Straddle jumps, known as toe touches to cheerleaders, require flexibility and strength as well as good jumping ability. To perform this skill, you bend your knees and jump. As soon as your feet leave the ground, you spread your legs to a straddle position while stretching your arms out to the sides of your body. In impressive straddle jumps, dancers, gymnasts or cheerleaders are able to get their legs higher than the level of their hips.
As you’re performing the straddle jump, think of bringing your legs up to your arms, not your arms down to your legs. While performing the jump, make sure that you’re bringing your legs slightly in front of your body. When you perform your stretch in the straddle position, notice that your legs are front of your hips. This is the same position that you must hit in the air for the straddle jump.
Warm up with at least five minutes of cardio -- brisk walking, jumping jacks or jogging, for example -- before doing any stretches or jumping drills.
Stretch your inner thighs by practicing center splits regularly. Sit on the floor and stretch your legs out on either side of your body. Keep your legs straight, with your knees facing up toward the ceiling and your toes pointed. These are all elements of a good straddle position. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds. Then, relax and repeat the stretch two more times. As you gain flexibility, you’ll be able to open your legs out more to the side of your body.
Strengthen your hip flexors. These powerful muscles are responsible for pulling your thighs toward your hips during the straddle jump. To strengthen these muscles in the straddle position, sit in a center split. Lean back slightly to place your hands on the floor behind you. Lift your right leg about 6 inches. Make five circles with your right foot moving in one direction; then make five more circles in the other direction. Place your foot back on the floor and repeat with your left leg.
Strengthen your calf muscles to get a more powerful jump. Toe raises can strengthen these important jumping muscles. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Slowly lift your heels as far as you can before letting your heels drop back to the floor. For additional benefits, balance with your heels up for 10 seconds each time.
Perform consecutive tuck jumps to build more power in your jumps. Each time you perform a tuck jump, try to grab your shins with your hands before landing. This will encourage you to lift your legs powerfully, much like you will need to do with straddle jumps. Start off by doing five tuck jumps in a row. Add an extra jump or two each week during your training sessions.
Fine-tune your straddle jump. Even if you regularly practice your drills and conditioning exercises, you likely won’t see much improvement in your jumps unless you pay attention to your form in the air. Make sure that your legs are straight and your toes are pointed at the height of the jump.
Kat Black is a professional writer currently completing her doctorate in musicology/ She has won several prestigious awards for her research, and has had extensive training in classical music and dance.