Training program

Benefits of jumping jacks for your workouts and training program

YOU MIGHT THINK Go back to your childhood gym class and remember learning the basics of fitness, laying the foundation for the adult workouts you continue to do today.

While you probably keep push-ups and pull-ups in your typical rotation, there’s probably one staple exercise from grade school that you’ve put aside: jumping jacks. Maybe you feel like you’ve outgrown them or they’re not really helpful.

“The jumping jacks are one of those things that everyone had to do in physical education class. They were considered this kind of basic exercise with no sporting objective, which was simply intended to tire you out. Nobody knew really why they were doing it,” says Alex Viada, CSCS, owner of Full human performance. “So it’s one of those things that I think people stop doing because maybe they think it’s something that was given to them by lazy trainers at the start of karate class, and they think that’s where the value stops.”

But that’s not quite the case, according to Viada and other coaches. The same move you did to warm up at age 7 can still help you as an athlete, weightlifter, and guy who wants to maximize his training efficiency, reduce injury risk, and stay in good health. Yes really! Here’s how this exercise for kids can make you a better man.

Advantages of jumping jacks

● Jumping jacks can be part of an effective dynamic warm-up

● Scatter jumps increase your core temperature

● Jumping jacks move your joints through a full range of motion

● Jumping jacks are a simple exercise in plyometrics

● Jumping jacks are a safe conditioning option for athletes of all sizes

● You can swap jumping jacks for other exercises like burpees

How to do jumping jacks

●Stand in an athletic stance with your feet together and your hands at your sides. Keep your glutes and abs engaged.

● Jump with both feet outward, landing just outside shoulder width.

●At the same time raise your arms above your head, keeping your muscles tight. You shouldn’t have a lot of wasted movement here; keep your arms tight against your body.

● Quickly return to the starting position, then jump directly into the next repetition.

The jumping jacks are a dynamic warm-up that you will actually do

A dynamic warm-up, where you get your joints and core moving instead of just stretching, will enhance your workouts. But no matter how many times we’re presented with amazing pre-workout moves (like these seven that are perfect before any workout), most guys still skip the warm-up. These routines can seem boring, they can get complicated, and they can even require learning new skills, when all we want to do is go to the bench.

The solution: puppets. “One of the main things you want out of a warm-up is to increase core body temperature, increase heart rate to prepare the body for the day’s workout,” says Ryan Horton, owner and operator of Horton Dumbbell. “Puppets are an amazing tool for that. They integrate the whole body. It elevates heart rate and core temperature…it’s also space-saving. You can warm up directly at the rack.

Jacks have another warm-up benefit, says Viada: They move your joints through a wide range of motion.

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“The simple act of raising your shoulders around the top of your head fulfills a lot of the dynamic warm-up and dynamic stretching that people should do more of before workouts,” he says. “You see a lot of people playing with pegs, bands and PVC pipes not realizing that simple horse jumping, when done correctly, puts them through the same range of motion.”

Using a variation of jumping jacks called “seal jacks” can open up the chest and shoulders for moves like bench presses and flies, Horton says. To do this variation, your feet remain the same as in traditional jumping jacks, but your arms come out in front of you and clap — like a seal — with each repetition. Try alternating between sets of traditional jumping jacks and seal jacks to warm up.

Jumping jacks are a low-risk way to build power

You’ve probably heard that muscle mass drops in your 40s and 50s. But the part that might surprise you is the type muscle you will lose: research shows that they are disproportionately fast-twitch fibersmuscle fibers that use carbohydrates to fuel fast, powerful contractions.

When we age and lose fast twitch fibers, “we lose power faster than we lose strength. Strength is the development of strength. Power is the rate of strength development,” says Nick Tumminello, Florida personal trainer and author of books including bodybuilding for fat loss and Strength zone training. Power dictates your ability to generate force quickly – to sprint, jump, perform an Olympic lift or even catch yourself after a fall. Just as one of the ways to compensate for muscle loss due to aging is to train, the way to compensate for loss of power due to aging is to do certain things that make you move a little faster. If you’re not training for the NFL or no longer playing sports in college or high school, you want to do something that’s pretty safe and basic.

Enter the jumping jack. When you think of plyometrics, you might think of box jumps. But jumping jacks are also plyometrics. There’s less chance of a fall, crushed shin or grumpy Achilles than with box jumps and, says Tumminello, they can be better at helping you practice moving quickly.

“Just because you jump doesn’t mean you do plyometrics. Plyometrics is about reflexes and reducing contact time with the ground,” he says. “The longer you stay on the ground, the less ploymetric effect you get. So a jumping jack is actually After plyometric than a box jump, because you spend much less time on the ground [between each rep].”

Jumping jacks are a great conditioning option for older kids

“I work with a lot of bigger athletes, like people from strongman backgrounds who want to get in more shape. So, I have them do some conditioning-type complexes, and the standard jumping jack is the one I’ll have them use quite frequently,” Tumminello continues. “These are big, strong athletes who are capable of doing other forms of cardio, but getting them to do standard jumps is a relatively low mental commitment. They know what to do and it gets them thinking about conditioning and range of motion.

“A lot of people will be surprised how hard it is to hit 30 seconds of jumping jacks.”

The puppets, he says, are largely harmless. And because they don’t require a lot of concentration, they’re good for keeping his athletes’ heart rate up between sets of more mechanically and mentally taxing moves.

“Let’s say you’re doing high-intensity interval training using kettlebell swings or something,” he says. “Putting a set of 30 seconds of jumping jacks between sets can continue the exercise, maintain heart rate, while giving you some recovery [to do the next set of swings safely.]”

Whether you’re an XXL lifter or a lightweight runner, “many people will be surprised at how hard it is to hit 30 seconds of jumping jacks,” says Horton.

3 ways to use jumping jacks in your workout

Use Jumping Jacks as a warm-up

We’ve already covered what makes jumping jacks and seal jacks so good and easy to warm up to. Both Viada and Horton suggest jumping in, doing 2-3 sets of 20-30 holds (or 20-30 seconds of continuous reps) to get your heart rate up. Tumminello programs jumping jacks for his clients after a pre-workout foam roller and mobility session. And to maximize their effectiveness as a dynamic shoulder stretch, he’s picky about execution.

“Really incorporate the arms and do an arm workout. You don’t just wave your arms up and down,” he says. “Actively raise your arms, then lower them. If it’s a seal jack, actively bring your arms back and clasp them together. The same with your feet, they are short, quick and tight movements.

Using jumping jacks in a bodyweight finishing circuit

Jumping jacks are a great option for keeping your core pumping while you work out a bodyweight circuit, says Horton. Since you have to actually jump, they’re hard to cheat, so your heart rate will increase when you’re halfway through, making them a great addition to a workout finisher. Try following this routine from Horton at the end of your workout.

Perform each movement for 20 seconds, then move on to the next exercise. Repeat for four rounds.

two people running

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Use jumping jacks instead of burpees

You’re not alone if you don’t like burpees. Viada suggests replacing jumping jacks with the dreaded burpee if you’re looking for a similar, less dangerous conditioning option.

“It’s not exactly the same kind of challenge, but you still get the same kind of full-body conditioning effect,” he says. If a metabolic conditioning challenge calls for a series of burpees, try 20-30 seconds of jumping jacks instead.

Tumminnello suggests using jacks in place of burpees in one of the most popular and punishing protocols in the gym: Tabata-style finishers. You can just do a four minute set of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds on hard and fast jumping jacks. Or mix them with a few other moves. Try this tabata-inspired finisher from Tumminello.

Perform each movement for 20 seconds, resting 10 seconds before moving on to the next exercise. One round should take two minutes. Go for four rounds in total.