Exercises for Youth Cheerleaders. If you’re here reading this then you already know that cheer is a grueling sport. Likely you or one of your teammates has suffered an injury this season. Based on research from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the large majority of injuries in the sport of cheerleading happen during stunting and tumbling. I’m sure this comes as no surprise to you, stunting and tumbling involve a lot of moving parts (literally!). Some of the most common musculoskeletal injuries seen across all cheerleaders of all ages are sprains and strains in the knee and ankle, wrist fractures, and shoulder dislocations. The good news is that many of these injuries are often very preventable with proper strength and form. Below, I am going to walk you through five different exercises you should perform before practice to reduce your risk of injury. While the role of base and flier may differ in many ways and our routines change over time as we grow up and become more advanced in the sport, these exercises are helpful and preventative for everyone!
Also visit an article from Love To Know website about Youth Cheerleading Warmup Stretches and Exercises to furthermore details.
Exercises for Youth Cheerleaders 1 and 2:
While both of these exercises are good for full-body stabilization and strengthening, they are listed to specifically combat wrist fractures and shoulder dislocations. When we stunt, tumble and fall a lot of force is transmitted through our arms. Sometimes this force proves to be more than we can handle and as a result our wrists may break or our shoulders may dislocate. The good news is that we can selectively strengthen the bones and muscles in our arms to be able to withstand higher levels of force which in turn prevents fractures and dislocations. The following are two good exercises for Youth Cheerleaders that help to do both!
Make sure that you have a big, safe, clear space and try to find soft surfaces such as the gym or cheer mats or grass to practice on. Then just kick up, balance, and voila! your arms are stronger already.
– Form: If you’ve ever taken a gymnastics or tumbling class before, you have likely learned proper handstand form. If not, hold off on trying handstands until you can be instructed by a trained professional.
– Dose: 30 — Studies have shown that 30 repetitions of weight-bearing activities are sufficient to strengthen your bones. So do 30 handstands and you’ll be ready to go!
– Progression: If you find that a simple handstand against a wall is becoming too easy, there are a lot of ways you can make this exercise more difficult. First, remove the wall, next try to shift weight from one arm to the other while you’re up in the air, if you still need to make it more difficult try handstand walking and push to make it further and further before losing your balance.
Lay flat on the floor, stomach down. Place your palms on the floor in line with, but a few inches out from your shoulders. While keeping your back flat like a board push up. Then lower yourself so that your elbows are at a 90 degree angle. Congrats, you’ve completed your first rep.
– Form: Focus on keeping your back straight, you don’t want to let your low back bough down or upper back become rounded. Additionally make sure you are moving through the full range of motion at your elbows. If it is too difficult, try dropping from your toes down to your knees. Keeping good form is the most important thing!
– Dose: 3 sets of 10 repetitions — We want to follow that rule of 30 repetitions again in order to strengthen our bones. Additionally the American College of Sports Medicine recommends using 3 sets of 10 repetitions in order to strengthen muscles.
– Progression: First, try to go from completing 10 repetitions at a time to all 30 at once. Next try to shift your weight so that most of your weight is through one arm, do 5/10 shifted to this arm then 5/10 shifted to the other side. If you’re getting really good at these, try propping your feet up on a stable surface to shift more weight up to your arms.
Exercises for Youth Cheerleaders 3, 4, and 5:
The most common types of cheer injuries are knee and ankle sprains and strains. While these injuries usually happen as the result of a botched landing on a tumbling pass or a slip while dancing, the root cause of these injuries is typically poor movement patterns and muscular imbalances. These are easy things to train! Unintuitively, injuries at the knee and even the ankle are usually the result of weakness at the hips, particularly in the abductors, extensors, and external rotators of the hips. These are the muscles that make your leg twist out and back, as if you are winding up to kick a soccer ball really hard. Sometimes our brains forget to use these muscles when stunting or dancing when that happens our knees tend to fall in. This position puts us at high risk for injuries such as ACL tears. The following are three easy exercises for Youth Cheerleaders you can do before practice that will help reinforce proper movement patterns and strengthen chronically weak and under-used muscles.
Squat Wall Ball Tosses
For this exercise you will need a ball and an open wall! You are going to stand about 2 feet back facing the wall. Take the ball in both hands and hold it against your chest as if you are basing a stunt and it’s your flier’s foot. Squat down and as you are coming up, toss the ball up and at the wall. As you are catching the ball squat down with the catch.
– Form: This exercise is all about form! There are a couple of things I want you to pay close attention to: 1. That you are bending from your hips and not from your back, this is a squat after all, 2. As you squat your kneecaps are still pointing straight ahead and not falling in, and 3. That this is one smooth and controlled motion, similarly to when basing a stunt, you want the power in your arms to be coming from your legs.
– Dose: 3*10
– Progression: If you have access to a medicine ball and a safe wall to throw it against, great! Having the extra weight will make it more difficult to keep proper form and will apply an extra load for the muscle in your arms, trunk, and legs, more closely mimicking basing a stunt.
– P.S. : Fliers and backs, I know this seems like it’s all about our bases, and while this exercise is particularly helpful for basing, it also reinforces a really positive movement pattern that is important for all athletes!
Lay on your side and bend your knees bringing your back and the bottoms of your feet up to the wall. From here lift the outside of your knee back and up towards the wall. Imagine the movement of a clam opening its shell, that is where this exercise gets its’ name.
– Form: This is a really subtle exercise, rather than trying to open your legs as much as possible, you really want to focus on specifically turning on the muscles at the side of your bum. In order to do this make sure that your hips are not rocking. When you lay on your side you can use your top arm to feel for your hip bone just below your waist. This bone shouldn’t move at all as you are completing your clams, if you feel it is rocking back as you open your legs, you are going too far. Instead, pretend that you are balancing a glass of water on top of that bone so you need to make sure it stays still. As you do this you’ll probably notice that your legs aren’t opening up quite as far but the side of your bum is really burning. Good job, that’s exactly the point.
– Dose: 3*10
– Progression: If you’re no longer “feeling the burn” in the muscles at the side of your bum, take it up a notch by adding a theraband for resistance. Place the theraband around your legs above your knees, everything else about this movement stays the same.
This one is just like it sounds – pretend that your big toe is a pen and try to draw every letter of the alphabet with your foot.
– Form: There is no proper form with this exercise, the point is merely to warm up the joint and its surrounding muscles.
– Dose: Complete one upper and one lower case alphabet, A to Z, on each ankle before practice.
– Progression: While the purpose of this exercise is more to move in all directions and warm up the joint and less to feel the burn, if you’d like to take it up a notch, you can incorporate a theraband for resistance. Take a theraband that is about 2 feet in length and tie it so that it forms a large circle. Find a door, place the knot on the other side of the door and close the door shut securing the theraband. Sit parallel to the wall with your legs out long in front of you and place the ball of your foot through the theraband. Move far enough away from the door that you feel the theraband gently trying to tug your foot out. Complete your alphabets in this position. After completing this set, turn your body 180 degrees so that now the theraband is trying to tug your foot in. Complete a second set of alphabets on the same foot here.
Contact us today!
Are you ready to perform at your optimal level with your equipped exercises as Youth Cheerleaders before practice? Contact Doctor of Physical Therapy, Mary Kate Casey at our Chicago, IL clinic today! Through our movement analysis, we can assess jumping and landing mechanics and help you improve performance and reduce your risk of injury. Give PREP Performance Center a call at 773-609-1847 for more information on our movement analysis program!