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Last week I gave you some ideas on how to keep fit in summer when you don’t feel like working out. Today, we’re looking at some specific things that every cheerleader who wants to be on a high performance team should do while your team is on break. After all, it’s only 10 more months to the next nationals – we can’t afford to waste one of them doing nothing!
I firmly believe that in both tumbling and stunting, technique is everything. BUT: If you don’t have the necessary strength, it’s impossible for you to apply the correct technique. If you’re not strong enough to lift your flyer, you will inevitably lift through your back instead of your legs, because it’s the only way for you to create enough momentum. Similarly, if you’re a flyer and you don’t have the strength to stand up on one leg fast, your liberty will be slow and wobbly, making tictoc progressions impossible. Your approach to fitness can make or break a season.
If you don’t already have a set workout routine, or you’re someone who needs a lot of motivation to work out, give the tabata style a shot. Workouts are short and intense, so they fit into your holiday schedule. Just 15 minutes a day go a long way. Pick 3-8 exercises and do 3-5 cycles of them, always working for 20 seconds and resting for 10, with a one minute break between sets. You can also go for a different rhythm, like 30/20, depending on your fitness.
Make sure you get a good mix between controlled, slow moves like push ups, explosive moves like burpees or squat jumps, and holding exercises like planks. As cheerleading is an all-around sport, you need to build strength, endurance, explosive force and stabilisation equally.
Build up your joints
Cheerleading is hard on the body. We try to achieve tumbling passes and stunts like we see them in the top teams, which I think is awesome, but you need to keep in mind that these teams invest up to twenty hours a week into training, strengthening their bodies so they can take the repeated pounding. If you want to play with the big guys, you need to invest that time too.
Wrist and ankle training can easily be built into your everyday routine. You can do exercises while you brush your teeth or in the five minutes before you go to bed. Also, knees, and shoulders are vital to your performance, so make sure you give them enough attention.
The internet is full of different exercises for that, but be smart about it: workout tips from BRAVO magazine might not be the best. Make sure your source is reliable. If you’re insecure, ask a fitness instructor or a physiotherapist for advice. Exercises should never hurt you (except for that sweet muscle burn we all love), and they shouldn’t make you feel horrible the next day either.
I’ll be frank: If you’ve been a flyer for a year or more, there is no excuse for you not to have decent body positions. I’m not saying perfect – but decent. You should be holding your heel stretch by your actual foot, not your ankle. You should be able to hold your scorpion with both hands.
Some people gain flexibility quicker than others, and that’s alright. What your coach wants to see is that you’re improving constantly. And, what is often overlooked: Many flyers lack the strength to hold their body positions, not the flexibility. If you can lay down on your front leg in a split, that’s basically a perfect heel stretch position; if you can’t do it standing upright, you’re lacking muscle power. Stretching more will still help you, but you’ll never achieve your goal with just that.
Stretching five days a week for a short amount of time has shown to be more effective than stretching twice a week for two hours at a time, so make sure you get some rhythm into your routine. Warm up properly (you should break a sweat) and hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds. Don’t engage in any crazy techniques like letting people push you into painful splits, or holding positions for 5 minutes straight – you still want to be able to walk when you’re forty.
Instead, incorporate a lot of active stretching. When you sit in a straddle, don’t grab something in front of you to pull you towards the ground; use your own muscle power. Pull your body positions as often as you can, and hold them for several seconds. Cheer Extreme has some great tutorials, but I strongly advise you not to use weights except you already have excellent body positions.
Set a goal, write it down
Write down a clear, measurable goal for your summer break. This could be:
- Hold a handstand for 5 seconds without dancing around
- Handstand-walk 3 meters
- Get 10cm deeper into a split
- Grab your heel stretch by the foot
- Have straight legs in a backbend and hold for 20 seconds
Choose a goal that is achievable, but challenging for you, and WRITE IT DOWN. Your chances of achieving a goal rise when you write it down, there are a gazillion studies on it, go google it. Or just believe me. Write. It. Down. Do it now. I’m waiting.
Done? Good. If you want to, you can share your goal with me on instagram using the hashtag #cheerupgoal ! Or, if you’re not on social media, write it in the comments. I would love to follow your progress, and if you achieve your goal, we can all celebrate together!