How To Do High Knees (+ Workout Plans)

By: Chris Freytag, CPT

High knees is a high-intensity cardiovascular exercise that gets your blood pumping while activating your core and strengthening your legs.

Use the simple high knee exercise to strengthen hip flexors, improve coordination and flexibility in the lower body, and increase momentum in your stride. You can use this as a full-body workout, or a warm-up!

High Knee Exercise Instructions:

  1. Start standing with feet hip-distance apart.
  2. Lift right knee as high as it will go and raise the opposite arm, then switch quickly so left knee is up before right foot lands. Continue pulling knees up quickly for as long as desired.


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    The Benefits of High Knees

    High knees are an efficient exercise with lots of benefits, including being versatile. You can use this move as a warm up, or add it to your high-intensity interval training routine.

    Here are just a few benefits of this convenient total-body exercise:

    It’s A Cardio Boost

    You can choose the effort you put into your high knees, but no matter how you do them, you will get a great cardio workout. If you are warming up or just beginning to exercise, keep your knees a bit lower and go slower.

    If you want higher intensity and can go harder, lift the knees higher and go faster. Of course, anything in between is also great!

    Works Your Lower Body And Core

    Your legs are moving and getting stronger. This move is simply running fast in place, and we know that running is an excellent exercise for your legs!

    To get your knees higher, you must also engage your core muscles, so High Knees is suitable for training your core strength.

    No Equipment Needed

    The cardio benefits listed are excellent but even better is that you can do this move right at home. There is no need to go to a gym or head into bad weather, no need to use dumbbells, kettlebells, or a stability ball; just find some space and get moving with your own body.

    Chris Freytag demonstartes High Knees

    What Muscles Do High Knees Work?

    The high knees exercise targets several muscle groups including quadriceps, hip flexors, abdominals, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. It’s an excellent cardio exercise that works your legs and core while giving you a tremendous cardiovascular move that gets your heart rate up anytime, anywhere. 

    Here is a little more about each muscle group:

    QuadricepsHigh knees require repeated lifting of the knees towards the chest, which heavily engages the quadriceps muscles located in the front of the thigh.
    Hip FlexorsThe action of lifting the knees up engages the hip flexor muscles, which are responsible for flexing the hip joint.
    AbdominalsTo stabilize the body and maintain balance while performing high knees, the abdominal muscles, including the rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis, are engaged.
    GlutesHigh knees involve hip extension as well as flexion, which recruits the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in the buttocks, as well as the gluteus medius and minimus.
    HamstringsAlthough not the primary muscle group targeted, the hamstrings, located at the back of the thigh, are involved in the action of lifting the leg and stabilizing the knee joint.
    CalvesThe calf muscles, including the gastrocnemius and soleus, are engaged to some extent in helping to lift the lower leg during high knees.

    If you’ve already been incorporating high knees into your workout routine, then consider switching them up with other equivalents that can target similar muscles, such as Steam Engine, High Knee March, Butt Kicks, and Power Skips!

    How Many Calories Do High Knees Burn?

    High knees will generally burn about 100 calories for every 10 minutes you are working at a moderate to intense fitness level.

    The amount of calories you burn during your workout session will depend on how hard you’re working. So keep that intensity up, and make sure you are breathing through your mouth!

    How to Add High Knees to Your Workouts

    High knees is a great warm-up or full-body exercise on its own, but you can also use it in your bodyweight, circuit, or HIIT workouts.

    Here are a few sample high knees workout plan examples to get your started:

    Workout #1: 10-Minute Bodyweight-Only Cardio Challenge with High Knees

    Jog in place for 1 minute as a warm-up, then do each of the following for 45 seconds, with 15 seconds rest in between:

    Repeat all 5!

    Workout #2: Fat Blasting Circuit Training Workout with High Knees

    Move directly from one exercise to the next with little to no break in between. Rest for 1 minute at the end, then repeat the sequence.

    Rest 1 minute. Repeat. Stretch.

    Workout #3: Hot HIIT Workout with High Knees

    High-Intensity Intervals are all the rage because they get the job done in record time. For each exercise, go as hard as you can for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and then go hard again.

    • Burpees 20 seconds
    • Rest 10 seconds
    • Plank Jacks 20 seconds
    • Rest 10 seconds
    • High Knees 20 seconds
    • Rest 10 seconds
    • Squat Jumps – 20 seconds
    • Rest 10 Seconds

    Repeat the entire sequence four times.

    Explore More High Knee Workouts

    Love High Knees? Try These Exercises Too!

    If you like the idea of getting a great cardio move right in the comfort of your own home, try these exercises that are very similar:


    (This will help us personalize your experience so that you can get the best advice possible from us!)
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