In the last article we expressed the importance of capitalizing on your leg strength while basing. In this article, we will share some exercises that will help you pump up those very muscles. When it comes to conditioning your body, there are hundreds of different ways to accomplish your goals. These are just a few suggestions and are all exercises that can be done in the comfort of your own home solely using your body weight. Determining the amount of reps is largely individualized and should be decided based on your own comfort level. Listen to your body, conditioning will push you to be uncomfortable, but should not be painful.
Quadriceps (Better known as the thigh or upper leg)
Wall Sits – Begin with your feet shoulders width apart and stand close enough to the wall that you can rest your back against it. Squat down, with you back against the wall, until your knees reach a 90 degree angle. At this point your thighs should be parallel to the ground. Ensure that your ankles, NOT your toes are directly beneath your knees. Begin holding for one minute increments and increase as your become more comfortable.
Squats – A great variation of the basic wall sit is the stationary squat. In this exercise, you will assume the same position referenced above (feet shoulder width apart, squatting position), but without the support of the wall. Once in the position, hold for a two second count and return to your beginning position. Repeat the squat for at least 8 – 10 reps. Rest in between sets, switch legs and then repeat. The challenge with stationary squats is truly sitting back enough to really work your quads. Remember not to cheat yourself. It is a wasted effort if you aren’t going to commit to doing the exercise full out.
Static Lunges – There are many ways to do lunges. Static lunges are the most basic form. To begin, place your right foot forward and your left foot back about 2.5 – 3 feet apart. Make sure that the toes on each foot are pointing straight ahead. Lower your body straight down. Avoid pushing forward. Also focus on keeping your torso straight up and down. Once in a deep lunge (knee close to the ground, but not touching) hold your position for a two count and return to the beginning position. Complete 8 – 15 reps (depending on your fitness level). Rest and repeat. Ensure that while you are completing your lunges your arms are behind your head, so that you are not inclined to use them to push off.
Advances Lunges – If you are looking to step up the static lunges a bit, then try beginning with your feet together and stepping down into your lunge. In this variation, only one foot moves, the front foot that is stepping into the lunge. Hands still remain behind your head and you can alternate feet after each rep. Still focus on keeping a straight torso and reaching a deep lunge each rep. Ideally, you should be close to creating 90 degree angles with both of your legs when you are at the peak of your lunge. For those who are ready to catapult to an advanced level of lunging you can try bounding lunges. In this exercise the lung position remains the same, but getting there is a little different. You will begin with your feet together and hop from your beginning position directly into your lowered lunge. In this version both feet move an equal distance during the jump to reach the lunge position. There is no hold period. Once you have reached your lunge position immediately jump up and alternate your feet (ie: If right foot was forward, it becomes the back foot in the lunge). You do not return to the beginning feet together position in between lunges. Hands remain behind your head for this version and will actually help you to keep your balance. Also, avoid looking down and watching your feet. Focus on keeping your torso upright and controlling your landings. This is a slow and controlled exercise. It is not at all about speed, but more so reaching a correct lunge position and the continued movement. Each lunge will count as one rep. Complete about 8-12 reps, rest and repeat.
Mountain Climbers – This is a great whole body exercise and also a great cardio exercise. Start in a push up position. Be sure that you are maintaining a straight back. Do not let your hips sag or elevate your butt creating a “V” position. Begin by hopping and bringing one leg forward toward your chest. Your knee should not come beyond your elbows. Once the position is established your will immediately hop into the opposite position by reversing the position of your feet (which ever leg was extended is now bent and the bent leg returns to the extended position). Your arms should remain locked out and steady throughout this exercise. The idea is to pump your legs as if you are running or climbing a mountain. During the transition to each position do not let your feet drag or scrape the ground. They should not contact the ground until you have reached the required position. This exercise is best done in an allotted amount of time as opposed to counting reps. Start with one minute and increase as you are able.
Calfs (Lower Leg)
Your calf muscles play an essential role in refining your cheer moves. The two muscles that make up the calf as a whole are responsible for pointing and flexing your feet. These are two critical motions in cheerleading. Below you will find several exercises that can be complete without weights to work your calf muscles.
Calf Presses & Raises – Begin by finding a step at least 3 to 4 inches high. Stand facing the step with the back half of your feet hanging off the step. Lower your heels about 2 inches and then press up to the balls of your feet. This should not be a bouncing motion. This should be slow and controlled. Repeat this motion for 15-20 reps, rest and repeat. Calf raises can be done on a flat surface and involve a similar motion. Start with your feet together and press up to the highest point on the balls of your feet. Lower yourself back down, but do not allow your heels to touch the ground. There should be about one inch of space between your heels and the floor when you lower. It is best to complete this exercise with your hands on your hips to help you balance. Complete 15-20 reps, rest and repeat.
Jumping Rope – Who knew your childhood playground games would come in handy? Jumping rope is a great whole body and cardio exercise, but specifically works your calf muscles. As a result of the speed of the rope it is very difficult to jump rope flat footed. Staying on the balls of your feet is what really gets your calf muscles involved. There isn’t much explanation needed for this exercise, but begin with one minute intervals and increase as you are comfortable. Also, know that you can vary the exercise by jumping on one foot or alternating feet as you jump.