You don’t have to stick to standard exercises to get benefits. Discover how to do pop jacks, what they can do for you, and whether they are good.
Pop jacks are a variation of jumping jacks where you start in a high plank, do the jumping jack leg movement with (without dropping your hips too much), jump forward with your feet, lift your upper body, and return to starting position.
This makes pop jacks focus a lot more on your core and hip flexors, a bit more on your lower back and glute muscles, and less on your inner thigh, outer thigh, shoulder, and back muscles than regular jumping jacks.
Additionally, the movements of pop jacks do not flow as well. This makes the exercise harder to do at higher speeds and thus less effective for improving cardiovascular health.
In short, while you do still get benefits, pop jacks are not that good for most fitness goals.
Some potential exceptions include if you want to warm up many muscles, improve coordination, or get a light cardiovascular workout that engages your abs to some extent.
How to do a pop jack
Take the following steps to do a pop jack:
- Sit on your hands and knees with your hands about shoulder-width apart and your feet close to each other.
- Step back with your feet until you are in a straight line from your heels to your head. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched and your shoulders above your hands.
- Jump up and outward with your feet. You want to avoid lowering your hips farther than a straight line when landing.
- Jump back into the position of step 2.
- Jump forward with your feet so that they stand right behind your hands.
- Take your hands off the ground and tilt your upper body backward until your spine is in a straight line.
- Tilt forward again and put your hands back on the ground.
- Jump back with your feet so that you are back into the position of step 2.
When it comes to the exercise technique of pop jacks you mainly want to pay attention to not lowering your hips too much.
If you find the bodyweight version too easy, you can do pop jacks while wearing a weighted vest to challenge your core muscles, lower back muscles, and cardiovascular system more.
Similarly, you can wear ankle weights to make the exercise harder for your inner thigh muscles, outer thigh muscles, hip flexors, glutes, and cardiovascular system.
Pop jacks muscles worked
The main muscles worked in pop jacks are your core muscles, hip adductors (inner thighs), hip abductors (outer thighs), hip flexors, glutes (butt), and hamstrings (back thighs).
Additionally, your deltoids (shoulders) and quadriceps (front thighs) will have to work to a certain extent.
Pop jacks do not only look very different from regular jumping jacks. The muscles you focus on vary too.
More specifically, pop jacks focus more on your core, glute, lower back, and hip flexor muscles.
On the other hand, you engage your shoulder, upper back, inner thigh, and outer thigh muscles less.
These differences are mostly relevant if you have specific preferences in terms of where you want to improve muscle endurance.
Pop jacks, regular jumping jacks, and similar exercises are typically not challenging enough to actually grow and strengthen your muscles.
Pop jacks benefits
Pop jacks are not completely unique or even the best in the positive effects they offer but this exercise still offers a few interesting benefits. Some of these are:
- Better cardiovascular health: Engaging your cardiovascular system with pop jacks can make this system healthier or at least slow down degradation.
- Muscle endurance improvements: Pop jacks are a type of active resistance training exercise that can help resistance training beginners strengthen a few muscles.
- Improves mood: Moving more intensely tends to make it so your body produces more endorphins. These hormones tend to improve your mood.
- Balance and coordination: All of the movements in pop jacks tend to be challenging in terms of balance and coordination. This can benefit your skills in these areas.
- No equipment or location required: Pop jacks are a bodyweight exercise. This means you can do them basically anywhere without investing in any exercise equipment.
- Improves sleep: Having a workout habit is generally good for sleep quality and duration. That means pop jacks can benefit these areas of your health.
- Can help with losing weight: By moving more intensely with pop jacks you also burn more energy. This helps you get to the point where you start losing weight.
- May prevent back pain: Doing pop jacks can benefit your core muscle endurance and in turn, prevent back pain (1, 2).
There are definitely more effective options for many of these benefits too. However, it is interesting how good adding an exercise like pop jacks to your routine can be.
Pop jack alternatives
By now you may wonder what some of these more effective pop jack alternatives are. Some examples of these include:
- Mountain climbers
- Other jumping jack variations
- Plank variations
- Side shuffles
Since pop jacks work so many muscles and fitness components, there are also many types of alternatives.
Which ones you prefer will depend on what you are trying to achieve and what your body is comfortable with.
Are pop jacks a good exercise?
Pop jacks can be helpful for warming up, improving coordination, or engaging your core muscles in an active way.
You can also say pop jacks offer small benefits for your cardiovascular health, weight loss, and muscle endurance.
That being said, even though they offer benefits, it is hard to really call pop jacks a good exercise because there are many more effective alternatives out there.
Whether you should ultimately choose pop jacks or one of these alternatives also depends on what you like doing.
Enjoying your workouts makes it easier to stay consistent with your exercise habit.