Sure, they’re popular among school-aged kids, but jumping jacks offer a full-body workout that’s easy to do in the comfort of your own home, regardless of your age. Instead of buying a gym membership or taking up jogging, give a daily set of jumping jacks a try and you’ll notice a change in your body before long. When standard jumping jacks get dull, spice things up with some variations in your routine -- which you can complete in less than 10 minutes.
The first step in any jumping jack routine should be thorough stretching to help limber your muscles for the workout that jumping jacks provide. Although jumping jacks are ideal for warming up before dancing, boxing or other exercises, a few stretches will ensure that you don’t harm any part of your body. Stretch your hamstrings, back, arms and legs. The stretches don’t need to be intense; standing straight and shaking your limbs helps warm them up enough.
Basic Jumping Jacks
Begin your jumping jack routine by standing with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart and your arms against the sides of your body. Keep your knees slightly bent, and when you’re ready, jump and kick your legs out to each side while swinging your arms upward. Time your movement so that when your feet hit the ground, your hands meet above your head. They don’t have to touch but should be at their peak when your legs land. Complete the jumping jack by jumping your legs back to shoulder-width apart and dropping your arms back to your sides. Once you're comfortable with basic jumping jacks, you can use them in different routines.
Many fitness enthusiasts use jumping jack pyramids as a way of challenging themselves and burning calories. Place a timer or clock with a second hand in front of you and execute as many jumping jacks as possible in 10 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Jump for 20 seconds, rest for 20 seconds, jump for 30 seconds, rest of 30 seconds and so on. For an extra burn, work your way down the pyramid, doing 30 on and 30 off, 20 on and 20 off and so on. The short rest periods help you catch your breath between sets of jumping jacks. This exercise is called a pyramid because you begin with a small set of reps and expand as you move up, similar to a pyramid shape.
Depending on your level of fitness, you can add challenging variations to your jumping jack routine for an extra workout. Try a squat variation, in which you dip slightly into a squat when you bring your legs together or a sprinting variation, in which you sprint while doing the standard movements with your arms. For an added arm workout, hold small dumbbells while jumping, and to work your chest, swing your arms forward so that your hands meet in front of you while you do the normal footwork.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.