The Squat Jack Is The Cardio Move You’re Not Doing But Should Be

Call the fire department—this squat variation is about to set everything ablaze.

Squats will always light up your glutes and quads. But the cardio king of the squat family—the squat jack—does so much more. For starters, it burns calories like crazy. And since you crank out tons of squats in a short amount of time, the squat jack will set your entire lower body on fire, says Jenna Epperly, ACE-certified trainer at Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios in Virginia Beach, VA.

How To Do Squat Jacks

How to: Stand with feet together, hands at your sides. Keeping your torso upright, jump your feet out wide into a sumo squat position. Your knees should be bent 90 degrees, ensuring your knees don’t go past your toes. Land lightly on your feet, keeping your weight in your heels and butt down. At the same time, cross your forearms in front of your chest. Still engaging your core, jump your feet back together, and raise your arms overhead. That’s one rep. Continue without pausing, until time or reps are complete.

“Squat jacks challenge your legs and strengthen your core.”

Form tips: Your pelvis should be tucked and your core should be tight the whole time—think pushing your navel to your spine, says Epperly.

Reps/sets for best results: Epperly suggests jacking for 15 to 30 seconds at a time if you’re a beginner, 30 to 60 seconds if you’re advanced. If you prefer reps, aim for 15 to 20.

Benefits Of Squat Jacks

“Squat jacks are mainly a cardio exercise since they involve a jump that gets your heart rate up,” says Epperly.

The benefits don’t stop there: “Squat jacks challenge and increase the endurance of the fast-twitch muscle fibers in your legs and help strengthen your core,” says Epperly. “And they can be a good complimentary move to add to your leg day to fatigue already-worked muscles and challenge your endurance.” Specifically, the move lights up your quads, hamstrings, abductors, adductors, glutes, core, and lower back.

Make The Squat Jack Part Of Your Workout

Depending on what your workout routine looks like, aim to incorporate squat jacks at least once a week, says Epperly.

Her three favorite methods: Make them a move in your HIIT routine; combine them with a heavier leg lift to get your heart rate up (it goes great with leg presses, goblet squats, or hip thrusts); or finish leg day with a set or two to really fatigue your muscles.

If you need an easier variation in the beginning, simply step in and out, instead of jumping, says Epperly. But if you’re ready to get your heart seriously racing? Add weight. Ankle weights are great, but holding a dumbbell, kettlebell, or weighted plate in front of your chest also works well.

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