Talk about a flashback to middle school. Jumping jacks were a favorite exercise of my gym teachers all throughout my school years. Just thinking about the exercise brings the voice of my gym teacher back into my ears.
Even though the jumping jack is a basic movement that even school-aged children can do, that does not mean it is not effective when used as an exercise or warm up movement. It is a great way to get your heart pumping, your arms moving, and your legs jumping. This is a quintessential full-body exercise as it recruits all your major muscle groups to complete the movement.
Jumping jacks are considered a plyometric movement. NASM defines plyometrics as “ a quick, powerful movement involving a system of reactive exercises and an eccentric contraction, followed immediately by an explosive concentric contraction. Essentially, this means that plyometric exercises aim to develop explosive muscle power through the use of quick bursts of energy.
While jumping jacks can be used for this sort of goal, they are also commonly used strictly as a warm up exercise to get the blood flowing and the muscles primed for more intense movements. If you need a reminder on how to properly do this old school movement, keep reading. We’ll walk you through how to safely perform jumping jacks. We will also discuss the reasons why these are beneficial to include in your routine and give you ways to modify it if the traditional movement is not accessible for you.
What are Jumping Jacks?
Jumping jacks are a classic exercise that you can do almost anywhere. All you need is a little bit of free space and your own body. We love this movement because of its simplicity, but also because it packs a powerful punch. Not only do jumping jacks warm up your muscles, but they also prepare your central nervous system for more vigorous activity and get your heart pumping and lungs burning.
This movement starts from a standing position. Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart and your arms by your side. Be sure that the surface on which you are standing is stable and flat. Since you will be jumping, you want to ensure that your surface is level to avoid any chance of injury.
When you are ready, jump your feet outside of hip-width apart while simultaneously bringing your arms up overhead. You can clap your hands at the top, but this is not totally necessary.
Once you’ve reached the “top” position, jump your feet back to land at hip-width apart while you also bring your arms back to your sides. This is one repetition. The key is to complete multiple repetitions in a row.
We suggest aiming for a set of 10 reps to start. If that feels too easy, you can add more repetitions to hit your desired stimulus. You can also do jumping jacks for a set amount of time. See how many reps you can achieve in 30 seconds or one minute.
If you are doing jumping jacks for exercise, we do recommend combining it with other movements for a well-rounded workout. Check out the movement database at Impossible Fitness for exercise ideas and tutorials.
Benefits of Jumping Jacks
Jumping jacks will effectively warm up your entire body - your legs, arms, shoulders, lungs, and heart. Of course, we all know the benefits of regular exercise for our physical (and mental) health. But jumping jacks may be especially good to include in your workouts because it gets your body out of its normal plane of motion as opposed to running, walking, or biking. This can be beneficial for movements that require moving in multidirectional ways.
Of course, any exercise that elevates your heart rate is beneficial for your cardiovascular health and can promote an overall improvement in health markers. Jumping has also been shown to have positive implications for bone strength. If you keep your bones healthy, you are less at risk for developing osteoporosis later in life.
Modifications for Jumping Jacks
For any exercise that requires jumping, we do recommend that you stretch out and warm up your body, especially your ankles and knees, before attempting. If you have ever dealt with knee or ankle injuries, we suggest you work with your personal healthcare professional or physical therapist to determine if jumping jacks are safe for you to perform.
To lessen the impact of the jumping jack, you can perform it one side at a time. Starting from standing, reach your right hand overhead toward the left side of the room while your right foot simultaneously steps out. Bring your arm and foot back into the center and repeat this movement on the opposite side. Alternate back and forth for a low impact way to modify the jumping jack.
If you ever experience pain while performing jumping jacks, stop the movement immediately. Be sure to seek professional care if you feel necessary to do so.
Starting in a standing position, jump and take the arms out up and overhead, all the while jumping the feet out shoulder level. As you repeat the second jump allow the arms to come down and the feet to come together.