The scorpion is one of the more difficult body positions for flyers in cheer. As with the other body positions we see flyers do, the scorpion relies heavily on flexibility. However, the strength of your body is another key component of the scorpion. Especially as we see many teams doing a “kick-up” scorpion, which combines the need for flexibility and strength even more.
While a common theme with many aspects of cheer, the scorpion is a very unnatural position for the human body, probably more so than most other positions the body will be in. This makes strengthening and stretching the right muscles very important. Far too often we see athletes compensate using other muscle groups, and therefore placing increased stress through their spine. This can lead to injuries to the muscles and even to the spine itself.
Performing the following exercises can help to get or improve your scorpion in a safe way. While the flexibility of your back and shoulders are important, having a strong core will help to make pulling the body position easier.
I can not stress this enough. It is absolutely imperative that you are stretching both sides equally. In cheer, we see most flyers flying on their right leg and therefore pulling the scorpion with their left leg. This results in many athletes deciding to only stretch their left leg for a scorpion. You need to stretch both sides the same amount to keep both sides equally flexible and strong. If one side is significantly stronger or more flexible than the other, your body will be unbalanced and it will place you at a much higher risk for injury.
*Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds to a minute, and repeat 3-4 times. Try to go a little deeper into each stretch during each repetition. You should feel a good stretch during each of these, but you should not feel pain.
1. Front Split
2. Front Split with Backward Lean
(*Only perform this stretch once you have mastered a full front split without needing hand support)
3. Bow Stretch
4. Scorpion Stretch
5. Back Bend
6. Seal Stretch
7. Scorpion Position with Strap
***Make sure that your knee is pointing directly behind you, not to the side. When your knee is pointing to the side, you are placing your spine in a position that could potentially cause injury.
These exercises should be completed with 5 second holds, for a total of 20-30 repetitions. They can be broken down into 2-3 sets of 10 with a break between each set.
2. Bird Dog
4. Donkey Kicks
5. Plank Hold
These should be done for 30-60 second holds, for 2-3 repetitions.
In order to understand the best ways to strengthen the core, we must first understand what muscles make up the core.
When you hear the word “core”, you probably think of “abs” or “six-pack”. However, the muscle that leads to the 6-pack look, the rectus abdominis, is just one of the many muscles that make up the core.
The rectus abdominis can flex the trunk, like you do when you perform crunches or sit-ups. This is why these exercises are so popular, because they can help you achieve that 6-pack abs look that so many people desire. However, there are other muscles in the body that help control your core that are just as important, if not more important than this one.
The external obliques help to form the outer wall of your core and run along the sides of your trunk. They also help to flex the trunk, but also assist with rotation.
The internal obliques run just underneath the external obliques, running in the opposite direction, and also assist with rotation of the trunk.
Another muscle of the core is what is called the transversus abdominis, or TA. This muscle wraps around you like a corset and helps to improve the stability of your core.
The spinal erectors run down your back right up against the spine. These muscles help you stand up straight and maintain upright posture.
The hip flexors are another component to the core. These muscles are crucial to jumping and tumbling.
Often times in cheerleaders, the spinal erectors and hip flexors will be overactive and lead to what is called an anterior pelvic tilt, typically noted by an arched back in standing. A little bit of tilt is ok. However, too much tilt can mean weaker muscles in the abdomen and/or glutes leading to increased stress on the back and hips. Good core exercises will help to keep these muscles in check while strengthening the other muscles of the core.
Other muscles, such as the hip extensors and abductors, as well as hamstrings, are not always included in the “core”, but when weak can lead to problems that affect the core. So it is very important to make sure that these muscles are strong as well.
So, now that we know a little bit more about what makes up the core, how do we strengthen it? Here is a list of some of the most effective core strengthening exercises as well as how to do them. If you are experiencing any pain, either prior to, during, or after doing any of these exercises, stop and consult a physical therapist.
2. Rolling Side Plank
3. Physioball Pike Rollouts
4. Hollow Body Holds
5. Bird Dog
6. Reverse Crunch
7. Flutter Kicks
8. Leg Lowering
10. Single Leg Bridges
Disclaimer: The information contained on this website is compiled from a variety of professional sources as well as the author's own experiences. The information should NOT be used in place of a visit to your healthcare provider or used to disregard any advice provided by your healthcare provider.