Motion Magic

Tips on Making Your Motions Sharp and Snappy.

cheerleaders performing together
John Martinez Pavliga/Flickr

What makes a good cheerleader into a great cheerleader? Why do some people make it at tryouts and others don't? When you're watching that awesome squad on TV, what makes them stand out and look like a picture of perfection?

For the most part, these questions can be answered with "they know the basics." Sure, a terrific jump or stunt might wow a crowd, but when you're careless or lazy in your fundamental cheerleading skills like motions, you're sure to lose points on any judging sheet.

Motions are one of the basic foundations of cheerleading and an essential skill that all cheerleaders can work on and try to master. More importantly, you need to keep up on it so you can retain those skills.

Whether you're a beginning cheerleader just learning or an experienced one who's picked up some sloppy habits, let's get back to the basics and put the magic in your motions.

Useful Tips for Your Motions

Cheerleading is often about the small things and all of these add up to maximize the impact of your motions. After awhile, it can be easy to forget the fundamentals, so here are a few reminders that will give your motions that extra snap.

  • Sharp 'n Snappy - We've probably all heard this before when referring to motions, but what does it truly mean? It means that your arms should be stiff and your muscles tight. Your transitions should be smooth, snappy, and quick. In all, you should punch your motions out with a lot of strength.
  • Never Bend Your Wrists - Your wrists should never be bent, cocked, or out of alignment with your arms. This is one of the small tricks that can make a world of difference.
  • Watch the Elbows - If you're in an extended motion, your elbows should be locked.
  • Arm Placement - Your arms should always be slightly in front of you and level. Know exactly where the spot is to hit a motion and don't settle for anything other than that spot. Again, keep your arms stiff and muscles tight. Don't let your arms bounce or jiggle.
  • Relax the Shoulders - Your shoulders should be relaxed and not raised up in a shrug.
  • Facing Your Fists - Know in which direction your fist should be facing for each move. For example, in a "high V," your thumbs should be facing towards the crowd and in a "touchdown," your thumbs should be facing away from the crowd. Always keep your thumb outside your fist. If you're ever in doubt, ask your coach.
  • Quick Transitions -Take the shortest distance to the next motion and wait until the last second to make it. Move quickly and precisely.
  • Synchronize Your Motions - Your motions should correspond with the syllables of the words in your cheer or the count of your dance routines and stunts.
  • The Clap or Clasp Motion - This simple motion is often overlooked. Your hands should be under your chin, your elbows in tight, and your fingers close together. It should look clean and neat.

Exercises to Improve Your Motions

As with any sport, cheerleading takes practice. Use some of these exercises to improve strength and hone your skills.

  • Arm Strengthening - Do arm strengthening exercises like push ups and weight lifting. They offer some great ways to improve the strength in your arms and shoulders. Good motions are made with strong arms.
  • Hit Your Motions Quickly - Once you hit it, hold it for about 30 seconds as tight as you can. One useful tip is to tighten your butt muscles when you do this. This will naturally tighten your other muscles.
  • Work in Front of a Mirror - Stand in front of a mirror or video yourself and watch as you hit your motions. Look for arm position, fist position, and any extra or unnecessary movements. Then close your eyes and hit the motion again. Open your eyes and look in the mirror to see how you did.
  • Don't Be Lazy During Practice - Even when practicing other things, be sure you're completing your motions. Don't get lazy and do them halfway. Always complete each motion to the end.
  • Practice With Your Squad - Coordinate your motions and make sure you're doing them in unison.
  • Work on Reverse Motions - Most motions have an opposite or reverse corresponding motion. Be sure to practice both.
  • Get Creative - Use your imagination to combine motions and try different and unique sequences. Be creative and have fun.