Some exercises are more common than others when it comes to building a workout routine. Squats for sculpting that booty. Pushups for upping your arm strength. And when you need a little cardio hit? Well, cue the jumping jack.
A building block of fitness since the days of the first VHS workout (here’s looking at you, Jane Fonda), jumping jacks—a movement that requires you to simultaneously jump your feet out to the side and raise your arms above your head, then immediately reverse the motion by jumping back to start—are a simplistic, total-body burner.
“Jumping jacks elevate the heart rate and lungs, creating a cardio and caloric burn equivalent to running sprints,” says Heidi Jones, founder of the all-female fitness crew Squad WOD, and instructor for live-streaming workout platform Fortë. “Jumping jacks also activate the muscles in your legs, booty, arms, back, and abs. Also: they work coordination and flexibility in the shoulders and hips. So really, they pack a whole lot in one little move.”
While doing a slew of jumping jacks can be a workout on their own, sure, it doesn’t have to be as mundane as that. Here, a few fitness experts give us their suggestions for how to add jumping jacks into your regular routine:
THROW THEM INTO THE WARMUP
“Use jumping jacks as part of your normal warmup because the motion and cardio uptick are perfect to get you moving and your blood flowing,” says Jones. Try doing them for 30 seconds, then incorporate a range of mobility moves like inchworm planks, active quad pulls, and deep squats. While you’re doing the jumping jacks, be mindful of how you move, says Jones. “Think range of motion as you jump your feet wider than your hips and clap your hands together at the top.”
AMP UP YOUR INTERVALS
Interval workouts, when you alternate periods of high-intensity exercise with low-intensity recovery periods, are great for torching calories. Lisa Niren, director of content and programming at Studio and instructor at CityRow, suggests adding jumping jacks into your interval work. “Perform one minute of jumping jacks and/or any other calisthenics to increase your heart rate (and metabolism) before you slow down and recover for up to one minute,” she says. “During the recovery, your heart rate will stay elevated, which continues a level of fat burning, improving stamina and creates an afterburn effect known as excess post oxygen consumption (EPOC).” Translation? Your body will continue to burn calories long after the workout is over as it is recovering.
USE THEM FOR ACTIVE RECOVERY
Active recovery is exactly what it sounds like: a period where you are recovering from an activity but still moving. For Erin Schirack, director of cycle at Studio Three in Chicago, jumping jacks are the perfect active recovery interval. “After each set, say it’s three exercises, do 10 to 20 jumping jacks. Then, repeat your set or move onto the next round.”
TRY DIFFERENT VARIATIONS
There are loads of different ways to execute jumping jacks aside from the traditional jack. Chelsea Potter, personal trainer and group fitness instructor at Solace New York suggests using multiple types for a more intense sweat session. Do each of the following exercises for 45 seconds, then rest one minute. Do three rounds.
1. Traditional Jumping Jack:
Stand with your feet a few inches apart and your arms at your sides, then simultaneously raise your arms out to the sides and over your head, and jump your feet out so they are slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Without pausing, quickly reverse the movement. Repeat.
2. Jumping Star Jack:
Start with your feet together, standing in a quarter squat with hands at your side. Simultaneously jump up, creating a star shape out of your legs and arms. Land back in the quarter squat for one rep. Repeat.
3. Plank Jack:
Start in a plank position, hands under your shoulders and feet next to each other. Jump your feet out to a wide V, then jump them back in again. Do as many as you can in 30 seconds. Jumping too tough? Alternately step each foot out and in.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.
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