Jumping jacks are a basic exercise move that is familiar to almost everyone. It can be performed during warm-ups, cardiovascular routines and high intensity interval training. It builds endurance and burns large amounts of calories. Below, we will take an in-depth look at this versatile move and how it can benefit your health.
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What is a jumping jack?
A jumping jack is a calisthenic jump that begins from a standing position with the arms at the sides and the legs together, then transitions to the legs being apart and the arms directly overhead.
According to Frank Everson Vandiver, author of Black Jack: The Life and Times of John J. Pershing, the great military leader John J Pershing invented the jumping Jack when he was a cadet at West Point. Originally invented as a form of hazing, the jumping jack went on to become a staple of fitness routines worldwide.
The perfect bodyweight workout with jumping jack
- 60 seconds jumping jacks:
- 30 seconds air squats
- 30 seconds push-ups
- 60 seconds plank
The benefits of jumping jacks
From circuit training to boot camp classes, jumping jacks are a staple in hard-core workouts. They are considered to be a calisthenic exercise because they reflect the philosophy of multitasking. Vigorous calisthenics such as jumping jacks have many more benefits aside from simply burning calories. They also function as stress relieving, cardiovascular and strengthening exercises. For an overall full bodyweight workout, incorporate jumping jacks as part of your daily fitness plan.
One of the primary benefits of performing jumping jacks is an elevated heart rate. While jumping, you breathe more deeply, which helps to deliver more oxygen to your bloodstream and your muscles. This stimulates the fat-burning process which enhances weight loss. According to LiveStrong, an individual who weighs 130 pounds can burn roughly 472 calories per hour by performing jumping jacks.
An individual weighing 180 pounds can burn roughly 654 calories, and a 200-pound individual can expect to burn around 730 calories. Of course, this all depends on the bodyweight of the individual performing the exercise and the intensity at which it is being performed. The calories burned mentioned above are based on an individual performing jumping jacks at a moderate intensity.
Jumping jacks also have a relaxing effect on the body. Performing them for an extended period can help stimulate a chemical response within the body, which can help the body release endorphins. This gives you a sense of happiness and can act as a natural pain reliever. The deep breathing associated with this exercise can also help sharpen your mental focus and provide you with a burst of energy. To maximize this relaxation effect, perform jumping jacks for at least 20 minutes in order to keep the heart rate elevated. If you cannot perform jumping jacks for this amount of time, alternate between marching in place and jumping.
Because jumping jacks utilize all the large muscle groups in the body, it creates what is called the ‘afterburn effect’, which keeps the metabolism stoked and continuously burning calories for hours after the exercise has ended.
Due to the intense cardiovascular workout that comes along with performing jumping jacks, it is an excellent move for improving your stamina and endurance.
Jumping jack variations
Jumping jacks utilize all large muscle groups of the body. There are also many variations that can help increase their intensity and boost their muscle-building abilities. Two of the most popular jumping jack variations are the half jack and the split jack, which are performed as follows:
Half jack: This move is very similar to the traditional jumping jack, but varies in the fact that you only raise your arms halfway. Begin by standing straight with your feet together and your arms down by your sides. With a jumping motion, bring your feet shoulder width apart and your arms straight out to shoulder height. Return to the starting position.
Split jack: This move is similar to the jumping jack, except your feet and arms are moving from front to back instead of side to side. To begin, stand straight with your feet together and your arms down by your sides. Using a jumping motion, bring your left foot forward and your right foot back. Swing your right arm straight out in front of you and your left arm straight behind you. With a jumping motion, switch and bring your right foot forward and your left foot backward, alternating your arm position.
Exercise Equipment needed to perform jumping jacks
Because jumping jacks are a bodyweight exercise, there is no need to purchase fancy Exercise equipment. The only thing needed is a hard wood floor (or similar surface), and a snug fitting pair of sneakers. Performing jumping jacks outside on the soft ground and without properly fitting shoes can result in injury, such as from a turned ankle or losing your footing and slipping. Avoid performing jumping jacks on area rugs that could possibly slip.
How to combine jumping jacks with other exercises
Jumping jacks alone are a wonderful workout. However, they may be combined with various other exercises to make the workout more challenging. For example, performing an entire workout consisting of bodyweight exercises such as 25 squats, 10 push-ups, one minute of jumping jacks and 30 seconds of rest, then repeating the entire circuit, can give you a complete overall body workout if performed for 30 minutes. This type of exercising is called ‘metabolic circuit training’ which elevates your resting metabolism to burn calories up to 48 hours after the workout has ended.
Another effective workout is to simply combine jumping jacks and marching or running in place. Perform jumping jacks for 30 seconds, run in place for 30 seconds and then alternate for at least 20 minutes to help burn fat and boost your cardiovascular endurance.
As you can see, jumping jacks are a complete body workout because they utilize all the major muscles in the body. There is no need to divide your strength training routine from your cardiovascular routine if you are performing jumping jacks. This powerful move will allow you to reach your fitness goals quickly by performing fewer moves.
Sources: Black Jack: The Life and Times of John J. Pershing, LiveStrong