borganiqueBRONZE Member
154 posts
Location: Cornwall, United Kingdom

this term is used a lot in circus arts, what does it mean to you?

i'm interested to know...

i believe in a literal translation, where repetition creates a fixed muscle shape, which is positive and negative to learning. good technique fosters progression, whilst poor techniques cause injury/unsightly movement and are difficult to unlearn.

i read this:
today, which implies rest periods (sometimes of relatively long periods) are very good for you (providing technique is good)

opinions please...

DrexFactorGOLD Member
Defeats the purpose
73 posts
Location: Washington, DC USA

I've heard the term used a lot and not just in the circus arts community, but the context I've heard it used in is that of a neuromuscular phenomenon rather than a purely muscular phenomenon. Both definitions are used commonly (, but I think the former is the one we most frequently deal with.

To me it means training the body to work in certain sequences of movement such that it is able to automatically engage in said movements without significant conscious cognitive interference. Without it, flow simply isn't possible.


Fire_MooseSILVER Member
Elusive and Bearded
3,597 posts
Location: Scottsdale, AZ, USA

I agree with Drez about us mostly using the neuromuscular phenomenon type. and about how conscious we are of the moves we make. But i would also add that once a movement is learned and fused into our "muscle memory" we can go a step farther and make minor adjustments that we aren't actually thinking about to correct a plane or make the trick work where we used to not be able to....hope that made sense


Owned by Mynci!

borganiqueBRONZE Member
154 posts
Location: Cornwall, United Kingdom

i am dubious of wiki articles; sometimes, as in this case, the references don't back up the article.

despite this, i agree broadly with what it says.

i have had a quick look for scientific articles on neuromuscular activity and have so far not found anything relevant, but lots on speech therapy etc.

i should really get on with college work and stop distracting myself!
i'll have a proper look on friday.

LunakiPoi Goddess
16 posts
Location: Oklahoma

I know that the term is used very often in xylophone and marimba playing and often playing other instruments (mostly in the fingers though than the wrists or arms like xylophone). When playing pieces over and over it just becomes natural to move your arms to the right notes without even having to look at the keys and you subconsciously know how far away that key is and what movement you make to play the notes.

In Poi its a lot like being able to spin and do all your moves without looking, you just feel them. My moves tend to look better when I close my eyes.

JayKittyGOLD Member
Mission: Ignition
534 posts
Location: Central New Jersey, USA

Think about how hard you had to focus to do a butterfly or a weave when you first started. How about about 1 month of spinning? how about 1 year?

In circus arts its the same deal. I've always heard the term more in the neuro sense. When doing something overe and over again in a show you are able to have less and less concentration to do something very complicated. I used to know a gymnast who would walk around the mall doing ariels and back tucks and such because it was nothing for him. Its a really interesting thing. Practice practice and repeat

Don't mind me, just passing through.

TideGOLD Member
Future pyrotechnician...? Or something.
111 posts
Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

I find that muscle memory is what feels most natural after practicing.

This statement is false...?

MynciBRONZE Member
Macaque of all trades
8,738 posts
Location: wombling free..., United Kingdom

Muscle memory is the body remembering kinesthetic feedback from the muscles allowing you to quickly return the muscle to the exact position it has been trained to remember.

This is why people who learn poor technique have trouble learning the correct one because the body will automatically try and do the "incorrect" position and why coaches often talk about having to learn to forget the old way before you leran the new way.

It comes about due to tiny stretch receptors (mechanoreceptors) spread through-out the muscles that send messages to the brain (the way you can tell your hand is in front of your face in total darkness because you can "feel" it). The CNS (Central Nervous system)remembers the settings for regularly used stretch positions and when a sequence is initiated the brain reverets to autonomous movement and fires the muscles to complete the recognised sequence with limited concsious effort. this ios how we refine the movement.

I Covered this loads at uni on my sports course. It's why it's always better to learn from someone experienced than on your own, they can correct mistakes before incorrect movements are "learned" by the muscles.

long rest periods are only any good as a way of confirming depostion of information into the longterm memory when you start up again. The rest periods are more likely a precaution to injury from overuse. it won't have great effect on muscle memory as good repetition will serve to smooth out any error. long rest periods will naturally involve some loss of "memory" and the proceedure will need repeating a few more times to get you back up to the standard you were before. With regards to muscle memory nothing can replace regular practice / repetition. The way that when you juggle it's very hard to go straight into your maximum number of balls cold with no juggling practice before hand. even if the muscles are prepared for exercise there's nothing better than performing the movement slower with less balls to get the muscles prepared for the faster sequences.

This article is awful there is no "in between" for fast and slow twitch muscle fibres. And muscle hypertropy will be based upon the technique used for training it wont grow back as big because the muscle remembered it's previous shape. it will grow back the same size because the training used was the same. and will come back quicker because muscles hypertrophy quicker than they atrophy due to a process called reversability. you can get fit quick and it takes a while for the change to take place, it's how we adapt quickly to new scenarios / situations where we need our body to change to suit the environment (not in a darwinian sense of course) And fibre type can only change a small amount. This article seems verey ropey.

A couple of balls short of a full cascade... or maybe a few cards short of a deck... we'll see how this all fans out.

WoodlandAppleBRONZE Member
474 posts
Location: Australia

to add something else,

when you first learn a new skill, your body intuitivly tries to relate it to a skill you already know. So you will find yourself just trying to adapt already learnt muscle memory instead of constructing new ones. and when your not concentrating on the new skill, you will lapse into a previous set of learnt motions.

sticks and stones my break my bones, but ski patrol will save me.

borganiqueBRONZE Member
154 posts
Location: Cornwall, United Kingdom

thankyou mynci, very informative and useful.
could you point me towards any reading around the topic?

i guess you're referring to the article i posted as being ropey.

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