The jumping jack is an exercise familiar to most people. No wonder! It’s an exercise people of all ages do, from grade-schoolers during physical education class to folks in the military. In fact, it was John J. Pershing, a lieutenant in the military who dreamed up the exercise in the mid-1800s to haze military recruits. The exercise became a classic, so much so that Missouri, the home state of Pershing, declared the jumping jack its state exercise.
So, now you know the history of the jumping jack and you already know how to do a basic one. But doing basic jumping jacks gets monotonous after a while and you need to make the exercise more challenging to gain further fitness benefits. Fortunately, you can do one of several jumping jack variations. Let’s look at some variations that will boost your heart rate more and help you get more benefits out of the exercise.
The squat jack is more challenging than a standard jumping jack. Who doesn’t want a little challenge? Plus, the squat adds a plyometric component to the exercise. Plyometrics are excellent for building power and increasing vertical jump height. The squat component of the exercise works your quads and to a lesser degree your glutes and hamstrings more than a standard jumping jack. Plus, the plyometric nature of this exercise, works the fast-twitch muscle fibers, the ones that generate strength and power.
With squat jacks, you can accomplish two goals at one time: cardiovascular conditioning and lower body muscle strength and endurance. Try doing them based on time rather than a specific number of reps. A good starting point is 15 seconds of squat jacks. work up to 30 seconds or longer.
How to do a Squat Jack:
- Stand with your feet together and cross your arms in front of your chest.
- Jump your feet apart as you lower your body into a squat to around 90 degrees. At the same time, spread your arms out to the sides of your body.
- Jump your feet back together as you rise out of the squat. As your feet come together, cross your arms back across your chest.
- That’s one rep. Keep repeating.
The biggest benefit of plank jacks is you get your heart rate up while working your core. When you do this exercise, you get cardiovascular conditioning, burn calories, and, over time, strengthen your core muscles. Getting your core in on the action will help protect against lower back pain and improve your performance in other athletic endeavors, including weight training.
How to Do a Plank Jack
- Get into a high plank position on the mat with your feet together and your hands level with your shoulders.
- Hold your core tight as you jump your feet apart.
- Immediately bring them back together without moving the rest of your body or letting your hips or core drop.
- Quickly jump them back together.
- You’ve completed one rep. Keep repeating.
Get ready for a challenge! Fly jacks will get your heart beating and have you gasping for air in no time flat. Along with being a plyometric movement that builds power and vertical jump height, fly jacks are a super calorie burner and a movement that also works your inner thighs. Plus, the squat component of fly jacks works your quads.
How to Do a Fly Jack
- Place your feet together with knees slightly bent and your arms bent at a 90-degree angle in front of your body in a boxing position.
- Jump your feet out to each side as you swing your arms apart to each side.
- Jump your feet back together as you bring your arms back to the starting position.
- That’s one rep. Keep repeating.
Split jacks will boost your heart rate while working the muscles in your lower body, especially your inner thighs. This plyometric variation on a lunge works multiple muscle groups at the same time and is a unique twist on the classic jumping jack.
How to Do a Split Jack
- Stand with feet together and arms by your side.
- Step one foot behind you and lower your body into a lunge.
- Jump up as you switch your legs, so the opposite leg is in front in a lunge position. Swing your arms overhead on each side as you switch legs.
- Lower your arms as you again switch the lunge to the other side.
- You’ve completed a rep. Keep repeating.
Diamond jacks earn their name because they’re a desirable exercise for burning calories, boosting your heart rate, and burning calories. It’s also an excellent exercise for building agility, the ability to react quickly. This exercise is intense enough to call into play your anaerobic energy system. So, you get anaerobic and aerobic fitness benefits from this jumping jack variation. Who doesn’t want multiple fitness gains from a single exercise?
How to Do a Diamond Jack
- Stand with your legs about shoulder position apart. Keep your toes turned out and bend your knees into a shallow plie position. Your hands should be in front of your chest.
- From this position, jump your body into the air as you touch your heels lightly together.
- Bring your legs apart and land in the starting position.
- Congratulations! You’ve completed a rep. Keep repeating
The Bottom Line
You can add any of these jumping jack variations to a HIIT routine or do them to keep your heart rate up between strength-training exercises. Because of the plyometric nature of jumping jacks, you target your fast-twitch muscle fibers in a way that you don’t with other forms of cardiovascular exercise, like jogging or cycling. Because you’re jumping, the impact also enhances bone health. We should all worry about preventing bone loss. But don’t do jumping jacks without consulting your physician if you have osteoporosis. If you’re healthy, jumping jacks are an effective exercise for cardiovascular fitness and for building muscle endurance. Don’t get into a rut! Try these variations and take on a new challenge!
Neatorama.com. “The Jumping Jack Is Named after Its Inventor, General “Black Jack” Pershing”