Updated: Mar 30, 2019
by Justin Schneider & Debbie Love
TO FULL OUT OR NOT TO FULL OUT... THAT, IS THE QUESTION!
It’s competition week, halfway through a 2 hour practice; looking out at the team, they are huffing, puffing, and look ready to drop dead. They have worked their butts off, but still can’t hit their stunts. With 3 full outs down so far, and it being so close to competition, just keep running this routine until they hit it...right? They just need experience running the routine!? Not to mention the conditioning will be good for them if they are too out of shape to hit their routine. Just run and run and run! It doesn’t matter that they have stunted for over an hour straight with little break. They have to be ready for this weekend!
On the next full out they drop another flyer to the ground. What is there to do? Could this have been prevented? Is there a limit to how many full outs our athletes should do? How do we know? The only way to improve at full outs, is by going full out? The only way to get better handsprings is just by doing it over and over again? Right? Hopefully this is where the light bulb goes off.
Every year we see upward of 5.5 million sports injuries sustained by youth athletes; this number continues to rise with the boom in youth participation in sports. As the science and research improves and piles up, our coaching knowledge and philosophies should as well: to help keep our athletes as safe as possible!
The words "Full Out" are referencing what skills are to be executed during a practice run for a cheerleader. Full Out means that the team is to perform all skills, sections, transitions, and facials as if they were performing at a competition. A full out competitive cheer routine is fast paced, jam-packed, and a challenge to anyone unfamiliar or unconditioned to it. Each section comprising a routine is a beast in itself, let alone putting all of them together in sequential order. And don’t forget full out facials, dance, transitions, and every bit of energy that you’ve ever had in your life. Got it? Great! Okay, FULL OUT!
Cheer Photography by Emanuel Berthe
PITFALLS OF FULL OUTS
If athletes are not built up physically and mentally, it can be downright dangerous. If a stunt isn’t hitting without all the other components of the routine, is the magic cheer fairy coming down just for you? No. Of course not. It shouldn’t be a matter of luck; rather, consistency and preparation. Building up your athletes to the routine is a science. It can be as simple as breaking it down into pieces or steps. READ: BUILDING ENDURANCE FOR YOUR CHEER FULL OUT, for a complete breakdown and training plan.
The vast majority of cheerleaders worldwide can be classes as "youth" (on average 6-20 years old, but this differs in every country). Contrary to many misconceptions, youth athletes and adult athletes are very different in terms of training. Youth athletes are not miniature adults and shouldn’t be viewed as such when considering strengthening, exercise, recovery times, repetitions, and intensity of the work. Youth athletes may be similar in age, but how their bodies handle exercise can be considerably different; due to differences in growth, development, and physical maturation. NO TWO ATHLETES ARE THE SAME!
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EFFECT OF A FULL-OUT ON THE BODY
Debbie Love, one of the cheer industry's leaders and a devout researcher of this very topic, was eager to provide an answer to the questions: to ‘How many full outs per practice?’
“We can compare our 2 1/2 min cheer routines to a 2 minute intense internal circuit training. I have tested the following ideas and have found them to be very successful in training athletes. Our routines tend to be approximately 25% aerobic (using oxygen) and 75% anaerobic (not using oxygen).
After anaerobic activity or high intensity training, your body gets into "Oxygen Debt" - this means that our muscles need more oxygen that we can breathe in. Your muscles begin to burn, you breathe harder to get more oxygen in, you burn more calories: this is your body's way of "repaying" its oxygen debt."
Photography by Emanuel Berthe
We must consider that youth athletes aren’t able to absorb oxygen as efficiently as adults, which causes them to have to breath deeper and faster to get as much oxygen as an adult for the same activity. Also, their body is not yet developed to sustain long bouts of strenuous activity, including their ability to regulate their temperature - unlike adult bodies (who are developed to sweat and faster response rate to core temperature). This is why rest and recovery is so important to prevent exhaustion and heat stroke among many other dangerous conditions.
Overall, fatigue also reduces explosiveness and joint stability; so fatigued athletes doing a full-out have a higher chance of getting injured. Not because they're "tired" - but because the internal "rigging" of their body is just far less stable (imagine a racing sailboat with weak ropes...!)
So, if you want to HIT your routine, your body cannot do this if it's exhausted and lacks power, stability or is in complete oxygen debt!
HOW MANY FULL OUTS?
Debbie recommends to:
“Rest periods between full outs should be between 1/2 and 1/4 ratio in respect to exercise, based on the athleticism of the child. This would give a 5 - 10 minute rest between each full out. For example in 2 hour practice with a warm up of approximately 20 minutes including cardio, some sport-specific exercises and preparatory stretching. Then you should warm up all parts of our routine, standing and running tumbling which will take approximately 30 to 40 minutes. This leaves approximately 1 hour for full outs. You should do a full out then rest 10 minutes before beginning another full out. Leaving about 10 minutes for flexibility stretching at the end of the session. This would allow 3 full outs with adequate rest and hydration between. Using this system we have found that the athletes are not winded at the end of the routines and there are fewer injuries caused by fatigue.”
MASTERING THE MOVEMENTS
As talented and amazing as some of our athletes are, we must always remember they are still youth athletes. We can help them master every single beat of the routine by gradually increasing the intensity of training, slowly reinforcing specific movement patterns to build correct muscle memory, motor function and hand-eye coordination.
Rushing is your worst enemy: yes you may have just had the choreography clinic and want to run this routine, but it will only reinforce bad technique by just muddling through the full thing. Start by slowing down the counts, the music and breaking the routine into sections. Slow down the counts.
Slow down the music, and then break this routine into sections. Ensure they have mastered each part slowly and then you will be able piece parts together and increase the intensity for the athlete. Youth athletes's bodies require more training to build up Anaerobic Endurance before going full out with sectioning, and running routine performing only certain skill.
Start with motions, add jumps and from there continue to progress. But if things aren’t hitting in a modified slowed-down version first, they are going to struggle and truly become a danger to themselves!
The INTENSITY Cheer Conditioning series, developed by CheerConditioning.Academy was specifically designed to gradually build anaerobic endurance, technique and skill-specific muscle memory for cheer. Buy the series, or access all videos as part of our Unlimited CCA Membership!
CHECKLIST FOR RUNNING FULL OUTS
Be aware of your team's physical abilities - Pay attention to your team. Listen to them. Pay attention to their performance throughout the day. (Take into consideration if they were cheering late the night before at a game or competition for example).
Assume they are always dehydrated - Most athletes are dehydrated coming into practice. Water (not soda!) is NEEDED for our bodies to function, especially in athletic circumstances. Don’t be afraid to give extra water breaks or make them consume 1-2 cups of water 1-2 hours before training, 15 minutes before, and every 20 minutes of strenuous activity. Younger athletes can consume slightly less, so a cup to scale!
Consider the intensity of practice that day - If it has been a stunt heavy day, remember that at the end of practice and you want to go Full-Out. Their tanks may be empty. Ensure you adjust section work appropriately.
If it isn’t hitting by itself, don’t expect it to magically hit in the routine with all other skills. - “Hoping” shouldn’t be your main method to help a stunt hit when you go full out. Practice it within the section, do the section before and after with the stunt added in. Then do a ⅓ of the routine with that section in it. Then do ½ of the routine in the same manner. Once they are all hitting, THEN try to add everything together. But wait for consistency and don’t let the eagerness to hit, sway you from ensuring your athletes are safe.
Start early - The body needs about 2-3 months to fully adapt to the anaerobic endurance of a cheer routine. You can't expect your team to do this in a month like you can't expect to have 48 hours in a 24 hour day. Build your routine gradually and let their body adapt in endurance and skill during that time.
Remember the goal of FULL OUTS! - The goal of a full-out is not "conditioning". Yes, their bodies will gradually adapt to the routine, but if athletes are under-conditioned and you ask them to throw the full routine together they will push their cardio-respiratory systems past what they are physically able to do. In other words they will have less energy because intensity is increased, which means poor technique and increased joint / muscle instability leading to bobbles, poor stunt stabilization and more injuries. If you want to condition them using the routine, you can gradually so this by adding 1 section each time. Full Out should be just that" FULL OUT, not Full Bad Out! Performance caliber energy, technique, and execution. If anything they are doing in their routine makes that suffer, STOP! Go back, fix it. Master it. Move on.
The number of full outs isn’t cookie cutter. We can’t say “ Okay, 4 full outs is THE MAGIC NUMBER”. We're sorry if this is the answer you were hoping to find here! As a coach it is our job to determine what our team can and can’t do: and as we approach the end of this article you have hopefully learned several key factors when determining how many full-outs is right for your team!
Length of practice, intensity of practice, workload for that week, and so many other factors go into how many Full Outs you should do. The key here is understanding the big picture and to do what's SMART, SAFE and FUN for your team.
After all - the whole point of doing this cheer "thing" is to have happy, healthy, smiling faces coming back for more cheer, week after week, year after year! They are our biggest responsibility and our greatest joy.
This article was brought to you by Debbie Love our guest contributor, and Justin Schneider from CheerConditioning.Academy. Please speak to us about CCA Membership for you our your team to help bring your team's skills to the next level: not just in respect to your skills and conditioning, but also to help grow your leadership & team success!
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