How to do the high knees exercise

Are you looking to keep your legs in top shape? How about adding some strength to your midsection? If your answer is yes, then high knees is the perfect exercise for you. Simple yet intense, the high knees exercise is a combination of the regular running motion with some exaggerated knee lifts. It is a common fitness routine for runners and athletes looking to improve their running form as well as their power, flexibility, and lower body speed.

High knees not only strengthen your legs but gets your blood pumping and activates your core. Learning how to perform this exercise will increase the momentum in your stride, strengthen your hip flexors, and improve the coordination of your lower body. If you are tired of squats, perform the high knees to give your body a full work out and get your heart rate going. Interestingly, there are several variations you could implement to keep this exercise plan fun and challenging.

How to do high knees

Since you are probably new to this exercise, it will be ideal to get a three-to-five-minute warm-up to get your muscles ready. If you can perform a few stretches such as side bends, toe touches, and foot grabs while at it, you’d better ready yourself for the high knees.

Step-by-Step high knees guide

  • Stand upright on a flat surface with your feet hip-width
  • Place your hands palms down facing the ground, just above your belly button, and look straight ahead.
  • Lift your right knee to meet up with your right hand, bring the leg down quickly and immediately do same to your left knee.
  • As you alternate the knees, ensure you do this with a hopping motion.
  • As each knee meets up with your hands, make sure you engage your abdominal muscles.

What muscles do high knees work?

High knees is a great exercise that works on your legs and core. Specific muscles high knees can help you work on are your calves, quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, adductors, rectus abdominis, abductors and shins.

It also works on your abdominal muscles and hip flexors and enables you to build strength and endurance within these muscle groups. High knees can also give you a great cardiovascular move, keeping your heart rate up at all times. This is possible since the workout helps to burn fat at a faster rate.

Variations of the high knees exercise

You can implement different variations of the high knees exercise to keep your fitness routine fun. Some of the modifications include:

Steam engine

This is a combination of the high knees with arm and upper body movement. It is an incredible way to build the strength and endurance in your hip flexors and abdominal muscles. Stand on a flat surface with your feet hip-width apart, then link your fingers behind your head and open your elbows to each side. Drive your knee forward in a controlled manner, and at the same time, touch your left elbow on the lifted knee. Repeat the lift and touch with your left knee and right elbow, and continue alternating the knees until your muscles tire out.


Skipping is not an exercise exclusive for kids. It is also great for athletes looking to boost their power and upward acceleration. Stand on a flat surface with your feet hip-width apart and bend your elbows to a 90-degree position with both arms at your sides.

Raise your right knee and left arm up, drive your left leg upwards and land on your left leg. Immediately raise your right arm and left knee up and push off of your right foot simultaneously. As you go with each skip, thrust yourself upwards as high as you can while moving your lifted knee close to your chest. Continue in this manner until you successfully cover a specific reasonable distance.

Benefits of High Knees

You probably did high knees while at your school gym – and there was a good reason for this. It is an incredible way to engage yourself in a high-intensity interval training or merely warm up to a run – everything depends on how fast you go and how high you raise your knees. Here are a few benefits of this straightforward total-body exercise:

Cardio Boost

You can decide how intense you want your high knees exercise to be, but no matter the effort you put in, you’d definitely get a great cardio workout. If you are new to exercise or you are warming up to the high knees workout, keep your knees a bit lower and start slowly. On the other hand, if you can engage in a more intense workout, lift the knees higher and increase your movement.

Works on your Core and Lower Body

As your legs move, they gain strength with high knees. Running is an excellent exercise as it helps to work on your legs, and high knees involve running at a place. You also engage your core muscles when you lift your knees higher, so high knees is great for your core muscles and lower body.

You can perform them anywhere

While the benefits of high knees are amazing, it feels even better that you can do this move anywhere, without the need for any equipment. You do not need to go to the gym or make use of stability ball, dumbbells, or kettlebells. All you need is the space to get going with your body.

High knees is a great way to work on your stride and boost your flexibility, endurance, and strength. Good news is you can do it anywhere in the house, and you do not need any equipment too. As you put in effort in this workout routine, you can always work your way up to longer periods of times. Now put on some good music, have fun, and go get those killer abs and tougher legs.


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