Jumping jacks can be helpful but you may find them too high-impact. Discover how to do step jacks and what differences this makes.
Step jacks are a variation of jumping jacks where you take a step sideways with one leg instead of jumping outward with both legs. You move your arms sideways up-down similar to the standard version.
By doing this, the exercise becomes less rough on your ankles, knees, and lower back than regular jumping jacks.
This can be a good thing for certain people and situations but you also need to know that step jacks will offer the exercise benefits to a lesser extent.
So if you don’t necessarily like the extra arm movements in step jacks, it could be smarter to turn to more intense low-impact exercise alternatives like cycling or swimming instead.
How to do a step jack
Take the following steps to do a step jack:
- Stand upright with your feet together. Let your arms hang by your sides for now.
- Take a step sideways with one leg until your feet are wider than shoulder-width apart. While taking this step, move your arms sideways and upward. Time it so your arms point up when you finish your step.
- Take a step back with the leg you moved in the previous step and lower your arms so that you are back in starting position.
- Repeat the movement from steps 2 and 3 with your other leg.
- Keep alternating between sides for a certain amount of time or repetitions.
Step jacks are relatively easy in terms of technique but you may need to practice to some extent to move at faster speeds.
Besides moving faster, you can also wear a weighted vest while doing step jacks to work your cardiovascular system more. This will also engage your leg muscles a bit more.
Step jacks muscles worked
Step jacks work muscles like your hip abductors (outer thighs), hip adductors (inner thighs), deltoids (shoulders), latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back), and to some extent your quadriceps (front thighs) and core muscles.
The muscles step jacks work are basically the same as jumping jacks but you engage them to a lesser extent due to the less intense movements.
Even regular jumping jacks are typically not hard enough to actually grow the muscles they work.
This means you should also not expect any results from step jacks in this area.
That being said, step jacks do engage your muscles to some extent. This could still help with improving muscle endurance, slowing down degradation, and keeping the muscles healthier.
Step jack exercise benefits
Similar to the muscle engagement, the positive effects of step jacks will be similar to the benefits of jumping jacks but to a lesser extent. Some examples are:
- Easier on your knees: The one exceptional benefit of step jacks is that they can be easier on body parts like your ankles, knees, and lower back than jumping jacks.
- Can help with losing weight: Step jacks are more intense than many standard daily activities. The extra energy usage that comes with this makes losing weight easier.
- Muscle endurance: People who are not used to working out could see some muscle endurance improvements from doing step jacks.
- Improves mood: Working out tends to improve mood by doing things like increasing the production of certain hormones. You can also expect this from doing step jacks to some extent.
- Balance and coordination: Step jacks can be somewhat challenging in terms of balance and coordination. You could potentially see small improvements in these areas.
- Improves sleep: Moving your body more intensely by doing something like step jacks can improve your sleep quality and duration.
- Can keep your cardiovascular system healthy: Step jacks are not the most intense exercise ever but they do engage your cardiovascular system to some extent. This can slow down degradation and potentially even improve cardiovascular health.
- No equipment or location required: Step jacks are budget and at-home friendly because you don’t need any exercise equipment or a specific location to do them.
You don’t have to stick to step jacks to get these benefits but they are a low-impact and beginner-friendly option.
Step jack alternatives
It is possible that your body can deal with more than step jacks. In that case, some of these exercise alternatives can offer more benefits in a shorter amount of time:
- Using an elliptical machine
- Weighted leg adductions or abductions
- Side shuffles
- Lateral raises
- Jumping jacks
To choose between these step jack alternatives you want to think about what you are trying to achieve and what workouts your body can deal with.
Are step jacks a good exercise?
Step jacks can be a decent/good exercise for people who want to train their cardiovascular in a low-impact way while also engaging the muscles in their shoulders.
At the same time, you also need to know that step jacks are a relatively light exercise which also means you get the benefits of exercise to a relatively small extent.
Step jacks can be helpful when you are starting out your fitness journey but you likely want to turn to more intense jumping jack variations or other exercises over time (if your body can deal with these).
Even if you want to keep things low-impact, workouts like cycling, swimming, and using an elliptical machine tend to offer more benefits than step jacks.
What are step jacks good for?
Step jacks are mainly good for working your cardiovascular system in a light and low-impact way while also engaging muscles like your deltoids (shoulders). Exercise intermediates likely want to turn to more effective alternatives.