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CHEERLEADERS GUIDE TO WEIGHT TRAINING

Updated: Mar 30, 2019


As soon as you hear the word “WEIGHT” you may start running for the hills. You might think that you will end up looking like a bodybuilder and that you’re not the kind of girl who wants to look “thick”. If you’re one of those people, this article will help you see you why you’re wrong! If on the other hand you’ve been waiting to push your conditioning to the next level... then these tips are also for you!

We have gathered some of the most common myths and best tips to ensure your weight training is safe, effective and will push your cheer skills to the next level!

BUSTING SOME MYTHS

Firstly, it’s important to address the one thing that makes a lot of people nervous about weights: it’s the whole “I will end up looking like a bodybuilder” concept. The name for this is HYPERTROPHY (ie your muscles will get bigger when you lift weights). It’s important for you to understand that HYPERTROPHY is actually VERY HARD to achieve!! That’s why bodybuilders spend an entire career doing it: it requires such a precise balance of diets, supplements, training regime that is almost a full-time job. Lifting weights for 1 or 2 hours a week will get you nowhere near the levels of hypertrophy to even see a change in muscle size. However, it will shape your body and help raise your skills to a level you could not achieve without added resistance.


AWESOME THINGS THAT WILL HAPPEN TO YOU

When your body starts using additional resistance (whether it’s free weights, hand weights or bodyweight) your body has to adapt to sustain the extra strain. As long as this is done safely and gradually (and this is KEY!), your body will naturally adapt around the new circumstances by becoming stronger.

So how will your body respond to weight training?

  • Your bones become stronger: one of the great side effects of weight training is increased bone density, meaning you decrease the probability of breaking them when something goes wrong.

  • Your joints become stronger and more stable: using the principle of “optimal surplus” your joints will adapt to bear additional weight and resistance so that your stunting and tumbling becomes more stable and less likely to cause you injury

  • Speed up your metabolism: if one of your goals is to lose body fat, weight training is a great way to complement your workouts by increasing the amount of oxygen your body needs for the effort, and using fat as fuel to do this!

  • Mood booster: weight training helps to release more endorphins and will leave you feeling buzzing (as long as you are going at the right pace and not pushing yourself over the edge.. otherwise hello muscle soreness!)

  • Your body will shape: even though your muscles may not grow in size, weight training will activate your muscles and make them “awaken”. This means that rather than sitting on their barcalounger all day, by being active your muscles will feel more solid and get into their optimal form. When you activate all of the muscles in your body, you will see your overall body shape change to being more toned and defined.

  • Your skills will improve: if you’re repeating the same movements you’re doing with your cheer skills, with added weight and repetition - your body will become better at doing it, meaning that you have extra strength in that movement to perform your skills better.

  • Cheer training will become easier: weight training will be a great way to improve your endurance; meaning you will find the long cheer training sessions easier on your body, because it will be more adapted. Full-outs and skill repetitions will feel much easier and allow you to focus on performance, not just getting through it.

  • Iron out the kinks: do you have any weaknesses in your body such as flat feet or rounded shoulders? Strength training can hugely help improve this as they might be caused by some weaknesses in your muscles and joints.

  • Boost your confidence; there is nothing more that can give you more confidence in yourself than seeing your body improve its strength. Not just in cheerleading, but you will see that this confidence will spread in all other aspects of your life!



TRAINING STRENGTH VS RESISTANCE

Based on what you’re after, there are two ways in which you can use weight training:

  • Training strength: improve the maximum amount of force your muscles can lift in a single repetition (cheer example: how high can you throw a basket toss)

  • Training endurance: the ability of a muscle group to work continuously/for a long time without tiring (cheer example: how many basket tosses can you throw before needing a break)

With weight training, you can equally work on strength and endurance based on your goal and how you set the resistance and repetitions. For members of the CheerConditioning.Academy you can read more about this HERE in the portal knowledge base and watch out for some new weight-based strength tutorials coming soon!

SKILL SPECIFICITY

Weight training can be a little tricky when you first start. It’s not as easy as looking at what every other person at the gym does and just copying them: body movement is a complex system of muscles, bones, nervous system, joints: basically we are an organic machine. If you want to come up with some good, and mostly RELEVANT exercises to train a skill or specific muscle group, you will need some guidance from an expert. In regards to cheerleading, SKILL-SPECIFICITY means the design of an exercise for a particular skill and objective. For example, it’s been long proved that training cheer jumps with ankle weights is counterproductive to training jumps - even though it seems like common sense, it doesn’t work: because you’re using a method of strength training to train a skill that mainly requires speed and power, and the two don’t necessarily work together!

Whatever weight training exercise you are doing, make sure you know that it’s specific to a skill - you can always count on us at CheerConditioning.Academy to point you in the right direction by following our resources, videos and by posting questions on the members Facebook group!

Emanuel Berthe Photography

NO GYM? NO PROBLEM!

Weight training doesn’t mean that you have to go to the gym to lift weights. Most of the workouts we recommend for cheerleaders in our videos can be easily done at home, using resistance bands, dumbbells, kettlebells or your own body weight. You can buy these incredibly cheap online or at most department stores.. so NO GYM? NO PROBLEM! Check out the exercises in the video at the top of the page for some inspiration, and if you want more - join us as a member of the CheerConditioning.Academy to access more online workouts and resources!

SAFETY FIRST

We wish you all the best on your new (or existing!) weight training journey and we hope that we can be there to help you along the way with our online resources, videos and guidance (you can also follow me on Instagram at JessicaZ00 if you have questions or want some advice) - but before you get going here are a few safety things you need to know:

  • Core & Posture: An engaged core is a MUST for weight training as much as it is for stunting - without this you do significantly increase risk injury. Whenever your train weights make sure you are correctly engaging the core and have correct posture for the exercise.

  • Technique: Weight training with bad technique can also be dangerous and cause injuries. Make sure you fully understand the technique and get guidance before you try anything new - just like you would when trying a new stunt!

  • Progressions: If a trainer is asking you to do something you know you’re physically not capable of doing, thank them politely and run for the hills! Weight training should have progressions to be safe and be effective, just as you would expect from your tumbling coach.

  • Pain: “No pain - no gain” is a dangerous lie. Yes, a bit of muscle soreness means that you have been working hard but under no circumstance should you ever feel pain. Pain is your body’s way to say - STOP! DANGER!! So if you’re feeling more than a dull soreness, speak to your trainer or re-visit your workout plan accordingly.

  • Trust & Expertise: You need to trust the person who is guiding you in your workouts so that you can follow their instructions. Do your due diligence and make sure you ask around for their credentials before signing up with a new trainer or coach. Always ensure they are certified through an accredited institution.

  • Age & Limitations: Weight training can be dangerous for athletes under 16 of age just as much as it could be dangerous for someone who has weaknesses in their body: just like cheerleading can be! Please see a doctor or a sports movement specialist before you get started to make sure they give you the all clear!

This article was brought to you by Jessica Zoo, founder of the CheerConditioning.Academy and author of the book Body Before Skill: Sports Performance for Cheerleading - follow @JessicaZ00 on Instagram for daily fitness inspiration and tips!

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MISSION: CheerConditioning.Academy is committed to quality coaching education for the sport of cheerleading and beyond. Whether you are a recreational, sideline, school or all-star cheer team: our mission is to maximise your potential through quality education, cheer-specific sports performance, fitness and conditioning. #BodyBeforeSkill 

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