3 Reasons Why Your Conditioning Program Is Making Your Tumbling Worse

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Dec 5, 2013
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This article was originally published on TumblingCoach.com
Read the original right HERE: 3 Reasons Why Your Conditioning Program Is Making Your Tumbling Worse

Author: Coach Sahil M.


He didn’t take his conditioning seriously

One of my favorite quotes in this past year, has been this:

“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.”
- Rikki Rogers (Tweet This)

It’s the very reason why your coaches push you harder every practice, especially when competitions are only a few weeks away. If you’ve been cheerleading for a while, you know why conditioning is an important piece of the tumbling puzzle; because to overcome things you once thought you couldn’t do, you need to learn to overcome the weaknesses that currently exists.

And everyone has weaknesses, so don’t think you’re alone. I haven’t met a single athlete or coach that couldn’t benefit from improving a certain area of their skill-set.

With that said, I want you to know that conditioning is also a skill-set, one that I’ve basically spent more than half my life perfecting. Everything from helping running backs run faster, to helping powerlifters squat hundreds of pounds safely, I know what works, and what doesn’t.

So it’s no surprise that some conditioning programs are about as effective as putting lipstick on a pig… if you know what I mean. Hence I present to you, the three possible reasons why your conditioning program could be making your tumbling worse.

1. It’s Too Damn Easy

When you tumble, the maximum amount of force exerted on your knee joints is anywhere from 8-14x your bodyweight. Elbows and shoulders go through a similar load. To put that in perspective, let’s do some quick math (it’ll be painless, I promise!)

Say a flyer weighs 102 lbs. If she were to do a simple tumbling pass such as a round off, back handspring, back tuck, the amount of times her knees experience a high amount of impact is three (the round off to BHS connection, BHS to tuck connection, and the final landing). And let’s be very conservative by assuming her knees are in perfect health, and her tendons are stronger than most, so they only feel an impact of 8x bodyweight.

Therefore, the total amount of load (in pounds) her knees go through is as follows:

102 lbs x 8 = 816 lbs

Now we multiply this by three, which is the total number of impacts in the entire tumbling line.

816 lbs x 3 = 2448 lbs!

Uhm, that’s about as much as a small car! And don’t forget, that’s just a basic level 3 pass. Imagine if she was level 5!

So what’s the point of all this? Well if your knees (and other joints) have to constantly experience this much pounding, the only way they can cope is if the muscles surrounding them are strong enough to keep up. Conditioning doesn’t make our joints any stronger, that’s impossible. You can only increase the strength in the surrounding muscles and tendons.

Want to keep your knees in one place, and in one piece? Put a bigger, tighter “cage” around em made up of strong muscles and tendons.

This is why the question shouldn’t be, “should I condition” but instead, “why in the world would you want to take conditioning lightly?”

2. Lame Exercise Selection

Ok, so you train hard in the gym because you know there is no easy way out. Great, but if you’re working hard doing exercises that provide almost zero benefit, don’t expect your tumbling to improve.

One of these exercises is long-duration running. Ninety percent of sports are interval-based. This means there’s a whole bunch of action, then a small period of breathing, then more action, then breathing, then a different action, then breathing.

Cheer is no exception. You’re not stunting ALL of two minutes and thirty seconds. Nor are you tumbling ALL of it either. It’s all broken up into different chunks that use different energy systems of the body.

Some elements test your endurance, some testing raw strength, and some test your physical technique.

So why in the world would you train differently?

Makes no sense does it? Now notice I said long-duration running, not sprinting. Sprinting is excellent because it involves a high amount of effort, but only for a small period of time, after which you need to take a small break.

That’s why suicides are excellent (I’m talking about the conditioning drill here, just so we’re clear.) So are hill sprints, normal sprints, wheel barrows and the sort.

But if you’re on a treadmill or bike for 10 minutes or more at a constant and steady pace, you’re doing yourself no favors.

“Conditioning doesn’t make our joints any stronger, that’s impossible. You can only increase the strength in the surrounding muscles and tendons.” - Tweet This
3. Not Explosive Enough

This “mistake” is similar to what I mentioned in number two, but I’m going to expand on it a bit further because the simple fact is this: you can have amazing exercise selection that have a direct benefit to your tumbling, and you can work hard by throwing in a tonne of volume (lots of reps and sets).

But if you’re conditioning slow, you’ll also tumble slow. And tumbling slowly is the easiest way to put yourself at risk for injuries.

In fact, I’d say that 90% of all tumbling injuries can be slotted nicely into two categories:

1. Not fast/aggressive enough
2. Not tight enough on landings

Think about it. In fact, go watch a bunch of tumbling fail videos and you’ll see what I mean. You might be surprised that I didn’t put technique in that list. I am too, but I can’t argue with facts.

As much as I love technique and hammer it home to all my athletes, just watch tumblers that have horrid technique but are aggressive and tight. They ain’t pretty, but they’re not getting hurt either.

“Ninety percent of sports are interval based… and cheer is no exception!” – Tweet This

So back to conditioning slowly. There are two types of muscle fibers in your body: fast twist and slow twitch (the fast twitch ones can further be divided into two other types, but that’s beyond the scope of this article so we’ll keep it simple for now. Sorry to all my kin/physio majors.)

The fast twitch fibers are exactly what you’d expect – they fire quickly and are responsible for rapid bursts in movement. Everything from jumping, sprinting etc. involve your fast twitch fibers. Also, they are the easiest ones to grow so if you have muscles (or have a “toned look”) then congrats, those are most likely fast-twitch.

Slow twitch fibers on the other hand, are what would come in handy if you’re a marathon runner. They help move the body at a slow and steady pace and use oxygen as their main source of fuel over carbs and fat.

(By the way there IS a point to all this, so stay with me)

Now the amount and types of fibers that you have on your body is completely pre-determined. You’re either lucky and born fast-twitch dominant, or got the raw end of the deal and are slow-twitch dominant. It’s like a genetic lottery.


Recent research shows that while the type and amount of fibers you have are indeed determined form birth, you can change your fate simply by changing the way you train in the gym! (1)

This means if you spend a majority of your time conditioning using high explosive movements, the muscle structure of your body will adapt.

“…Tumbling slowly is the easiest way to put yourself at risk for injuries” – Tweet This

But be careful - this adaptation can go either way. Take someone who has fast-twitch fibers and make them do slow, boring, tedious conditioning for a long period of time and they’ll end up tumbling like a turtle.

You want an easy way to dominate your competition? No need to use intimidation on Twitter, start rivalries, or any of that drama type nonsense. Just tell them it’s a good idea to do a one hour jog, every day of the week.

While I am of course joking, I just want to make sure I’m driving home an important point – you train the way you tumble, and tumble the way you train. Tumbling itself is a fast-twitch dominant activity, so when you train slow, your body gets mixed signals. Which means it never adapts, and your muscles never really good at one thing, so you stay mediocre.

And being mediocre in such a competitive sport is the last thing you want to aim for.

I hope these tips help you improve your conditioning program so that you can push your tumbling to higher levels. If you have any questions or just want to say “hi”, feel free to drop them in the comment section below!

As always, train hard and train smart.


(1)Wilson, J., Lenneke, J., et al. The effects of Endurance, Strength, and Power Training on Muscle Fiber Type Shifting. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. 26(6), 1724-1729.

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