Many aspects of cheerleading have drastically changed throughout the last two decades… basket tosses fly higher, tumblers resemble gymnasts, flyers are more flexible, and competition is much more intense, but there is one skill that has remained constant and is a cornerstone of cheerleading, jumping. Jumps are a core part of cheerleading and are in most cases the same from pee-wee cheer to the most advanced of senior squads.
There are several basic tips that can be applied to all jumps that will help to ensure you are jumping to the best of your ability.
Tip #1: Remember your form
Jumping can be broken down into three steps: the prep, the jump, and the landing. Within each step there are basic rules of form that if followed will produce a quality jump. First during your prep remember to keep your feet together. Avoid beginning your jump with your feet apart. Starting off your jump with your feet together will significantly increase the power of your prep, which ultimately will impact your jump height and your ability to quickly snap your legs up for your jump and down for your landing. Often times, when jumping cheerleaders will focus so much on getting their legs right, they fail to remember their arms are equally important. There is a motion that should be hit at the peak of every jump. Hitting this motion correctly is an essential part of quality jumping. For instance, when doing a toe touch a “T” motion should be hit at the peak of your jump. Many people believe that your motion placement should change based on your leg placement during the jump. This myth is incorrect. Your “T” motion should always be at shoulder level, creating a straight plane across. The main reason you do not want to change your “T” motion to complement your individual jump is because when you are jumping in a group setting everyone’s motion will be at a different level and in team environments the goal is uniformity. It is also important to know whether the jump requires straight or bent legs and commit 100% to the demands of the jump. For instance, when doing a front hurdler, the front leg, which will come forward toward your face must remain straight until the landing. Additionally, the back leg should remain bent until the landing. It is important to commit to these guidelines or the jump could be confused for another jump or thought to be sloppy or incorrect. Finally, when landing your jump be sure to land with your feet together. You also want to concentrate on sticking your landing. To absorb your power and keep your feet in place when landing, slightly bend your legs and try to land on the balls of your feet first. It is nearly impossible to stick a jump when landing on your heels or with straight legs.
Tip #2: Use your prep for power
A prep is in place for one purpose… to prepare you to jump. A good prep should provide you with both power and control. There are many different ways to prep for a jump and each has their own individual set of pro’s and con’s. The most widely accepted prep is the clasped approach. In the method, you begin with your hands clasped at chest level and do not let go of the clasp until hitting the appropriate motion at the peak of the jump. The benefit of this method is uniformity. The clasp presents little margin for error in placement, as opposed to a high “V” and other methods of prepping.
It is important to fully use your legs during your prep to maximize power during your jump. The amount you bend and extend on your toes during your prep will dictate your jump height. Additionally, it is important to swing your arms aggressively. This will also contribute to the lifting process during your jump. To a large extent, your prep will determine how well you jump.
Tip #3: Don’t Over Do it… Quality Trumps Everything
Another tip to remember when jumping is don’t over-do it. Many times people focus so much on over-extending and squeezing out a higher jump that they as a result neglect all the guidelines mentioned above. Remember that the beginning (the prep) and the end (the landing) are the first and last thing a judge or spectator will see. These are times to really focus on clean motions and movements. A final tip to enhance your jumps is to keep your chest and head up during your jump. Show your smiling face! Avoid the urge to drop your chest although it may feel as if this helps to increase your flexibility.
Jumping has always been an important aspect of cheerleading and there is no indication that this will change any time soon. Following the above suggestions will help to make jumping a joyous process!