High knees combine the typical running motion with exaggerated knee lifts. They are often used by runners and other athletes to improve running form as well as lower body speed, power, and flexibility. Perform high knees as a component of your warm-up or prolong the exercise and add them to your workout routine to really get your heart rate going. There are several variations of the high knees exercise you can implement into your fitness routine.
Basic High Knees
Basic high knees can be performed while running in place or moving over a distance. Stand in place with your feet hip-width apart. Drive your right knee toward your chest and quickly place it back on the ground. Follow immediately by driving your left knee toward your chest. Continue to alternate knees as quickly as you can. If you are incorporating this exercise into your warm-up, begin with slower, controlled movements to prevent a pulling a muscle. Perform this exercise for a designated amount of time or over a specified distance. For example, you could run in place with high knees for one minute or run 30 feet with high knees.
The steam engine is a simple exercise that combines high knees with arm and upper-body movement. This exercise is great for building strength and endurance in your hip flexors and abdominal muscles. Stand with your feet hip width apart, interlock your fingers behind your head and open your elbows to the side. In a controlled manner, drive your right knee up to the front. At the same time, twist your torso and touch your left elbow to the raised knee. Pause at the top of the movement and then return your right foot to the floor. Repeat the lift with your left leg, touching your right elbow to your left knee. Continue to alternate knees until your muscles fatigue.
High Knee March
The high knee march is similar to the steam engine exercise but is a more dynamic movement. Stand with your feet slightly apart, your weight concentrated in the balls of your feet and your arms relaxed at your sides. Lift your left knee high while bringing your heel toward your glutes and keeping your toes up. Drive your leg back toward the ground, taking a small step forward. Repeat the movement with your right leg. Continue to march until you have covered a desired specified distance.
Skipping is not just for kids, but also for athletes looking to improve power and upward acceleration. This exercise is a variation of the basic high knees exercise but requires much more explosiveness. Stand with your feet hip width apart and bend your elbows to 90 degrees with your arms at your sides. Drive your right knee and left arm up while exploding upward off your left leg. Land on your left leg and then immediately drive your left knee and right arm up while pushing off of your right foot. With each skip, propel yourself upward as high as possible while driving the lifted knee toward your chest. Continue to skip in this manner until you have covered a desired specified distance.
- Netfit: High Knee Running
- "The Official U.S. Air Force Elite Workout"; Andrew Flach, Peter Field Peck; 2004