Why The Next Fitness Craze Might Be Cheerleading

Raise your hand if you went through a cheerleading phase in middle or high school. Yep, me too. So, you know that behind the pom-poms and pleated skirts is a real workout, despite what anyone says about cheerleading not being a sport. Lifting or tossing girls into the air is no easy feat — and being a flyer demanded a whole other level of core strength and balance skills (not that I've done a basket toss or liberty in the past ... ten years).

Lithe Method founder Lauren Boggi is out to prove cheer haters wrong with a high-energy, cardio-sculpting workout based on cheerleading power moves. It's already gaining popularity in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and New York is getting its own pop-up classes in September. And, if it's not in your city, don't worry — in 2015, the studio will introduce an online streaming platform.

Cheerleading as fitness is not exactly novel — classes Cheerobics and Cheer Fit have been offered in the U.K. for years — but Boggi's Lithe Method is the closest we'e seen to making cheer fitness mainstream in the U.S.

We turned to Boggi to find out why exactly we should be channeling our inner Torrance Shipmans.

It's So Intense

"You utilize every ounce of yourself — it's total-body and very core-focused," explains Boggi. "People definitely do brush off cheerleading as a workout; they think of people sitting on the sidelines and waving pom-poms around." But Boggi, who cheered her entire life, including a stint at the University of South Carolina, couldn't find a workout routine as intense as cheer after graduation. "I recently ran into another ex-cheerleader who said, 'Do you find you just can't get the same workout doing anything else?' and I was like, 'Yes!' and that's exactly why I started Lithe."

According to Boggi, high-level cheerleaders get a full-body workout that requires flexibility, balance, stamina, coordination, core strength, and cardiovascular endurance. "What’s more, cheerleading movements are dynamic, explosive, and sharp — and because cheerleaders often support each other’s body weight, competitive cheerleading counts as a cardio and strength-training exercise," she says.

It's Not Your Average Dance Cardio Class

"It's so different from dance cardio," Boggi says, "from origin to sequencing to our band system and props. It's much more athletic. It's like comparing the cheerleaders to the dance team. They're cousins, I guess?" The point being, it's not just about fancy footwork and eight-counts. "Some workouts produce a higher cardio burn, and some are more sculpting-focused, so you can pick your poison for whatever you want to focus on or fix. But you'll never not sweat."

There's Multi-Tasking

"People don't realize just how fun, intense, and beneficial cheerleading is," says Boggi. "It's the ultimate in mind-body, the dark horse of athletics and fitness."

Lest you think she's overselling, here are some of the benefits: increased endurance, increased lean muscle mass, decreased body fat, increased strength, increased lung capacity, increased body awareness, increased self-confidence and self-esteem, a high, lifted booty, and a super fit, athletic body that, yep, still has curves.

You Won't Get Bored

So, what can you expect in a class? "Cardio-Cheer-Sculpting® (CCS) incorporates cheerleading moves like sharp arm positions kicks, jumps, balances, stunts, flying, floor rolls, and cheer dance routines that I choreograph or have performed during my competitive cheer days," says Boggi. The Higher Power Band System increases resistance to the core and decreases the impact load on the joints when flying (so, you know, you can do it when you don't have the flexibility of a teenager). "With over 40 classes in rotation, constant innovation, and the addition of new routines, moves, and props, clients never get bored and they never plateau."

You'll Tone Every Muscle

"Lithe gives a balanced workout. CCS utilizes precise cheerleading-based movements to load muscles, produce a high cardio burn, and reduce fat zones," explains Boggi. "It targets all three zones of the body — the core, the lower body, and the upper body — so that you achieve a complete total body workout in just one hour. Most people burn anywhere from 500 to 1000 calories per class, depending on the workout."

You'll Have Fun

Yes, some workouts even include actual beat boxes and cheers, which already makes Lithe Method better than your average gym class. Seriously, who doesn't get a kick out of doing a good cheer routine? "Some of our more cheer-heavy workouts include beat boxing (think: stomp, clap, stomp, clap, clap) and cheers where Lithers shout out motivating phrases," says Boggi. "It's so fun and believe me, most people don't understand how clapping can be so difficult when you're holding a lunge for over two minutes!"

Images: Lithe Fitness (6)