Ah, March Madness. My fondest memories from college are from this time of year. As a member of the University of Florida Dazzler’s Dance Team, I was given the opportunity to travel each year to tournament sites all over the country. Seattle, Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, Indiana, Chicago, New Orleans. All incredible experiences! But it wasn’t all fun and games. Being on the sidelines requires hard work, practice, and dedication. You make think it’s just about being cute, but behind the sequins, lycra, and pom pons (yes, pom poNs) there’s a lot of sweat…and maybe even some blood and tears.
Since Atlanta was fortunate enough to be the host city for the 2013 Men’s Final Four, I invited the spirit programs from Louisville, Michigan (should’ve been Florida, but I’m not bitter…maybe a little), Syracuse, and Wichita State to participate in a friendly, early-morning competition consisting of exercises that a generally healthy person can perform at home. The exercises I chose mimic some of the movements that are executed by cheerleaders and dancers (and some limber mascots) during basketball games.
Watch as Miguel Martinez and I referee what turned out to be an intense competition!
The first exercise is a squat with a front kick. We all know that squats are excellent for strengthening the glutes, quads, and hamstrings, but by adding a front kick between each squat we are involving more of our core and relying on balance to switch our weight from 2 feet to 1 foot. When performing a squat it is important to keep your weight in your heels, pressing through your heels to stand and making sure you only kick to a height that is comfortable for you. Performing this movement while holding dumbbells can add some resistance and involve your arms. Only squat to a level that is comfortable for you. Hip flexibility varies so while you may not be able to squat deeply, you can still perform an efficient squat by holding your chest up, sticking your booty out, keeping your knees tracking over your toes, and keeping your weight in your heels.
The second exercise is simply a get up. It’s nothing complicated, literally just standing up from a seated position on the floor and sitting back down on the ground. This happens a lot during games if you’re on the sidelines, especially if your team is hitting a lot of baskets. It’s more difficult than you may thing so if you’re trying this at home, it’s okay to use your hands. As it becomes easier, try doing it without your hands for a bit of challenge. This is an excellent exercise to practice because you never know when you might fall and need to get up on your own. (Side note: you don’t have to perform the get up as fast as my friends in the video, keep in mind, they were competing for the title win!)
The last and most advanced exercise is the X jump. This is a milder form of a toe touch and a more extreme version of a jumping jack. It is important to land with bent knees and to press through your heels when taking off from the ground so you can involve more of your glutes. The X part happens in the air when your legs and arms are splayed into an X position. If this exercise is too difficult, please stick to jumping jacks until you have built up stamina and strength. (Same side note as before: no need to perform these as fast as my friends in the video, they were competing to be champions of the CNN Fitness Bracket! Congrats to the Cards!)
Good luck building your sideline stamina! I hope you have a greater appreciation of cheerleaders, dancers, and mascots the next time you watch a sporting event!