stretchFlexibility is the key to tumbling successfully and safely. As a cheerleader, you should be working on and improving your flexibility throughout the year. If you haven’t started school yet, you can do some extra stretching now to get ready for the season. But even if you’ve already started school, you can make time for basic stretches, while doing homework, talking on the phone or even while folding laundry!

We put together a list of a few of our favorite stretches and exercises to help you stretch it out. As your schedule gets busier, try to continue working on these stretches, even if you can’t do them as often. As simple as some may seem, they really benefit cheerleaders’ flexibility – the key to performing and cheering with your team on the sidelines or on the blue mat!

Front stretch: Sit in a pike position by putting your feet together, straight out in front of you without bending your knees. Keeping your back as straight as possible, slowly stretch forward reach towards your feet until you feel the stretch in your legs. Hold the stretch for a couple of seconds and then continue to reach toward your toes as your muscles release. Your goal should be to reach as far as you can until your upper body is essentially lying flat on your legs.

Elevated splits: This stretch is for the cheerleaders who have mastered their splits. Sit in a side split, put your arms up over your head and lean back. For more of a challenge, slightly elevate your back leg with rolled towel, blanket, or a pillow and repeat the process as your muscles release. This stretch is great for the scorpion or the arabesque. If you want to stretch for a bow and arrow or a heal stretch, you can do this stretch with the front leg elevated. Instead of leaning back, lean towards the elevated leg.

Hip flexor: Stand in an upright position with feet hip distance apart with your toes, knees and hips in a straight line. Take a big step forward with your right leg and bend it at the knee, so your thigh is parallel to the ground. Your left leg should be slightly bent and with your knee almost touching the ground. Lean forward so your elbows are touching the ground. If this is too hard, you can use your hands for stability as well. Your pelvis should be tilted back while pushing your hipbones forward until you feel a gentle stretch in that area. Hold as your muscles slowly release and switch legs.

Back bridge: Lay down on your back with your palms on the floor, above your shoulders and your knees bent. Straighten your arms and legs by pushing your hips and abs towards the ceiling while keeping your hands and feet in the same position. Once you are in the “bridge” position, straighten your knees and move your feet so you can comfortably have your toes and heels flat on the floor. Hold this stretch for a few moments and then return to the floor. Bring your knees up to your chest and place your hands on your shins. Gently roll up onto your butt and then back onto your back and shoulders. Repeat this a couple of times to release and relax your back muscles.

Butterfly stretch: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and the bottoms of your feet touching each other. While keeping the bottoms of your feet together, pull your heals towards you and push your knees down, towards the floor, until your muscles release.

Remember, when performing any of these stretches, it’s important to be wearing the right practice wear. Stick to form-fitting shorts and shirts that allow you to stretch and move around in them, like Lycra or cotton. Don’t forget sports bras for support! For any of these stretches, you can either go barefoot, wear socks, or wear your cheer shoes. Wearing your cheer shoes is great for when you’re still breaking them in or are getting used to moving around in them. Keep up the stretching and you’ll see your flexibility steadily improve!