Why you should include high knees in every warm-up

Why you should include high knees in every warm-up

Chances are you’ve done high knees a million times—either at school, as part of a sports team, or on the track as part of a dynamic warm-up. It’s a classic warm-up, and for good reason, as it helps prime the glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calf muscles for your run. It’s also a great way to increase knee elevation while running.

What are high knees?

High knees involve bringing your knees up to your chest as high as possible, usually quickly, with little or no forward movement. “The high knee exercise is a running exercise and is often used in warm-ups, but its primary purpose is skill development,” explains Graeme Woodward, British Athletics Level 3 Performance Coach, UKSCA-accredited S&C Coach and We Run coach for West Yorkshire.

“It is designed to mimic different aspects of the running gait and to be practiced so that the action transitions into a more powerful and efficient running technique.”

What are the advantages? And why should you include this simple exercise in every warm-up?

“The high-knee exercise has benefits that can be differentiated between bent and standing legs. The flexed hip is characteristically elevated higher than most runners would while running, strengthening the hip flexors and allowing for a greater range of motion. As a limb flexes, the supporting leg must provide stability and control while in triple extension of the hip, knee and ankle,” he adds.

“The high-knee exercise can be improved by doing it longer, faster, or with greater range, but it always needs to be done in a controlled manner to anchor better movement patterns.”

Another alternative variation is to tuck your elbows into your side and then bend them so that your forearms are extended in front of you and your palms are facing down. Then raise your knees to tap your hands each time.

Our advice? Each time you do this, gradually build up your range of motion and work on improving your speed as well.

How to do high knees

  1. Stand on your feet with your feet hip-width apart. Lean back slightly and lift your left knee higher than hip level towards your chest.
  2. As you lower your foot to the floor, bring your right knee up toward your chest.
  3. Try to raise your legs as high as possible and perform the movement with speed.
    1. Sets/Reps: Two sets of 30 seconds

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