Jumps and Counts
Make sure you understand what an 8 count is before you try prepping for a jump, or anything for that matter in cheerleading! An 8-count simply is counting to eight. For example: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Right before you execute your jump, always count 5, 6, 7, 8. You should hold those four counts before beginning your prep. While holding your beginning stance, you should be in the "clean" motion.
Never bend your wrists when in fists - Be sure you keep your wrists straight in line with your arms so you can keep the visual strong and smooth
After you count 5, 6, 7, 8, on the first 1, 2 bring your hands into a "clasp" right under your chin and hold them there for those two counts. On 3, 4, proceed to a "High-V" and hold that motion for those two counts.
The jump is executed on counts 5 and 6. Swing your arms from the "High-V" motion around in front of your head, crossing over and then pulling straight out or up into the designated motion, depending whether the motion that goes with the jump is a "T", "daggers", or "touchdown". Use the swinging motion to get height, and push off with your legs. Your arm motions and the actual jump need to be synchronized.
On the 7 count, your feet should hit the floor. To make sure you land smoothly and cleanly, make sure both of your knees are bent after the jump when you hit the floor. This also helps prevent injuries and makes for more successful jumps. Once you successfully land your jump, hit the "clean" motion on the 8 count.
In a toe-touch jump, make sure your hips are turned out, and your knees and the laces of your shoes are facing up towards the sky. Remember, proper technique is more important than height. You never want to develop bad habits that you may not be able to fix. Also, don't bring your chest forward when doing a toe-touch jump. Just because it's called a toe-touch jump doesn't mean you actually touch your toes - your arms should be in a T position for this jump. You want to bring your legs to your arms or above, not your arms to your legs.
Depending on which leg you chose, one leg should be extended out to the side just as you would in a toe-touch jump with your knee and the laces of your sneaker facing upwards. Your other leg should be bent to the side with your heel facing upwards or to the back, depending on your squad's style. Your arms should be in a "T" motion.
In a front hurdler, your stronger leg (whether you are a righty or a lefty) comes up in a pike position straight in front of you, and your other leg bends behind you with the bottom of your shoes facing upwards. You should aim your front leg towards your nose. Hit either a "daggers" motion or a touchdown during this jump.
For a table top, your legs are in the position they would be in if you were sitting in a "Z" position on the floor. Try sitting on the floor first in this position to understand how it should feel. Both legs should be bent, with the right one in front and the left one behind. Your knees should make two triangles. Make sure the sole of your right sneaker is touching your left thigh. Your arms are usually in a "T" motion for this jump.
A spread eagle is almost like a toe-touch jump, except your knees and laces face forward. Your arms go in a "High V" or a "T" motion.
A pike is when you bring both of your legs straight out in front of your body. Your arms are usually in a "touchdown" motion, but parallel with your legs.
T and Tuck
A "T" jump is pretty much as basic as it gets. It's a good starter jump for beginners. It's also a good jump to do for warm-ups, or to use with conditioning exercises. All you do is simply jump up with your legs straight and together, and bring your arms in a "T" motion. It makes the illusion of your whole body looking like a capital "T".
A tuck jump is when you jump and tuck your legs into your chest, but make sure you don't bring your chest down. Your arms should be in a "T" motion.
Counts, motions, and jumps may vary within levels of cheerleading and squads. Use this information as a beginning step to help your squad get started. For explanations on the motions listed, please refer to the Motion Technique page.
How to Teach Cheerleading Jumps
Jumps are one of the most exciting and well-recognized parts of cheerleading, but many squad members develop bad habits because no one teaches them proper technique. Laid out below are instructions on the four most common jumps and what, as a coach, to look for and correct. Practice these techniques together as a squad and you will see clean lines, higher jumps, and steadier landings.
Each cheerleading jump begins with a prep. There are several acceptable preps, and it is up to the coach or the squad to determine which prep works best for them. The most important thing to remember is that the purpose of the prep is to give momentum.
One common prep starts with the arms in a High V, swings them down in front of the body, and ends with the arms in a T. Another common prep begins with the arms clasped above the head. They then swing straight down in front of the body and end in a T position.
Whatever prep a squad chooses, the arms should always end in some variety of the T position to maximize the height and flexibility of the jump. Arms should always be in front of the legs during a jump.
Finally, the arms should be whipped down from whatever prep is chosen and stopped in the T variety. The whipping motion gives momentum for the jump, and stopping them from continuing past the T position forces the body upward.
Foot position is another choice a coach and squad must make. Jump height is maximized when the feet are kept flat on the floor throughout the prep and only leave the ground during the actual jump.
Some squads choose to rise up on the toes to get increased height, but many run the risk of losing balance before the jump begins or adding a small hop. Such hops should never be encouraged or allowed because rather than give power to the jump, they actually absorb the power into the ground and leave the jumper unable to explode off the floor.
Correct Jumping Technique
There are several general rules that apply to all cheerleading jumps. Toes should always be pointed. Although one of the most well-known jumps is called the toe touch, the idea of the jump is not to actually touch the toes. That mentality leads squads to flex their toes in order to reach them.
It is better for a jump to be lower with pointed toes than have great height and flexed feet. On all jumps, the head should be up at all times. Training squads to lift their eyes higher than normal helps maintain their posture and increase height. A good rule is to look where the ceiling meets the wall, unless circumstances require another fixed point.
The back should always be straight during a jump. This gives the jump more height and makes it look cleaner in the air.
Jump 1: The Toe Touch
The staple cheerleading jump is a toe touch. The jump involves kicking the legs out to the side as far as they will go and snapping them back together. The jump should resemble the middle splits in the air.
The key to a toe touch is rotating the hips backward to increase range of motion. An easy way to explain this concept is the idea that one’s shoelaces should point to the sky or backward, if possible. Another way to conceptualize the motion is to “sit” into the jump.
Ideally, the hips should be lower than the feet if the hips are truly turned out. Legs should then be snapped back together. When the jumper lands, the feet should be completely back together and under control, so that the person can hold the landing position with no fidgeting.
Jump 2: The Herkie
Another common jump is the herkie. One leg is kicked out straight, while the other is bent with the knee pointing to the ground. Either leg can be straight, depending on the preference of the squad member.
This jump should be taught so that squad members kick both legs out at the same time and land at the same time. The body should stay facing straight and the arms should be out in a T position.
One variation of this is to put one arm on the hip and have the other in a T, opposite of which leg is bent and which is straight. The straight leg should be “turned out” as in the toe touch to give more height and range of motion.
Jump 3: The Side Hurdler
A variation of the herkie is the side hurdler. The movement is the same, with one leg extended straight and the other leg bent at the knee. In the side hurdler, instead of pointing the knee down to the ground, it is pointed out to the side, making a line from the tip of one toe to the knee of the other. Arms are generally out in a T position for this jump.
Jump 4: The Front Hurdler
The last essential jump to any repertoire is the front hurdler. The motion is similar to the side hurdler except the body is facing the extended leg, leaning out over it. When performed for a crowd, the front hurdler is done to the side, giving the audience a profile view.
To teach a front hurdler, have squad members jump with one leg in front, as high as it will comfortably go. The other leg should be to the back, bent upward at the knee. The body should be leaning slightly forward, as if reaching beyond the extended leg.
Arms for this jump are in the Touchdown position.
A major mistake made with the front hurdler is the inability to land with one’s feet together. This is usually the result of trying to get the front leg higher than it can naturally go. In an effort to raise the front leg, a jumper will lean into the back leg during the jump, forcing that leg to land sooner than the front leg.
To fix this problem, have squad members focus on keeping the weight over the front leg during the jump, even if this decreases the stretch of the jump. Jumpers who try this should find it easier to land with both feet together, making the jump look clean and well-executed.
Strengthening and Stretching Exercises
Sitting Straddle Stretch
Squads should stretch together, focusing on the straddle stretch. To do this stretch, squad members should sit on the floor and spread their legs as far to the side as is comfortable. Toes should be pointed, but legs should be relaxed.
Members should lean forward into the stretch, making sure to keep the lower back as flat as possible. This will stretch the hips more than the hamstrings, which is essential to seeing a difference in the actual jump.
The Importance of the Hip Flexor
The hip flexor is a very important part of jumps as well. It helps jumpers whip their legs out and back together, ensuring that the jump is quick and lands together. If a squad member consistently lands her jumps with her feet apart or at slightly different times, teaching her this hip flexor exercise will dramatically improve her ability to land smoothly.
Hip Flexor Exercises
To strengthen the hip flexor, squad members can sit on the floor in the straddle position with their arms in front or behind them for stability or wrapped around the body for added difficulty.
Members should raise one leg at a time, holding it steady above the floor or pulsing the leg up and down for a bigger workout. The leg should be turned out at all times to train
Correct Stretching Technique
The point of stretching is to elongate and relax the muscles, which is why the majority of the stretching should be done at the end of a workout or practice session. Some stretching is necessary to prevent injury, but the muscles should not be completely relaxed before the practice begins or they will not be as able to respond during the practice.
All stretches should be held for a minimum of six seconds, though preferably for 15 to 20 seconds. During stretching, the muscles should be relaxed and the weight of the body should help the member ease into the stretch.
Step 1: Light Warmup
To maximize the benefits of stretching, there should be a light warmup, such as running several laps, to wake up the muscles. This should not be a strenuous run and should not tire out squad members. When the run is complete, the coach or a designated squad member should lead the squad in light stretching exercises.
During the warmup, the stretches should be held for 10 to 15 seconds, to elongate but not completely relax the muscles. The stretches will not be presented in the order they should be done, though coaches may change parts of the routine as they feel necessary.
Step 2: Standing Straddle Stretch
To begin, members should be standing with the legs spread wide with toes pointing forward or slightly out to the corners. Turn the torso so it is directly in line with one of the legs and slowly lean forward, reaching for the toes. This stretch should be felt in the hamstring, the muscle in the back of the leg.
From this position, the members can walk their hands through the middle position to get to the other leg, or they can slowly return to the start position and reverse directions. Either way, the members should stretch both legs individually before stretching the middle.
When both legs are complete, members should lean forward, reaching for the ground between their feet. For an added stretch, members can walk their hands back, reaching through the legs.
During this part of the stretch, the members can move their hips slightly from side to side to change the stretch as is necessary.
To finish the stretch, members should roll up very slowly, feeling a stretch across their entire back, and finishing with the neck and head. This stretch helps with splits and jumps.
An example of the middle portion of this stretch In this stretch, coaches should watch to make sure members’ legs are straight and that the weight is forward, on the balls of the feet, not backward, on the heels. Once a position is reached, the members should not move or bounce but should hold the stretch, deepening it if possible.
Step 3: Standing Straddle Stretch Series (Optional)
The Standing Straddle move can be combined into a series, if desired. When the members are stretching one leg, they can turn the leg to the side and lean down to the ground, creating a lunge stretch. One leg should be out straight and the other should be bent. This stretch helps jumps, particularly the toe touch.
Coaches must ensure that on the bent leg, the knee never goes out past the toes. This can cause serious damage to the knees. The body should be facing forward, stretching the inner thighs.
The Lunge Stretch. Arms can be on the legs, as shown here, or on the ground, depending on how deep the stretch is
From the lunge position, members turn their bodies to face the bent leg, creating a runner’s stretch. Again, the knee should be directly over the ankle, and the other leg should be straight and behind the member. This stretches the hip flexor, essential to jumps, as well as the back of the straight leg. Arms can be on the bent leg, on the floor on either side of the bent leg, or on the inside of the bent leg, depending on the amount of flexibility of the member.
Runner’s stretch with the knee directly over the ankle and the arms on either side of the bent leg
Kneeling Quad Stretch
From here, lower the straight leg to the ground, resting on the knee. Bend the leg up at the knee, stretching the quadriceps, the front thigh muscle. This stretch helps jumps, tumbling, and stunting. For an extra stretch, members can reach around, same arm as leg, and grab the toe, pulling it back to reach the buttocks.
This picture shows the bent knee but not the arm-assisted part of the Kneeling Quad Stretch From here, reverse the stretch series by straightening the back leg, turning the body to face forward again, and standing back up straight, into the original Standing Straddle Stretch position.
This series can be done on both sides and end with the middle stretch, as described above.
Step 4: Hanging Hamstring Stretch
Members should stand with their feet together, toes pointing forward. Members should lean forward, letting the body hang and reaching for the toes. This stretch works the hamstrings and the back of the knees.
Coaches must ensure that the weight is forward and the knees are completely straight, even if that means the members’ arms do not touch their shoes.
This is a variation of the Hanging Hamstring Stretch by grabbing the calves to pull the body closer
Step 5: Sitting Straddle Stretch
Squad members should sit on the floor and spread their legs as far to the side as is comfortable.
Toes should be pointed, but legs should be relaxed. Members should lean forward into the stretch, making sure to keep the lower back as flat as possible. This will stretch the hips more than the hamstrings, which is essential to seeing a difference in jumps.
Step 6: Butterfly Stretch
The legs should be brought into a butterfly position, with the soles of the feet flat against each other in front of the body. The knees should fall as flat as is comfortable, and the members should lean forward into the stretch, keeping the lower back as straight as possible. This stretches the glutes, important in stunting and jumps.
Coaches should watch that as members lean forward, the knees do not rise up. They must stay as flat as possible during the stretch.
Step 7: Sit and Reach Stretch
From the butterfly position, members should straighten the legs and lean forward. This can be done with pointed or flexed toes, depending on the preference of the coach. The coach must ensure that all members keep their knees straight during this stretch. This stretches the back of the legs and the lower back.
Step 8: Side and Middle Splits
From the Sit and Reach position, members should practice their splits. To do so, swing one leg back, leaving the other leg where it was from the Sit and Reach. During a split stretch, the hips should be in line over the body, not letting one lean back to open up the stretch. Members should work on both side splits and the middle splits, making sure that toes point to the ceiling during the middle splits.
Coaches must watch for overstretching during the splits, because many members will try to push down into the splits before they are ready. Encourage members to use their hands on either side of the leg to support their weight until they are flexible enough to rest on the legs.
Step 9: Cooldown
These same stretches should be repeated at the end of the practice session, with more time to hang and relax. Coaches should remind members to breathe while stretching, allowing themselves to sink lower into the stretch on the exhale. This should be a soothing time to let tired muscles elongate, give five to ten minutes at the end of a practice for stretching and rejuvenation.
Squad members hold the stretch without moving for at least six secondsLegs are always straight during a stretch