Basic Cheerleading Fitness
Cheerleading is a very physically demanding sport and cheerleaders must be in excellent shape to perform all of the necessary skills. Different fitness activities that help improve overall strength and endurance can be incorporated into practice or they can be done on the athlete’s own time. Either way, maintaining a healthy diet and a workout routine is an important part of being a successful cheerleader.
Major Muscles Needed
Due to the mix of stunting and tumbling, cheerleaders tend to use a lot of different muscles. Below is a list of the specific muscle groups you should focus on exercising and strengthening:
Upper Legs & Hips
This large group of muscles, including the gluteals, hamstrings and quadriceps are used most often in stunting, especially if you are a side base.
The muscles of the lower leg are tested during tumbling and jumping routines. The gastrocnemis, tibialis anterior and soleus must be strong and flexible.
Core muscles, like the obliques, abdominals and spinal erectors (lower back muscles) are used in almost every skill that a cheerleader will perform, including stunts and jumps.
Shoulders & Arms
Whether you are stunting, tumbling or cheering on the sidelines, you are using the muscles of your upper body. Cheerleaders will especially need strong deltoids, biceps, pectorals and triceps.
Hot Tip: Exercising to Avoid Injuries
The stronger your body is, the less likely you are to get hurt. Some of the most common cheerleading injuries are ankle fractures, torn muscles and knee strains. In order to avoid these injuries, you must strengthen your legs and core. You will put less strain on your joints and ligaments if your muscles provide a solid foundation and can endure the stress of daily cheerleading practice.
Stretching and Warming Up
Before you start cheering, you must get your body ready. Take at least 10 minutes to warm up and stretch before you start stunting and tumbling.
Everyone knows that they should stretch and warm up before intense exercise, but a lot of people skip it anyway. This oversight, however, can lead to injury or fatigue. If you jump right into cheering without warming up, you will fade fast or get hurt!
Start each practice by stretching. Have one person lead the team through a routine that works every part of the body, holding the positions for a minimum of 20 seconds each.
Next, get your body warmed up and ready to work. Pick something that is not strenuous, but that gets your whole body moving like jogging or jumping jacks.
Cardio and Aerobic Training
All cheerleaders must incorporate cardio and aerobic training into their workouts. These exercises will help you build endurance and stamina, which cheerleaders must have if they want to maintain form throughout their routines and performances.
Some ways to incorporate cardio and/or aerobic training into your workout or practice are:
- Running or jogging for 20+ minutes: Try starting practice with a two mile run.
- Riding a bicycle: An easy way to add this exercise into your routine is to ride your bike to and from practice.
- Jumping rope: Take a few minutes to jump rope at every practice.
- Stair climbing: You probably have stairs at your school, so use them.
- Swimming: This is a great way to start the day, so add it into your morning routine.
Adding these activities into your weekly workout routine will help you stay strong and maintain form during long games and grueling competitions.
Strength training is essential aspect of cheerleading fitness: If you want to reach your tumbling and stunting potential, you have to work on strengthening your entire body. It will improve bone, muscle, tendon and ligament strength, as well as joint function and flexibility. It can also improve your cardiovascular health and increase metabolism.
Strength training should be added to your normal workout and practice routine a couple of times a week. Always ask an expert before you start working with weights to ensure that you are properly using the equipment and targeting the right areas.
Hot Tip: Team Weight Training
Team workouts are a great way to stay motivated and on track! If you are a coach, consider weight training as a team at least once a week. Bring in a certified trainer and have them show your team how to use the equipment and what exercises to do to target the key areas. If you coach a school-affiliated team, reserve your school’s weight room and ask the P.E. teacher to give the team a strength training orientation.
You should always maintain a healthy diet and take care of your body, even if you don’t play sports. As a cheerleader, you have to keep your body in tip top shape because the sport requires you to be very active and athletic. This means being aware of what you put into your body.
You burn a lot of calories while cheerleading, so it is important to eat before practice and drink a lot of water. You need enough substance (via complex carbohydrates and protein) to endure long practices and competitions. If you know you are going to be cheering at a game for an extended period of time, bring some snacks to replenish your energy.
As a cheerleader, you need to stay healthy and in shape. Practice alone is not enough, so create a workout routine and stick to it!