The 3 Best Stretches for Cheerleading
Improve your cheerleading and minimize injuries with 3 of the best cheerleading stretches.
by Brad Walker | First Published November 7, 2008 | Updated April 30, 2019
It wasn’t until 1898 that University of Minnesota cheerleader, Johnny Campbell, jumped out in front of the crowd and led them in an organized cheer. Campbell became the first official cheerleader and November 2nd, 1898 became the birth date of organized cheerleading.
In the early years, cheerleading was an all-male activity. Today, about 97% of all cheerleaders are females.
In 1948, Lawrence “Herkie” Herkimer formed the National Cheerleading Association while the 1960s saw the birth of professional cheerleading squads in the NFL.
Muscles used in Cheerleading
Strong legs and hips are a must for the cheerleader, due to the jumping, tumbling and dancing performed in many routines. The major muscles used by the cheerleader are:
- The muscles of the upper legs and hips; the gluteals, the hamstrings, and the quadriceps.
- The muscles of the lower leg; the gastrocnemius, the soleus, and the anterior tibialis.
- The core muscles; the rectus abdominus, obliques, and the spinal erectors.
- The muscles of the shoulder girdle, chest and back; the deltoids, the rotator cuff, the pectorals and the latissimus dorsi.
Most Common Cheerleading Injuries
Cheerleading is a non contact sport, but the body is still subjected to a great deal of violent impact. The impact occurs with the floor during stunts, jumps, and tumbling. The danger of acute (traumatic) injury increases with faster, higher-flying, energetic routines. The cheerleader may succumb to:
- Back, neck and head injury (including concussion);
- Wrist sprain and/or fracture;
- Shoulder and elbow tendinitis;
- Hip and groin strain;
- Knee injuries, including anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprain, meniscus tear and patellar tendinitis (jumper’s knee); and
- Ankle sprain and/or fracture.
Injury Prevention Strategies
Proper training in the safety standards, use of mats, and good overall conditioning will help prevent many of the injuries associated with cheerleading. Other strategies include:
- Conduct a thorough warm-up prior to training and especially competition.
- Allow time for a complete cool-down, including stretching, after training and competition.
- Strength training will help to build resistance to injury.
- Adequate cardiovascular training will help to prevent muscle fatigue, which can lead to breakdown of proper form.
- Practicing balance, agility and proprioception drills to improve knee and ankle stability.
- Good flexibility training will reduce injuries from tight and inflexible muscles.
- A proper training environment during practice and competition, including the use of mats and protective equipment will help prevent some of the head, neck and back injuries.
- Always use spotters during stunts.
- Proper, snug-fitting and supportive footwear can help avoid injuries.
- Use of ankle supports (braces, taping, strapping, etc.) can reduce the incidence of ankle sprains.
The 3 Best Cheerleading Stretches
Cheerleading stretches are one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective.
Below are 3 of the best stretches for cheerleading; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions with each stretch, and if you currently have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain please take extra care when performing the stretches below, or consult with your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the following stretches.
Instructions: Slowly move into the stretch position until you feel a tension of about 7 out of 10. If you feel pain or discomfort you’ve pushed the stretch too far; back out of the stretch immediately. Hold the stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds while relaxing and breathing deeply. Come out of the stretch carefully and perform the stretch on the opposite side if necessary. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
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Research and References
- Walker, B. (2011). The Anatomy of Stretching, 2nd Edition (ISBN: 978-1583943717)
- Wikipedia contributors. (2019, April 25). Cheerleading, In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
- Bagnulo, A. (2012). Cheerleading injuries: A narrative review of the literature. Journal of Canadian Chiropractic Association, 56(4): 292–298.
- Mueller, F. (2009). Cheerleading Injuries and Safety. Journal of Athletic Training, 44(6): 565–566.
- Hardy, I. McFaull, S. Beaudin, M. St-Vil, D. Rousseau, É. (2017). Cheerleading injuries in children: What can be learned?. Paediatrics & Child Health, 22(3), 130-133.
- Shields, B. Smith, G. (2011). Epidemiology of strain/sprain injuries among cheerleaders in the United States. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 29(9), 1003-1012.
- Labella, C. Mjaanes, J. (2012). Cheerleading injuries: epidemiology and recommendations for prevention. Pediatrics, 130(5), 966-971.
- Waters, N. (2013). What goes up must come down! A primary care approach to preventing injuries amongst highflying cheerleaders. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 25(2), 55-64.
- Kokkonen, J. Nelson, A. Eldredge, C. Winchester, J. (2007) Chronic Static Stretching Improves Exercise Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Volume 39 – Issue 10 – pp 1825-1831.
- Shellock, F, Prentice, W. (1985) Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries. Sports Medicine, 2(4):267-78.
- Fradkin, A. Zazryn, T. Smoliga, J. (2010) Effects of warming-up on physical performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(1):140-8.
About the Author: Brad Walker is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon (author page) has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 1,000's of verified customer reviews. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.
Disclaimer: The health and fitness information presented on this website is intended as an educational resource and is not intended as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the exercises described on this website, particularly if you are pregnant, elderly or have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain.