Physics of Cheerleading
Cheerleading is an athletic activity that is chock full of physics principles. Whether cheerleaders are creating momentum, acceleration, rotation or demonstrating shear force, they always seem to have Newton and his laws surrounding their every move. Understanding the physics of cheerleading is beneficial for performance. This understanding can also provide you with the knowledge to prevent injury and awareness of your safety.
Center of Gravity
Understanding your center of gravity and how that affects your weight distribution is detrimental to all aspects of a cheer routine. Most of the time, your center of gravity is housed within your core. That center can change depending on the activity you are doing at the time. If your center of gravity shifts too far forward you will most like fall over. An example would be if you were shoved while standing. Gravity is the force that attracts objects to Earth and your center of gravity will always pull you back down.
Gravity's Affect on Stunting
As a flier, your center of gravity changes simply with your number of bases. If you are extended into a prep with two bases, one under each foot, your center of gravity remains about the same, but higher away from the Earth. If you suddenly find yourself performing a one-legged stunt, you must shift your center of gravity to one side of your body to counterbalance the side being pulled to Earth. This shift allows you to exert a pull against the force of gravity, counterbalancing the act.
Gravity's Affect on Tumbling
When you tumble, you are constantly shifting the center of gravity within your core. In a cartwheel, your center of gravity moves toward the floor as you move to the handstand phase of the exercise. As you move through the center of the handstand, your center of gravity drops to the lowest point and rises back toward your body as you move back to a standing position. This is important to understand because many times a simple awareness of your center can correct a skill you may be struggling with.
Gravity's Affect on Jumping
Cheerleading jumps are probably most affected by gravity. When you jump, it isn't a matter of understanding how to shift your weight and you can't rely on momentum to perform the skill. You are simply working with your own force against gravity to accelerate your body off the ground. Improving your jumping skills means increasing your mass, or the strength of your legs, and increasing your speed. This together will give you the force necessary for higher, faster jumps.
- Real World Physics Problems: The Physics of Cheerleading
- "Ron Kurtus' School for Champions"; Overview of the Force of Gravity; Ron Kurtus; September 2010
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Center of Gravity.
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- Kim DH, Park JK, Jeong MK. Influences of posterior-located center of gravity on lumbar extension strength, balance, and lumbar lordosis in chronic low back pain. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2014;27(2):231-7. doi:10.3233/BMR-130442
Kindra Harvey has been a dance and fitness writer since 2003. She has taught at, owned and managed several dance and fitness facilities, along with credits in corporate health publications for America's Back, Inc. and dance/fitness blogs for MyPremierStudio.com. Harvey holds a Bachelor of Science in health promotion and wellness from Missouri Southern State University.