List of cheerleading stunts
Stunts are defined as building performances displaying a person's skill or dexterity. Stunting in cheerleading has been previously referred to as building pyramids. Stunts range from basic two-legged stunts, to one-legged extended stunts, and high flying basket tosses. There are numerous variations of each stunt, multiple entries and dismounts out of the stunt. Stunts vary at each level (level 1–6 according to the USASF). Each level increases the difficulty of the stunt. There are few recognized styles of stunting, coed, all-girl, and hybrid. Cheerleading teams are restricted to specific stunt rules based on the guidelines of certain associations and organizations; Therefore, some stunts may be permitted in certain divisions but illegal in others due to the different stunt regulations. The level of difficulty depends on where the teams stunt and practice as well as the organization they are a part of since cheer associations want to maintain the safety of the cheerleaders by restricting them to try stunts that are too advanced for their level.
A flyer, 2 bases (usually, side and main base), and a backspot.
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This is the person that's lifted into the air during a stunt---the flyer can also be referred to as the "top". The flyers are usually (but not always) the smallest people on a cheerleading squad. The flyer must control their own weight by keeping their abdominal muscles tight to stabilize the spinal column while in the air. In addition, they need to use their shoulders and their upper bodies to pull their weight off their bases underneath them. They also need to lock out their legs. If they don't stay tight, there is a greater risk of them becoming off of their center of balance and falling. They must keep a steady focus on what they are doing. A strong core and good sense of balance are key qualities for a flyer to possess.
Flyers may be extremely flexible and have a good sense of balance. In order to do accomplish more advanced skills flyers need to be flexible so they can maintain their balance and position on one leg while pulling other tricks with the other leg. Therefore, the more flexibility a flyer has the more successful their stunts will be. Flyers are typically the shorter and leaner people on the team, but other members can act as a flyer depending on their exceptional abilities. The flyers must always look up and never down. Flyers tend to look out, whether it’s into the crowd, or staring at a point on the wall but looking straight ahead will help keep them balanced. If flyers feel like they are going to fall because they cannot hold their balance, be sure to stay tight by keeping legs and arms tight next to the body so they don’t hit or hurt the cheerleaders under the flyer holding them in the air.
Bases and Spotters
Bases are the athletes that hold the flyer or top in the air during the stunt. They are responsible for keeping their flyer in the air, as well as making sure she is safe at all times. Bases are very strong and are usually assigned together based on height to create level platform for the flyer to perform an action. There are few recognized styles of stunting: coed, all-girl, and hybrid. There are no gender requirements for a base, both males and females can be bases.
Bases have the responsibility of carrying out the stunt and keeping the flyer in the air. The bottom person needs to complete every stunt to the exact way it’s supposed to be performed in order for it to work every single time, especially when it needs to count the most in a sports game or a competition. Their most important tool is their legs because they use it too extend cradles and basket tosses higher. Both bases at all times, should be looking at their flyer in the air because it is their responsibility to hold them up and keep them safe. If at any time the flyer is falling, both bases should actively try to stop the flyer from touching the floor so they don’t get seriously injured. Spotters should stand behind the stunt with their hands together and ready to catch if the stunt for some reason must come down.
This base has the majority of the flyer's foot and the majority of her weight. The main base will be almost directly under the stunt until it is cradled or brought down. In a one leg extension stunt, the main base will lift the toe and heel of the foot to increase stability from moving forwards or backwards. With single base extensions the main base with grip onto the heel of the flyers foot having a nice and stable transition. The main base is the "powerhouse" of one legged stunts because she/he holds a majority of the weight but keeps their arms somewhat towards the center of the stunt to share the rest of the weight with the secondary base. The main base cups the flyers foot from toe to heel, creating a "floor" for the flyers foot and stability.
The term second base only applies when doing a one-legged stunt, this position can also be considered a "side base." The secondary bases help lift the flyer up into the air and support the flyer's foot. The hand position for the side base can vary depending on preference. The more common placement, which is also more reliable and sturdy, is to have one hand under the middle of the foot and the other hand pushing up on the wrist of the main base to lift from underneath. The other approach is to have one hand under the middle of the foot and the other hand on top of the foot for stability. The problem with keeping the hand on top of the stunt is that the side base can tend to push down on the stunt instead of pulling up because they might not be as tall as the rest of the stunt to get their hand on top enough, which can create extra weight for the other cheerleaders on the bottom of the stunt. The second base's hand positioning functions to lift and to stabilize the flyer's foot from shifting from side to side.
The back spotter is also called a "third". This is the person actively stabilizing the stunt from the back. They help to position the flyer in the bases' hands upon entry. They support most of the weight of the flyer. They do so by using their hands to support the flyer's buttocks and ankles, and then push her up into the air. Once in the air, they will hold the flyer's ankles with both hands, pulling the ankles up to loosen the weight of the flyer for the bases and providing support. When the flyer cradles, they catch her under the arms to support the upper back and neck area. Since the center of gravity for a flyer is their hips, the back spot will always look at the hips while the stunt is happening. The back spot can determine the stability of the stunt by watching the flyer's hips. If the back spot follows the hips with her eyes, they can tell where the rest of the body will follow—that is why they must make sure that the hips are centered between the shoulders and ankles. If the flyer falls backwards, it is crucial for the back to attempt to catch the head and shoulders to prevent head/spinal injury. Due to the back's responsibilities, they are generally the tallest members of the team.
This is the person standing in front of the stunt facing the back base preventing the flyer from falling forward. The front spot often provides extra support to wrists of the bases in higher stunts such as extensions. The front spot has somewhat of the job of the back spot. Though the front spot is there, a flyer should never fall forward, rather backwards. There is not always a front spot in a stunt, and many squads only use front spots for basket tosses because it helps to throw straight upwards and gives the stunt more height. Front spots are typically the smaller, weaker people of the squad, who have not been trained or are not flexible enough to fly, and are also not at the right height and strength to side or back. Front spots increase the stability of a stunt.
Additional (hands-off) Spotter
This person does not actually touch the stunt unless something goes wrong. The free standing spot can stand behind, in front, or beside the stunt. Eyes stay on the stunt at all times even though the stunt is not touched unless the flyer is falling. If spotter must touch a stunt, points are deducted, but this only applies during a competition. Additional spots are typically used as a safety precaution. These spotters are used mainly when a stunt group is trying a new stunt or position that they have not experimented with prior or when the group is new to each other. This reassures that if something were to go wrong with in the stunt that everyone would get out of the stunt safely, and that the flyer would safely return to the ground and land on her feet.
Types of Stunts
This stunt uses both bases, a backspot, and a flyer. Sometimes a front spot.
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- Prep and Elevator
- A stunt in which the flyer stands on two bases' hands and is risen up to chin length height. The flyer may put her arms up.[verification needed] To enter into this skill, the bases should be apart no farther than the length of their flyer. They will then place their hands like an open book in front of them and dip together. The most common way that this is done is with the back spot to count, “One, two.” The bases dip together on the “two” count and push through the legs and arms afterwards. An extension prep is the same thing as a prep but now the bases’ and back spots arms are fully extended straight up. Keep in mind that for the flyer to be comfortable and stable in this stunt the bases should be spaced fairly close to together in order for the flyer’s legs to be shoulder with apart. An elevator is a cheerleading stunt where both the bases start in the same position as a normal prep, but they are bent down more with there hands open like a book touching the ground. The flyer then steps into the bases hands, and the flyer slowly starts rising into the air, hints the name "elevator."
- Cupie or an Awesome
- The Cupie is almost identical to the full extension except that the flyer's feet are together, in one hand of a single base or with one foot each in the hands of two bases. In a partner stunt the difference between a cupie and an awesome has to do with what the male is doing with his free hand. If the free hand is on the hip then it is a cupie, if the free hand is in a high V then it is an awesome.
- In an Extension,the flyer stands with each foot in the hands of a base while her arms are in an extended overhead position. The back can either hold the ankles of the flyer, or support the wrists of the bases depending on state rules. In a single-based stunt, the base will hold both of the flyer's feet above his or her head, with their arms locked.
- Split-lift or Teddy Sit
- The flier is in a seated straddle with the two side bases holding one hand on her thigh and one on her ankle. The back base holds up her butt with her hands and holds most of the weight. [clarification needed] This stunt is sometimes called a straddle sit. The flexibility of the flyer is tested in this stunt because the appearance and the impressiveness of this stunt depends on how far apart the bases can spread the flyer’s legs to create a better visual appearance. Along with that, flyer needs to keep their legs straight to help their bases and make sure their butt doesn’t sag to not put too much pressure on the back spot.
- Thigh stand
- A thigh stand is one of the simplest stunts. The bases kneel on one leg or are in a lunge position with their front knees bent in order to make it easier for the flyer to stand. The bases have their feet touching each other by the sides of their shoes. The back spot will hold the flyer at the waist. She will then jump onto the pocket of the bases' thighs. The bases will then grasp their far hand on the toe of the flyer's foot and the closet arm around their leg and keep it close to their bodies so the flyer is secure within the stunt.
- Shoulder stand
- In a shoulder stand, somebody stands on another person's shoulders. The base grabs their calves or ankles. To get out of this stunt, the base must pop the flyer forward catching them by their hips and slowly lowering the top to the floor.
- Shoulder sit
- In a shoulder sit, the flyer sits on the base's shoulders and wraps her feet around the base's waist. There are many ways to enter into a shoulder sit, the most common is for the base to bend one knee while the flyer stands behind the base and places one foot on the base's bent leg and puts their hands on the base's shoulders to make it easier to pop into the stunt. Once the flyer and the base are ready, they both dip on the same count and the flyer will extend their arms and wrap their other leg that was on the ground around the base's shoulder, the base will focus on getting the other leg secure on their shoulder. To exit out of this stunt, the base must hold the flyers hands while dipping and popping them off the base's shoulders. The flyer will land on the floor behind the base.
- Leapin' Lora
- The backspot is in a "rock" position, the flyer then jumps on the back of the backspot and bounces into the bases' hands.
- The main base brings the flyers left foot to belly button level, then the side bass brings her right leg to half, then the main base lifts the foot to full, and the side base lifts the right foot to full. While doing this the back base is holding the flyers ankles and is helping each base pull up. This stunt looks like the flyer is climbing up stairs and is also called 'Step Up'.
- This is when both flyers have grip of the right foot. One bases has the normal open book grip and the other base has one hand placed under the foot in-between the other bases hands, the other hand is placed on top (also called hamburger grip). When the flyer goes up in the air, they are standing on one foot with the other foot bent placed by ones knee. This stunt is called a liberty because it is meant to look like lady liberty.
All of the body positions can be done at prep or extension level.
- Liberty (lib)
- One (or more) base(s) holds up the flyer by the standing foot (usually the right foot) and the flyer balances weight on the standing leg. The flyer's other leg is bent at a 90 degree angle, and the toe is pointed and touching the right knee. This stunt is named for the way it looks similar to the Statue of Liberty. The name of this stunt is often shortened to 'Lib'.
- One man
- This stunt is done with one base but other bases may be present to ease mounting. The flyer begins standing in front of the base. The base grabs the cheerleader's waist and the flyer puts their hands on their base's wrists to help push off. The base counts "1, 2" and throws the flyer up as high as possible, catching the middle of her feet at either chest level or full position. There are many variations that make this an elite stunt, such as adding a spin or tuck at the base throws.
- One or more bases holds up the flyer by the right foot and the flyer balances weight on the straightened right leg. The flyer then grabs the loose foot and bends that leg upward behind the body until the toes are close to the back of the head, in a position resembling a scorpion's tail. The foot is secured in place by the opposite hand. A more advanced variation of the scorpion is the "Chin-hold," where the flyer tucks her foot underneath her own chin and holds.
- One or more bases extend right foot. The flyer's other leg is held by his/her hand to the side and the leg is fully extended. The position is similar to the Scorpion, but one of the flyer's hands holds her ankle or calf (instead of her toes) and the other arm is in the High V position. Sometimes also called a 6 o'clock, or needle. When the flyer does the scale, the flyer would want to grab by the ankle and pull her leg into the scale.
- The same thing as doing a liberty, except executed with the torso facing to the side.
- Heel stretch
- It is a stunt in which the base/bases holds one foot of the flyer while she holds the other foot in her hand and brings it beside her head. Flyer's flexibility is very important for this skill in order for the stunt to look impressive as well as the flyer to be able to hold her balance.
- Bow and arrow
- Variation of a heel stretch. The flyer grabs her left foot with the right hand, and pulls her leg straight up beside her head. Then she pulls her left arm and upper torso through the hole the leg and arm made, holding it straight. This is another skill that take an enormous amount of flexibility because the flyer needs to hold her foot above her head parallel with her body. A bow and arrow is an advanced stunt that takes much practice and preparation before the flyer can try it.
- Variation of a bow and arrow. With the left foot still held by the right hand, the flyer wraps her left arm around her leg so her hand is behind her head. Then she grabs her left hand with her right hand, pulling her straight leg closer to her face.
- A needle is a variation of a scorpion. It is when the flyer is in a scorpion but the leg you are holding is completely straight and your arms are completely straight. Before starting this stunt, it is a good idea for the bases to stretch out their flyer's back and legs by holding her chest and one of her legs and pushing them together. By doing this, the flyer will be more prepared to pull the skill in the air.
- From a lib, the flyer points their leg out behind them and attempt to turn their hip socket out so when the leg is out straight, the side of the leg is facing the audience and their arms are in a "T" position. The flyer needs to arch her back too, so her torso is semi-straight up if not, too much of her weight will be tilted downward/too far forward and so the flyer along with the rest of the stunt will fall forward. The stunt group (the cheerleaders on the bottom) are usually facing the side so the audience will see the side of the flyer's body. But the flyer should always to remember to look at the crowd even though they are not facing straight.
- A hitch is a variation of the prep or extension. Usually in a pyramid. 3–5 people form a hitch pyramid. The two out-side flyers are usually on one girl's shoulders (in a shoulder sit). The two middle flyers are in an extension and give their left or right foot (depending which side) to the girl in the middle who holds the feet by her shoulders. This can also be done in a prep stunt, where one base stays at prep level and the other goes up to extension.
- No-hands/Chin Chin/Cry Baby
- The flyer takes her foot, bends it under her chin, then lets it sit there with any helping hands.
- Running table-top
- When four flyers are bent over with a flat back like table-tops and the other flyer that is in a half quickly runs across their backs and goes into a half on the other side
- The basis for the stunt is for the base to lift the flyer onto their palm, which they then extend upwards into a Liberty position. To enter into this stunt, the base must use proper toss technique; which is popping the flyer in the air follow through leaving the right arm extended while dropping your left arm to your chest. The top person’s hips should be a couple of inches above your extended arms at the end of your toss. If the top’s hips are any lower, you will catch the flyer with your arm bent and be forced to press the chair up. While the flyer is lowering down, spot for their seat and grab the left ankle for balance. Make sure to keep the right arm overhead pressed against your ear, for stability, and locked out you also want to keep the flyer’s left leg in close to the body to help balance the stunt. When you catch the chair, absorb with your legs (not your arm) to take the pressure off of the landing. As a flyer, jump slightly back over your base, bend your right leg, and assume a “chair” position. In the chair, your right leg should be resting on the base’s right forearm, your shoulders are directly over your hips, and your left leg should be positioned slightly in front of your hip. The flyer stunts with her arms and free leg, usually by putting her foot in a 90-degree angle making a liberty pose and her arms in a high V position.
- Pretty Girl
- When the bases put the flyer in an extended position or half, and when the flyer gets thrown into the air, the flyer puts her hand behind her head and lifts her leg into the lib position while in the air. Another way of doing this stunt is by going into a liberty position and placing your hands on your knee like a proper "pretty girl" or with one hand on your knee and the other behind your head or on your hip.
- Basket toss
- The basic basket toss is not a difficult skill, but it is one that involves significant risk if not performed properly. Flyer is thrown from a set position or also called "smush" where the flyer then hits a position with her legs in the air and her arms are extended reaching for the maximum height possible then hitting a pose or hand position then landing in a cradle position. The bases support the flyer's feet with their hands held on to one of their own wrists and one wrist of the other base. The flyer's feet are placed side by side on top of the bases' hands. The backspot is supporting the flyer by holding onto her thighs. If a front spot is used, they will place their hands underneath the basket to add height to the toss.
Basket toss positions
- Toe-touch basket
- The flyer is thrown from an extension where she fully extends her arms by her ears, using her shoulders to set up. Then, at the peak of the toss, the flyer will bring both of her legs to her chest. Her legs are straddled and straight, parallel to the ground, with her toes pointed; her hands are in fists or blades and arms in a "T" motion. After executing this pose in the basket, the flyer will squeeze her legs together to land in a cradle position.
- Pike basket
- The flyer is thrown from an extension where she fully extends her arms by her ears, using her shoulders to set up. Then, at the peak of the toss, the flyer will bring her chest to her knees and her knees to her chest (her body is now in a folded position). Subsequently, on the way down, the flyer will then arch her back (unfold) and land in a cradle position.
- Kick-single/Double full basket
- This is an advanced level basket toss skill that is legal at the high school level. The flyer is thrown from an extension where she fully extends her arms by her ears, using her shoulders to set up. At the peak of the toss, the flyer will kick their left leg up while their arms make an “L-like” motion (left arm in a punch, right arm in candlesticks), she will spin either once or twice by wrapping her leg over and looking the way she is spinning with her head, depending on the basket. The bases and back spot wait with arms extended to catch the top girl in the cradle. They remain in the same position the entire time. After executing the body position, the flyer will snap their legs back together for the cradle. The bases will begin to slow the flyer into the cradle as soon as they make contact with her body. As they catch, they will absorb with their legs to ease the pressure of gravity coming down on them. Like a regular cradle, the flyer pikes her body, keeping her shoulders up and catching herself on her bases’ shoulders.
- Straight ride basket
- The flyer is thrown from an extension where she fully extends her arms by her ears, using her shoulders to set up. Then, the flyer will stand slightly at a diagonal. After doing this, the flyer will land in a cradle position. This is the most basic position for all basket tosses and is usually used as a warm-up for stunts groups before they actually try the harder basket tosses.
- The X-Out basket
- The flyer is thrown from a regular basket toss and does a straight ride all the way to the peak of the toss. She does a back tuck at the peak of the basket. At the last second of the back tuck the flyer opens its arms and legs wide to make an "X" shape with its body. While performing the "X" part the flyer is 180 degrees flat and face down towards the ground like superman. After the "X" part the flyer rotates its body back to a normal cradle position ready to be caught by the bases.
Two-and-a-half high stunts
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- The A-Frame
- Swedish Fall
- 2-1-1 (Technically a 3 high pyramid if the top flier is in an extended stunt but still considered legal)
- Table Top
- Wolf Wall
- Bend Over
- High Split
- High Chair (also high hands, lib, cupie, etc.)
- Safety - Cheer Glossary. U.S. All Star Federation.
- "Skills and Drills - Stunting Basics". Varsity.com. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
- "2007-08 USASF Glossary" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-08-06.
- "Skills and Drills- Coed Stunts". Retrieved 23 February 2014.