In case you’re new to reading this blog, I need to fill you in on my background. I’m a former college cheerleader, with the HEAVY emphasis on the word “former.” I can’t remember the last time I tumbled, and I have not stunted with any regularity in at least 5 years.
Several weeks ago, a student of mine asked about working on coed stunting. She is an excellent student. The kind that you don’t mind going the extra mile for because you know she’s going to try to make the most of the time you give her. So I really felt inclined to help her out. The problem is, after 5 years of coaching from the sidelines (and from behind the keyboard), I really didn’t know if I could still stunt well enough to give an effective lesson.
After thinking about it for a long while, I decided to agree to stunt with the student. Since she has never coed stunted before, I knew we could spend lots of time just working on fundamentals, so it’s not like I’d be holding her back by not quite being able to still base elite stunts. Also, for me, stunting is really good exercise. I’ve pretty much kept up with my strength since retiring from cheerleading. However, in terms of overall athleticism, I’ve let a lot slide. So I figured the pressure of not wanting to let a student down, not to mention not wanting to embarrass myself, would be good motivation to get me back into stunting shape.
Stunting is not like static strength training. Static strength training is basically sitting on a bench or machine and pushing heavy weights around. You’re trying to concentrate on specific muscles or muscle groups and isolate them with each exercise. This style of workout CAN be very effective and help you get bigger and stronger. However, basing coed stunts has more to do with “power” than with “strength.” Here is the difference between the two.
Strength is what it takes to pick up and hold heavy objects. Someone who is strong would be well-suited to help you move furniture. They can lift and carry. If they pace themselves, they can keep this up all day. Power is different than this. Power is explosiveness. Power is what allows martial artists to break concrete blocks. It is more related to overall athleticism than to size and sheer strength. To gain power, you have to train differently than you do for strength.
Stunting actually requires both power and strength. When you toss (or walk in) they flyer, you are using power. You have to be explosive and fast. The more speed you can generate for your flyer at the moment you release her (flick), the higher your toss will go. Now that she is in the air, strength takes over. Now you are holding her weight with your upper body. You are ALSO using your legs, back and core to stabilize and balance.
Please note, the above description is only for basic stunts. Once you start talking about transitions and dismounts, you go back and forth between strength and power. No room to write about all of that here so I’ll just let you figure that part out on your own.
So back to poor retired me knowing I was going to be stunting in a few weeks. I decided to take that time to prepare as much as I could to work on power. I replaced a few of my regular static workout sessions (traditional weight lifting) with more dynamic workouts. I picked exercises that used multiple muscle groups. Also, the movements were explosive rather than slow and controlled. I also tried to focus on exercises that somewhat simulated the movements involved in basing coed stunts. Here’s what I came up with:
- Jumping Jacks. These were mostly used to warm up and to keep my heart rate up between more strenuous exercises.
- Bounding Push-ups. For these, I was actually pushing hard enough that my hands came off the ground. Using good form also works the core.
- Sit-ups. Nothing special here, but you have to work your core to stabilization and to avoid injury.
- Clean and Jerk. Dangling relatively heavy weights at my side and rapidly lifting them up to about eye level, controlling them down to should level, and then returning them to the start position. This sort of simulates your toss.
- Plyometric Jump. This is just jumping in the air as hard as you can. You can jump onto a platform if you like, but I just jumped in place.
- Flutter kicks. Lay on your back, lift your feet a couple of inches off the ground and perform shallow switch kicks as if you are swimming. Another core exercise.
- Back Raises. Laying on your stomach, lift your feet and your chest off the ground at the same time. This works your lower back and is good for stability and injury prevention.
- Modified Lat Row. For this, I held a 45-pound plate. I positioned my hands at the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions (like on a steering wheel). This is similar to the grip you would have on a flyer’s waist. Dipping with the legs, you lift the weight as forcefully as you can as high as you can. Keep the weight close to you, almost dragging it up your body. If you generate enough speed, the weight will almost come out of your hands at the top. I think this is a great simulation of a toss.
- Squats. Just a static strength exercise, but a good one.
- Shoulder rows. I just used light weights and lifted them straight out, circled my arms out to the sides and then returns them back down to a hanging position in front.
- Lower Back Rows. I held a 45 pound plate to my chest, bent my knees slightly, leaned forward at my waist and then returned to upright.
- Tricep extensions. A basic static exercise. I used a 45 pound plate instead of dumb bells or a bar to work on grip strength too.
- Calf Raises. Another basic strength exercise.
- Bicep Curls. Just because. Not really stunt oriented.
And that is it. It took about 12 minutes to get through all of the exercises. That made one circuit. I did 3 circuits in total. The first time I did this, I was careful and used moderate intensity. I increased the intensity a little each time. This became a great aerobic workout by making it more intense and taking fewer and shorter breaks.
Anyway, after about 3 weeks, it was time to stunt. I’m happy to say that I survived, and the student and I both felt that the session was successful. The morning after, I was a little sore, but not especially so. I have one knee that gives me trouble from time to time, and it was sore, but that is nothing new. So I guess my preparations helped. I plan to keep using this workout and to keep stunting once a week. I’ll write again about it I have any significant observations or make any changes.
For one final note I just want to comment that coed stunting is a really great workout. You are training all of the major muscle groups, as well as lots of smaller muscles that you do not use much a regular basis. Always be careful when you stunt. Nothing messes up your training like an injury. But if you take your time and follow basic safety guidelines, stunting can really help you (even if you’re an old, retired cheerleader) get into your best shape.