CHEERLEADERS: HOW TO HIT YOUR COUNTS
Whether it's spaghetti or jelly arms, getting kids (or some adults!) to hit their motions can be a struggle. This past week, we have launched the first episode of our new series, CHEER PRO™ Dance Fitness (see below!) so we wanted to dedicate this week's #TipTuesday to hitting our counts and improving motion technique.
Arm motions are the original foundation of cheerleading. They are the element which makes it so iconically sharp and unique. Arm motions are present not only in motion and dance sequences but also for skills (jumps, stunting, and sometimes tumbling) which makes them a vital technique of our sport. Uniforms are even designed to accentuate the artistry of team motions. Even though motions are still present in some skills, all-star cheerleading has moved away from motion technique choreography almost completely.
It’s understandable that some forms of competitive cheerleading have naturally evolved from traditional cheer, however it is also one of the reasons why newer athletes struggle with comprehending more difficult skills. By skipping motion technique training we are depriving athletes’ development of the body awareness, symmetry and isometric training that are the foundations of our sport. This is a problem, specifically in countries where cheerleading is emerging, because athletes don’t progress from school cheerleading or gymnastics. They jump straight into all-star training and their bodies are just not prepared for it.
Whether you're cheering in high school, college, pom or all-star cheer - we still get THOSE comments on the scoresheets: hit your motions - but it's easier said than done. We know we need to hit our counts, but HOW to get this down is a whole other story. Here are a collection of our favourite tips.
Firstly, there is the 5 P Technique, 5 words beginning with the letter P which are crucial to proper motion technique:
PUNCH: Fists/punches go first. Punch the air so hard you see it move! Squeeze the fists.
POWER: All motions should be executed with plenty of power. This is achieved by squeezing fists and contracting arm muscles isometrically. Keep arm positions locked even if an outside force is attempting to move it.
POSITION: Arms should always be slightly in front of the shoulders even with a side motion. Fists should always be in the field of vision. To test if the position is right, ask participants to hold a High V or a T looking straight ahead: they should be able to see their fists in their field of vision looking straight ahead.
PATHWAY: This describes moving the motion from point A to point B in the most direct way, punching first, without breaking or swinging the motion. To avoid swinging, learn to block at the end of the movement, as if it were hitting a brick wall. This is more easily achieved by squeezing the fists.
POSTURE: Hips square, core engaged, legs strong without fully locking out the knees (to avoid stress on the joints), shoulders down and relaxed, chest out, head up, attempting to elongate the body towards the sky as much as possible.
The next step is learning a sequence of motions you can repeat, putting the 5Ps into practice. Here are three more tips you can use to really get the execution going:
HITTING YOUR MOTIONS LIKE YOU'RE PLAYING THE DRUM - because if your arms are floppy, your drums won't make a sound.. and if you're out of time, the whole song would sound wrong. So Hit HARD and hit ON THE BEAT.
Remember to SQUEEZE your entire body on the count, not just the fists.
Imagine you're in a video game, and you need to hit the counts on the beat IN A SPECIFIC SHAPE; INSIDE THE LINES.
Once you have the basic motion technique down, it's time to get serious and putting these new skills into action. Motions need to be drilled as an ongoing skill, just like gymnasts need to practice their handstands and bridges. Thankfully, you can do this whilst having some fun too. Here are a few ideas:
Drill your motion sequence with some games, in lines or in pairs. The aim is to make sure everyone is hitting their counts with the 5 P Technique and you compete against each other so that the best one wins! If you're a member of the CheerConditioning.Academy you can access loads of videos, tutorials resources and games to get you and your team super sharp!
If you and your team are just getting started, you can use our CHEER PRO™ Dance Fitness routines as a fun way to get going. We have free routines on Youtube that you can follow, but members of the CheerConditioning.Academy get exclusive access to to the routine breakdown and tutorials to each of the routines, and we have new ones coming out every month. Check out our first beginner routine below!
CHEER PRO Dance Fitness routine: SHAKE IT OFF (beginner)
Choreography is taught using chorus and verse structure which makes routines easy to remember. This means the routines are a great way for classes, cheerleading teams and groups to build performances for all types of non-competitive events. CHEER PRO™ Dance Fitness is a versatile format that can be tailored to all fitness, skill levels and age groups.