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June 03, 2020 10 min read

The Plant Jack began gaining popularity around five years ago when this exercise started hitting the pages of workout magazines everywhere. Many people choose to include plant jacks in their workout because they combine hard-hitting fat-burning cardio and muscle-building core-activation, meaning this simple movement is a whole-body workout. We highly recommend adding a few plank jacks into your weekly routine so you can work on your strength, stability, and balance. 

In this article, we’ll explain how you can complete a plank jack, sharing step by step instructions for perfect form. We’ll also explain the benefits of this fantastic calorie crunching exercise, and why you should definitely include it in your workout routine. Finally, we’ll divulge some of our top tips and variations for the plank jack, so you can get the most of this bodyweight workout. 

What is a Plank Jack?

The plank jack is a combination of two simple and well-known exercises; the plank, and the jumping jack. By putting these two movements together into a single workout, the plank jack offers a more dynamic and advanced alternative to a regular static plank. When completing a plank jack exercise, you begin on all fours in a plank position and hop your feet in and out like a jumping jack. By forcing your muscles to work in keeping your spine and pelvis aligned, the plank jack is a great muscle workout while also raising your heart rate for cardio. With such great muscle building and fat-burning potential, it’s easy to see why plant jacks have become standard at gyms and studios across the USA. And if you're looking to add on some muscle and strength, it's always a good idea to load up on some of our Ultimate Mass Stack supplements.

Combining Cardio with Plank Exercises

There’s a reason why planks are popular with military boot camps, personal trainers, and at-home workouts wherever you go. This exercise is great at engaging the core, but it’s really a full-body exercise. You can train and strengthen your whole body with just the plank, making it highly valuable and commonplace in all sorts of workouts. While the traditional plank concentrates on holding a single position with perfect form, for as long as you can, other forms of the plank add a cardio aspect to the exercise. 

The Plank Jack offers full-body muscle engagement alongside high-intensity cardio, giving it far more fitness potential. There are many other examples of core and plank exercises that can increase your heart rate, so it's ideal to include plank jacks in a varied core workout. Whether you’re working on your fitness levels to build bigger muscles, lose weight, or just be heather, core-cardio exercises like the plank jack are must-haves for your routine. Now you know why plank jacks are so fantastic, let’s go into more detail on the different muscles you’ll be working out.

Three men doing plank jacks in a gym. 

Which Muscles Does a Plank Jack Use?

Like any variation of a plank exercise, the plank jack relies heavily on the activation of all your core muscles. Your transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, and internal and external obliques are all required to provide a stable base for the exercise. Major muscle groups in your hips and back are also activated, so the plank jack is a true core-busting exercise. Plank jacks also work out your chest and arm muscles, including shoulders, and many stabilizing muscles across the body. 

Plant jacks can also be considered a posterior chain exercise. These are also primarily stabilizing muscles in the movement, and include the hamstrings, lats, rear delts, spinal erectors, rhomboids, and glutes. The jumping action of a plant jack, when your feet leave the ground, forces your body to contract and tighten every core muscle, so your body doesn’t become unstable. Similarly, your arm muscles will be well activated, stabilizing your jumping movement and taking your body weight. When completing plank jacks, you’ll work on your triceps, biceps, forearms, front deltoids, and shoulders as well as your core. 

All the muscles we’ve mentioned so far are core and upper-body, primarily focused on stabilization. However, the plant jack is a dynamic movement exercise, as you use plenty of muscles when jumping your feet inwards and outwards too. Muscles activated by the hopping movement include abductors, calves, and quads, all necessary for an explosive and high-intensity exercise. As you can see, the plant jack needs nothing but your body weight to create an inclusive full-body exercise. There’s no need for kettlebells or other technical gym equipment for you to work on your core using plank jacks. 

Warming Up Before Plank Jacks

Doing plank jacks is an intense exercise, one that can quickly fatigue your muscles. Because of the strain on your body, it’s vital to complete a proper warm-up before your high-intensity workout. It’s a great idea to do some dynamic stretches before plank jacks to improve your mobility and loosen muscles. This will help you keep proper form while completing the exercise, and in turn, help to prevent injury. 

A common mistake among fitness newcomers is to use static stretches before a workout, but this can actually make your workout less effective as well at potentially causing injury. Static stretches should be completed at the end of your workout, to pull out and relax muscles. Active stretches, on the other hand, can boost blood flow, activate your central nervous system, and increase strength, power, and range of motion. Here are a few dynamic stretches we recommend incorporating into your warm-up before a core-cardio workout. These are especially good before plank jacks to improve your performance and results.

  • Hamstring Scoops: As the posterior chain is engaged during plank jacks, it’s a good idea to warm up the hamstrings, a common injury muscle. To do hamstring scoops, scoop your hands down your legs and then upwards again as you take a step. Think of it as a walking version of a regular static hamstring stretch.
  • Jumping Jacks: Jumping jacks are ideal for loosening arm, leg, and torso muscles, they’re perfect preparation for plank jacks. To do this classic warm-up activity, stand in an open space with your arms by your sides. Then, jump your feet outwards to shoulder width, and raise both arms outwards and above your head. Jump both feet back in, and bring your arms down, then repeat. 
  • Squats: To make sure your glutes are well engaged and your legs fully warmed up, add a few squats into your pre-workout routine. Stand with your feet at shoulder-width, and hold your arms in front of you. Next, squat down while keeping your whole foot in contact with the ground, contracting at the core. Push your hips backward as you bend, ensuring you get close enough to the ground that your hips dip below your knees. Finally, squeeze your glutes and push from the heels back to a standing position. 

How to do a Plank Jack: 4 Steps to a Stronger Core

Now you know about the different muscles and body parts that can be built up using plank jacks, and how to properly warm-up, we’ll explain in detail how to complete this exercise. As always, you’ll need to focus on perfect form when completing plank jacks, so that you can activate and strengthen all the right muscles without risking strain or injury. If you can’t yet complete a full plank jack, don’t worry, it’s a challenging exercise. We’ll later explain some variations you could use to work up to this full-body workout. Now, let’s jump right into the first step in completing plank jacks! 

Step 1: The starting position for plank jacks is similar to a standard plank. To get into position, kneel down on a mat with your hands on the floor. You should bend your elbows so that your whole arm rests on the floor, with elbows positioned directly beneath the shoulders. 

Step 2: Next you’ll need to get into a plank position so that your body is fully parallel to the floor. Keeping your elbows in the same position under your shoulders, extend your legs outwards behind you. Concentrate on keeping your tailbone slightly tucked in, so that your pelvis remains perpendicular to the ground. To secure and stabilize your plank position, activate your glutes and core muscles. Your whole body should be in a straight line, keep your back flat by looking down at the floor or your exercise mat. 

Step 3: Remembering to keep your body as parallel to the floor as possible, hop your feet outwards. You can do this by bending slightly at the knee and jumping both feet out to the sides as if you were doing a jumping jack. 

Step 4: You should land on your toes, allowing your knees to bend slightly once again in order to absorb the impact. Next, jump your feet again simultaneously, back together into your starting position. 

Plant jacks are a challenging aerobic exercise, without a set number of reps which is recommended. Instead, we advise doing as many plant jacks as you can for 20 seconds while maintaining proper form. If you try to complete more reps of the plank jack you risk improper form. Attempting to exercise when your muscles are already fatigued is pointless; it just leaves a higher potential for injury. Completing high reps of plank jacks with your hips bouncing is pointless, as you’ll miss out on the benefits of the exercise as well as possibly hurting yourself. 

Instead, focus on 20 seconds of plank jacks with a completely straight back. If you want, you can include several sets of 20 seconds spread out through your workout. Many HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workouts use multiple sets of plank jacks as they raise your heart rate to cardio levels at the same time as working out your core. We recommend combining plank jacks with other floor-based exercises or use them to finish off your workout for an ab-busting finish. 

Like we mentioned earlier, static stretches after a workout are a great way to release tension and improve your flexibility. After exercises like plank jacks, it’s a good idea to do some core and cardio stretches. For your core, 30 seconds of child’s pose, and cat-cow stretch are highly beneficial, especially in easing lower back pain. As a post-cardio stretch, lunges are a great choice. 

Benefits of the Plank Jack Exercise

There are numerous benefits and special features which make plank jacks a fantastic exercise. They have a huge range of muscle activation, including core, arm, back, leg, shoulder, and posterior chain muscles. Studies have found that plank jacks can achieve double the abdominal activation of other core exercises such as crunches. This shows just how effective this exercise is at building core muscles, a huge benefit of the plank jack. 

Strengthening your core muscles has plenty of benefits itself, one of which is a reduction in lower back pain. Working on your abs and core can improve spinal alignment, which can prevent back pain and reduce the risk of back injuries. Any exercise you might complete to help stabilize your core will be beneficial in the fight with lower back pain, and the plank jack is an excellent example.

Another huge benefit of the plank jack is that it’s a true cardiovascular exercise. Usually, cardio equates to running, cycling, and other similar activities. However, none of these forms of exercise offer cardio in conjunction with the incredible core activation you get from plank jacks. Complete this exercise to work on rock solid abs, while also burning calories and fat. Additionally, the fact that plant jacks are a cardio exercise means they help lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. 

A man and a woman doing jumping jacks.

Plank Jack Tips and Variations

When performing plank jacks, here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you keep proper form and exercise more effectively: 

  • When jumping your feet, keep your lower abs pulled in very tightly. This will help prevent your body from bouncing up and down too much, which can lead to back pain and less encouraging results. 
  • Plank jacks are great for high-intensity workouts, so for the best results spread several sets of 20 seconds throughout your routine. By engaging your core and raising your heart rate in short, strenuous bursts, you’ll benefit from better results from this exercise. 
  • It isn’t necessary to jump your feet too wide out; just 3 or 4 inches is enough to benefit from the exercise. This way, you’ll achieve more reps with better form. 

Plank jacks are a highly-challenging exercise, which might be too difficult for beginners. If the full plank jack movement is too strenuous for you, there are a few options to make the exercise easier. You can start working out with one of these and build up to a full set of plank jacks. Before starting attempting any form of plank variation, you should be able to hold a regular static plank for two minutes. Once you’re successful, you should have enough stability to complete plank jacks. 

One simple way to make plank jacks easier is to start in a high plank position. Instead of resting on your forearms, hold your body up with your arms straight beneath your shoulders. You could also do plank side taps, an easier version of the plank jack which you can find instructions for below. 

If you can successfully complete a 20 second set of plank jacks with perfect form, you might want to progress to a more difficult version of the exercise. To make plank jacks more difficult, you can increase the length of your sets of the speed of reps. You could also try involving plank jacks in a more challenging core workout overall. 

How to Do Plank Side Taps

This lower impact variation allows you to benefit from the same muscle movements without jumping your legs outwards. Plank side taps are an easier exercise you can work on to improve your core strength and stability, before moving on to a more intense version. Here’s how to do plank side taps:

  1. Your starting position is a high plank, with your arms extended straight out, hands positioned under the shoulders. Your feet should be together, with your whole body in a straight line. Make sure your abs are engaged, as well as your posterior chain. 
  2. Step your right foot out a few inches to the side, then bring it back to the center. Repeat with your left foot, stepping outwards, and back together again.
  3. Perform 10 repetitions for each leg. 

Build Strength and Stamina with Plank Jacks

You can train muscles throughout your whole body when doing plank jack exercises while raising your heart rate to burn calories and fat. Perfect to include in your core-busting routine or high-intensity workout, this challenging exercise is ideal for every fitness enthusiast. It engages major muscle groups in your arms, legs, back, and of course, your core, to help towards a more chiseled figure. Additionally, the cardio element of this exercise makes it even better for you, leading to a healthier and happier body!