Solid core strength is crucial in preventing injury while cheering, and is critical to performing a majority of the skills demanded by cheerleading. Perfecting quick and easy methods to fine-tune your core muscles will help you make a smooth transition into getting in shape and being a better performer.
The following drills will ensure you and your core are at their peak, helping you to be the best cheerleader you can be. All of these exercises can be performed in the comfort of your own home and should be done only as physically tolerated.
Flutter Kicks – Start by lying flat on your back, with your arms by your sides and your palms face-down on the floor. Extend your legs fully, and lift your heels approximately six inches off the floor. Make small, rapid up and down scissor-like motions with your legs (when your right leg is up the left should be down, then switch). The object of this exercise is to focus on having your midsection do the brunt of the work, and to keep your abs constantly contracted throughout the exercise.
Bent Knee Ab Hip Raises – Bent knee abdominal hip raises target the lower and middle abdominal muscles. This exercise also works the secondary muscles of your upper thighs and lower back. This is an especially great ab exercise to use if you’re looking to really work the difficult to tone lower portion of the stomach. Begin by lying flat on your back, with your hands at your sides and your knees bent, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bring your pelvis up and your knees up toward your chest, contracting your abdominals and hold this position for a two second count. Your feet should come together at the peak up your upward movement. Return to the start position, and repeat for your designated amount of reps.
Finger to Heel Touches – Lay flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet spread shoulder-width apart. Keep both arms straight and resting flat on the floor by your sides. Begin this exercise by lifting your head and shoulders off the floor and reaching your fingertips to touch your heel on one side. Continue by rotating around to touch the heel on the opposite side of your body. Your abs should remain contracted throughout the duration of this exercise.
Hollow Body Rocks – This exercise is conducted while laying on your back. Lift your head, shoulders and arms off the ground (arms should be extended straight above your head), while also lifting your feet approximately six inches off the ground. Once in the hollow body position, contract your abs and begin to rock back and forth. This exercise should be performed for a pre-established amount of time.
Planks – Begin this exercise on your stomach. You will then push up into a modified push-up position. Bend your arms so you are resting with your forearms on the ground. Your arms should be bent at a 90 degree angle and you should be balancing on your toes with your body forming a straight line. Avoid allowing your butt to elevate higher than the rest of your body, creating an upside-down V shape, or sagging your hips, creating the opposite effect. This exercise is also done for a set period of time.
These five basic exercises will help you to create a solid foundation to get you on the road to perfecting your core!
These additional five exercises require more skill and endurance, and should only be completed if you are able to master the beginner exercises listed in the previous section.
Inchworm to Pushup – In this exercise, you will begin in a downward dog position. Your legs should be straight, and both your feet and hands should be resting on the ground. Your hands should be as close to your feet as possible without bending your legs. Once in this beginning stance, lower yourself down into a push-up position by walking your hands out one at a time. Once in the push-up position, do one push-up, and then walk your hands back to your initial beginning position. Repeat this exercise for a predetermined amount of reps.
Around the World Lunges – This exercise combines lateral squats with basic lunges to make one hardcore drill. Begin standing with your feet together. Your hands should be resting somewhere out of the way and in a place where they can’t be used as counter resistance. Placing them on or behind your head is typically an ideal placement. Your first movement is a forward step with your right leg. You should strive to reach a lunge position where both knees are bent at a 90 degree angle. Your back knee should never touch the ground during this exercise. Hold this position for one second and return to your starting position. Once your feet are back together, your next movement will be to step to the side with your right leg into a squatting position. Hold this position for one second and return to the starting position. The third movement is to step back with your right leg. You will be lowering into the same lunge position as in the first movement, but your right leg will be in the back this time. Hold for one second and return to the initial position. The final movement will be stepping to the side with your left leg into the same squatting position as in step number two. Hold for one second and return to the original position. Completing all four stages of this exercise constitutes one rep.
Side Plank Reach Through – This exercise requires you to rest on the side of your bottom foot and allow your other foot to rest on top of the bottom foot. You will be supporting yourself by resting on your bent arm. If you are resting with your right foot on the ground, your right forearm should be the arm on the ground. Your body should remain straight at all times, and your top arm should be held straight vertically in the air. You will know you have reached the correct position when your heels, hips and shoulders are all in one straight line. This position is frequently utilized in yoga as well. Once in your side plank stance, you will allow your top extended arm to guide you. Reach down with your guiding arm, across your chest, and through the opening created between your base arm and your body. Rotate as far as you can and return your top arm and body to the side plank position. Once you’ve completed one set of reps, complete the exercise on the opposite side.
Burpee (aka Squat Thrust) – This exercise is comprised of four separate steps. Begin in a standing position with your feet together. Drop into a squatted position with your feet and hands both flat on the ground. From your squatting position, leave your hands in place and jump back to extend your legs straight out creating a push up position. Do one push-up. Next hop back into your squatting position and from here the final step is to jump up straight in the air with your feet together as high as possible. This will return you to the original position and you can repeat from that point.
Superman Rotations – In this exercise you will begin laying flat on your stomach with your arms extended straight out by your head. Step one is to lift your feet, arms, head, and shoulders all up off the ground as high as possible, and hold this position. Your legs should have a slight bend. Hold this superman position for three seconds, then use your shoulders to initiate a roll to your back. During your roll, your feet, arms, shoulders, and head should all remain elevated and not contact the ground. Your roll should end in a hollow body position (feet and shoulders both lifted approximately six inches off the ground and stomach contracted). Hold this position for three seconds, and use your shoulders to initiate a roll back onto your stomach and the original superman position. This completes one rep.
These advanced exercises are to be conducted as physically tolerated, and are sure to have you in tip top shape in no time!