Thursday, January 19, 2012

3 Effective Stretches for Cheerleading

Cheerleading requires a great deal of strength, mobility, balance and body control, along with a huge amount of flexibility -- particularly in your legs, hips, lower back and core. To improve and maintain your flexibility, you should stretch regularly. Light stretching should be performed before a workout or practice session, and more intense stretching should be done afterward, and on your rest days.
Adductor Stretch
Sit on the floor with your heels together and your elbows resting on the insides of you knees. Use your elbows to push your legs down toward the floor until you feel a stretch on the inside of your hips. While this is a fairly basic stretch, it is imperative that you master this before moving on to more complex cheerleading stretches. The National Academy of Sports Medicine guidelines on stretching state that to improve flexibility, you should hold all your stretches for 20 seconds, and do them three times each in every session.
Hamstring Stretch
Place your legs out straight in front of you and wrap a towel around your right foot. Lie back, while lifting your leg up in the air, then pull back on the towel, bringing your foot toward your head, until you feel a stretch in your hamstring. Hold this for 10 seconds, then lightly push your foot back against the towel for five seconds, then relax and stretch again. Do this three times on either side. This is a technique known as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, or PNF, and produces greater flexibility improvements than static stretching. If you have a partner, it may be easier to do partner assisted stretching here, rather than use a towel.
Bow 'n' Arrow Stretch
This is a far more complex stretch, but is great at targeting your gluteals, hamstrings, core, lower back and shoulder girdle. Stand straight, lift your right leg straight up in the air and grasp it at shoulder-height with your right hand. Then place your left hand on the leg and take your right hand away. Bring your right hand forward, in front of your right leg, then stretch it out to the side. Do both sides in this way, holding the end position for as long as possible.
Always perform a light warm-up before doing any stretching, as cold muscles won't be flexible, and stretching them could can lead to pulls, tears and injuries. According to the, you shouldn't bounce when holding your stretches as this can cause mini tears in the muscle, tightening it further. Lastly, stretching should feel slightly uncomfortable, but should not be painful -- if it hurts, you've pushed too far.

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