Almost everyone knows about jumping jacks but have you ever heard of cross jacks? There’s a good chance that you haven’t. It’s an exercise that is similar to jumping jacks but with a few differences in movement.
It’s certainly not for everyone, especially if you have joint problems or are very overweight, but if you need an equipment-free and space-saving cardio activity, then it’s an option.
In this guide, we’re going to explain exactly how to do it, while offering some tips and variations, plus, we’ve provided information on the best way to include it in your training.
In This Exercise:
- Target Muscle Group: Lower body
- Type: Cardio
- Mechanics: Compound
- Equipment: None
- Difficulty: Beginner
While cross jacks are more of a muscle conditioning and cardiovascular building activity than a muscle building exercise, your leg muscles will still benefit from the intensity. Jumping activates all of the lower body muscles including the quads that flex the hips and extend the knees, the hamstrings that do the exact opposite, glutes that extend the thigh, and also the adductor and abductor muscles that allow us to move the legs in and out, respectively.
How To Do Cross Jacks
Cross Jacks isn’t a complicated activity however, it does require basic coordination but most people should not have an issue performing this exercise. Here are simple step-by-step instructions for how to perform cross jacks.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms by your sides.
- Jump your feet out slightly wider than hip-width and swing your arms out to your sides at the same time.
- Now hop your left foot in front of your right foot while simultaneously crossing your left arm over your right arm at about chest height.
- Jump your feet and arms out as you did in step 2.
- This time, hop your right foot in front of your left foot while crossing your right arm over your left arm at chest height.
- Repeat by alternating crossing your arms and legs for the desired number of reps.
Here’s a video example…
Cross jack exercise tips
- Feel free to cross your legs and arms according to your capabilities. In other words, if you cannot cross your legs too far, then that’s totally fine; do what you can.
- Avoid jumping too high, especially if you’re going to be doing lots of reps. Do smaller hops/jumps. This ensures that you’re not placing too much stress on your lower body joints such as the ankles and knees.
- Mix things up by crossing the opposite leg and arm. For example, instead of crossing the right leg and right arm over the left leg and left arm, try crossing the right leg over the left arm while crossing the left arm over the right leg. It won’t make much of a difference but mixing things up is never a bad thing.
- Challenge yourself further by jumping further out. Just make sure that you can perform the exercise properly.
Here are three variations or alternatives to cross jacks.
1. Jumping jacks
This is a no-brainer. Jumping jacks are the most common variation of this type of activity. It’s really easy and nearly anyone can do these.
To do a jumping jack, begin with feet hip-width apart and arms by your sides. Then jump out while raising the arms overhead at the same time. Jump your feet back together (don’t cross your feet). Continue as you would the cross jacks… there’s nothing to it.
You might be thinking, “don’t burpees involve push-ups?”
They do… but, if you want a more high-intensity variation or alternative to cross jacks that’ll condition your muscles and heart, and burn more calories so that you can shed body fat, then burpees are an excellent choice.
3. Criss-cross jumping jacks
A variation of cross jacks, criss-cross jumping jacks simply involves bringing your arms out and in while moving the feet forward and backward in an alternating fashion. It’s very simple and a great exercise to add in with your cross jacks during a bodyweight cardio session!
How To Incorporate Cross Jacks Into Your Training Routine
Cross jacks can be done anytime and almost anywhere so there’s no perfect way to include them in your training.
So we can only recommend a few ways that we think are ideal.
Cross jacks elevate the heart rate and condition the body for a workout by warming up the joints and getting blood to the muscles.
Circuit training or calisthenics
Circuit training is when you jump from one exercise to the next without little to no rest in between. It’s a great way to get a lot done in a short amount of time and burns lots of calories. You can include cross jacks as one of the exercises in your circuit session.
It’s also considered a calisthenics exercise so you could do them alongside your push-ups, pull-ups, burpees, box jumps, etc.
You can do cross jacks as a standalone exercise to get the blood flowing and to improve your cardiovascular fitness… no equipment necessary.
Simply set a timer and perform cross jacks until it goes off, or do them for a certain number of reps. For example, you can do 3 sets x 50 cross jacks counting one rep each time your legs cross.
If you’re short on time but don’t have time for cardio, cross jacks are an excellent exercise to add in between your sets.
Cross jacks are a little more involved than basic jumping jacks but a great way to keeps things interesting and prevent boredom. Plus, you can pair this activity with most exercises and workouts and it has basic benefits such as improving your cardio fitness, burning calories and warming up the joints and muscles in the lower body.
Remember, if you’re carrying a lot of excess weight or have joint issues, it’s probably best to skip this activity due to the impact on the joints.
For anyone else though, it’s simple enough, so just do it!