How to Teach Cheerleading Jumps Introduction

How to Teach Cheerleading Jumps
Jumps are one of the most exciting and well-recognized parts of cheerleading, but many
squad members develop bad habits because no one teaches them proper technique. Laid
out below are instructions on the four most common jumps and what, as a coach, to look
for and correct. Practice these techniques together as a squad and you will see clean
lines, higher jumps, and steadier landings.
The Prep
Each cheerleading jump begins with a prep. There are several acceptable preps, and it is
up to the coach or the squad to determine which prep works best for them. The most
important thing to remember is that the purpose of the prep is to give momentum.
One common prep starts with the arms in a High V, swings them down in front of the
body, and ends with the arms in a T. Another common prep begins with the arms clasped
above the head. They then swing straight down in front of the body and end in a T
Whatever prep a squad chooses, the arms should always end in some variety of the T
position to maximize the height and flexibility of the jump. Arms should always be in
front of the legs during a jump.
Finally, the arms should be whipped down from whatever prep is chosen and stopped in
the T variety. The whipping motion gives momentum for the jump, and stopping them
from continuing past the T position forces the body upward.
Foot Position
Foot position is another choice a coach and squad must make. Jump height is maximized
when the feet are kept flat on the floor throughout the prep and only leave the ground
during the actual jump.
Some squads choose to rise up on the toes to get increased height, but many run the risk
of losing balance before the jump begins or adding a small hop. Such hops should never
be encouraged or allowed because rather than give power to the jump, they actually
absorb the power into the ground and leave the jumper unable to explode off the floor.
Correct Jumping Technique
There are several general rules that apply to all cheerleading jumps. Toes should always
be pointed. Although one of the most well-known jumps is called the toe touch, the idea
How to Teach Cheerleading Jumps
of the jump is not to actually touch the toes. That mentality leads squads to flex their toes
in order to reach them.
It is better for a jump to be lower with pointed toes than have great height and flexed feet.
On all jumps, the head should be up at all times. Training squads to lift their eyes higher
than normal helps maintain their posture and increase height. A good rule is to look
where the ceiling meets the wall, unless circumstances require another fixed point.
The back should always be straight during a jump. This gives the jump more height and
makes it look cleaner in the air.
Jump 1: The Toe Touch
The staple cheerleading jump is a toe touch. The jump involves kicking the legs out to
the side as far as they will go and snapping them back together. The jump should
resemble the middle splits in the air.
The key to a toe touch is rotating the hips backward to increase range of motion. An easy
way to explain this concept is the idea that one’s shoelaces should point to the sky or
backward, if possible. Another way to conceptualize the motion is to “sit” into the jump.
Ideally, the hips should be lower than the feet if the hips are truly turned out.
Legs should then be snapped back together. When the jumper lands, the feet should be
completely back together and under control, so that the person can hold the landing
position with no fidgeting.
The left picture is of a toe touch with the legs extended straight, but not hyper-extended. Increased
flexibility will allow a hyper-extended jump, such as the one at right.
Jump 2: The Herkie
Another common jump is the herkie. One leg is kicked out straight, while the other is
bent with the knee pointing to the ground. Either leg can be straight, depending on the
preference of the squad member.
How to Teach Cheerleading Jumps
This jump should be taught so that squad members kick both legs out at the same time
and land at the same time. The body should stay facing straight and the arms should be
out in a T position.
One variation of this is to put one arm on the hip and have the other in a T, opposite of
which leg is bent and which is straight. The straight leg should be “turned out” as in the
toe touch to give more height and range of motion.
Jump 3: The Side Hurdler
A variation of the herkie is the side hurdler. The movement is the same, with one leg
extended straight and the other leg bent at the knee. In the side hurdler, instead of
pointing the knee down to the ground, it is pointed out to the side, making a line from the
tip of one toe to the knee of the other. Arms are generally out in a T position for this
The picture on the left is of a herkie, with the knee turned down. The right features the side hurdler, with
the knee facing front. Generally, side hurdlers are performed with the arms in the T position.
Jump 4: The Front Hurdler
The last essential jump to any repertoire is the front hurdler. The motion is similar to the
side hurdler except the body is facing the extended leg, leaning out over it. When
performed for a crowd, the front hurdler is done to the side, giving the audience a profile
To teach a front hurdler, have squad members jump with one leg in front, as high as it
will comfortably go. The other leg should be to the back, bent upward at the knee. The
body should be leaning slightly forward, as if reaching beyond the extended leg. Arms
for this jump are in the Touchdown position.
A major mistake made with the front hurdler is the inability to land with one’s feet
together. This is usually the result of trying to get the front leg higher than it can
How to Teach Cheerleading Jumps
naturally go. In an effort to raise the front leg, a jumper will lean into the back leg during
the jump, forcing that leg to land sooner than the front leg.
To fix this problem, have squad members focus on keeping the weight over the front leg
during the jump, even if this decreases the stretch of the jump. Jumpers who try this
should find it easier to land with both feet together, making the jump look clean and wellexecuted.
An example of the front hurdler
Strengthening and Stretching Exercises
Sitting Straddle Stretch
Squads should stretch together, focusing on the straddle stretch. To do this stretch, squad
members should sit on the floor and spread their legs as far to the side as is comfortable.
Toes should be pointed, but legs should be relaxed.
Members should lean forward into the stretch, making sure to keep the lower back as flat
as possible. This will stretch the hips more than the hamstrings, which is essential to
seeing a difference in the actual jump.
The Importance of the Hip Flexor
The hip flexor is a very important part of jumps as well. It helps jumpers whip their legs
out and back together, ensuring that the jump is quick and lands together. If a squad
member consistently lands her jumps with her feet apart or at slightly different times,
teaching her this hip flexor exercise will dramatically improve her ability to land
Hip Flexor Exercises
To strengthen the hip flexor, squad members can sit on the floor in the straddle position
with their arms in front or behind them for stability or wrapped around the body for
added difficulty.
Members should raise one leg at a time, holding it steady above the floor or pulsing the
leg up and down for a bigger workout. The leg should be turned out at all times to train
How to Teach Cheerleading Jumps
the hips which position to hit in the air. After doing each leg separately, the legs can be
lifted simultaneously to work both at once.
Throughout the entire exercise, the lower back should be kept as straight as possible.
Letting the back curve lessons the impact and puts strain on a different part of the leg.
Dead Arm Drill
An exercise to improve the height of jumps and increase the squad’s awareness of the
importance of using the arms in a jump is to leave them at one’s sides. Making the squad
try several jumps without using the arms forces the body to rely more on the legs and
showcases the importance of the arms in a jump.
Remember, the most important thing to improving jumps is consistent practice. Squads
should stretch and jump together, getting individual feedback from coaches and other
squad members. Take some time out each practice to talk about jumping technique and
you will soon see higher, tighter, and more flexible jumps.
How to Teach Cheerleading Jumps
How to Teach Cheerleading Jumps