Jumping jacks are a popular bodyweight exercise. Find out how to do them, why you would consider them, and what effects you can expect.
This exercise comes down to jumping between two stances. In the first one, you stand up straight with your arms beside you. In the second one, you stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart with your arms up.
You jump sideways with your arms and legs between these stances.
Jumping jacks are mainly good for training cardiovascular health, burning calories, and engaging a variety of muscles over your body.
They are relatively unique in that you don’t need any fitness equipment and can do jumping jacks almost anywhere.
At the same time, you want to keep in mind that the jumps can be challenging for your body. Additionally, certain jumping jack alternatives could be more effective and enjoyable.
How to do jumping jacks
Take the following steps to do a jumping jack:
- Stand up straight with your arms beside your body.
- Jump in the air by generating upward force with your legs.
- While in the air, move your legs sideways and outward. At the same time, move your arms sideways and upward.
- Land with your feet wide apart and your arms pointing upward. You generally want to have your feet and legs slightly bent so you can better deal with the impact of landing.
- Jump back into starting position.
How you want to land depends on what body parts you want to absorb the shock. As mentioned, you generally want to at least fold your legs slightly so your knees don’t absorb all the pressure.
Besides that, jumping on the front parts of your feet can be helpful too. Do keep in mind this can still be challenging for your ankles and calves.
Next, you likely want to do your first few jumping jacks at a slow pace. This allows you to feel what your body is capable of and helps you get used to the agility of the movement.
Lastly, how many jumping jacks you should do a day depends on details like your personal capacity, training goals, and preferences.
Jumping jack modifications
There are a few modifications you can make to jumping jacks to make them more suited for your fitness level.
First of all, beginners who are injury sensitive and carry around a few extra pounds may want to consider jumping jack variations where they take steps instead of jumps.
Additionally, you can start with a smaller range of motion for your arms.
On the other hand, many people also want to make jumping jacks more challenging.
A straightforward way to do this is by going at faster speeds and implementing higher jumps.
Besides that, you could consider weighted jumping jacks where you wear a weighted vest, ankle weights, and/or wrist weights and/or hold light dumbbells in your hand.
Lastly, there are more challenging variations too. For example, where you really go through your knees.
What type of exercise is jumping jacks?
Jumping jacks are mainly a cardiovascular exercise which means they will mostly be challenging for your heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
Whether they are aerobic or anaerobic will depend on your speed and cardiovascular capacity.
Jumping jacks will also work a variety of muscles to some extent. However, this will typically not be challenging enough to actually grow the muscles.
At the same time, jumping jacks could still improve your muscle endurance, slow down muscle degradation, and make your muscles healthier.
Jumping jacks muscles worked
The main muscles worked with jumping jacks include your deltoids (shoulders), latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back), calves, hip abductors (outer thighs), hip adductors (inner thighs), and quadriceps.
Additionally, your abs, erector spinae (lower back), obliques, hip flexors, glutes, and hamstrings will have to work to smaller extents to keep your body upright.
To actually grow and strengthen these muscles you have to challenge them with enough resistance and repetitions. Jumping jacks are typically not challenging enough for this purpose.
Are jumping jacks enough for weight loss?
A popular goal of doing cardiovascular exercises like jumping jacks is burning calories and losing weight.
As an example, a 155-pound (70 kg) person burns around 195 calories while doing jumping jacks for 20 minutes at an intense speed.
People who work out at high intensities can also expect an afterburn effect. This is where you burn a few extra calories for a short time after your workout.
Whether these extra calorie-burning effects of jumping jacks are enough for weight loss depends on other lifestyle habits like your diet.
To lose weight you need to make it so your body needs more energy than is coming in from food. Jumping jacks can help with this but they are no guarantee for results.
And even if you get to this point, jumping jacks do not always burn belly fat or thigh fat. Where you get the energy from mostly depends on things like your genes and how far you are in your weight loss journey.
Other benefits of jumping jacks
There are a variety of other health and regular benefits to jumping jacks besides working your muscles and burning more calories. Some of the more unique ones include:
- Budget-friendly: You don’t need any pricey fitness equipment or even a jump rope to do jumping jacks.
- Can do them almost anywhere: Your body and a bit of space are all you need to do jumping jacks. That means you can do them in a variety of locations.
- You can do jumping jacks in a few minutes: For some workouts like a gym session, you have to commit a good amount of time. On the flip side, you can do jumping jacks in those smaller free time blocks throughout the day.
- Can improve cardiovascular health: By engaging your cardiovascular system enough (but not too much), you can strengthen it. This can have big positive effects on your health and daily life.
- Great as a full-body warmup: Jumping jacks engage a variety of muscles at a light intensity. This makes them a potential choice as a warmup for exercises that engage all these muscles.
- Can improve bone density: The jumps involved could challenge your bones enough to improve bone density. Keep in mind that these same jumps can also cause injuries for some people.
- More general health benefits: Similar to most exercises, jumping jacks also offer more general benefits like improving your sleep, mood, and cognitive function.
These more unique benefits make jumping jacks extra good for certain people and situations.
For example, someone working a busy job at home may enjoy the ability to do short workouts inside.
The upsides above are helpful but you want to keep in mind that there are disadvantages to jumping jacks too.
First of all, the jumps in jumping jacks can be challenging for your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back. Especially if you are not used to exercising, are injury sensitive, and are carrying around a few pounds.
In these cases, it may be smarter to start with low-impact alternatives like walking, cycling, and using an elliptical machine could be better.
Secondly, jumping jacks can be rough on your shoulder joints. These joints are relatively sensitive which can be a bad combination with the brisk movements.
Besides these, there are simply alternatives to jumping jacks that could offer more results in a shorter amount of time spent working out.