Muscle means, “Little Mouse” from the Latin, apparently referring to the appearance of rippling muscles under the skin.
Muscles are a type of tissue made up of cells and fibers, which affect movement of an organ or part of the body. Muscles can contract and expand, they are self-healing and are capable of being made larger through diet and exercise. They are very good at turning fuel into energy and energy into motion. There are different types of muscles, and they perform different functions. Skeletal muscles are the ones used to move your body around when you play hockey. They are “voluntary” muscles, which mean you can control their movement, as you want to. For example, you can put your glove hand up to make a save or not, depending on what you tell the muscles in your arm to do.
The strength of your muscles depends mostly on their size. This is why weight training increases the size and strength of a muscle at the same time. You probably will not end up with “rippling muscles under the skin”, but after a period of steady training, you should be able to see some results!
Resistance exercise, such as weight lifting, is the contraction of muscles against a load that resists movement. A few minutes of resistance exercise at a time, a few times each week is enough to stimulate muscle growth. The result is enlargement of muscle fibers that you have had all your life, not the addition of new muscles. Resistance training is now widely accepted as safe for children to undertake, provided there is adequate adult supervision and properly designed programs. Adult programs should not be adapted for children.
While resistance training will benefit nearly everyone, athletes use it to improve strength, performance and endurance. There is also likelihood that good conditioning can prevent or minimize many injuries that can occur during the season. If you are thinking of taking up weight training, or your coach has recommended it, talk to your parents first, and get your Doctor’s approval. Then make an appointment at a reputable gym and tell them how old you are and what you would like to do. They should be able to set up an appropriate program for you. There are some gyms that are sometimes connected to an ice rink, that offer programs specifically for young athletes. These may be a good option also.
A good, realistic and well-designed program will, over time, give you increased muscle size and increased strength, endurance and possibly resistance to injury.
There is a tendency by some people to “over train”, in other words, they believe that if two, three days a week at the gym is good, five, or six is even better! NOT true, and dangerous. You risk injury doing too much, and your muscles, joints and tendons need a chance to rest and recover between workouts. Your trainer should know this, and will go over training times with you.
Most people do cardio exercises along with strength training. Elliptical machines, treadmills, bikes all are good ways to get the cardiac benefits of exercise. They will also increase your endurance, your “wind”, and done on a regular basis, will give you more energy.
WARMING UP AND COOLING DOWN are another important aspect of any training program. Most people do not like to do it, it can be boring and time consuming, but it is important. A proper warm up raises body temperature and may well prevent muscle soreness and injury. A general warm up for resistance training, involves the major muscles of the body, and again, your trainer will teach you this. Generally, a warm up is considered adequate when you begin to sweat. A cool-down period followed by stretching is a recommended after a training session. Cool down may prevent muscle soreness and lead to an increase in flexibility, and aspect of muscular fitness that is often overlooked in resistance training programs. Cooling down is also important in the prevention of blood pooling in the veins of your lower extremities.
MUSCLE CRAMPS are caused by your central nervous system triggering painful, spasmodic contractions, otherwise known as cramps. They can be caused by dehydration, heavy exercise, extreme cold and other factors. They begin when these factors trigger sensory impulses from the muscle to the spinal cord. The spinal cord then triggers a reflex contraction of that muscle, which further stimulates the sensory nerve endings that started the process. It is important to keep yourself well hydrated and to begin any exercise slowly.
In summary, if you are interested in strength training, talk to your parents, your doctor and your trainer at a gym. Use common sense, stop exercising if you feel pain and be patient! Strength training is a cumulative process. Slow and steady over a long period of time, in addition to proper nutrition and rest, will get you optimal results.