Cheerleading Training Tips
Cheer is skill-intensive. It takes powerful jumps, tumbling skills, strength, and flexibility to pull off difficult cheerleading stunts. With dedication and many hours of practice it can be done, and here are a few tips on how.
Cheerleaders aim for high, explosive jumps. Most aren't born with them! Developing a powerful chearleading jump requires strong legs, hips and abs. Flexibility, technique, and a lot of practice should take your jumps to greater heights. Don't forget to warm up before boning up on your cheerleading jumps, and don't push yourself too hard.
Here are a few ways to jump-start your routine:
Jump from athletic position. With feet together and knees bent, slowly lower your body to an athletic position where your thighs and calves form a right angle, arms are pointed straight down, and hands are clasped together. Now jump straight up pushing off the toes, return to an athletic position, and repeat.
Plyometrics. To perform great jumps cheerleaders need to strengthen different parts of the body. Plyometrics are exercises that many athletes, namely gymnasts, cheerleaders, high jumpers, martial artists, and others, do to build explosive power in their jumps. Plyometrics involve sudden moves using maximum muscle strength in a short time.
Here are a couple suggested ways you can begin using plyometrics to build your jumping skills:
- With arms straight up over your head, hands clasped together, jump from corner to corner, like the four corners of a box, several times
- Arms are still up, jump side-to-side several times
Other examples of plyometrics can include jumping from the athletic position while holding a medicine ball, jumping on and off a box, jumping over boxes, etc. You get the idea. There are tons of ways you can apply plyometrics to your training program. Be creative!
Sometimes chearleading means overcoming a few fears, one of them tumbling! If you didn't grow up a gymnast, this might be the most intimidating element of your routines. Many cheerleaders start out only knowing a few basic tumbling moves, like cartwheels and somersaults. So the thought of doing back handsprings is daunting, or downright frightening. If you're not comfortable with it, that's okay. You don't have to be Mary Lou Retton to be a cheerleader. But if you want to develop your skills and are willing to devote the time, there are tumbling classes geared towards enhancing a non-gymnast's cheerleading skills for developing better flexibility, or you may pick up some skills from your coach or cheer squad. You may not be doing back handsprings, but you'll be able to perfect your cartwheels, learn to do round-offs, and more!
Every move performed while cheerleading, whether it's jumping, tumbling, lifting, or heal stretching, requires whole body strength. Arms, shoulders, and upper back muscles and abs need to be strong for supporting and catching flyers, or being a flyer. Your conditioning program should include a variety of exercises to build upper body strength. A strong lower body is needed for jumping, supporting stunts, and powerful rebounds. There are many effective exercises to strengthen the calves, thighs, hips, and core.
Core strength. Strong abdominal muscles are needed for control, balance, and executing powerful jumps. Core drills can utilize medicine balls, stability balls, and balance boards.
Here are some simple but effective floor exercises that isolate the abdominal muscles:
Plank sequence. Facing down, extend your body straight out while resting on your elbows, hands are clasped. Tighten your body; think about pulling your belly into your back, and hold for a few seconds. Roll to one side, squeezing the core as you hold the position. Place your top hand at your side, palms down, or extend your arm straight up, pointing your fingers. Move back into center. Then switch to the other side, and repeat.
Straddle position. While straddling your legs, lift your feet off the ground while pointing your toes.
Pike. Extend you toes straight out in front, keeping them pointed. Lift your feet, release, and repeat.
Perhaps the biggest key to cheerleading is flexibility. And it's not just being able to do the splits! Freedom of movement in the spine, hips, gluts, groin, hamstring, muscles and joints helps cheerleaders tumble, jump, and perform their stunt work with more accuracy and resiliency. Therefore cheer training programs must strive to build good flexibility. Fitness bands are indispensable for this.
Fitness bands gently lengthen the muscles and ligaments while adding some light resistance to your workout. Using a stunt strap or latex exercise band with a loop at one end, lie on your back. With a strap on one foot, gently pull your leg up and over your head as far as you're comfortable to get a nice pull on the hamstring and gluts; do this several times. To work the groin, do the same thing only pull the leg out wide, holding 15-20 seconds per move. Now bring the foot up and across your body to work the outside of the hip. Switch to the other leg, repeating the same moves. Roll over onto the chest. Put the band on your foot, and pull the leg up, arching the back, so you look a little like a scorpion. Switch legs. Hold 15-20 seconds each side, with each pull. Remember to relax, breathe, and exhale with each pull. Do these at least three times a week.
- When holding the strap, always work over your head to get a pull
- Keep your hip(s) on the floor
- Remember to breathe
- Don't push too hard - know your limits
Yoga. For increasing flexibility, consider a good yoga program! There are many gentle as well as challenging ways to coax greater flexibility and increase your range of motion.
Cheerleading can be fun and exhilarating, but pulling off difficult stunts and moves without pulling a muscle or injuring yourself commands strength, control, and flexibility. Keep this in mind when you train, and you'll take your cheerleading to new heights.