There is a gymnastics element in cheerleading that most people overlook. This one feature has pushed cheerleading far into the sports category and has even helped get it looked at by the Olympics. If you have future goals of becoming a tumbler on a cheerleading team, or even if you are already in the position, there’s a lot of physical and mental training that is required. It’s one thing to watch people flip, twist, turn and defy gravity on blue mats, it’s another to actually perform those flips and tricks. It takes a lot of logged practice hours to produce muscle memory. Flexibility can be a limitation for many beginners. Without flexibility, your tumbling will be very limited and you’ll be putting yourself at risk for serious injury that could get you benched for the rest of the season. That’s no fun! Here are some great stretches that will help you get ready for the up and coming season. Before you stretch, properly warm up your muscles with a light jog or other alternative cardio work out for twenty minutes. Another thing to keep in mind is do not bounce while performing any of the below stretches. This could cause serious muscle injury. Front Stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Make sure your knees and ankles are together and your toes are pointed. Keeping your back straight, lean forward and reach for your toes. One of the most common mistakes with this stretch is that people will bend their knees to touch their toes while performing this stretch. If you can’t touch your toes yet, don’t worry about it! Just reach in the direction of your toes and you’ll get there as you perform the stretch every day. Wrist stretch: Hold your right arm straight out in front of you, palm to the floor. For hand placement, your palm will face outward with your fingers pointed at the ceiling. With your left hand, slowly and gently pull your pointed fingers towards you. After your muscles release in your right wrist, switch and stretch out your left wrist. Back Bridge: Lay down on your back with your palms on the floor, above your shoulders and your knees bent. Straighten your arms and legs by pushing your hips and abs towards the ceiling while keeping your hands and feet in the same position. Once you are in the “bridge” position, straighten your knees and move your feet so you can comfortably have your toes and heals flat on the floor. Hold this stretch for a few moments and then return to the floor. Bring your knees up to your chest and place your hands on your shins. Gently roll up onto your butt and then back onto your back and shoulders. Repeat this a couple of times to release and relax your back muscles. Butterfly Stretch: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and the bottoms of your feet touching each other. While keeping the bottoms of your feet together, pull your heals towards you and push your knees down, towards the floor, until your muscles release. Straddle Stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs in a “V” position. Slowly stretch forward without bending your knees. Once your muscles release, you can then stretch towards the left side by reaching both hands toward the left foot. Repeat on your right side as well. Please remember, that while performing this stretch, it’s very important to keep your legs straight and your toes pointed. Do not bend your knees or bound your muscles to help you reach your feet. It’s okay if you can’t touch your toes yet. With practice, you’ll get there! Also checkout The Weekly Fitness Post: Stretches For Flyers, to see more stretching techniques that will build flexibility.