Updated: Apr 2, 2019
It's practice time, and a training session begins. GYM A coach yells: "Okay, warm up, everyone! Let's GO!" Athletes pretend to do some jumping jacks and stretch while the coach "checks important messages" on the phone. Something resembling stretching is happening in the background. Meanwhile, at GYM B: “Everyone to warm up, start doing laps around the gym. I want ten laps each DON'T CUT CORNERS!” Coach proceeds to set up cones around the gym for athletes to run around and carefully supervises athletes with their warmup. At GYM C, conditioning is taken to a whole new level. After a quick round of jumping jacks, the coach says: “Okay, I want 25 burpee back-handsprings.” The coach smiles at themselves for giving the team a a really hard-core warmup that will bring them to tears. Show them who's boss! GYM D instead goes through five minutes of intense warmup doing drills, jumping jacks, and conditioning games, and then does a deep stretch for 5 minutes. Do any of these scenes sound familiar? Do any of these it sound like your gym? If you answered yes, your gym is missing a trick because you are throwing away the most 10 precious minutes of your session, and it goes beyond just "warming up". Here is what Gym A, B, C and D are missing out on: GYM A - Not only are you missing on ten precious minutes to train your athletes, but you’re also giving the message to your athletes that conditioning/warming up doesn’t matter. On top of that, you're putting athletes at risk of injury by not giving them the preparation they need! GYM B - There is good intention there, but running has no benefit whatsoever unless your athletes are training to race the 1000m. Running will never replicate the intensity and variation of explosive movements the body goes through in a cheer routine, so why warm them up using something that is never going to be useful for them during cheer? GYM C - Are you training your athletes for a burpee-back-handspring showcase? Unless you are, we hate to break it to you but your "badass warmup" is wasting everyone's time and it's actually detrimental to your athletes, UNLESS they have an outstanding execution throughout.
Why, you may ask? Because the body's procedural muscle memory will remember to perform their back handspring in the exact way they drilled it: Poorly. GYM D - Has the right idea and drills, and conditioning games are an excellent way to warm up the team. However, a deep stretch at the start of the training session is a disaster waiting to happen. You don’t want to overstretch muscle fibres at the beginning of the session because you are going to lose stability and explosiveness. Your stretching at the start of the session should only be preparatory.
Top 5 Cheer Conditioning Drills
SO WHAT SHOULD A WARMUP LOOK LIKE?
Firstly, let’s look at what the goals of your warmup should be:·
Increase the heart rate and blood flow to the muscles
Allow synovium to lubricate the joints
Gradually give joints mobility to reduce injury
Activate the brain/body to be more responsive during training Yet the warmup can go beyond just doing it's standard "duty" - the first 10 minutes of your training could be used effectively to transform the technical execution of your team, how they perform when doing full out routines and fix all of your small niggles that happen when you're watching the team perform. You can DRILL, you can PUSH, you can PREVENT injury WHILE you're warming them up.
A well-structured warmup can:
Build endurance to perform full-out routines
Drill basic technique and muscle memory (straight backs when basing, posture, catching high in cradles, keeping chest up, arms straight, dipping and bouncing, etc.)
Learn to work with music and hit counts on the beat
Build procedural memory that you can then teach as a foundation for skills
Just think of it this way. How much time do you spend:
Fixing body positions during training?
Repeating skills and stunts that won’t hit because of poor body positions?
Drilling jump counts so that it doesn’t look like popcorn?
Getting your athletes used to performing a full routine?
Taking time off to rest/dealing with small injuries?
The great news is that you can save the majority of this time by just using the 10 minutes you have at the start of practice WISELY. So, what does a good warmup look like?
3-4min of HIGH-INTENSITY, skill-specific, functional, drilling cardio activity for cheerleading. Get your athletes’ heart rates above 85% of their maximum heart rate
A cardio warmup with drills designed specifically for your team and to fix the common problems / nagging choreography or execution errors
Functional drills/games that are fun for athletes to do, but also serve a purpose for a cheerleading skill
A mobility stretch that will prepare the body without compromising the integrity of the joints
All it takes is the will to try something different and put in an extra 10min to plan and coach the first 10 minutes of practice like you do with the rest of your time. By the end of the season, you'll be so thankful you did so!
If you or your team need help developing a conditioning program for your team, the CheerConditioning.Acedemy might be the right thing for you.