High Knees is a simple yet effective exercise that can help improve your speed and endurance.
I predominantly use High Knees as a speed mechanics drill to emphasize proper arm action and knee lift. It’s also a common warm-up exercise for runners and athletes, but can be done by anyone looking to boost their speed mechanics and/or cardiovascular fitness.
In this guide, I’ll provide a step-by-step breakdown of how to do High Knees, as well as coaching points and variations. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced athlete, High Knees is a great exercise to add to your training program.
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How To Do High Knees
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms by your sides.
- Lift one leg off the ground and bring your knee up towards your chest, keeping your foot dorsiflexed (toe pointed up), your heel tucked under the hamstring and your core engaged.
- As you bring your knee up, bring your opposite arm up to just in front of the face with the elbow at roughly a 90-degree angle.
- The arm on the same side as the knee that is up should be placed just behind the hip with the elbow at roughly a 90-degree angle.
- Lower your foot back to the ground and repeat the movement with the opposite leg and arm.
- Continue alternating legs and arms, lifting your knees as high as you can while keeping your balance and form.
- As you get more comfortable with the movement, you can increase the speed and intensity.
Keep the shoulders relaxed. Many athletes will tense up through the shoulders in an effort to move faster. Always remember – tight is slow.
The arms should maintain a roughly 90-degree angle at the elbow throughout the movement. Hands should alternate from “cheek-to-cheek”.
Try to stay as tall as possible. Do not bend at the hips and hunch forward. Also, do not lean back in an attempt to raise the knees higher. Stay extended and make yourself as tall as possible.
Benefits of High Knees
High Knees are an incredibly good exercise to either introduce on reinforce speed mechanics. Knee lift, arm action and body angles are all things that can be taught and coached when doing High Knees.
This makes them a great movement to do when transitioning from a general warm-up to more complex speed drills.
They can also be used as a part of a general movement prep warm-up as they can quickly raise the heart rate and don’t require equipment or much room to perform.
High Knee Variations
Here are a couple of simple High Knee variations to either make them more challenging or to simply add variety.
High Knees For Distance
Instead of doing High Knees in place, you can move forward while doing High Knees and cover a specific distance.
If you decide to use this variation, understand that the object is not to cover the distance as fast as possible. Instead, focus on getting as many reps, or foot contacts, as possible as you cover the distance.
For example, I generally program High Knees as only 10 yards long, sometimes even 5. The goal for the athletes is to achieve 50 foot contacts over that 10-yard distance. If you try it, you’ll figure out quickly that that is a lot of reps in such a short distance.
High Knees with Resistance
Once you’ve become proficient with High Knees, it may be time to advance to using resistance with your High Knees.
These Kbands are resistance bands that are secured just above the knee and are specially designed for speed and lateral movement drills.
Once you have them in place, do High Knees using the same technique as you normally would. The bands will provide extra resistance to help strengthen the hip flexors and help you become more powerful.