The high knees exercise is a bodyweight exercise that is often overlooked because many people prefer to do push-ups, squats, lunges and planks instead.
This is understandable because these will all give visible results. Push-ups are great for developing your triceps and chest muscles, planks will help strengthen your core and develop your abs, and squats and lunges will really develop your legs and glutes.
However it is still a good idea to include the high knees exercise in your routines because this rapid movement is essentially an exaggerated form of running that will really get your heart pumping and help you to burn quite a few calories, whilst also strengthening your hips and toning up your lower body at the same time.
How To Do The High Knees Exercise
One thing I like about this particular exercise is that it is really easy to perform and doesn’t really require a great deal of technique once you have mastered the basic movements. All you have to do is follow these simple instructions:
- Stand up straight with your arms by your side and your feet approximately hip-width apart.
- Start running on the spot with your back straight, lifting your knees to at least hip height with every step, and landing on the balls of your feet.
Some people like to keep their hands at hip or waist height and try to hit them with every step to ensure that they are lifting them high enough, whilst others prefer to swing their arms as if they were running.
It doesn’t really matter as long as you perform the core movement and lift those knees high off the ground.
If you are a little out of shape and find this to be a little too strenuous, you can always do a modified version of the high knees exercise where you perform more of a walking/stepping motion than a running motion and engage your arms a little more to compensate, as demonstrated in the video below:
Benefits Of The High Knees Exercise
I have briefly touched upon a few of the main benefits of doing this particular move at the beginning of this article, but here is a full list of benefits associated with the high knees exercise:
Improves your cardiovascular fitness
Any exercise that gets your heart pumping and leaves you out of breath will help to improve your fitness level, and this exercise will definitely do just that.
Promotes weight loss
This is quite a high intensity exercise that will burn a decent amount of calories, and therefore it will help you to lose a few pounds if you are doing high knees for 10, 20 or even 30 minutes. You don’t necessarily have to do them all at once if you don’t want to. Just doing 3 minutes every time a commercial break comes on is a good way to start.
Develops your butt
The core movement of the high knees exercise will help to develop your glutes, which in turn will help you to develop a round and full butt.
Tones up your legs
The upward and downward movement of the legs will also help you to tone up and strengthen your quads, hamstrings and calves, but only to a small degree. So this is good news for any women reading this because you can develop some attractive shapely legs without worrying about them becoming big and muscular.
Strengthens and tones your core abdominal muscles
You may not necessarily think that this particular exercise is working your core that much, but if you focus on swinging your right arm over your left knee and vice versa when you are lifting your right knee, and try to rotate your core just a little bit as you do so, you can really work those abdominal muscles.
Improves power and flexibility
Many people who perform this exercise on a regular basis notice that they have more power in their lower body, and because it strengthens the hip flexors, it will also help to improve your overall flexibility as well.
Doesn’t require any equipment
The final benefit is that you can perform this particular exercise absolutely anywhere because you don’t need an exercise mat or any other type of equipment. Indeed you don’t even need to change into your workout gear. You can just walk or run on the spot whenever you feel like burning a few calories.
Here is a quick rundown of some of the main muscles that are worked when doing the high knees exercise:
- abdominal muscles
- hip flexors
As with any exercise, it is hard to give an exact figure of how many calories you can burn when you do this particular move because it will depend on your weight, the duration of the workout and the level of intensity.
However it is estimated that a 150-pound person can burn between 6 and 9 calories per minute performing the high knees exercise.
So based on these numbers, a 5-minute warm-up routine could help you burn 30-45 calories, a 10-minute workout could help you burn 60-90 calories and a 30-minute workout could help you burn 180-270 calories.
How To Burn More Calories
If you are serious about shaping up and losing weight, it is possible to burn even more calories with this high knees exercise.
First of all, you can simply adopt a faster running motion instead of a more deliberate walking motion in order to get your heart rate up.
You can also aim to lift your knees higher with every step, and either increase the number of sets that you are doing or increase the length of your workouts.
Finally, you could incorporate one or two additional exercises into your workout routines, such as star jumps, mountain climbers or burpees, for example, to really maximise your efforts.
High Knees HIIT Workouts
You can easily come up with your own fat-burning HIIT workouts using some of the exercises listed above, but here are a few workouts that include high knees in short bursts:
This simple Muffin Top workout combines high knees with knee to elbow crunches (sometimes referred to as bicycles), and is a good one to do if you are looking to burn fat and get some more definition in your six-pack abs muscles.
This extreme fat-burning workout is much more intense because it includes 60-second intervals of high knees, burpees and mountain climbers, and you are supposed to do 10 sets of these to complete a grueling 30-minute workout.