5 Best Overhead Exercises to Improve Stunting & Tumbling Strength

by The Cheer Kin
cheerleading strength training for stunting and tumbling

Get Your Arms Up!

Overhead movements are a huge part of stunting and tumbling, yet overhead strength training is quite uncommon (at least in my experience) in cheer.

It’s extremely important to develop strength, stability and endurance in your shoulders, back and arms to be able to hold stunts above your head easily and safely, as well as provide a reliable support to land on when your hands touch the floor in tumbling (i.e. during handsprings, walkovers, round offs, etc.).

Below, I’ll discuss 5 great exercises that will help to develop a strong upper body.

If done regularly and properly, you’ll notice a big difference in your stunting and tumbling!

1. Handstand Hold

Purpose: To build upper body endurance.

  • Do this with your stomach against a wall for proper alignment
  • Your nose, hips, and feet should be flat against the wall
  • Keep your elbows straight, with the insides of your elbows facing forwards
  • Push through your shoulders as much as possible to extend your body
  • Squeeze everything as tight as you can
  • Begin with holding for 30 seconds, then progress up to 1 minute or more
  • Do at least 3 sets at a time

2. Handstand Shoulder Shrugs

Purpose: To strengthen the shoulder girdle.

  • Use the same technique as listed above in “Handstand Hold”
  • Once up in the handstand, let your shoulders sink down while still keeping your body tight
  • Hold the bottom of the shrug only momentarily, then push back up to the starting position
  • Perform at least 2-3 sets of 10 shoulder shrugs

3. Handstand Push-Ups

Purpose: To strengthen the shoulders and triceps.

  • Use the same technique as listed in “Handstand Hold,” but with your hands further away from the wall to give your elbows room to bend
  • Go up into the handstand, then slowly lower down in a controlled manner, while keeping your elbows in close to your sides
  • Once you reach your lowest point, push back up to the starting position with your shoulders extended/pushing upwards
  • Maintain a tight body during the entire push-up – try not to let your back arch or your feet come apart
  • Perform at least 2-3 sets of 5-10 handstand push-ups to start

4. Overhead Presses

Purpose: To strengthen the shoulders and triceps.

  • Can use either dumbbells, a barbell, or a partner, and can perform it sitting or standing
  • Keep your core and the rest of your body tight while only pressing with your upper body
  • Avoid arching your back as you press up – if you can’t help but do this, the weight you’re using is probably too heavy for you
  • Keep your elbows in towards your body and make sure your wrists are directly over top of your elbows, just like how you should do when stunting
  • Perform 2-3 sets of 10 presses to start

Option 1: With Handheld Weights

To see a demonstration of this exercise, watch this video.

Keep in mind that for stunting purposes, you want to keep your elbows in closer to the sides of your body, rather than further out as shown in the video.

Option 2: With a Partner

When doing this exercise with a partner, one partner is seated on floor in straddle, with their back straight, sitting up tall and squeezing their core.

cheerleading strength training for stunting and tumbling

The second partner is kneeling or standing on an elevated surface, with their shoulders and arms directly over top of the bottom partner.

The bottom partner starts the movement with their arms bent, palms up, fingers pointing towards their shoulders, and hands shoulder-width apart.

The top partner applies weight to the bottom partner to give them resistance while pressing overhead.

The finishing position should be that of the shoulders/arms in a handstand (described above).

5. Turkish Get-Ups

Purpose: To improve shoulder stability.

  • Can be performed with a kettlebell, dumbbell, weight plate, or other variations of handheld weights
  • This exercise has quite a few steps involved, so please watch this video for a full description
  • Perform 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps to start

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