Gymnastics rule modern cheerleading

Tue Nov 1, 2011 6:17am EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cartwheels, splits, handsprings and tumbles are all in a day's practice for today's cheerleaders, whose fierce athleticism belies the old stereotype of popular girls waving pom-poms.

Experts say cheerleaders these days are likely to be every bit as fit as the teams they're cheering.

"Cheerleaders are one of the most conditioned athletes that I know. You need to be at a high level in order to do all those stunts and tumbling," said Stacey DelPreore, a New Jersey-based fitness instructor.

DelPreore, who has been a cheerleading coach on the staff of the United Cheerleading Association for 10 years, said gymnastics rule modern cheer routines.

"A long time ago it was more dance-based, and rah-rah, lets cheer on the football team," she said. "But as a lot of tumbling and gymnastics got into cheerleading and stunts became involved, it became more athletic, based more on gymnast-type movements than (on) dance."

More complicated stunts demand greater conditioning, according to DelPreore, whose fitness DVD Train2Cheer, is a high impact cardio, strength and conditioning workout developed specifically for cheerleaders and dancers.

"There's no actual tumbling in it, but the exercises simulate the motions of stunting, tumbling and dancing that pertains to competitive cheerleading," she said, "along with a lot of plyometric (jumping) moves, which help with back jumps and handsprings."

DelPreore said too many youngsters are hurt because they start doing back flips without knowing their bodies.   Continued...

<p>The cheerleading team from Taiwan's Shih Hsin University rehearse for Friday's Chingay parade in Singapore February 10, 2011. REUTERS/Tim Chong</p>