With their tight-fitting outfits, humorous chants and energetic dance routines, the Southampton Vixens have taken the world of cheerleading by storm.

The group of 30 girls from Southampton has just been crowned champions at the ICC National Championships in Birmingham. The girls cheered off competition from seven other teams to take their third major title of the year, having already won the ICC Southern Competition in Guildford and the Heart of England Future Cheer Competition in Loughborough.

Although its origins are in America, cheerleading has become a major sport in the UK over the last five years.

    Real deal The rise in popularity has been helped by TV shows such as Glee and Hellcats, which follows the lives of college cheerleaders competing in the USA and stars Aly Michalka and Ashley Tisdale.

    British competition cheerleading is split into different levels of ability, and the Vixens are at the top of their game, competing at level four. But forget the frilly pompoms seen in cheerleading film Bring It On – these girls are the real deal.

    Grace Ashton, the squad’s vice-president, said: “We don’t use pompoms in the competition squad. We go up against other teams from across the country so the routines we do are more about the moves and the stunts.”

    The stunts see the girls lift each other into the air, balance in a human pyramid and perform backflips, front-flips and cartwheels.

    Competition is fierce and injuries are frequent. Split lips, torn muscles and broken bones are just some of the battle wounds cheerleaders have to deal with.

    The Vixens, aged 18 to 22, endure a gruelling training regime to perfect their two-and-a-half minute routines.

    Chiara Pelizzari, head coach, said: “It took all summer to come up with the routine and three months to teach it to the girls. We never expected to be crowned national champions – it’s amazing.”