Training to Cheer 3: Cheer Hard with a Vengeance

Why god am I writing another post on cheerleading? I blame it on an Isfort…

So the first post in this series was all about the basics of different requirements for cheerleading. The second post was all about the basic strength training program. Now this post is first going to answer a question that was posted on the second in the series and then talk a bit about the power training for cheer.

The question:

Mike,

I have been very curious on this subject as of recent but in regards to training female flyers. Training guys for cheerleading seems pretty basic because one can easily compare it to college football linebacker (quick, strong, explosive). But with females (especially flyers) I feel like it becomes increasingly complex because you must account for weight increase. Yes making flyers stronger increases their body control and strength which in turns makes you a better cheerleader. But increase in strength, at a certain point, means increase in weight… which for a flyer isn’t (always) advantageous. Is there a cut-off for flyers or should flyers only ever focus on body weight exercises? Hopefully this makes sense. I would love to talk about it further with you.

Thanks,
Ryan Blanford
UC Cheerleader

This is a great question. Let’s start to pick this apart. Yes, flyers need to stay within a certain size (specifically weight) range in order to perform at their highest levels. Now, this performance will be increased if they can have higher levels of strength and power while maintaining the same size. If the flyer massively increases their body weight while also increasing their strength and power the net change of performance might be a decline. Now, contrary to some peoples thoughts you don’t wake up fifty pounds heavier after one day of training much less one year. In order to gain weight you need to take in more calories than what you are burning and stay consistent with this for long periods of time. I have friends and colleagues that have worked hard for years to increase their bodyweight only ten pounds, so don’t insult the hard work of others by saying you can “gain ten pounds in a week (of fat or muscle)”. So for flyers the big key is to make sure that their diet is synced up with the amount they are burning from their training. Another component for the flyers is to avoid the hypertrophy work (or minimize it). That means still working strength, but not worrying so much about lots of sets of ten repetitions. Once their muscles are the size they are aiming for working the strength side of the spectrum and still keeping a solid amount of prehabilitation in the program.

So the cut off for flyers shouldn’t be the amount of force they are producing in their training (can only lift so heavy, minimizing weights lifted) the goal should be more to think about maintaining a certain weight (body weight). Now Ryan is correct that at some point you aren’t going to be getting much stronger due to maxing out your strength at a certain bodyweight (can only have so much muscle at a certain weight) so I think of flyers as a kind of weight classed athlete (like wrestlers). The goal is to maximize strength at a given size and to maintain that size through healthy nutrition. Most female collegiate cheerleaders have probably never lifted weights seriously (squatting, pressing, deadlifting) so doing some barbell training for the four years they are collegiate cheerleaders will probably not be enough time to fully max out strength if they are cheering and focusing on other aspects of life (like having one).

Ryan, let me know your thoughts on this and if this is enough of an answer for you and I will be happy to add more to this.

So power training for cheer.

missouri state baskets
Example of power, basket thrown back at Missouri state by the grandfather or funk and John Lennon. Surprisingly didn’t have to work at all on the pseudonyms here.

What is power?

Power is strength with a time element. Meaning, your goal is to not just produce a large amount of force in a short period of time. A good example here is the difference between the vertical jump and a maximal deadlift. They both use the same basic movement pattern and muscles, but the time component for how quickly you perform the movement is hugely different between the two.

The nice thing about power when it comes to cheer, pretty much all of the power is being expressed in the vertical plane (straight up, so easy to mimic in the gym). Also, the training itself (for cheerleading) tends to help develop power. Stunting, baskets, and tumbling all work power and specifically in a way that carries over directly to the sport (duh). Now aside from direct sports training to develop power there a few more ways to help increase it in the gym. Using compound multijoint movements will have the greatest carryover and specifically in the planes of motion utilized will help even more so. The basic choices I use (you can youtube or google) is jumps (box jumps are a great choice), medball throws (vertical, and scoop throw), and finally the Olympic lifts such as the clean and jerk and barbell snatch.

Your goal with power training is to aim for low repetitions and maximal efforts each time. This means sets of less than 5 reps (preferably three or less) and longer rest periods (one to five minutes, higher end for the heavy barbell movements). 10 to 25 total reps in a training session is a good place to start and doing this before your strength and hypertrophy work is the best way to go about it. By doing low repetition sets with adequate rest between each set you will be able to put maximal effort in to each set moving the load as fast as possible. The power you produce (and speed) will help carry over to your performance in how high you can throw your stunts and baskets. Doing the vertical jumping and throws work well for everyone and the Olympic lifts will carry over heavily to the bases that have to throw stunts. Keep in mind there is a huge difference between training maximal power and power endurance, power endurance is maximal speed for multiple reps (more than five each set).

Add this training on top of your strength work and do it before it. This will help with your sports performance and can also help work as an extended warm up before your actual heavy strength training. Power training is the transmission for your car, your maximal strength is how big your engine is. Having a small engine with a great transmission is just sad, and having a huge engine with a transmission with only one gear is not efficient or effective. Your goal as an athlete is to optimize both.

Let me know if you have any questions on this post and thank again for taking time to read this.

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One thought on “Training to Cheer 3: Cheer Hard with a Vengeance

  1. Mike,

    Thank you for answering my questions. I apologize if some of the questions seem basic. I do have another. What do you think would be the best way to find a flyer’s “given size” in relation to her maximum strength? Do you simply look at her skills/performance? Do you test her vertical/lateral jump? Should you pick a basic speed/power test and monitor the athlete over time to see if the athlete is peaking or slipping off?
    Thank you for your help!

    Thanks,
    Ryan

    Like

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