Becoming a cheerleader can be super overwhelming… there is so much to learn! So before you start practicing your skills, you should study the cheerleading terms and definitions. This will give you a clear understanding of the skills and stunts you will be learning throughout your cheer career. Whether you are trying out for your school’s squad or working to earn a spot on a competitive team, understanding these cheer terms will prepare you for what’s to come! Check out our cheerleader glossary!
Stunting is a key component of any cheer routine. A stunt section consists of skills, flyer body positions, and creative transitions. There are different types of stunt groups, so the number of cheerleaders required to make a group varies.
There are a variety of different stunts. Competitive cheerleading is divided into six levels. The Level One division has many restrictions, limiting teams to performing the most basic competitive skills. Level Six division is permitted to perform the most difficult stunts and skills. School cheerleading rules and divisions are different than competitive cheerleading rules, but all teams perform the same types of stunts.
All-Girl Stunting: A type of stunting in which there is are two bases, one baskspot, one flyer and, in some cases, a front spot.
Arabesque: A body position that is pulled by simply lifting one leg back. The flyer should continue to lift the back leg, keeping the chest up. Hit a T-motion with both remaining arms. Arabesque tutorial
Back Spot: The cheerleader that assists the bases in putting up the flyer and spots the back of the stunt.
Base: The cheerleader that holds up the flyer in a stunt.
Bow-and-Arrow or Overstretch: Similar to a Front Stretch, but the flyer will let go of her foot with the left hand and hit a T-motion with the left arm. The motion should be placed in front of the leg.
Cupie: A stunt in which the flyer stands with her feet together. This stunt can be executed in a coed stunt, two-man group or all-girl group.
Coed Stunting: A type of stunting in which there is one base and one flyer.
Extension: A basic stunt in which the flyer stands on the bases’ hands. The arms of the bases and backspot should be fully extended. High-level stunts are always performed at the extension-level.
Flyer: The cheerleader at the top of a stunt.
Front Spot: The cheerleader that assists the bases in putting up the flyer and spots the front of the stunt.
Full-Up: A stunt entry in which the flyer executes a 360-degree turn. Upper-level teams will progress to One-And-Half-Ups and Double-Ups.
Good-Leg: A term meaning the leg a flyer is most comfortable pulling body positions with. Flyers are often taught to stand in a stunt on their right foot and pull body positions with their left leg.
Grip: A term meaning the way bases hold the flyer’s foot in the stunt. Bases can have a good grip, which means they are properly holding the foot, or a bad grip.
Half or Prep: A basic stunt in which the flyer stands on the bases’ hands. The flyer’s feet should be positioned directly under the bases chin. All stunts can be performed at prep-level.
Half-Up: A stunt entry in which the flyer executes a 180-degree turn. This can also be used as a transition.
Heel Stretch: A body position that is pulled with one hand by grabbing the ball of one foot and pulling the leg up to the side of the body. Flyers can also pull an “opposite stretch” by pulling a heel stretch on their “bad-leg”. Hit a high-V with the remaining arm. Heel stretch tutorial
Liberty: A body position that is pulled by bending one leg at the knee and placing the foot on the inside of the opposite leg. Hit a high-V. Liberty tutorial
Pull: A term meaning to do or execute a body position.
Reload: A stunt transition in which the stunt group catches a cradle and immediately tosses the flyer into Smoosh. The flyer’s feet should never touch the floor from the Cradle to the Smoosh.
Rewind: A stunt entry in which the flyer executes a back tuck from the mat into the bases’ hands. The bases can catch this skill at prep-level or full extended.
Scale: A body position that is pulled with one hand by grabbing the shin and pulling the leg up. The leg in the air should be straight. The body should resemble the letter “V”. Hit a high-V with the remaining arm. Scale tutorial
Scorpion: A body position that is pulled with one hand by pulling the leg backwards until the foot is directly behind the head. Once the body position is hit, the flyer may hold her foot with both hands to maintain stability.
Show-And-Go: A stunt transition in which the flyer is taken from a Smoosh to an Extension, then immediately lowered back into a Smoosh. The movement of this skill should be continuous.
Thigh Stand: A basic stunt in which the flyer stands on the bases’ thighs.
Single-Down Cradle or Full-Down Cradle: Similar to Straight Cradle, but the flyer will execute a 360-degree twist upon release. Upper-level teams will progress to Double-Down Cradles.
Smoosh or Squish: The mid-way point between the beginning of the stunt and a Prep or Extension. The stunt group hits the Smoosh position when the flyer jumps into the bases’ hands but the bases have not lifted her up.
Spike or Needle: Similar to a Scorpion, but the flyer will extend her leg until it is straight. Needle tutorial
Straight Cradle: A stunt dismount in which the stunt group releases the flyer from their hands and catches her in their arms. Upon release, the flyer flattens her body for the catch.
Switch-Up: Similar to a Tick-Tock, but the flyer swtiches the foot she is standing on as the bases extend their arms to the top of the stunt. She will land at the top of the stunt on the opposite foot she loaded in with.
Tick-Tock: A skill in which the flyer pulls a body position (typically a liberty or heel stretch) with one leg, then swtiches the foot she is standing on mid-stunt. For example, if her left foot is in the bases’ hands, she will “tick-tock” to stand on her right foot.
Two-Man Stunting: A type of stunting in which there is there are two bases, one flyer and no backspot.
There are two types of tumbling in a cheer routine: running tumbling and standing tumbling. In a tumbling section, most passes are performed by multiple athletes, if not the entire team, at the same time. Only the athletes with the most difficult passes will tumble without a partner in a running tumbling section.
Like stunting, tumbling is regulated by strict rules based on the level of a team.
Below are cheer-specific tumbling terms and definitions.
Arabian: A skill executed by completing a back 360-degree flip and 180-degree twist in a tucked position.
Back Handspring: A skill executed by jumping back from a standing position, placing both hands on the floor and simultaneously snapping both legs down. Back handspring tutorial
Back Layout: A skill executed by completing a back 360-degree flip in a straight position.
Back Tuck: A skill executed by completing a back 360-degree flip in a tucked position.
Back Walkover: A skill executed by bending backwards, placing both hands on the floor and kicking one leg at a time over the top.
Bounding: A term indicating two or more no-handed tumbling skills being connected in a tumbling pass.
Double Full: A skill executed by completing a back 360-degree flip and 720-degree twist in a straight position.
Front Tuck: A skill executed by completing a front 360-degree flip in a tucked position.
Front Walkover: A skill executed by placing both hands on the floor and kicking one leg at a time over the top.
Full: A skill executed by completing a back 360-degree flip and 360-degree twist. A Full is executed in a straight position in a running tumbling pass and a tucked position in a standing tumbling pass.
Handstand: A fundamental skill in which an athlete is standing on her hands with her feet in the air. The Handstand is not performed in a cheerleading routine as a skill, but hitting the Handstand position when executing a Round-Off and Back Handspring is crucial.
Hurdle: The entry into all running tumbling passes. The Hurdle can be executed from a running start or from a standing position (called a “Power Hurdle”).
One-And-A-Half: A skill executed by completing a back 360-degree flip and 540-degree twist in a straight position.
Round-Off: The entry skill into all running tumbling passes. Begin the Round-Off by twisting the upper body 90-degrees and placing both hands on the floor. Kick one leg at a time until both feet meet at the top of the skill (in a Handstand position). Finish the Round-Off by completing another 90-degree twist as both feet snap down.
Running Tumbling: A term indicating tumbling passes that begin with an athlete running and hurdling into the first skill. These passes typically begin with a Round-Off.
Punch: The jump into a tumbling skill.
Set Position: The entry into all flipping skills. To set, an athlete should have both arms by the ears, legs straight and feet together. Hitting this position prior to beginning the flip ensures the athlete will have the height required to safely execute the skill.
Standing Tumbling: A term indicating tumbling passes that begin from a standing position. These passes typically begin with a Back Handspring, but standing Back Tucks, etc. are also considered standing tumbling.
Step-Out: The action of ending a 180-degree twisting skill and entering into a Round-Off by landing with one leg in front of the other.
Synchronized Pass: A term meaning two athletes simultaneously performing identical passes.
Whip: A skill executed by completing a back 360-flip by “whipping” the legs over the top in a straight position.
High school and all-star cheerleaders perform toe touches, hurdlers and pike jumps. Upper-level teams execute these jumps consecutively, ending in a standing back tuck, while lower-level teams may execute one jump at a time. Jumps must be performed by an entire team, so it is important that the athletes are able to synchronize their jumps with counts. Below are cheer jump names with a how-to guide!
“Hit”-“Pull”: A phrase used by coaches and cheerleaders during a jump section to keep the teams’ jumps synchronized. Everyone shouts the word “hit” when executing a jump and “pull” when performing the flipping skill out of the last jump.
Hurdler: A jump executed by lifting one leg in front of the body and kicking the other leg back, bending at the knee.
Jump Entry: A set of motions performed prior to executing a jump.
Pike Jump: A jump executed by lifting both legs into a pike position.
Toe Touch: A jump executed by lifting both legs into a straddle position.
The Stunt Stand Device can help you simulate flying without needing a base!
Basket tosses are high-flying stunts in which the bases release a flyer from their hands so she can perform tricks. Many baskets are similar to each other with the only difference being leg placement or an addition of a twist. Nevertheless, all baskets are thrilling to watch. Check out the most popular basket terminology!
Arch or Open: A position the flyer hits after completing a non-twisting basket by arching her back with her arms by her side.
Ball-X Basket: A basket executed by the flyer hitting a tuck position and immediately opening into an X-position.
Flipping Baskets: Any basket that involves a flipping skill.
Full-Up Basket: A basket executed by the flyer completing a 360-degree twist during the toss.
Full-Up Toe Touch Basket: The combination of a full-up basket and the Toe Touch Basket.
Hitch-Kick Basket: The combination of a Pretty Girl and Kick Basket. The flyer can execute a single twist (Hitch-Kick-Full Basket) or double twist (Hitch-Kick-Double Basket) for added difficulty.
Kick Basket: A basket executed by the flyer kicking one leg. The flyer can execute a single twist (Kick-Full Basket) or double twist (Kick-Double Basket) for added difficulty.
Kick-Kick Basket: A basket executed by the flyer kicking both legs one at a time. The flyer can execute a single twist (Kick-Kick-Full Basket) or double twist (Kick-Kick-Double Basket) for added difficulty.
Load-In: The hand placement of bases and the flyer’s entry into a basket toss.
Pike Basket: A basket executed by the flyer hitting a pike position at the top of the toss.
Pretty Girl: A basket executed by the flyer hitching one leg, which placing one hand behind her head and the other on her hip. Pretty girl tutorial
Quarter-Turn: A basket element in which the entire stunt group (including the flyer) does a 90-degree turn after throwing the flyer. The quarter-turn is usually only executed by upper-level teams.
Ride: A term meaning to obtain maximum height during a toss. The “Ride” is executed by the flyer simply staying in a straight body position with her arms by her ears. This is similar to a Straight Ride, but a skill should be performed after “riding” a basket.
Straight Ride: A basket executed by the flyer simply staying in a straight body position with her arms by her ears.
Toe Touch Basket: A basket executed by the flyer hitting a toe touch at the top of the toss.
Trophy Drill: A basket drill executed by the flyer jumping onto the bases’ hands and standing up as if she is going to take off. The bases’ should raise their arms but without actually tossing the flyer. This is a drill to practice the load-in into the basket toss.
A pyramid is a structure built by two or more stunt groups to create one large stunt. This is the section in which teams are allowed to be the most creative with the elements and transitions involved. Unlike stunting, tumbling and jumps, there is not a standard list of pyramid skills or cheerleader pyramid positions.
While some motions are not as popular as they once were, a few motions are still used throughout the entire routine. It is important to perform each motion as sharp as possible. Check out our guide to the must-know motions below!
Clasp: A cheerleader’s clap, executed by clasping the hands together and clapping.
Cone: A combination of a Touchdown motion and a Clasp.
High-V: A motion executed by lifting the arms to resemble the letter “V”.
Low-V: A motion executed by slightly raising the arms to resemble an upside-down letter “V”.
T-motion: A motion executed by lifting the arms to resemble the letter “T”.
Touchdown: A motion executed by raising the arms by the ears.
Is there a term or phrase that you've heard but don't see here? Let us know in the comments and we'll add it in!
Kiara Nowlin is a 3x cheerleading and power tumbling world champion. For 10 years, she has traveled across the US and internationally hosting tumbling clinics. Nowlin won three national championship titles as a member of the Baylor University Acrobatics & Tumbling team, where she also earned spots on both the Academic and NCATA All-American team. She graduated with a major in public relations and minor in Mandarin Chinese.