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Cheerleading Stunt Tips

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Stunts are a thrilling part of cheerleading and one of the elements that set it apart from other types of spirit programs such as dance teams. However, with a great pyramid comes a great responsibility. The number one concern in stunting is not the wow factor but the safety factor. Always work on stunts with a qualified supervisor in a safe environment, such as a gym with mats. And always have spotters around when learning a new stunt, since there is a chance it might come down in unexpected ways.

Stunt Progression list with pictures, videos, and instructions*
Safety in cheerleading
Cheerleading terms glossary
Books with cheer stunts in them*  The "Ultimate Guide" is the best for explanations & trouble shooting.
Instructional stunting videos to buy*
Basic Stunting technique shown in pictures (video)*
Basic Core stunts, shown in pictures*
Basic Rules for Stunting*
Spotting stunts*
Stunting: How to fly, base, and spot*
Ms. Pineapple on learning stunts*
Stunting tips from Varsity*
Great stunts from Oak Harbor Cheer*
Huge list of stunts with explanations, pictures, and videos*

*Do NOT try doing stunts outside of official practices. All stunts and drills should be done only in the presence of a qualified coach, in a safe environment, and with plenty of spotters on hand.

A stunt group is generally made up of the flyer (the person on top), the bases (the main holders in the stunt), the back spot (the person behind the stunt that steadies it and calls the counts), and sometimes a front spot (the person in the front of the stunt who also steadies it). In some cases there may be a single base under the flyer, but there should still be a spotter nearby for safety.

Before a stunt ever goes up in the air the group drills for it. The flyer might do some board and fall-back drills to practice staying tight. The whole group might do spotting drills to make sure they are ready to catch the flyer if she falls out of the stunt. And they will all definitely mark the stunt, which means they practice the counts and use their hands to practice the moves they make during the stunt but without putting the flyer up in the air. Below are some examples of tips and drills for flyers and stunt groups.

Tips for Flyers: (Tips for bases and spotters)

1) Pick a spot up high and look at it from load to dismount (unless it is a twisting full down, 180, or full up, but you won't be doing those for quite some time if you are a new flyer.)

2) For the load in make sure your elbows are up rather than drooping as you grab the bases' shoulders. This is so that you can help lift yourself into the load by pushing off hard with your hands. Once you are loaded in lock out your elbows to hold your weight up on the bases' shoulders. For one foot step-and-go loads, as you step your first foot into your base's hands be sure to lean forward and get your weight over that foot, and be standing on your tippy toes on the second foot.

2) Stay tight by squeezing all the muscles in your body, especially your abs and butt, which will be slightly tucked under in a hollowed out position. Pull up by breathing in through your nose, puffing your chest out, and shrugging your shoulders up a bit. Keep that position the entire time you are up.

3) Lock your knees out but don't balance yourself. That is the bases' job. If your feet tend to dip downward to the front, lift your big toe to bring them back up. If you tend to fall back on your heels, curl your toes or push them downward to level out your feet. If your ankles roll you can curl your toes under and also do some exercises like step ups onto a soup can or tracing each letter of the alphabet with your foot to strengthen them. (Thanks to Katie for this tip.)  If you tend to crumple at the top of your stunt, lock your legs out sooner after you push off and make sure your butt wasn't below your knees during the load in. If you are having trouble hitting the stunt at all, have your coach check your group's timing on the lift, the bases' use of their legs, and the front and back for pulling up and helping out. If you can get up there but don't feel balanced and have tried all the tricks for toeing and heeling, have your coach check your bases to make sure they are holding your feet at the same height for double-based stunts. For one-legged stunt problems, visit this site and read their general stunting articles and how-to pages for specific stunts.

4) Stretch like crazy. If you don't have your splits all the way to the floor and the ability to put your torso down onto your front leg or the floor, a very wide straddle that you can reach over with your opposite arm to grab your foot, or a great backbend, you need to work on those things. Flexibility is key in hitting heel stretches, scorpions, bows and arrows and so forth. Here are some stretches, including splits, that you can use to improve your stunt positions.

5) Do push ups, stomach crunches, and squats to help make yourself stronger. You have to be able to hold your own weight up during the load-ins and cradles.

Step-ups from floor: For working on balance and body positions such as a liberty, torch/pretty girl, heel stretch (video), bow n arrow (video), arabesque, scale, scorpion, and chin-strap try doing step-ups. In this case it means standing on one foot, preferably on a shoe sized pool noodle that has been cut in half the long way, with the rounded side down on the floor. (Thanks to Pauliana for this idea) Scooch down to the floor with your climbing foot up on the noodle. Your shoulders should be in line over your front bent knee. Shoot up and sniff in through your nose as you go, forcing your chest and shoulders to lift up. Lock your supporting leg, float the other one behind you, then pull a stunt position, tighten, and hold it. Then scooch down and start over again. You have to be able to nail these on the floor before you can do them in a partner stunt. You can also try them by stepping up on a stair or a large can of coffee or soup. (Some people prefer to fill the coffee can with rocks, put the lid on, turn it upside down and use that. The extra weight makes it somewhat less likely to tip over. A better but more costly solution would be the Stunt StandMae-Flyer, the Tippy Disc, the Wobble, or the Stunt Stepper.)

Board and Trust drill:  Have the flyer lie on her back on the floor and ask her to squeeze tight. If you pick up her feet and she bends at the waist, she is not tight. Have her lift her hips and get them in line with the rest of her body. Try again from lying on the floor and have her squeeze harder, focusing on her stomach and backside. If you lift her feet and there is no bend anywhere in her torso this time, then she is squeezing correctly.  (Tumbling video that also uses the board drill.) Once she masters squeezing, have her stand up facing away from you with her arms out in a T. Tell her to stay tight and fall back at you so that you can catch her under her arms. If she bends at the waist when you catch her, she is not tight enough. Have her continue practicing until she can fall back with no bend in her body. The next step is to put her in a thigh stand and have her fall back from there. Be sure to have spotters at the sides as she comes back.

Wind in the Willows: Have one person get down on all fours and place four spotters at the corners of the "square" of space around the person. The two spotters at the back of the grouping should assist the flyer up onto the small of the back of the base. (Be very careful to teach the flyers to never step on the spine.) The flyer should stay as tight as possible, squeezing her stomach and buttocks in and shrugging her shoulders and chest upward, and fall towards one or two of the spotters, who should grab her above her waist and around her thighs and lower her to the ground. Repeat until every cheerleader has had an opportunity to practice spotting.

Shove-wrap drill: Have the bases put the flyer into a low waist-level prep while reminding her to stay tight and hold her arms out in a low clasp, then on the designated count the base group will push her feet together, release them, and then catch the flyer around the waist and thighs while the back spot reaches for under her arms. Make sure the flyer bends her knees and lands toe-ball-heel to absorb the impact, and the bases bend along with her.  Once this is mastered take the flyer up to the shoulder prep level and do the same dismount. Remind the flyer to stay tight and allow the bases to do the balancing of the stunt. Also remind the side bases' to watch the flyer's hips for any hint of weight shift, and the front and back spot need to keep their eyes on the flyer's head and neck. Safety spots set in a square around the stunt should have their eyes on the flyer's head and arms up at all times.
Hang drill: This is to teach the flyer that she needs to help the bases by supporting her own weight. Get the flyer into a prep load position. Make sure the flyer's arms are completely locked out at the elbows, then have the bases let go of her feet and the back spot just barely hold her waist. The flyer should pull her knees up to her chest in a tuck and be able to hold her weight up on her own. If she falls down it means either her elbows were not really locked or the bases were standing too far apart.

Hands drill: Before doing stunts, always mark them out with your hands. The back, front, and bases will all do exactly what they expect to do during the stunt, and the flyer will set her hands, with pressure, on the bases to mark where her shoes or body would be if she was really doing the stunt. This is to help the stunt group work out any issues they may have in timing or height differences. Always do the stunt full-out. That means the bases should really dip, backs and fronts pull up hard, bases look up where the flyers hips would be, and backs and fronts watch where the head and neck would be. Never put a stunt into the air until after everyone understands what their role is and the hands drill has run smoothly several times in a row.

Cradle drills: Have your stunt group scoop the flyer like she has just cradled. Once she is in place, have the side bases let her legs go. She should be able to hold her legs up so that her feet are directly across from her face and her body is in a V shape, If she can't do this she needs to work on some ab exercises. She also should make sure she is doing the "chicken wing" action, which is to press her elbows in tight around the bases' shoulders to try and keep her head up close to their level. Once your flyer has mastered that, have the bases toss her into the air from the cradle position or have the flyer jump back into the cradle to help her get used to landing that way. Next, cradle from the thigh stand or low prep position. After that take it up to the shoulder Prep level, then full extension. (It may be weeks or longer before your stunt group is ready for full extensions, depending upon their age and ability level.) Remind the bases to watch their timing and keep their hands up high overhead ready to slow the flyer down, rather than waiting for her to drop way down to their waists before they start to catch her. Once the straight cradle has been mastered from all of those heights, you can begin working on more advanced dismounts.

Flyer cradling drill:  Lie on the floor with your feet and arms in the positions you would hold them for a prep. Count out your cradle counts, and on the count when you are "popped" bring your feet together and do whatever your coach wants you to do with your arms on the ride up. Me, I like my kids to pull up for a touchdown, so when they snap their feet together they are also snapping up to a touchdown motion. 
You can also do this drill standing with a partner and add in the count where you lay back a little on their hands (at the same angle the flyer is in this picture) and snap your arms down to the clean position, then open them to a low V and pike one leg (obviously you need to keep standing on the other one. :^) ) and finally do the chicken wing action mentioned in the group cradle drill above. (Video of more cradle drills Use a back-spot to protect the flyer's head.)

Flyer cradling tips: Don't jump out of their hands because that leads to a low, badly formed cradle, and because you could cause yourself to go off center of the stunt, forcing the base group to chase you down for the catch. Just stay tight and let the bases do the work. Don't pike right away or "sit" into the cradle; ride the pop all the way up. When riding the cradle pop, keep your legs together with the toes pointed, sniff in through your nose to help you pull up through your chest, and shrug your shoulders. (Some coaches will have you pull a touchdown motion.) If you have bangs, keep riding straight up until your bangs lift up off your forehead (or, if you don't have bangs, when your pony tail goes up.) That means you have hit the top of the ride and should either lay out for the trip down or hit your trick, then lay out. For the catch remain tight and pike yourself into a V while holding your arms in a low V, then grab around the bases' shoulders. Don't forget to "chicken wing" and use your abs to keep your legs up.

Tips for making YouTube more kid-safe.  Just go to the section below the star ratings to where it says comments. If you can see postings, just click the little arrow to the left of the word "Text." The comments will then be hidden. You can do the same for the related videos if you want to hide those as well.

Instructional Cheerleading Videos




Fundamentals of Basic Stunting

The necessary foundations for exceptional stunting. The video also features a review of the National Federation Spirit Rules that all cheerleaders—high school age and younger—need to follow. The essential fundamentals and techniques of successful cheering are covered in detail and are demonstrated by Oak Harbor High School cheerleaders. Among the topics covered are: Essential guidelines, basic stunts, transitions, questions and answers, and coaching pointers. Double thigh stand, pop-down, assist to shoulder sit, assisted pop-down, hop n go prep, pencil down/shove wrap, straight cradle, thigh stand to prep, shoulder sit to prep, double hook retake to prep. 56 Minutes 2002

  Beginning Stunts and Pyramids Vol. 5:

Step-by-step instruction of new and original stunts make this a must have for all coaches! Assist Up Chair, Walk Up Chair, Walk In Chair, Toss Chair, Thigh Stand: Pike to Prep, Quick Pike to Prep, Pike Ratake, Quick Pike Retake, Assist Up to Hands, Knee Pop to Hands, Quick Up to Hands, Single Base Extension, Quick Up Extension, Ground Up Liberty, Quick Up Single Base Liberty. 30 minutes.
Stunts and Pyramids (Foundations Series):

Don't start your beginning cheerleaders in stunting without watching this video first! In the beginning of this video, Coach gon teaches specific technique drills for flyers and bases in preparing for their roles in stunting. Over 15 basic stunts are clearly and slowly taught with demonstrations. Includes tips for correcting potential problems and safety issues. 1999. 36 minutes.
  Beginning Stunts and Pyramids Vol. 6:

Clear step-by-step instruction and excellent demonstrations will provide your squad with a whole new series of must-have beginning-level stunts and pyramids! Includes: Cradle to Floor Reload, Continuous Cradle Reloads, Cradle Reload, Prep Half-Press to Extension, Quarter Turn Half-Press to Extension, Half Turn Half-Press Extension, Ground Hitch to Prep, Ground Hitch to Extension, Ground Hitch Switch Hitch to Fall, Thigh Stand Sponge to Prep, Thigh Stand Sponge to Full, Half Turn Thigh Stand Sponge to Full. 28 minutes. 2002. $29.95

Stunts and Pyramids Vol 1 (foundation series)

This video is great for a beginning squad that wants to learn the basics of stunting. Instructors show you over 15 different stunts, providing the responsibilities for the bases, flyers, and spotters. This tape is taught in progression, starting with instruction on the Thigh Stand, and progressing to the Full Extension. Also covered is the Toe Touch, Thigh Stand Splits Back to Thigh, Thigh Stand to High Straddle, and much more! With these step-by-step, easy to follow directions, your squad will be on its way to STRONG STUNTING! 1997. 31 minutes.
  Beginning Stunts Vol. 7

From the American Cheerleading Federation. Great new stunts for your cheer squad! Expert ACF instructors provide excellent demonstrations and crucial tips for building these rock solid stunts. Choose from 15 stunts! Low Bottle Rocket to Prep, Cradle to Carry, Carry to Prep, Toe Touch Cradle, Carry, Full Turn to Prep, Front Hurdler Cradle, Carry, Full Turn to Extension, Half-turn Cradle, Full Turn Extension, Half-turn Toe Touch Cradle, Half-up to Prep, Cradle to Side Carry, Low Twist Up and Down, Cradle to Side, Carry to Prep, Low Bottle Rocket, Quick-up to Prep, 26 minutes. 2003.

Stunts and Pyramids Vol. 2 (Foundations Series)

From the American Cheerleading Federation A great tape for squads just starting out in stunting. In Volume 1 of this series, the staff at ACF covered stag stunts and thigh stand stunts. In Volume 2 they move it up one level and show you how to teach and perform prep level stunts, as well as thigh stand to prep level stunts. There are 15 stunts in all: Stag to Shoulder Sit, Shoulder Sit to Prep, Thigh Stand to Splits, Toss Splits, Splits to Prep, Toe Touch Stag to Toss Splits, Ground Up Prep, Thigh Stand to Prep, Thigh Stand Stretch to Prep, Thigh Stand Cradle, Prep Cradle, Pendulum, Hop-In to Carry Position, Carry to Prep, Hop-In Prep. 35 minutes. 2003.

  Beginning Stunts Vol. 8

ACF instructors provide simple, step-by-step teaching that will have your squad stunting in no time. Prep Front Flip to Ground, Half-Turn Prep, Half-up to Straddle, Leap Frog, Twister, Cradle to Carry to Prep, Knee Stand to Prep, Retake Knee Stand, Knee Stand to Pike, Back handspring to Prep, Walking Prep. 25 minutes. 2004. CHV-2257A$34.95
Beginning Stunts and Pyramids Vol. 4:

This video covers everything from Thigh Stand Heel Stretch to Prep to the "Dead Man" stunt series! Clear explanations, demonstrations and step-by-step instruction make this an excellent teaching tool for cheer coaches! Stunts taught on this video include: Thigh Stand Heel Stretch to Prep, Thigh Stand Heel Stretch to High Pitch, Thigh Stand Heel Stretch to Straddle, Walk Around to High Hitch, Ground Up to High Straddle, Ground Up to High Straddle with a Full Twist Cradle, Thigh Stand Low Straddle with a Full Twist Cradle, The Dead Man, Cradle to Dead Man, Dead Man to Prep, Dead Man to High Hitch, Dead Man to High Straddle, Thigh Stand 180 to Prep, Thigh Stand 180 to Full Extension! 2000. 31 minutes.

  Advanced Stunts and Pyramids Vol. 1:

This step by step, clearly demonstrated video begins with a review of Thigh Stand to Full Extension and progresses to include ground-up stunts, transitional stunts, full-twisting dismounts, and more. Some of the many stunts covered include Full Twisting Cradle, Double Twisting Cradle, Ground Up Liberty, Single-based Full Extension, Ground Up Hill-Stretch Pyramid, Basket Toss Half-Twist, Pendulum to Liberty and more! This great instructional tool is a MUST for any squad wanting to advance! 1997. 36 minutes.
Winning it All! Fundamentals and Basic Stunts & Transitions - (Intermediate to advanced)

With Saleem Habash, 8X UCA National Championship Coach, former University of Kentucky Head Coach. Learn basic stunts and transitions and all the fundamentals you will need for proper execution. Each stunt is demonstrated followed by a step-by-step explanation and break down. By perfecting the stunts on this tape your team will have a solid foundation and the ability to naturally progress to more advanced levels. Straight and twist cradles, elevator preps, prep retake to prep, extensions, 1/4 turn into lib, walk in liberty, prep cradle prep retake/sponge. 35 minutes. 2004.
  Advanced Stunts and Pyramids Vol. 2:

This video is full of valuable material to bring your squad up to more difficult and impressive stunting! Over 15 stunts and pyramids are taught in a clear, practical manner so that your squad can advance quickly! The video begins with Thigh Stand Retake to Full Extension and covers Quarter Up Quarter Down to Full Extension, Twist Double Hitch, Half Twist Liberty, Arabesque 540, Scorpion Full Twist Cradle, Flash to Liberty, Colt Stretch Pyramid and more! Your squad will progress greatly with the quality instruction and unique material in this video! 1998. 40 minutes.