Cheerleader Partner Stunt Professions

Cheerleading Stunt Progressions

Cheerleading partner stunts, as in other gymnastics-related activities, should be taught in natural progressions from easy to hard and low to high.  Why should your squad learn in progressions and not just certain desired stunts?

  1. Creating a Memory of Movement
    It is important that cheerleaders develop a memory of movement.  That is, they learn how their body reacts each time a certain movement is performed.  An example might be performing a heel stretch on a side thigh stand.  The top person finds that by locking the leg and keeping the hips square, she can reach a balanced position with her hips over the base.  Conversely, if she bends a leg, her hips will move outside of the base, and she will fall to the side.  After mastering this skill and remembering how the body feels and reacts in a certain position, the person should be able to duplicate the movement at other levels (i.e. from the shoulders in a "Big M" pyramid or in a liberty).
  2. Protecting the Performer
    It is also important to be aware of the sense of infallibility experienced by junior high and high school students.  Most have never been seriously injured themselves or had friends that have been seriously injured.  They may not have a clear understanding of the risks involved and may be tempted to try more difficult stunts before mastering the easier stunts.  Learning partner stunts in progressions will give the coach an opportunity to assess a cheerleader's progress, determine the proper ability level of the squad, and decide when to safely move onto more difficult stunts.
  3. Protecting the Coach
    As a coach, you have a legal duty to provide a certain standard of care when supervising your squad.  This standard of care, which is laid out in the AACCA (American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Advisors) Safety Manual, includes teaching skills in safe progressions.  By documenting your squad's progress on the "Qualification Sheets" included in this manual, you will be able to provide written documentation that you have used reasonable care to ensure the safety of your squad.

General Partner Stunt Progressions
The order in which basic partner stunts should be taught follows the progression of three basic types of partner stunt techniques: climbing skills, climbing skills/weight transfer, and timing/lifting with shoulders.

Climbing Skills

  • Step-up drill
  • L-stand
  • Double base thigh stand
  • Step up to double base thigh stand with hitch

Climbing Skills and Weight Transfer

  • Walk up shoulder stand from lunge
  • Walk up double base shoulder stand
  • Pick up shoulder stand
  • Pick up elevator/suspended forward roll
  • Splits from thighs
  • Chair with a post

Timing and Lifting with Shoulders

  • Elevator -- Pop cradle
  • Elevator Extension
  • Chair to Extension
  • Elevator -- Knee Basket -- Extension
  • Liberty with brace
  • Liberty -- Free standing
  • Basket toss

Generally speaking, stunts can be broken down into two main concerns for each the base and top person:


  1. Control the hips (usually accompanied by using the proper stance).
  2. Assist the top person by resisting their climbing force.  For example, when the top person in a shoulder stand pushes down, the base must push upwards to keep their arms straight.


  1. Control the hips (usually accompanied by tightening the thighs and hips and straightening the legs).
  2. Climb lightly by taking the weight off of the climbing foot.  Three examples of climbing lightly are 1) pushing off of the ground in a step-up drill, 2) pushing through the arms when climbing in stunts like shoulder stands, 3) lifting with the hips or shoulders in timing stunts like elevators.

If stunts are learned in this order and with concentration on the proper techniques, the ability level of your squad will naturally progress to higher and higher levels.  When this progression is not adhered to, a squad's ability level will tend to level off at an intermediate level, unable to master more difficult stunts because of an inability to demonstrate the fundamental partner stunt techniques required for advanced and elite stunts.  If you don't start at the bottom, you'll never get to the top!  Stunt safely!