cheerleading motions

Learning Cheerleading Motions

Motions are the absolute foundation of cheerleading. If you strip away the flashy props, the stunts, the tumbling, the music and get down to it, the most important role of a cheerleader is to lead cheers. You can’t have cheers without motions. Well, I mean, technically you could, but how boring would that be?! Even college teams that sit on the sidelines and teams that cheer from the bleachers still use motions.

Today we are going to learn the basic cheerleading motions. This list is by no means all inclusive, but instead aims to cover the basic motions that are used most frequently. We will start with a group of “core motions” that then become the building blocks for every other motion. 

The Very Basics

cheer fist

The hands will be in a fist for a majority of cheerleading motions. A good cheer fist has the fingers tucked in tight with the thumb wrapped closely around the fingers. It should continue in a straight line from the arm without any breaks at the wrist. Depending on the motion, different parts of the fist may face the crowd. For this post, I refer to this view of the fist as “big circle”, and the pinky side of the fist as the “little circle”.

cheer clasp

A clasp should be just below the chin with hands cupped. The clasp is used during chants and cheers to create sound. Keep the elbows tucked closely into the sides at all times and never open the hands wider than the shoulders. The tighter, the better!

The clasp can also be performed in an overhead or low variation by extending the arms straight up or down.

clap cheer motion

A clap is very similar to the clasp, however, this time the hands are in blades. Claps are not very loud and should be used more for stylistic purposes rather than for sound. 

Claps can also be performed in an overhead variation. 

The Core Motions

While we could sit here all day listing off motions, many are just a combination of a few what I like to call “core motions”. These motions can be manipulated by “breaking” them (bending the elbows in half) or by switching the direction of the motion either high/low or right/left. 

hands on hips

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Hands should be in proper fists sitting right on the hip bone. Make sure the wrists do not bend forward or backward.

clean cheerleading motion

A clean is the position when a cheerleader is standing with both feet together and arms squeezed tightly to their side. 

High V cheer motion
High V

For the High V, both arms extend up at about a 45 degree angle. Hands should be in tight fists, wrists straight, with big circles facing the front. The motion should be slightly in front of the body, so that the hands can be seen from the corner of the eyes.

low v cheer motion
Low V

For the Low V, both arms extend down at about a 45 degree angle. Hands should be in tight fists, wrists straight, with big circles facing the front. The motion should be slightly in front of the body. 

The Low V can also be performed in a “broken” variation by bending the elbows so that the fists are almost touching the armpits.

punch cheer motion

In a punch, one arm extends straight up, while the other sits on the hip. Both hands should be in fists. The arm in the air should stay close to the ear, little circle facing forward, with fist flat across the top. The arm in the air determines whether it is a “right” or “left” punch. This is sometimes called a “Go” motion. 

t cheer motion

In a T, both arms extend straight out to the  sides parallel to the ground. Big circles should face the front and the arms should be slightly in front. 

broken t cheer motion
Broken T

Take the T and simply bend the elbows all the way in. Fists should hit right in front of the armpits with little circles facing out.

Touchdown cheer motion

Just like the hand signal referees do when there is a score, a touch down motion consists of both arms extending straight overhead parallel to each other. Fists should be flat on the top with little circles facing the front, and the arms should stay tucked in close to the ears. Take care to not shrug the shoulders too high.

low touchdown cheer motion
Low Touchdown

The opposite of a touchdown motion is the low touchdown. A low TD motion consists of both arms extending straight down parallel to each other.Big circles face the front, and the arms should squeeze in together. 

dagger tabletop cheer motion

This motion is essentially a broken low touchdown. Though daggers is probably the more common name, I generally do refer to it as table top when teaching younger cheerleaders. Make sure the elbows stay in tight to avoid it becoming a broken low V, and that the top of the fists stay flat. 

buckets cheer motion

For buckets, both arms punch straight out in front, parallel to both each other and the ground. Fists should face downward as if holding buckets of water. Don’t let the wrists bend – these buckets aren’t that heavy!


Candlesticks is the same as buckets, except for the hands. This time, the hands should rotate so that big circles are to the sky as if you were holding lit candles and don’t want to drip wax on the floor. 

punch across cheer motion
Punch Across

For this motion, one hand stays on the hip or clean to the side while the other crosses in front of the body. The motion can also be performed in a high variation and a low variation.

Building the Other Motions

From here, many of the other cheer motions can be built by mixing, matching and adjusting the core motions above. For example:

  • One arm in a T and one arm in a broken T creates the bow and arrow motion.
  • One arm in a high V and one in a low V creates the diagonal.
  • One arm in a high V and the other in a low punch across creates the K motion. 
  • One high touchdown and one T creates an L.
  • Conversely, one low touchdown arm and one T create a low L

These are just a few examples, but the possibilities really are endless. There are a few unconventional motions we didn’t cover, such as the check mark, an X, an overhead O, and hands behind the head, but for the most part, this list will get you started. 

I have combined all of these into one poster that you can save, share, or print and keep in your cheer binder for easy reference. Once you have learned all of your motions, check out this post to make sure you aren’t making any of these common motion mistakes.

Happy cheering!

poster with cheer motions