Why you should include high knees in every warm-up
Chances are, you’ve probably done high knees a million times before – either at school, as part of a sports team, or at the track as part of a dynamic warm-up. It’s a classic warm-up exercise and for good reason, since it helps to prepare the glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors and calf muscles for your run. It’s also a great way to increase knee lift when running.
What are high knees?
High knees involves lifting your knees as high to the chest as possible, usually at speed, with little or no forward movement. ‘The high knees exercise is a running drill and is often used in warm-ups but its main purpose is skill development,’ explains Graeme Woodward, a UK Athletics Level 3 performance coach, UKSCA accredited S&C coach and We Run coach for West Yorkshire.
‘It’s designed to mimic several aspects of the running gait and be practised so that the action transfers into a more powerful and efficient run technique.’
So what are the benefits? And why should you include this simple drill in every warm-up?
‘The high knees exercise has benefits that can be differentiated between the flexed and stance legs. The flexed hip is characteristically lifted higher than most runners would do when running so strengthening the hip flexors and delivering more range of motion. While one limb is being flexed, the stance leg has to provide stability and control while in triple extension of the hip, knee and ankle,’ he adds.
‘The high knees exercise can be progressed by doing it for longer, faster or with greater range but always it must be executed under control to ingrain better movement patterns.’
Another alternative variation is to tuck your elbows into your side and then bend them so your forearms extend out in front of you, with your palms facing downwards. Then lift your knees to tap your hands each time.
Our advice? Gradually build your range of movement each time you do it, and work on building your speed, too.
How to do high knees
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Lean back slightly and lift your left knee up higher than hip level, towards your chest.
As you lower your foot to the ground, bring your right knee up high towards your chest.
Try to lift your legs as high as you can, and perform the move at speed.
Sets/reps: Two sets of 30 seconds
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