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THE TRUTH BEHIND TOPPING

The flyer on a team, also referred to as a top girl, is a role that holds great responsibility. Truth be told, being a flyer involves far more than just being the smallest on your team. In fact, being a flyer incorporates the ability to maintain body control in your stunts, perform at every single moment, and be responsible for your own flexibility. Being a flyer is a role that many dream about, but the reality is, not everyone realizes the responsibility associated with being the only one who isn’t ground-bound. It is not just enough to have a group of your teammates lift you in the air, it takes the courage to showcase the stunts, the performance to blow the judges away, and the consistency and drive to stretch air positions and strengthen core muscles at practice, but more importantly, OUTSIDE of practice.

While some are blessed with the flexibility that many dream about, it does not take away from the fact that it still requires a lot of work to maintain flexibility, hold the positions, and be strong when standing on one leg. Air positions are showcased during routines by the flyers – the harder the air position, the more impressive. Below is a list of air positions that are expected when competing as a flyer. For our flyers out there, be sure to read through each one to ensure you are pulling it properly, and to know what muscle groups you can work on to make you stronger at it.

Air Position 1: Arabesque

The arabesque is an air position that is used quite often. Many flyers believe that standing in an arabesque is simply kicking your leg out behind you – wrong. When standing in an arabesque, flyers should maintain their toes, hips, and shoulders in line. The position of arms is dependant on what your coach asks for, but most arm positions are out in a “T” position, or in an “L” position. The back leg should extend up through the toe, and past a ninety degree angle, while squeezing the glute muscle.  Remember to keep your chest up – dropping your chest will not make your look as if it is higher up. Instead, it will cause you to break your “toe-hip-shoulder” line, and throw off your balance.


Air Position Two: Heel Stretch

The heel stretch is a position that extends in front of the body, rather than behind. Just like the arabesque, maintaining your “toe-hip-shoulder” line is vital. Flyers should kick up to their heel stretch so that the leg remains straight at all times, down to a pointed toe. The biggest mistake that flyers make is rolling the hip out, causing the heel stretch to be on the side of the body, with the top of the foot facing the side. Instead, the heel stretch should be directly in front of the top, with the top of the foot facing the flyer. The standing leg should be completely locked out – if tops bend their knees while pulling a heel stretch, it is a sign that they need to improve their hamstring flexibility and hip-flexor strength.

Air Position Three: Bow and Arrow

The bow and arrow is an air position that also extends in front of the body, and requires a strong heel stretch as a prerequisite. To pull a bow and arrow, the flyer must pull her heel stretch with both hands, pulling it closer in to the side of her head. The left hand lets go of the foot while the right hand continues to hold on, and pulls the leg as far behind the head as possible. The left arm is placed between the pulled leg, and hits a broken “T” position. The bow and arrow requires strength in shoulders in order to hold the air position confidently.

Air Position Four: Scale

The scale requires leg and hip-flexor flexibility. To pull a scale, flyers stand facing the side and raise their outside leg (usually the left) behind them. Flyers should be grabbing their leg just above the ankle, with their fingers on their shin and their thumb on their calf. Grabbing too low or too high on the leg with result in the scale not being full extended, or the leg not being straight. In full extended position, a scale should be arm’s length away from the flyer’s body, with a locked out standing leg. A scale should not create a 90-degree angled shape. Scales requires straight legs with no bent knees.

Air Position Five: Scorpion

The scorpion is considered one of the most popular air positions in cheerleading, and requires patience and practice. Flyers are encouraged to focus on stretching their shoulders, and working shoulder flexibility to pull a scorpion. Just like every air position, flyers must maintain their THS line (Toe-Hip-Shoulder Line). If the shoulders fall too far forward or back, the position can not be held. To pull a scorpion, flyers grab their foot behind them with an open hand, thumb facing away, palm to the sky. Then they pull their foot up towards the head, grab with the other hand, and extend the arms to lock the elbows out. When a flyer is advanced and can pull a full extended scorpion with ease, they may also work on kicking up the the position.

Air Position Six: Needle


Ah - the needle, also known as the coach’s dream. Think of this air position as the fully flexible version of the scorpion. The difference between a scorpion and a needle is the way that the air position is held, and the amount of flexibility needed to pull it. Getting a needle is difficult, but if flyers are determined and put the work in outside of practice it is completely doable. For a needle, flyers take their hands from their foot, and place it on their shins, bending the back and extending the leg so that the knee becomes completely locked out, unlike the scorpion. The ultimate needle calls for a bendy back so that the back and the leg touch. Remember not to ruin a pretty needle by always pointing your toe, maintaining your THS line, and locking out your standing leg.

All air positions are completely possible. The main difference comes from the work that is put in by the flyers. Like mentioned before, the more air positions a flyer has, the more impressive and experienced they are as flyers. The best way to work on air positions is to stretch daily, ensure you are always keeping locked knees, and to join topping classes with experienced coaches if they are available.

HAPPY STRETCHING!

Interested in learning more?
Join us for our SUMMER TOPPING INTENSIVES available for all athletes interested in learning topping fundamentals, working on strength and flexibility of air positions and most importantly SHOWMANSHIP! 

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