Jan 04

Strength Building for Bases – Lifting Weights, A Supplement To Lifting Your Friends

Obviously, in order to build the muscles bases need for stunting, it is very valuable to take time during stunt practice to work techniques and repeat basic stunts. It works some very specific muscle groups, and builds muscle memory and general understanding. But when your weightlifting medium is named Heather, you can only do so many reps at a time. To quickly and efficiently build the strength and endurance specific to what they need for basing, a cheerleader’s best bet is to take it upon him/herself, and go to the gym a couple of times a week on their own.

Developing the use of the right muscles, and promoting overall strength and stamina is going to allow each base to actually employ the appropriate technique while performing basic stunts. No more excuses about how they are lifting with their backs because they just don’t have as much leg strength as they should. I’m holding it like this because that’s how I’m strongest. Hooey!

And then of course, with the right technique, stunts get easier to throw, place, or hold, everything gets safer, and everybody wins. It all starts with building, and employing, the right muscle groups for your craft, along with an overall healthy fitness level.

Jeff said it wonderfully in his blog,,


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.


He is talking about the basics of partner stunting here, but in my experience, the philosophy is the same for almost all types of stunts.


Here are a couple of exercises you can send your bases to the gym with.


Machine Exercises-

  • Leg Press  – On your gym’s leg press machine, test out what weight is manageable, but gives you a good amount of resistance. Go for 15 reps, this should cause little difficulty. Then add weight, to an amount that gives you a little bit of challenge, probably an additional 5-10 lbs. Do another 15 reps, or until you reach your limit. Rest for a few seconds, and put the weight back at where you started. Do another 15 reps. As this becomes less difficult, continue to add weight, little by little, so that the middle set still offers challenge, without risking injury, and add a few reps, again, just until you feel challenged.
  • Shoulder Press with toe raises – On your gym’s shoulder press machine, you will likely be able to adjust both the weight, and the height. You will want to come to a full squat during each repetition, with your knees almost at a 90 degree angle, so to avoid putting undo strain on your knees, you will want to put your feet just a little wider than your shoulders, and ensure that during your squat, your toes are almost in line with your knees. Test out the weight to see what is enough to challenge without enough to risk injury. Take your time, and do 10 reps, coming to a full squat, and slowly back to standing with each rep. At the end of your 10 squats, bring your feet in under your hips, and rise up onto the balls of your feet. You should go slow, and feel this in your calves. Do 10 reps here. If you didn’t feel like you got enough of a challenge with the first set, you can increase the weight by 5-10 lbs, and repeat the set of squats, and the set of toe raises 2 more times.
  • Lat Pulls – Go nice and slow with these as well, this isn’t an exercise in forcing momentum. Do 10 reps with a weight that offers resistance, but no strain. 10 reps that offer challenge, but no risk of injury. 10 more reps at the starting weight. If your endurance allows for more than 10 without fatigue or a lot of struggle, then start with 12 or 15, and as with all of these exercises, as they become easier, add a little bit of weight, and a few more reps.


Independent Exercises –

  • Squats with weights – Spread your feet wide, so that when you are in a full squat, with your tush at about the level of your knees, your knees are at a 90 degree angle, in line with your ankles, not out over your toes. Take a weight that offers a challenge for both arms (for example, if a challenging weight for you with bicep curls is 10 lbs, use a 20 lb weight here, or just hold both of the 10 lb weights), and hold it with both hands at your core, in front of your belly. Keeping your back nice and straight, with your hips rotated under so you tush isn’t sticking out, do 15 reps with a slow squat, bringing your knees to 90 degrees, and return to standing. Then, 15 quick pulses, going from a full squat, to half way between squat and standing. Repeat the squat reps, and the pulse reps two more times each, for a total of 3 sets.
  • Lunges with weights – Stand with most of your weight on one foot, with your other foot behind you for balance (your feet should be far enough apart so that when you bend your knees to dip down, both knees are at approximately 90 degrees). Hold a challenging weight in each hand, with arms in a neutral position at your sides. Keeping your back straight and your abs engaged, dip down, keeping most of your weight in your front leg. Dip slowly until your back knee almost touches the floor, and both your knees are at an approximate 90 degree angle. Do 15 reps going from standing, to the full lunge. Then, pulse for 15 reps, going from a full lunge to the point halfway between a full lunge and standing. Repeat the full lunge reps and the pulse reps two more times each, for a total of 3 sets.
  • Planks – Perfect for before or after pushups, planks will increase stability and strength in your core. Put yourself at the top of a pushup position, supported by your hands and your toes, and focus on creating one continuous line from your shoulders to your heels, not letting your hips drop out of line. Hold this position for a count of 30, remembering to breath deeply throughout. Shift weight to your left hand, and turn your feet so that you are balancing on the outside edge of your left foot, and raise your right hand toward the ceiling. Keeping your hips in line with your body will require oblique muscles to engage. Hold this for a count of 30 (if balancing on the outside of your foot is too difficult at first, put your left knee on the ground and concentrate on making a continuous line from your shoulder to your knee, not letting your hips drop out of line. If 30 is too long, stop where you need to, and match the time you were able to accomplish on the other side. If you could only make it to 20, do 20 on the right as well). Repeat on the right side. Take a short rest, then do 2 more sets each of center, left, and right.
  • Shrugs with weights – Stand with feet shoulder width apart, and with arms at your sides, hold a weight that offers a little bit of challenge in each hand. Being mindful to keep your back straight, and your shoulder blades drawn slightly together to avoid slouching during the exercise, raise your shoulders toward your ears, then release back to neutral. 20 reps per set, 3 sets.
  • Crunches – Of course, the old standby, everyone should do these to actively engage the core muscles and build abdominal strength. Lying on your back with your knees bent (preferably with your knees and hips at 90 degrees and your feet off the floor, but if this is uncomfortable, keep your feet on the floor), place your arms where you feel comfortable (if that means behind your head, spread your elbows out so they are well behind your ears, and DO NOT pull your head up with your shoulders). Go slowly, and as you lift, actively think about contracting your abdominal muscles, so you bring your chest and your hips up at the same time- this is not pressing your feet to the ground and pulling your neck with your arms, use your abs to make it happen. 20 slow crunches, followed by 20 pulses, going from a fully crunched position, to halfway between the crunch and the floor. Repeat the crunch and the pulse twice more each, for a total of 3 sets. Then change to your side to work your obliques. Again, raise your shoulders toward the ceiling using your abs, not your shoulders, or by pressing your arm into the ground. Do 20 slowly, concentrating on form, followed by 20 pulses. Repeat for a total of 2 sets, then switch to the other side. Do 2 sets each of crunches and pulses on this side as well. If you didn’t feel much of a challenge with the first set, lying on your back, repeat them after the side sets.
  • Bicep Curls – Find a weight that offers a little challenge, but doesn’t risk injury (so, you should feel some resistance when you first pick it up, but your first rep isn’t very difficult, 8 or 10 lbs is usually a good place to start with). Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, hold your arms down at your sides, but so that the palms of your hands are facing forward. Slowly bend your arms at the elbow to raise the weights up toward your shoulders, being mindful to keep your back straight, and your hips tucked slightly so your tush doesn’t stick out. 15 reps, and rest, followed by 2 more sets of 15. This can be combined with the overhead press. If combining, stand as instructed, bend your elbows to being the weights to your shoulders, at the top of the lift, begin to lift your elbows so the weights rise toward the ceiling. On the way up to the top, where your arms are fully extended, biceps by your ears, you will turn your hands so your palms face forward. From the top, open your elbows so that your arms form a big “U”, your upper arms in line with your shoulders, your elbows bent, and your forearms perpendicular to the floor, then press the weights back up to the top. Reverse your lift motion to bring the weights back down to the neutral position by your thighs, moving through the bicep curl position. Then, begin again, curl the bicep, bring the weights up to the top of your reach with your biceps near your ears, press the elbows out to the “U” position, press up to the top, and back down through the bicep curl, to neutral.
  • Tricep Dips  – on a bench, or flat surface that is at around your knee height, stand in front of it, like you mean to sit down. Instead, facing away from it, put the lams of your hands on the edge, and move your feet away, so that you are supporting your weight mostly in your hands. Bend your elbows so that your tush drops into a deeper sitting position (your feet should be such that your knees are in approximately a 90 degree angle when your arms are straight). Go slowly, and dip to where your elbows are at about 90 degrees. Return to the top, again putting your weight in your arms and using your feet on the floor just for balance (if you find yourself cheating, you can extend your legs so that you are balancing on your heels). 15 reps, followed by 15 pulses, going from fully dipped, to halfway between the full dip and the top. Repeat 2 more times for a total of 3 sets. As with any exercise, you can adjust the number of reps if you find it too difficult, or not challenging enough.
  • Overhead Press with weights – Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and use weights that offer a little bit of challenge, but do not risk injury. Being mindful to keep your back straight and your hips tucked so your tush doesn’t stick out, raise the weights (one in each hand) so that your arms for a “U” shape, with your upper arms in line with your shoulders (like a “T” position), your elbow bent so they are perpendicular to the floor, and your palms facing forward. Press the weights up slowly to the top of your reach, so your biceps are by your ears, your elbows are straight, and your palms are still facing forward. Slowly return to the “U” position, and repeat. 15 reps, rest, and repeat another 15 reps twice more, for a total of 3 sets.  Can be combined with the bicep curl, please find details in the bicep curl description.


Keep in mind, this is not a well rounded workout regimen. These are designed to work some of a bases key muscle groups, and should be incorporated in along with cardio, and exercises for any other body areas the subject would like to target.

For coaches and captains, like with conditioning, don’t forget to tell them why they’re doing it. It’s not a punishment, and it’s not because you like bossing them around. It will improve their strength and stamina, allowing them to implement the right techniques, to make their stunting easier and safer. They will enjoy stunting and performing more when they aren’t huffing, puffing, sweating, and pulling muscles every other pyramid!

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