High knees benefits
High knees are a running drill most often used by runners for warm-up before more intensive training or shorter races (5K or 10K) due to its numerous benefits.
Research has shown that proper warm-up of your lower body can target and activate 5.9-8.5% more muscle fibers of the quadriceps. The more muscle fibers you activate the better your performance.
Read more: Warm-up Before Running [Ultimate Guide]
1. Improves running technique
High knees improve your running technique by teaching you to raise your knees more, allowing you to hit the ground with more force. This improves your running economy; you will run faster while spending less energy.
High knees also teach you the proper foot position during a run. The foot should be bent towards the shin, in the position of dorsiflexion. Dorsiflexion enables the activation of calf muscles. As you hit the ground the calf muscles will contract, allowing you to hit the ground with more force.
2. Increases cadence
High knees are an exercise that teaches you not to overstride and to avoid running over your heels. It helps you develop proper running technique, teaching you to hit the ground right below you. This way you keep the momentum and avoid the slowdown while increasing the cadence (number of steps in a minute).
Research has shown that increasing cadence by 10% reduces the stress on your knees by 5%. This reduces the risk of usual runner injuries, such as hip or knee injuries.
3. Improves neuromuscular effectiveness
High knees improve communication between nerves and muscles by quickening nerve impulses that send signals to muscle fibers. As a result, your muscles will have better coordination in more intensive training or race.
4. Strengthens hip flexor muscles
Hip flexors are muscles that allow you to raise your knees up to your chest, as well as bend your upper body forward. Numerous runners stretch their flexor muscles while forgetting that they need to be strengthened as well. High knees are one of the better exercises for strengthening hip flexors.
5. Strengthens forefoot muscles
High knees teach you to run on the balls of your feet, and as a result develop the strength to push off of the ground with more force. Running on the balls of your feet shortens the time spent in contact with the ground, which then increases your speed.
In 2007 scientists from the Ryukoku University in Japan have set up a high-tech camera on the 15-kilometer-section of the half marathon and used it to record 283 runners. Research has shown that an average midfoot striker spends 183 milliseconds in contact with the ground, while an average heel striker spends 200 milliseconds in contact with the ground. Shorter time of contact results in a faster run and higher running economy.
6. Strengthens leg muscles and glutes
We all know that leg muscles are key when it comes to running, that is why it is so important to do exercises that strengthen them. High knees will help strengthen your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles, which will allow you to run faster and for longer periods of time.
7. Strengthens core muscles
A solid core is necessary for a proper running technique. If your core is too weak your body will not be able to control your movements. A strong core ensures the force from the swings of your arms is properly transferred to your legs, thus improving your running economy. A better running economy means that you run faster while spending less energy.
8. Helps you lose weight
High knees are not used just for warm-up, but also in other sports as a high-intensity exercise that burns a high number of calories. It is used in fitness training as a separate exercise performed in repetitions lasting several minutes.
InfoA person of 155 pounds will lose approximately 6-9 calories after a minute of high knees.
Do high knees burn belly fat?
High knees are an excellent exercise if you wish to burn belly fat because it is a cardiovascular high-intensity exercise, and it strengthens upper body muscles as well. Although we cannot pick exactly where we will burn the fat, we can focus on the exercises that strengthen a particular group of muscles and, of course, be careful with your diet.
9. Improves cardiovascular condition
High knees, like any other running drill, increase the blood flow in your muscles, thus raising muscle temperature. At higher temperatures hemoglobin in erythrocytes releases oxygen more quickly (Bohr effect). This means that you will be able to handle more exertion because your blood and oxygen have an easier time traveling through your organism.
Research has shown that proper warm-up results in a 2-3% increase in body temperature, lasting 45 minutes. The increase in temperature causes useful changes in muscles and tendons:
- Significantly increases muscle elasticity and allows higher-intensity training.
- Muscles and tendons become more flexible that makes stretching muscles and tendons easier and more effective.
- A rise in enzymes and metabolic activity improves the effectiveness of muscle contractions.
10. No equipment required
High knees can be done regardless of your location since you do not require any additional equipment, nor do you have to pay an expensive gym membership.
How to do high knees properly?
- Begin by standing with your feet hip-distance apart, look straight ahead, and keep your upper body straight.
- Raise your left leg to hip-height while standing on the ball of your right foot.
- Hit the ground below your center of mass with the ball of your left foot while raising your right leg to hip-height.
- Continue alternating sides and moving forward.
Your arms should follow your leg movements, as they do when you are running. As you are doing the high knees your foot should be bent towards your shin (dorsiflexion).
To do high knees properly you have to focus on hitting the ground, and not on raising your knees.
Mind your posture. Keep your body straight; do not bend forward or backward.
High knees are performed on the balls of your feet, so be careful not to touch the ground with your heels.
Read more: How To Do High Knees? [Video Guide]