Jumping jacks are a classic calisthenics bodyweight exercise that was popularized by fitness guru Jack LaLanne, who had one of the first, and longest running fitness television programs.
For almost 30 years, between the 1950s and 1980s, jumping jacks were part of the routine warm-up in Jack LaLanne’s home fitness television workouts.
From there, jumping jacks became a mainstream warm-up exercise and aerobic workout for kids in physical education classes, athletes preparing for sports practices and games, and everyday individuals looking to improve their fitness, lose weight, and strengthen the cardiovascular system.
If you are looking to add jumping jacks to your workouts, you may wonder, how many jumping jacks should I do to improve my health?
In this workout guide, we will discuss how to do jumping jacks, how to modify jumping jacks for beginners and progress jumping jacks as you get stronger, and ultimately answer your question, how many jumping jacks should I do based on my fitness level and goals?
Let’s get moving!
How Do You Do Jumping Jacks?
Before we look at how many jumping jacks to do or how long to do jumping jacks based on your fitness goals, let’s cover how to perform jumping jacks.
Although you are likely familiar with jumping jacks from PE classes or sports practices when you were young, it may be years, if not decades, since you have done jumping jacks workouts.
Although the jumping jacks exercise was popularized by Jack LaLanne, this calisthenic exercise has actually been around since the 1800s.
Reportedly, the jumping jacks exercise was invented by John. J. Pershing, who lived in Missouri, USA.Pershing developed jumping jacks during his tenure as an instructor at West Point Academy as a form of exercise to condition cadets for the physical rigors of battle.
As such, one of the benefits of jumping jacks is that the simple bodyweight exercise provides multiple fitness benefits as it:
- Increases your heart rate (serving as cardio exercise)
- Strengthens the lower body muscles
- Increases bone density (due to the impact)
- Improves coordination
Jumping jacks are considered a calisthenics exercise, which means this exercise provides cardio workout conditioning and muscle strengthening by using just your body weight.
Additionally, jumping jacks are also a plyometric exercise, which means that it involves jumping and then landing on your feet.
If you have low bone density, knee pain, a bone or joint injury, or other contraindications to jumping, you should speak with your doctor, or physical therapist, or work with a personal trainer before attempting workouts with jumping jacks.
Furthermore, because of the dynamic, high-impact, explosive power required by jumping, the risk of injury is high.
This is particularly true if you are performing dynamic, vigorous jumping jacks as part of a warm-up without actually warming up beforehand or if you have been sedentary and have a limited range of motion.
Thus, if you are going to perform vigorous, fast jumping jacks or long sets of jumping jacks as hard as you can go, you should do a full-body warm-up beforehand.
In particular, pay attention to dynamic warm-ups for your hips and mobilizing your glutes and shoulders before vigorous jumping jack workouts.
Here are the steps for how to do jumping jacks:
How To Do Jumping Jacks
- Stand upright with good posture, keeping your chest up, shoulders down, and abs and glutes engaged.
- Make sure that your feet are spaced about hip-width apart and that your weight is distributed evenly across both feet. Relax your arms down at your sides.
- In one fluid motion, jump your legs out to each side to separate them while you sweep your arms up overhead towards one another.
- Seamlessly jump everything back to the starting position and immediately jump back out to move on to the next rep.
Keep your core and glutes tights as you jump and really think about maximizing the range of motion in both your arms and legs while doing jumping jacks.
A common mistake is to only do “partial“ jumping jacks, wherein you are just separating your feet somewhat and your arms are just barely overhead rather than totally up to the end range of motion.
Particularly in cases where you are doing jumping jacks as a dynamic warm-up exercise or jumping jacks in mobility workouts, you really need to focus on using the full range of motion.
Modifying Jumping Jacks
As a plyometric exercise, jumping jacks can be contraindicated for anyone with joint pain, osteoporosis, other low bone density issues, pregnancy, or other musculoskeletal injuries or health conditions that might make jumping or high-impact exercise unsafe.
Additionally, beginners and individuals who carry a lot of excess weight may need to start with modified jumping jacks that are less vigorous from a cardiovascular standpoint and lower impact.
Low-Impact Jumping Jack Step Outs
In either of these cases, the best way to modify jumping jacks for beginners is to skip the jumps altogether and turn the jumping jack exercise into an alternating step out.
Basically, you will perform the same movement with your arms for every rep but instead of jumping in and out with your legs, you will alternate stepping one leg out to the side and tapping the toe at the end range of motion and then bringing the leg back and then switching to the other side.
This reduces the impact forces and will help you improve your single-leg balance stability.
This low-impact jumping jacks exercise modification is also much easier from a cardio standpoint because your muscles do not have to work as hard because you are not trying to get your body airborne with every jump.
This has pros and cons.
The downsides are that you won’t burn as many calories and you won’t get as much of a cardio workout.
However, the benefit of jumping jacks in this low-impact version is that if you are a beginner who is just getting into working out consistently, stepping instead of jumping makes jumping jacks more approachable as you build your aerobic fitness.
Jumping Jacks On a Rebounder
Doing jumping jacks on a rebounder, which is a mini exercise trampoline, is a great way to make this exercise more difficult for the muscles worked by jumping jacks (especially the core muscles, glute muscles, and smaller stabilizing muscles in your ankles).
This is because you have to stabilize your body and spring off of a dynamic, moving surface.
Another benefit of doing jumping jacks on a rebounder is that by nature, the rebounder helps absorb joint impact because it has “give“ when you land.
This reduces impact stress, making rebounder jumping jack workouts a great option for individuals with joint pain but high levels of strength and power.
How Many Jumping Jacks Should I Do Based On My Fitness Goals?
Deciding how many jumping jacks you should do must be considered in the context of your fitness level, your fitness goals, and the other exercises you are doing in a workout.
By nature, jumping jacks are designed to be a cardio exercise, which means that you should be prioritizing speed and intensity rather than a high number of reps or time.
Here are some guidelines for how many jumping jacks you should do:
How Many Jumping Jacks Should I Do If I’m A Beginner?
For beginners, a good starting place is two sets of 30 seconds. Build up to three sets of 30 seconds.
Take at least 60 seconds of rest in between each set.
How Many Jumping Jacks Should I Do For Cardio?
If you are an advanced athlete and you want to do jumping jacks as a cardio workout or to build endurance, you need to do longer sets of jumping jacks.
Begin with three sets of 45-60 seconds and build up to 2 minutes per set.
Decrease the rest to 30 seconds in between sets.
The guidelines for physical activity for adults set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, June 2). How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm and the British Heart Foundation2Understanding physical activity. (2022). Bhf.org.uk. https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/publications/being-active/understanding-physical-activity# are to accumulate either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio exercise per week.
When you are doing jumping jacks workouts for cardio exercise it can be helpful to wear a heart rate monitor to ensure that you are pushing your body enough to reach the intensity levels necessary for your workout to improve your health.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine3Scheid, J. L., & O’Donnell, E. (2019). REVISITING HEART RATE TARGET ZONES THROUGH THE LENS OF WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY. ACSMʼs Health & Fitness Journal, 23(3), 21–26. https://doi.org/10.1249/fit.0000000000000477, the moderate-intensity cardio zone refers to exercise that raises your heart rate to 64-76% of your maximum heart rate, while vigorous-intensity cardio exercise means that your heart rate is elevated to 77-95% of your maximum heart rate.
For more ideas about bodyweight cardio workouts and exercises, check out our guide to workouts you can do in a hotel room while traveling.
- 1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, June 2). How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
- 2Understanding physical activity. (2022). Bhf.org.uk. https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/publications/being-active/understanding-physical-activity#
- 3Scheid, J. L., & O’Donnell, E. (2019). REVISITING HEART RATE TARGET ZONES THROUGH THE LENS OF WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY. ACSMʼs Health & Fitness Journal, 23(3), 21–26. https://doi.org/10.1249/fit.0000000000000477