The physical demands facing today’s cheerleaders are considerable, with high-levels of endurance, strength, and flexibility all critical to maximizing your performance. The hours spent practicing at the gym are essential to improving your cheer skills and perfecting your routine, but it’s equally important to put in the time outside of the gym. Here are four exercises you can do at home to boost your athleticism and improve your performance. 

Cardio Training

Endurance is crucial, and you’ll need plenty of it if you want to make it through a demanding routine without emptying your gas tank. To expand your energy reserves, you’ll need to do cardio at least three to four times a week. Your cardio routine can be anything that keeps you moving and breathing, like step class, swimming laps, cycling, or working an elliptical. For best results, spend 15 minutes on cardio in the beginning, and increase your time 5 minutes per week until you reach 30 minutes. 

Resistance Training 

Muscles are also important since you’ll need raw power to perform basket tosses, pyramids, or to lift and hold your teammates. Resistance training is a safe, reliable way to build the power of your muscles, ligaments, and tendons while minimizing the risk of injury. Pushups, squats, wall sits, lunges, shoulder presses, curls, and triceps extensions are all great ways to build power, and there are dozens more – choose the ones that are most comfortable for you. Aim for 2-3 sets of exercises with 12-15 repetitions per set, and try to work complementary muscle groups for the best results: back and biceps, chest and triceps, legs and shoulders. 

Also important for resistance training is a reliable mat. Consider picking up an EZ Flex Home Mat—it’s strong, light, and stable, making it perfect for all the exercises you’ll need to do. And since it’s made from the same carpet and foam as the floors you compete on, it’s perfect for practicing your cheer skills, too!

Core Training

Core strength determines how well you can utilize your torso, hips, and thighs to position yourself, absorb impacts, and maintain your balance. V-ups, crunches, scissor kicks, superman holds, and side planks are all great examples of core exercises. Schedule core workouts for every other day, and perform two sets of at least three different exercises. After a week, add a new exercise. After two weeks, add a set to all your exercises.

Flexibility Training

Flexibility not only helps you perform amazing routines, it dramatically reduces your chance of injury, increases your speed, and improves your balance. Flexibility training is probably the most important set of exercises on this list, and you should begin every workout session with a good stretch. Warm up for a few minutes with light cardio to get your blood pumping, and plan on spending 10-15 minutes going through a series of stretches. There are literally hundreds of different kinds of stretching exercises out there, and it’s up to you to find the ones that work best for your body. Be sure to hold those stretches for at least 30 seconds, and while you’ll certainly want to make sure you give all your muscles a good stretch on a daily basis, pay special attention to the muscle groups you’re planning on putting through resistance training that day.