Are You Doing Jumping Jacks Wrong? The Toes vs. Heels Debate Finally Solved

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Jumping jacks are a fantastic exercise for cardiovascular fitness, endurance, and coordination.

However, when performing them should you land on your toes or your heels?

In this article, I’d like to discuss both techniques, as well as recommending how you should actually land your jumping jacks.

You should land on the balls of your feet when performing jumping jacks. Essentially, this is the same as “landing on your toes”, as the 2-4 inch area behind your toes that are still in contact with the ground are the “balls of your feet”. Landing on your heels for any jumping type of movement leads to excessive impact with the ground. This can place extreme stress on the joints and may jar your lower back, which can lead to injury.

The Perfect Landing For Jumping Jacks

When it comes to the toe-heel argument for any exercise I always feel somewhat perturbed in saying “toes”.

The reason for this is that I imagine some people may overdo this and actually end up standing on their extreme tip-toes like a ballet dancer.

So, when it comes to jumping jacks, and any similar exercise, e.g. jump rope, your aim should be to land on the balls of your feet.

Essentially, this is a “toe landing”, but also encompasses the 2-4 inch area just behind your toes, known as the balls of the feet.

Therefore, there is slightly more of the foot in contact with the ground than just the toes.

Landing on the balls of your feet allows for a far more efficient transfer of energy, while helping you maintain a more athletic stance.

Plus, being on the balls of your feet also provides better balance and stability.

I’ll admit that most of us probably wouldn’t be able to go “en pointe” (standing on just the tips of your toes) in the same way as a ballet dancer.

However, I felt it was important to distinguish between doing jumping jacks on your toes and on the balls of your feet.

Factors to be Wary of When “Landing on the Toes”

Okay, so a “toe-landing” aka “balls of the feet” is what you should be doing while doing jumping jacks.

However, this doesn’t mean that performing jumping jacks in this way doesn’t have a potential negative side.

That being said, this generally comes down to your overall flexibility, strengths and weaknesses.

Okay, when performing any exercise on the balls of your feet this takes the emphasis of the quads and places it more onto the calves.

Now, I wouldn’t say that you would typically do jumping jacks to build your quads, as it is much more of a cardiovascular exercise.

But nonetheless, your quads are definitely involved in the movement.

However, exercising on the balls of the feet will definitely overload the calves.

So, you’re likely to feel jumping jacks in your calves a lot more.

This can actually cause issues if you have particularly tight or weak calf muscles.

In fact, it’s quite common for people to experience calf cramps or strains.

And the continued action of performing jumping jacks with tight or weak calf muscles can eventually lead to a more serious injury. 

Obviously, I don’t wish to put you off performing jumping jacks, but this is definitely something you should be wary of.

Why You Should Never Land on Your Heels

When it comes to jumping jacks you should never land on your heel.

Admittedly, I have come across some people speaking of this exact same subject who suggest that you should land “over the heel” during jumping jacks.

Over the heel is more commonly associated with the three main landing patterns while running.

However, I would never suggest that you do this with jumping jacks.

Firstly, landing on your heels with any jumping movement will cause an excessive impact with the ground.

This places a huge amount of stress on the joints, namely the hips, knees, and ankles.

Furthermore, this can also cause you to jar your lower back, which can lead to an injury of the lumbar spine.

Plus, being on your heels doesn’t promote an athletic stance.

An athletic stance allows you to maximize speed, power, and strength in any direction, and is more aligned with being on your toes.

And the mere fact that jumping jacks require you to be in constant motion, you don’t want to be stuck on your heels while performing them.

So, for more efficient jumping jacks, while avoiding potential lower back injuries, landing on your heels is best avoided.

Key Learning Points

  • You should always land on the “balls of your feet” when performing jumping jacks.
  • You are essentially landing on your toes, although the 2-4 inch area behind your toes will also be in contact with the ground.
  • Being on your toes while performing high reps of jumping jacks will take much of the load off the quads and place it on the calves.
  • Tight or weak calves could cause problems when performing jumping jacks.
  • Never perform any jumping movement, including jumping jacks, by landing in your heels. 
  • Landing on your heels doesn’t promote an athletic stance and it can also be dangerous for the lower back.

Now, I’d like to clear up some confusion, namely the difference between jumping jacks and star jumps.

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