Gabi Butler is known for her show-stopping performances on the Netflix docuseries Cheer. While she’s known for wowing millions of social media followers with her seemingly impossible flips and twirls, she’s also won world championships and has recently launched her own clothing line.
But behind all those ribbons and sequins however, is a competitive 23-year-old woman who has honed her craft through dogged determination and countless hours pushing herself to the limit. The cheer sensation explains how her daily schedule works, how she approaches nutrition, and whether or not she is excited at the prospect of competing in the Olympic Games.
Starting out at age 8, Gabi Butler, who was born in Boca Raton, FL, appeared on the YouTube series Cheerleaders and later shot to fame as part of the Navarro College roster in Cheer. Both of those shows offered up a fly-on-the-wall insight into the rigors of being part of a competitive cheerleading squad, and the sacrifices required to win multiple cheerleading championships. Butler’s epic skills and bright personality made her an instant hit.
Putting in the Hours
Butler says she prefers a rigid routine to a more laid-back approach to training, and her workout schedule proves it. “A normal practice runs for about three hours, and sometimes we will have two practices per day,” says Butler. “On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we’d normally train from noon to 3.30 p.m., and then we would also go again at night from 7 to 10 p.m.”
With rest and recovery also being an essential part of any athlete’s regimen, Butler is learning to make the most of her downtime. “I say that recovery is so important, and I feel like I’m terrible [at making the most of recovery time], but recovery is key for a great athlete because it’s just as important as training. I feel like my best recovery is getting a good night’s sleep. Also, feeding your body good things. I treat my body like a car, so I make sure I’m getting the right nutrients and that I’m eating enough.”
A Weighty Issue
“It is very common in the cheer world for girls not to eat as much … it’s very sad,” she says. “They will not feed their bodies in the way that they should, because they are afraid of being too big to get into the air, or won’t be lifted, or become a top girl. I personally feel like I’m strong, confident, and feel very powerful with my body. To me, if you have strength, then it doesn’t really matter about being super, super tiny.”
At age 12, Butler already had abs while being able to eat as much as she wanted without fear of gaining weight. But now in her 20s, having a handle on good nutrition is coming more into focus for the cheer champ. “At 17, I did go through a stage in which my body was definitely transforming, and I gained a good 15 pounds,” recalls Butler. “I had a struggle, and I would get a little self-conscious about it, because I wasn’t a tiny, petite thing anymore, but I figured out what worked for me, and that was just to eat healthier. As soon as I started seeing results, I just kept on with it, and I’m more confident with my body now than I ever was.”
More recently, Butler has also introduced a plant-based approach to her eating plan and has reduced her meat intake. Teaming with Silk, the high-flyer is still able to get adequate amounts of protein into her diet. “I absolutely love Silk’s oat milk,” she says. “I always drink their almond milk, and when I realized they had oat milk, I couldn’t wait to try it, and now I’ll mix it with everything.”
There’s nothing flashy about Butler’s workouts — just serious grit and solid sessions. Under the tutelage of certified strength and conditioning specialist Mark Bowron, she works on her explosive power with plyo jumps and tire flips. Butler is no stranger to single-arm dumbbell thrusters, and medicine ball slams that also incorporate lateral shuffles.
In the clip above, Butler executes Spider-Man dumbbell crawls. Her workouts may also include reverse sled pushes and weighted rope pulls. “I’ve had so many trainers in my life and I feel like they’ve all been great,” she says. “But Mark really sticks out to me because he has a winner’s mentality. He always tells me to push [on] when you’re tired, because that will show how strong you are, and it’s going to prove that you can do anything because if you can do it tired, you can do it fresh. This is where the champion mindset comes in.”
Gabi Butler Olympic Hopeful
With her fitness app and athletic clothing line, you would be forgiven for thinking that Gabi Butler is leaving competitive cheering behind, but with the recent news that cheerleading is now recognized as an Olympic sport, the thought of representing Team USA in a future Games is an attractive prospect. “I’m confident in my skills, I know my mindset, and I train until I can’t train anymore,” she says.
Those skills are enthralling millions of Instagram and TikTok followers. “The thing is, I try to make my TikTok feel as personal as possible, but generally, at the end of the day, I want people to relate to what I do, and to see what I’m doing. I’ll post me falling, or not being able to complete a skill, because I want people to know that it’s OK to not be perfect all of the time.”