Muscle memory is a concept that many performance athletes or others that require motor skill improvement will perpetually seek to learn more about. When you have developed a strong sense of muscle memory, the ability to complete certain physical tasks – even with the slightest provocation – can be achievable. A baseball player, for example, will know when exactly to hit a fast ball based on the stimulus response of his muscle. Someone that works in an area with many physical hazards may also develop the ability to respond quickly when needed thanks to muscle memory. But, such development of muscle memory is not achieved overnight. It is developed over an extended period of time of diligent practice. Once it is developed, however, some may have serious concerns over how long it will last. After all, who would want to develop a high degree of muscle memory only to see it dissipate over time?
Essentially, muscles will be remember as long as enough time does not go by to the point it is forgotten. In other words, you cannot forget your muscle memory if the muscles are still being used to employ the same tasks. That is why the aforementioned example of a baseball player is so helpful. It points out that as long as a person practices and stays sharp, the ability for the muscles to react to certain stimulus will remain. Now, think of a baseball player that has been away from the game for some time. The reactions would not be as sharp and they would lack a clear sense of focus and direction. The stimulus response would be far less automatic which, in turns, means it would be a lot slower. Needless to say, this is not the type of reactions anyone that is reliant on performance would want which is why there is always a need for maintenance when the issue of muscle memory is concerned. When you do not work your muscles, they become atrophied not only in the physical sense but also in the stimulus response sense as well.
Here is something positive to point out in relation to this: when memory starts to fade, it can be recaptured when you pick up the pace to start developing it once again. This is sometimes overlooked because people do not realize how hardwired muscle stimulus responses may be in the brain. Sometimes, all it takes is a few exercise sessions to help to restore a portion of lost muscle memory. In a few weeks, all lost memory may very well be restored leading to the restoration of what was previously lost. For some it may take a little longer and for others a little less. Ultimately, the outcome will be based on the individual’s brain activity and response to stimulus.
You could say that muscle memory will last as long as you wish to maintain it. That is why it is best to avoid neglecting the effective development of motor skills since this would undermine the great value these skills can present.