Years ago, when P.E. classes existed, the popular calisthenic exercise known as jumping jacks were used to warm up before playing kickball or dodge-ball or other fun sport activities. Okay, maybe P.E. classes still exist, but it’s definitely not as popular in the school schedules these days. The same can be said about recess. Makes you wonder about the obesity epidemic in America, not only with adults but with children as well.
Jumping jacks are great for warming up and can be used to develop stamina. They can also be used as a fat burning calisthenic exercise since it increases your heart rate quickly – this makes it an amazing cardio exercise. Jumping jacks do not build muscle effectively although it uses almost every muscle in the body when performed correctly.
Anyone can do jumping jacks, but be careful not do too many if you are not conditioned or healthy enough. As always consult your doctor before performing any exercises. If you have any kind of health issues, be careful to monitor your heart rate and breathing.
How to perform a simple traditional jumping jack:
This calisthenic exercise is somewhat plyometric in nature as it requires one to “jump,” or slightly hop, to the side with your legs while raising the arms up.
- Begin standing with your feet close together, arms at your sides, and looking straight ahead.
- Start by bending your knees slightly and using the balls and toes of your feet, jump/hop outwards with your legs landing to the sides – right leg goes right, left leg goes left in an even motion. Go out as far as you are comfortable with your legs, but usually the exercise is performed with your legs going wider than shoulder width.
- As for your arms, as you begin to jump/hop, raise your arms to the sides and continue upwards to perform a full 180 degree motion. When your arms reach 180 degrees, your hands should clap at the top while your feet have just completed the jump/hop to the sides.
- Bend your knees and push off the balls and toes of your feet to jump/hop back to the original position.
- Your arms will come back down to the side of your body as you get back to the original position.
- Rinse and repeat!
Various forms of the jumping jack:
- Plank Jumping Jacks – Not done while standing but while assuming a push up position. You should have your shoulders over your wrists for good stability and balance for this exercise. Your feet start together and you jump/hop out to the sides with your legs further than shoulder width. Land on the balls and toes of your feet. Hop back to original position. Engage your abs for added effect! Do not lock your knees or elbows while performing this exercise.
- Power Jumping Jacks – This is a more explosive jumping jack that will require much more athleticism. It is commonly practiced for speed training and muscle endurance. Assuming most of the steps of a traditional jumping jack, the exception is it is done all in the air and you do not land on your feet once you jump/hop out to the sides. With the power jumping jack, you may bend your knees a little further than the traditional jumping jack so that once you go airborne, you extend your legs to the side and bring them back to the original position very quickly – all in the air. You also extend your back and spine as you are lifting yourself into the air – also clapping your hands at the end 180 degree motion of your arms. Land on the ball and toes of your feet close together and arms to the side.
Common mistakes with jumping jacks:
- Locking the knees – Don’t! Knees should be just slightly bent while performing the exercise in its entirety.
Avoid rounding the back and popping the knees out.
- Breathing – while jumping up breath out, while coming back to original position breath in.
- Look forward!
- You can go as fast as you want! Just remember form!
Jumping Jacks for old time’s sake!
Jumping jacks have always been an effective calisthenic exercise which is why it is also still used in the military! It’s very unfortunate that some children these days do not know how to perform a jumping jack. It is a fun and great activity for fitness. Do it for old time’s sake!
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