So you’re hot, hip, and one of the trendiest performers out there, you’re a cheerleader! If you answered yes to this then the first step is already achieved, now let’s get down to the nitty gritty of the situation. One thing to remember about that lean, mean, cheerleading machine of yours, is that you have to maintain your core strength in order to keep your performance as smooth and flawless as possible. What is core strength, you might ask? Core strength is the overall stamina of your inner torsos’ muscles, and helps to maintain good posture, a tight and toned abdomen and back, and also regulates the strength of your limbs. You can achieve this with core conditioning, or, a regular exercise routine geared toward your core muscles. Without a toned and maintained core, your overall performance will be lacking due to less control over your muscles and less stamina after a peak cheerleading performance. Let’s go over the major areas a cheerleader is affected by core conditioning: 1st the Rectus Abdominis, these muscles are the front muscles of your abdomen, sometimes referred to as a “six pack”, that is, if you are one of those “ripped” hotties that has achieved that look in your cheerleading uniform. Next there is the Erector Spinae; these are three separate muscles that support from your neck down to your lower back. Underneath that lies the Multifidus, these muscles are along your spine and they rotate and extend your back. Ever hear of the term “flexible as a cat”? You do not want to let these dandies stiffen up! Along the sides and the front of your abdomen are the External Oblique’s, and beneath them, but running in the opposite direction, are the Internal Oblique’s. Deeper still is the Transverse Abdominis, these are beneath the other abdominals and are the muscles of your waist, they ensure protection and stability of your spine. Moving on to the lower regions we find the Hip Flexors, these include several different muscles that are located in front of your pelvis and on the fronts of your thighs. They allow for that awesome cheerleading swing and sway you have that you know gets you noticed! Gluteus medius and minimus are the muscles on the sides of your hips and the Gluteus maximus, also referred to as the hamstring group, is located in the back of your hips and along your upper thighs and legs. Lastly we have the Hip adductors that are along your mid thigh. Now that we know which muscles make up your core, and where they are found, let’s talk shop about how you can strengthen and maintain these core cheerleading muscles. There are many exercises that can help you to reach that goal, here are a few to get you on your way to performing like a star and looking great in that cheerleading uniform: 1st: a tight and toned abdomen can be strengthened with the use of an exercise ball while doing crunches. Lean across the ball on your lower back with your feet planted squarely on the floor for support. Next cross your arms over your chest to help maintain balance. Slowly raise your head, neck, and shoulders upward using your abdomen muscles to pull yourself forward, then slowly lower yourself back. Repeat this movement for 5 reps of 10. 2nd: How about some fun? A great way to help strengthen your core is with balance exercising. With balancing you can use such devices as a wobble board, a BOSU Balance Trainer, or even foam rollers. Trying to keep balanced for as long as you can helps to tone and strengthen your deeper core muscles (Transverse Abdominis), try at least 5 reps of balancing for at least 30 seconds each time. You should increase the difficulty after each rep with the addition of a medicine ball (switching from hand to hand), or closing your eyes. This exercise can be a lot of fun with a partner. 3rd: Who says that it has to be difficult or extravagant to be effective? Come on Cheerleaders, try these little numbers on for size, abdominal braces are not only easy, but they create results! This is actually one of the main techniques to use during core training. All you have to do is contract your abdominal muscles. Imagine you are pulling your belly button in toward your spine, not by sucking in air of course, don’t hold your breath, but by tightening your muscles to achieve this bracing effect. Hold your muscles tight for as long as you can, trying to increase your times with each rep. Remember you should be able to breathe easily during this routine for the best effects. 4th: Another tried and true method for an overall core strengthening workout is the basic push up. That’s right squads, these dandy’s aren’t just for soldiers, doing pushups properly can effectively help to create and maintain a fit and healthy core. Pushups 101: lie down on your belly, with your hands on the floor a little wider apart than your shoulders, raise up onto your toes, keeping your body straight (no butts in the air). Push yourself upward with your arms and tighten your core muscles as you do this, raise yourself upward until your arms are straight but do not lock your elbows. Now lower yourself until your elbows are in a 90 degree angle, repeating this process for as many reps as you are able to. Exhale as you rise up, and inhale while you lower yourself. Remember to keep your core muscles tight throughout this routine. Keeping your body fit is an important task that you should take seriously if you want to be a successful Cheerleader, of course too much work and not enough play can really bum you out, so be sure to make your work out as fun as possible! Group cheerleading routines have lots of potential to get downright silly, dancing is great for those core muscles and can also keep your cheer routines new and exciting, so liven it up and have a blast!