How to Increase Back Flexibility for Cheerleading

Cheerleader leaping in air
Increasing back flexibility improves cheerleading moves. (Image: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

A flexible back makes cheerleading elements, such as tumbling, stunting and jumps, easier to perform. Tight back muscles can limit your range of movement, cause pain and increase your risk of injury. Stretching your back before and after cheer practice improves flexibility and your ability to perform certain cheerleading moves. Consult your physician if you experience severe back pain or have a possible back injury.

Step 1

Perform a five-minute warm-up prior to stretching. March in place, jog or step side to side to elevate your heart rate. Warming up your muscles prior to stretching helps loosen your muscles and reduce your risk of injury.

Step 2

Stretch your lower back and hips, muscles used to perform jumps and tumbling passes, by performing the lying knee roll-over stretch. Lie face up on the ground or a mat with your knees bent and your arms out to the side in a "T." Allow your knees to fall to one side, letting your hips and back rotate. Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds, then bring your knees to the other side.

Step 3

Improve flexibility in your spine by performing a seated rotation twist. Sit with your right leg straight and your left leg bent. Cross your left leg over your right and turn your torso to the left. Place your right arm in front of your left knee and push against your knee with your forearm for a deeper stretch. Rotate your shoulders and spine as you stretch. Hold the pose for 10 to 30 seconds, then release. Perform on the opposite side.

Step 4

Perform the cobra, a back-strengthening yoga pose, to stretch your spine and shoulders. Lie face down on the ground or a mat with your hands next to your shoulders. Keep your elbows in by your side and your legs straight. Inhale as your push through your arms, raising your head and chest off the ground as high as you can without straining your back. Tighten your glutes to protect your lower back and breathe through the stretch. Hold the pose for 10 to 30 seconds, then slowly lower your torso back to the ground. Repeat several times.

Step 5

Strengthen and stretch your back, butt, hamstring and abdominal muscles with a bridge exercise. These muscles help keep your back stable when you dance or jump. Lie face up on your back with your knees bent. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your palms down next to your hips. Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your butt off the floor, pressing your hips toward the ceiling. Hold for five seconds, then repeat. Perform 10 repetitions.

Warning

Back stretches shouldn't cause pain or pinching. Stretch to the point of mild tension and avoid overstretching, which can lead to injury. Avoid ballistic or bouncy stretching, which can cause injury or strain on your back. Only hold each stretch for 30 seconds or less.

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