It’s easy to be snooty about jumping jacks, but it takes a brave person to rock up in a busy gym where everyone else is busting out biceps curls and clanking iron, and knock out a set of flawless jacks. But you should go ahead and do just that and screw the haters, because the jumping jack is a great exercise, even if you just use it to get your heart pumping at the start of a workout.
Before we cover the benefits of the humble jumping jack, however, a word on its relation to star jumps. They are the same. In the UK we tend to use both terms and while we once leaned towards star jumps, we’re increasingly following the lead of the US and Canada which prefer jumping jacks. So there you go. We’ll leave it up to what you call them.
Back to those benefits. The jumping jack is a full-body exercise, targeting your arms, legs, core and shoulders – plus, as mentioned above, it’s also a cardiovascular exercise. As a result there is basically no workout in existence that wouldn’t benefit from the inclusion of jumping jacks in your warm-up. And if you’re a fan of HIIT sessions it makes for a great addition to your circuit, because you can hardly fail to raise your heart rate with a full-throated round of jacks.
How To Do The Jumping Jack
If the last time you did jumping jacks was at school, you might well make one key mistake when attempting them again as an adult: trying to move your legs out to the sides and back to the middle before you land. The jack is a two-jump move. Trying to get through it in one leap is a recipe for embarrassing disaster.
Stand with your arms by your sides and your feet hip-width apart. Jump off the ground and spread your legs so your feet land wider than shoulder-width apart, simultaneously taking your hands above your head. Maybe you clap your hands, maybe you don’t. Dealer’s choice. As soon as you land, go into another jump, bringing your arms and legs back to the starting position before you land. Stay on your toes throughout.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.