It’s no surprise that cheerleading has become one of the most popular competitive sports in the US; its awe-inspiring stunts and skills have captivated audiences across the nation, sparking a new generation of cheerleading styles, culture, movies, camps, and blogs. This has led to increasingly high standards and the addition of new stunts and gymnastic techniques that require practice, training, and proper safety equipment. In fact, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association has just created a series of guidelines aimed at protecting cheer athletes across the country. In response, cheerleading equipment manufacturers are offering a range of products suited towards setting up safer gyms, and coaches are using a variety or new techniques and practices to keep athletes healthy. The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators’ offers a range of guides and education to help keep the community safe. Cheerleading teams in the NCAA now require coaches to get a safety certification. Consequently, injury rates, including concussions and sprains, have significantly decreased since 2006. This article takes a look at how the latest advances in cheerleading equipment can help create a safer and healthier team.
The National Cheer Safety Foundation reports that over 90 percent of cheerleading accidents take place on hard flooring that is often found in gymnasiums, or outdoors, or on floors that are not adequately covered by supportive mats. Several of these injuries take place when the squad is performing or learning stunts. Stunts, including pyramids, shoulder sits, basket tosses, and other raised tosses or jumps, are increasingly popular. Consequently, it’s key that cheerleading teams use the appropriate airfloors or mats during training. The type of flooring or mat needed is associated with the difficulty of the stunt, and the height at which the stunt is being performed. Higher stunts lead to greater risk, and a greater need for protective mats and floors.
An airfloor is a strong, durable, and inflatable floor pad. Airfloors provide the best support for joints and protection against impact. They allow for more give than a foam pad or mat, and can be inflated to meet a range of different pressure criteria. Cheerleading coaches love the convenience of this product, as they can be quickly and easily inflated by a portable foot pump or air-blower, allowsing for precision and efficiency on the spot. Since the mats can easily be deflated in a few minutes, clean up and storage time is minimized. High-quality airfloors are made with a durable material that’s easily cleaned and repaired. The stitching on this latest generation of airfloors is stronger than before, giving the products a longer lifespan. Airfloors are also available in a range of unique sizes. For example, a runway-shaped floor may be used to practice long tumbling sequences, or skills that require alignment. Or, coaches can opt for a larger setup for team training..
Flyer always use landing mats for support when dismounting from a stunt or landing a tumbling trick. These mats are anywhere from eight to thirteen inches thick, and use a high-density foam that supports athletes as they land. Cheerleading coaches often combine mats with an airfloor in order to provide an extra layer of support during tumbling and stunt training. Although safety mats are not typically lightweight, their smaller dimensions make it easy to transport and store them, allowing for a customized set up at a moment’s notice. Good-quality mats are covered by easily washable materials that are designed to withstand repeated blows. Every cheerleading team should practice with adequate mats, and with such a great range on the market, there’s no excuse to go without.
Cheerleading equipment manufacturers are addressing the market for home and outdoor cheerleading equipment by offering smaller-sized folding mats and airfloors. A good home airfloor has all the benefits of a regular-sized product, except it is lighter, smaller, and more affordable. The latest generation of folding floor mats are also a great option and can be ordered in different colors to match your team. The best mats on the market are made with good quality foam and durable vinyl. These mats may present a greater investment upfront, but they will last for several seasons. Cheerleaders can use this equipment at home or outdoors to more safely practice tumbling. However, keep in mind that it’s not advised to attempt stunting or tumbling without a coach in supervision. The good news is that enthusiasts can now practice the basics at home knowing that they have a greater level of protection and joint support on the mat.
Flyers need to have excellent balance to keep themselves and their team members safe during stunts and routines. Ankle strength is also a priority for all members on a cheer squad. Have your team try standing on the airroll during your next training session. They’ll have to keep their core engaged in order to keep stable. Airrolls help cheerleaders develop core strength while practicing balance, and they support the strengthening of the muscles surrounding the ankle. Though simple, this piece of cheerleading equipment is great for athletes to use in between routines, during warm ups, or during down time.
Today’s manufacturers are offering an upgrade on the wooden or metal cheer stands of the past. Contemporary cheer stands are made with durable, lightweight materials and have a more stable base than before. These skill-building tools can be used to practice balance, and to support ankle strength during training.
Use wedges and airramps in your cheerleading equipment setup to support athletes that are tackling complex tricks like backsprings and flips. Wedges can be set up in combination with airfloors and landing mats in order to provide support for cheer athletes that are attempting to learn specific tricks and tumbling moves.
No matter what cheerleading equipment you decide to set up for your team, follow the industry guidelines in order to prevent injuries. Try using this injury-prevention checklist to keep your team:
Strong muscles and joints are the first safeguard to preventing injury, strain, and overuse. Stamina and core strength are key to keeping consistent form and landing stunts. As soon as an athlete is tired, they are at greater risk for injury.
There are several guidelines and training courses available to help make sure that you’re following the best safety precautions. The Pop Warner Rules Book, the Youth Cheer and Dance Alliance, the NCAA, and the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators’ all offer extensive guides and documentation to keep your team safe.
No spotter, no stunt. When learning and performing stunts, ensure you have properly trained spotter present and focused at all times. In the case that someone does fall, you’ll have a team ready to spring to action.
Use the correct flooring and mats recommended for the type of stunts your team is working on. Make sure they are adequately sized, properly inflated, repaired frequently, and safely stored.
Modern cheerleading is a far cry from the pom poms and mini skirts of the early 1990s. Todays’ cheer athletes are committed to building strength, confidence, and learning how to work as a team. The recent demand for high-quality cheerleading mats and equipment is a reflection of these changes. Professional-grade cheerleading mats help athletes build strength, learn skills, and master a range of new and exciting stunts. The latest generation of cheerleading mats are designed to prevent injury and are adaptable to the needs of each squad. This article takes a look at some of the ways that cheerleading mats are utilized to support today’s teams.
There are a range of fun and rewarding skills that both beginner and advanced cheerleaders work to master over the years. L-Sits, handstands, backsprings, basket tosses, and cartwheels are just a few of the skills and stunts that athletes can look forward to learning on the mat. A range of good quality cheerleading mats can protect athletes by providing a stable base and a cushioned landing surface, helping to minimize injury while building skills.
Modern cheerleading utilizes a technique developed in gymnastics called, “tumbling”. Tumbling can include a range of movements including twists, flips, rolls, and jumps. These moves add movement and speed to a cheerleading routine. Beginning cheer athletes must master 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.
More advanced cheerleading athletes can work on mastering more complex moves like handsprings, back handsprings, and aerial cartwheels. Air floors are an excellent option for providing consistent floor support during longer tumbling combinations. Beam-shaped mats are perfect for practicing skills that require attention to 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.
Today’s cheerleading competitions feature amazing pyramid formations and jaw-dropping routines that have flyers launching gracefully into the air. These stunts make cheerleading the fun and addictive spectator sport it is. However, these stunts 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, manufacturers are now providing a range of appropriate options that meet and even excel these new regulations, protecting athletes as they soar to new heights.
Crash pads and landing pads can be used in combination with an airfloor during training to shorten a landing and provide extra support. Depending upon the level of skill of your team, this equipment set up can be the perfect way to master L-Stands, Shoulder Sits, and Basket Tosses in the early days of training. Make sure to assign a skilled spotter while the squad works on each stunt, especially if you’re dealing with a younger or less-experienced group.
So, now that you’re excited to learn stunts, how do you get there? In order to start learning these skills and new stunts, cheerleaders must 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. These exercises can be done on the mat and will help build the strength needed for a performance.
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 strengthen the quadriceps, glutes, and inner thighs, and are often integrated in various poses and positions throughout a routine. While practicing these lunges, make sure that your bent knee never extends past a 90 degree angle. This will prevent your knee from over-extending, and put less stress on the joint. Make sure to try both side lunges and front lunges in order to build strength in a range of muscle groups. 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.
Flips, holds, tucks, and other cheerleading skills require a good deal of core strength. For example, a flyer must hold their entire core strong in order to flip through the air with grace and land safely on the mat. Luckily, there’s no lack of mat exercises that can promote lower, side, upper, and deep abdominal strength.
Crunches are one of the best ways to build core strength on the mat. Switch it up and make sure to 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. Doing these exercises on the mat will protect and cushion the spine, neck, and lower back.
Planks and side planks are one of the most efficient ways to work the entire core. Doing this exercise on a cheerleading mat helps protect wrists, shoulders, and knees. Start with your knees on the mat, then place your hands on the mat, directly underneath the shoulders. Ensure the entire upper body is in a straight line, and hold. Once the wrists, shoulders and arms are stable, extend your feet and try working into side plank holds. Add leg-raises for an extra challenge.
A good quality cheerleading mat provides comfort and warmth, helping athletes comfortably relax into each stretch. In order to stay healthy, cheerleaders must spend time on the mat stretching and warming up. This helps prevent injury and over-extension, which is especially important for flyers. Flyers must hold difficult positions that require flexibility in the hamstrings, back, hips, and shoulders. Stretching on the mat before, during, and after each training session is key to building flexibility over time. Just remember to warm up for at least five or ten minutes before working into a series of stretches.
The Scorpion pose is a classic cheerleading that is mastered over time. To work into this pose, the athlete must stretch on the mat at least two to three times a day. Start by lying 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 small and steady stretches on the mat before moving forward into the pose.
The bridge stretch is key for cheerleaders who are working to accomplish the back handspring and other back-bending positions. This stretch helps cheerleaders develop both strength and back flexibility. Start by laying on the mat, then place your palms against the floor under your shoulders, gently pressing up to arch the back. Keep your feet and hands securely in contact with the floor and make sure to only extend the arch gradually. 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 much safer and more comfortable than on a gym floor.
Select a mat that has been quality tested for size, flatness, pressure range, stitching, and material strength. Choose to work with a company that is equipped to provide cheerleading mats 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.