The Easiest, Most Effective Conditioning Exercise

March 19, 2023

The Easiest, Most Effective Conditioning Exercise

Jumping Jacks: Remastered

This simple exercise boosts your metabolic conditioning, burns fat, and improves athleticism. Bonus: You can do it anywhere.

School PE classes might’ve scared you off for life, but jumping jacks are one of the simplest and best forms of total-body conditioning out there. Time for a lesson in PE for adults. Try out these remastered jumping jacks.

Why You Need Jumping Jacks

1. They Condition Your Heart and Lungs

Just choose your favorite conditioning protocol and get to work anywhere. Try some Tabata-style intervals: 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off for 8 rounds.

2. They’re a Frontal Plane Movement

Coaches talk about how everybody needs more frontal plane loading – you need to be doing more stuff going sideways for both muscle balance and injury prevention. Jumping jacks work you in the frontal plane, just like side lunges or lateral jumps. Also, daily life and sports require you to be strong, powerful, and resilient in the frontal plane.

3. They’re a Joint-Friendly Conditioning Tool

Jumping jacks are more joint-friendly than many other forms of bodyweight conditioning. Even pro-burpee folks would have to admit that jumping jacks would be a far better option for many with back, wrist, or knee issues.

4. They Work as a Warm-Up and Primer

Pick a few of your favorite mobility activation exercises and pair them in supersets or circuits with jumping jacks. This’ll get you warm, primed, and ready to go. Not only will they raise your heart rate, but they’ll also potentiate your nervous system for a more productive workout. For this purpose, keep your sets short to minimize fatigue. Sets of 10-20 seconds work well.

5. They’ll Help You Develop Muscle and Connective Tissue Pliability

Jumping jacks are a plyometric exercise. They require short ground contact times and help develop the stretch-shortening cycle. Jumping jacks help develop the elasticity of your muscle and tendon structures and the efficiency of your nervous system. This allows you to develop force through your ankles and knees quickly. If you want to run further or faster, jumping jacks are a good place to start.

6. They’re Not Complex

Because they don’t require too much thought, jumping jacks are scalable for everyone.



The Variations

1. Basic Jumping Jacks

Stay light and springy on your knees. Focus on landing mostly on the balls of your feet. It’s that simple.

Unlike the traditional jumping jack, in the video you might’ve noticed a difference in arm and hand position. Although it’s a minor modification, performing jumping jacks with your palms facing more inwards at the top will put your shoulders in a better position when going overhead.

Some athletes instinctively modify the overhead position anyway because it’s more comfortable. But most end up with their arms overhead and palms facing out, thumbs down, shoulders internally rotated and in more of an impinged position. Don’t worry, this isn’t likely going to stop you from bench pressing anytime soon, but you’ll get more shoulder longevity using the modified “palms facing in” method.

2. Seal Jumping Jacks

These are a good chest opener and a better option if you have trouble going overhead. Only reach your arms as wide as you can handle without pain or discomfort. Clapping like a seal is optional.

3. X Jumping Jacks

With these, you finish like a big “x.” They take your arms and shoulders through a different range of motion when raising overhead. Your arms will start in front, thumbs up, then will raise using the scapular plane of motion as you jump (think shoulder Y-raise instead of lateral raise). At the top, your palms will still be facing inward. This is a more open and natural position for your shoulders.

4. Crossover Jumping Jacks

If you want to add some complexity, these are a good way to condition while developing rhythm and coordination.

5. Jumping Jacks With Presses

Jumping jacks can be done with a lightweight implement like a medicine ball. It’s not just about holding and pressing extra weight; it’s about the extra weight you’ll be landing with.

6. Depth Progression Jumping Jacks

Using a slight elevation further challenges your ability to absorb forces through your ankles, knees, and hips. And it’ll definitely get your heart rate up. Only use plyometric progressions if you know exactly why you’re using them and have a good base from which to work. If you do, taking your jumping jacks one inch off the floor at a time will pay off big time for your lower-body athleticism.

7. Band Pull-Apart Jumping Jacks

Try combining jumping jacks with band pull-aparts to load your upper body and get an even bigger burn. Grip the band so that in your furthest inward arm position, the band still maintains tension.

8. X Band Jumping Jacks

Step on the band, cross it over, take a thumbs-up grip, and jump. The band will do wonders for the bottom half of your body (loading it more in the frontal plane), while your upper body will get some extra shoulder stabilizer activation. The band adds an element of explosiveness to the exercise, too. Just watch where the band crosses in the middle and make sure there’s nothing important in its way.

9. Battling Rope Jumping Jacks

Combine one effective conditioning tool with another. Battling ropes are a good way to add resistance and get your heart and lungs working harder. The thicker or longer the ropes, the harder these will be.

How to Program Them

As a fat loss and conditioning tool, aim for 30 to 60-second work intervals with 30 to 60 seconds of rest depending on your fitness level and intensity. Tabatas or half-Tabatas work well too.

Use them as a finisher at the end of a workout, as part of a conditioning circuit, or try supersetting them with a strength exercise for a combined strength and fat loss workout.