AES Cougar Cheerleading

Cheerleading 101: Exercises

Coaching    Dance    Exercises    Jumps    Motions    Stunting    Tryouts   Tumbling

Fitness articles of interest to cheerleaders:
The 3 Pillars of Cheering
Fitness and Health
Video tapes and DVDs:
Cardio Cheer (can also be seen online here)

If you prefer to exercise along with a television program but can't afford an expensive DVD, I recommend the following: (All times listed here are EST) If none of these programs are available to you, check your local channels for programs about: aerobics, fitness, exercise, Pilates, stretching, Tae Bo, Tai Chi, and yoga workouts.

The Method: Mon-Fri 7:00pm The Healthy Living Channel (This one is really excellent!)
Inhale Yoga: Mon-Fri 6:00am Oxygen channel
Denise Austin's Fit n Lite and Daily Workout: Mon-Fri 7:00 am-8:00am Lifetime Network
Body Electric:
PBS (check local listings)
Yoga Zone:
Mon-Fri 7:30am, 9:00am, 2:00pm, 6:30pm, 7:30pm LIME network
Priscilla's Yoga Stretches: PBS (check local listings)
Beginning Tai Chi: Mon-Thu 7:00am, Fri 7 & 8:00am, Sat/Sun 1, 2,& 3:00pm on UNIHSE
Tai Chi with Grandmaster Liang: 2:30am, 8:00am, 1:00pm, 6 or 7:00pm LIME network
Stott Pilates with Moira: Mon-Fri 7:00 am, 8:30am, 1:30 pm, 7:00pm LIME network

No-TV-needed Workout
(Pictures and videos included here)

Tips for making YouTube more kid-safe Please review before watching videos.

Arms, Neck, & Torso           Legs          Abs and Back

Before going on to the exercises, please understand that the information on this page is geared toward Elementary/Middle school age children. Exercises and drills should be cut back or built up accordingly. For example, older cheerleaders would do more reps and would also want to add weight training and aerobics to their conditioning regimen. Note: We are using yoga poses but we are not actually learning yoga. (There’s more to it than just getting into the positions, and the best page I have seen for these is this one. If it reads oddly, it is because it was translated from German by Google. Also visit youtube for internet videos of yoga.) Check with your parents/doctor first before trying these poses. Don't try to stretch as deeply as the people shown in those pictures in the links. Don't try new stretches on your own without help, and don't overdo, but rather do what your growing body can handle. Stretches should never hurt. (And believe it or not, some of the worst pain I have ever experienced in my entire life occurred the day after I tried every pose I'd found in a yoga book. Needless to say, I couldn't move for 3 days after that! So... Take. It. Easy!)

Our goal is to learn to hold some of these stretches for a minute or more, but for now we’re going to take baby steps and just try them on for size. At practice we should take about 20 minutes to warm up, but at home you can spend more time in those stretches, thereby increasing your flexibility. (Flexibility is crucial if you want to do anything fancier than a liberty or a torch/pretty girl on top of a stunt.) 

Start out by running in place, knees high, for two to three minutes to get the blood flowing and the sweat going.  If you aren't sweating, then you aren't warmed up enough. Never try to stretch a cold muscle because you might tear something. Also never bounce up and down or push yourself too hard for the same reason. Ease your way into all stretches, and try to hold them for increasing periods of time, up to a minute or two.  Push yourself to the point of feeling your muscles stretching, tightening, and pulling, but never to the point of hurting or popping. Stretch the muscle out until it feels looser and then move it a little more into the stretch.

To help keep track of your stretching work your way down from head to toe instead of jumping from an arm stretch to a leg stretch to a belly stretch to another arm stretch. Do a set of stretches for one part of your body (arms, legs, tummy, back etc) and a set of exercises for that same body part (sit-ups, push-ups, squat thrusts, etc), jog or do jumping jacks for another 2 minutes, stretch the next part of your body, and so forth. This helps keep your body from cooling off too soon during your stretching routine.

How often should you stretch? Several times a day would be the most helpful; about 4 times a day is good. You do not have to do the exercises like the sit ups and push-ups four times a day, however! The list of stretches and exercises below is an example of the warm-up workout we will do at practices. That will cover the minimum amount of exercising you need to do to cheer. But you are welcome to do the exercises on one or two of the days during the week that we do not meet on provided you are not participating in another sport that day. Exercise is important, but so is not overdoing it.

Click the pictures and hyperlinks for more information on how to do that stretch correctly.

1)    Jog, do jumping jacks, bunny hops, candlesticks,  air-jacks, or clap and run for 3 minutes. Or do 8 counts from your dance.  Cardio warm-up video

Arm, Neck, & Torso stretches

2)    Do neck rolls and nods, side and wrist and arm stretches (Over your head and across your chest triceps stretches, etc)

Arm 1 Arm 2 Torso 2
Torso 1
Torso 3

3)     Bend at the waist and hang down to the floor. Stretch your upper back and shoulders.
        Wrist stretch video    Shoulder warm up video

Arm, shoulder, and back exercises

4)     Do 10 regular pushups & 10 V push-ups (Bum up in the air at all times, your weight is on your shoulders. Feels a bit like a handstand.) & 10 chair dips. If you have light weights you can do bicep curls, triceps presses,  military presses (doubles and singles,) deltoid rows, deltoid raises, and pec flyes. To save time, do lunges, squats, plies, or march in place when you do your curls and presses. (And don't forget to exercise your wrists.)

5)     Jog, do jumping jacks, dance, or clap and run for another 2 minutes.

Leg stretches

6)     Stretch your legs, every part of them. If when you stretch your hamstrings you feel pulling behind your knees instead of in the hamstring, bend your knees a bit until you feel the stretch in the correct place. Do straddle stretches, and reclining straddles, (If you can do straddle stretches and get your belly and nose to the floor, you are ready to put your feet up on some books when you are doing them) butterfly stretches, pike stretches, quad stretches, and calf stretches as shown in the pictures below. These will help you get your heel stretch, bow n arrow, arabesque, front arabesque, scale, front hurdler, toe touch and pike (see videos of jumps here)  (Video of stretches for your legs)

9 Stretch
Half Downward Dog
Runner's streetch
Touch toes
pike stretch
Reclining pike
Quad stretch


Straddle pull stretch picture    Ankle stretch video    Standing stretches video   
Other stretch variations you can try: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15 

How to get your splits

Over-stretching splits
Front Splits
Split tips
Plan to get your splits fast
Beginner split stretches
 Stretching for front splits video
Video Tutorial

Middle Splits
Video Tutorial

How to stretch for stunt positions

To get your front and heel stretch, do a front split and then put your belly on your leg and your nose down to your knee.  Also try active stretching for arabesques and heel stretches.

To get your bow and arrow, do straddles with your torso twisted to put the back of your shoulder near your knee.

Stretch for your scorpion using yoga. (Do this sitting in a full front split as well.)

How to stretch with a strap  (Video 1)  (Video 2)

Leg exercises: There are several examples of exercises in this cheer tumbling class video

7)     Do 10 squats and deep forward lunges on each leg. (If you already did them with your curls and presses, you don't need to do any more.) Get down on your hands and knees and do 10 bicep pumps and doggie lifts for each leg.

8)     Do 20 straddle lifts (sit up in a straddle and raise your legs off the floor. Excellent video of straddle lifts.), Do 20 leg explosions (Squat fairly deeply then jump up as high as you can, reaching your hands over your head.)

9)     50 Calf raises (You can do double or single foot raises.)

10)     High Kicks. (Video of T kicks and straddle lifts) (Excellent T-kick variation video!!) First, do them in slow motion. You can hold onto a partner or a chair back for this. Do ten sets for each leg. After leg lifts do side high kicks: arms in a T motion, with right leg kick 5 times, breather for 5 seconds, switch to left leg 5 times.

11)     Rapid Tuck jumps (For standing consecutive tucks: do a tuck with the approach. As soon as you hit the floor, go back up into a tuck with no prep. 5-10 to start, build up to 20.)

Stomach and back stretches

12)      (These will help you with your scorpion and back handspring (BHS) )

Full Cobra Bow pose
Reverse push up
Half plow Full plow
Half backbend
Bridge video  Back limber video

Other stretch variations you can try: 1  2  3  4  5  6

Stomach exercises

13)     Do 10 stomach crunches, 10 bicycle crunches, 10 reverse crunches (hip rocks), 10 arch rocks (belly bananas), 10 hollow rocks (back bananas), 10 straddle ups (feet apart) & 10 pike-ups (feet together, middle of this video) 20 sitting toe touches (Step 1, step 2 but with a T motion during step 2), and 10 tuck crunches (Excellent video of ab crunch variations and straddle ups!!)

14)     Handstand kicks (20 on each leg; don't go all the way up to a handstand) and handstands against the wall (back and front) to improve your tumbling.

15)     Lie back down on the floor and bring your knees to your chest. Let your knees fall to the left, and reach your arms off to the right. (Yes, you are all twisted but it feels good to your stomach after all those crunches, doesn’t it?) Come back to the middle, then let your knees fall to the right and reach with your arms to the left.