Cheerleading has well-surpassed its former cliché of pom poms and mini skirts. Modern cheer is about building strength, confidence, and learning how to work as a team. Kids as young as four are drawn to this dynamic sport, creating an increase in the demand for high-quality cheerleading mats and equipment. Cheerleading mats are essential for helping athletes build strength, stretch, and learn skills and stunts. The latest generation of cheerleading mats help prevent injury, build confidence, and are adaptable to the needs of each athlete. Below are some of the ways that cheerleading mats are utilized to support today’s teams.
In order to complete their stunts, cheerleaders need to develop balanced strength in their legs, core, and upper body. In fact, cheerleading provides an intense workout for all of the body’s key muscle groups. Exercises done the mat can help build strength and support skills and confidence during a performance.
Reduce Impact on Knees and Ankles While Strengthening Legs
Strong leg muscles are necessary for both basic stunts like Thigh Stands and advanced tricks like Aerials Cartwheels. Leg strength is also crucial for jumps, lifts, and dynamic cheer moves. Do your knees a favor and try these basic exercises on the cheerleading mat.
Cheer lunges are great for strengthening the quadriceps, glutes, and inner thighs, and are often integrated in various poses and positions throughout a routine. While practicing lunges, it’s crucial to make sure that your bent knee never extends past a 90 degree angle; your bent knee should not extend past the toes. Try both side lunges and front lunges. Doing this exercise on the mat helps build balance while reducing impact on the ankles and knees.
High-powered jumps and spins are an exciting part of most cheerleading routines. Therefore, athletes need to master these strength-building moves. Start crouched on the mat, with knees bent and hands touching the floor. Quick burst up and jump in a star position, with hands and feet extended at a 45-degree angle. Repeat. To increase the challenge, add a push-up after each jump. This exercise not only safely builds leg strength, but also tones the core and supports aerobic endurance.
Improve Core Stability While Training on the Mat
Flips, holds, tucks, and other cheerleading skills require great core strength. For example, in-air tricks require the flyer to hold their entire core in order to move through the air gracefully and land safely. There are endless mat exercises that can promote lower, side, upper, and deep abdominal strength.
One of the best ways to build core strength on the mat by repeating a series of different crunches. Try different combinations of bicycle crunches to work the obliques, raised-leg crunches to strengthen the lower abdomen, and V-shaped crunches that work the entire rib cage and upper abs. Performing these exercises on the mat helps to protect and cushion the spine, neck, and lower back.
Planks and Side Planks
Planks and side planks are an efficient way to work the entire core. Doing this exercise on a cheerleading mat helps protect wrists, shoulders, and knees. Start with the knees on the mat, then place your hands on the mat, directly below the shoulders. Ensure the entire upper body is in a straight line, and hold. Once the wrists, shoulders and arms are strong enough, extend your feet and try working into side plank holds.
With strength must come flexibility. In order to stay healthy, cheerleaders must spend time stretching and warming up to prevent pulled muscles and over extension. This is especially important for flyers. Flyers must hold positions that require flexibility in the hips, hamstrings, shoulders, and back. Stretching on the mat before, during, and after each training session is key to building flexibility over time. A good quality cheerleading mat provides comfort and warmth, helping athletes comfortably relax into each stretch. Just remember to warm up for at least five or ten minutes before working into a series of stretches.
Cheerleader’s Bridge Stretch
The bridge stretch is used by cheerleaders to develop both strength and back flexibility. It’s also a key to accomplishing the back handspring. This stretch starts with the athlete laying on the mat, then pushing the middle body up into the air in a bridge position with the feet and hands securely anchored to the floor. Over time, athletes will develop the shoulder, leg, and core strength needed to kick over and out of the bridge, as is done during in a handspring. Practicing this on a high-quality mat is safer and more comfortable than on a hard surface.
Scorpion Pose Stretch
The Scorpion pose is a classic cheerleading move that must be practiced over time. To work into this pose, the athlete must stretch on the mat at least two to three times a day. Lie on the stomach, then push up onto the palms, gradually straightening the arms. Eventually work on reaching back to grab a foot. With time and practice, you’ll be able to do this pose in a standing position, and eventually, in the air. The key is to start with baby steps on the mat before moving forward.
Cheerleading Skills on the Mat
There are a range of fun and rewarding skills that both beginner and advanced cheerleaders work to master over the years. A good quality cheerleading mat can protect athletes by providing a stable base and a cushioned landing surface, helping to minimize injury while building skills.
Cheer Tumbling Mat Basics
Tumbling is a technique that modern cheerleading takes from gymnastics. Tumbling can include twists, flips, rolls, and jumps, and is often injected into cheerleading routines to provide movement and speed. Beginning cheer athletes should spend time mastering their forward and backward rolls on the mat. Handstands, cartwheels, and jumps should also be practiced on the mat, not a hard surface, during the early days of training. The right mat will help to protect the spine as strength and confidence are built over time.
Advanced cheerleading athletes can safely practice more complex moves like handsprings, back handsprings, and aerial cartwheels on a range of mats. Air floors are excellent for providing safety during longer tumbling combinations. Beam-shaped mats are perfect for advanced cheerleading skills that require impeccable alignment and balance. Other moves like Toe Touches, Pikes, Herkie’s and Double Nine’s must also be practiced on an appropriate mat in order to prevent injury.
Practice Stunts Safely on a Cheerleading Mat
When people think of contemporary cheer, they invision images of people stacking into amazing pyramids and launching flyers into the air. It’s these stunts that make cheerleading such a fun and addictive spectator sport. However, it’s these stunts that are the most complex and risky to master. New NCAA regulations are now providing rules and guidelines over the correct cheerleading mats that should be used to prevent injury for athletes around the nation. Luckily, the latest generation of manufacturers are providing a great range of options to meet and excel these needs, helping to protect athletes as they take the sport to a new high.
Crash Pads for Shorter Landings
Crash pads can be used on top of an airfloor during training to shorten a landing and provide extra support while the team learns a new stunt. L-Stands, Shoulder Sits, and Thigh Stands can all be safely practiced on a range of cheerleading mats, as long as they are correctly coached. Having a spotter during each stunt is a must, especially for younger or less-experienced squads.
Select a cheerleading mats that has been quality tested for size, flatness, pressure range, stitching, and material strength. You’ll want to work with a company that is equipped to provide mats for a range of athletes, including other cheerleading teams that abide by the appropriate regulations. Select cheerleading mats that come with great customer service – a two year warranty is a good standard to look out for. Most importantly, don’t skimp on the quality or size of equipment. The safety of your team is depending on it. If in doubt, check here for more guidelines on cheerleading mats regulations.