you’ve been quarantined and taken a few months off, it’s likely you’ve experienced losses in strength and size.

So, when will your muscles bounce back once you do start training and moving plates on a bar again?

The good news is, it won’t be like you’re starting from day one since you’ve likely built a foundation of strength and muscle memory with all your hard work so far. Of course, this also doesn’t mean getting it back will be an easy process.

You still have to put in the work, eat right, and have a structured plan of attack, but muscle memory and strength training are like that cliché about riding a bike — once you learn it, you’re able to get back into the groove even after an extended break.

Here’s a deeper look at what to expect:

What is Muscle Memory?

Muscle memory is the act of committing a specific motor task into memory through repetition.

While your muscles themselves can’t actually remember anything, they are full of neurons attached to your nervous system that play a role in motor learning. Any movement requires brain activity, and repeating a movement, even complicated ones, enough times triggers recognizable patterns in your brain regions responsible for motor skills. Thus leading to a learned motion that will require less brainpower in the future.

How Long Does it Take to Achieve Muscle Memory?

If you ask Malcolm Gladwell, it takes roughly 10,000 hours to master a skill. However, it likely requires much less time than that to reap the benefits of muscle memory for hypertrophy training.