Updated: Apr 2, 2019
The core is the most fundamental body part to strengthen for cheerleaders yet the easiest one to get wrong, leading to injury and long-term pain. We have filtered your questions via Facebook and the CheerConditioning.Academy and come up with 5 things you MUST know getting started training the core.
1) The core isn't just abs. In fact it's so much more! The core is your entire trunk: back, front and sides. It's the entire region between your shoulders and hips. Stop doing situps IMMEDIATELY and start branching out to your entire core.
2) Core first, skills later. Every muscular exertion starts from the core through bracing. If we haven't trained the core to brace our muscular movements (think running, squatting, pushups and basket tosses) are weaker, slower and cause pain in all the wrong areas! This is why it's so important to build the core before attempting the next skill.
3) Switch it on. You know that feeling when you're at a cheer comp, busting for the bathroom but you're either stuck in the queue, or worse, waiting to perform! You may notice you're actually squeezing your pelvic floor muscles so you dont.. well.. you know... all over the floor. You can replicate this muscular contraction at any time which ensures the core is set to ON. Try it now!
4) Quantity is not important. Quality reps are. If you are wildly thrashing your arms around and pulling on your neck chances are the core is only providing 20% of the effort towards those 100 situps. You may feel a burn in your abs, but are making no steps toward strengthening your core for the needs of cheerleading. A great core exercise is one which is held or performed slowly, with full control over the entire movement. Try those situps again - take 4 seconds to get up and 4 seconds to roll down. Do 10 and tell us how you feel after (ha ha).
5) Progress slowly. We know when you're not using your core: We see your back arched when it should be rounded in a dish, your duck butt pokes out when you plank and you struggle to lift two legs off the ground at the same time during V-snaps.
*STOP what you're doing immediately and regress the exercise, NOW until you can do it properly. It's like attempting 50 backhandsprings and hoping on the 50th it just works, when you lack the strength to perform a handstand or a bridge first!
Our favourite core regressions which are foolproof include:
Lying down (legs in the air) slow toe touches
Lying down (legs in the air) slow hip lifts
1/2 range tuck ups, gradually increase to full range
Happy cat - angry cat
Plank on knees
Arch lifts and arch hold
Side plank holds
THE GOLDEN RULE: Core comes first. Train it with slow, controlled movements and held positions. Train your back, front and sides to make as strong as an oak tree.