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Training Tips – High Knees

This post is a part of our Training Tips series, where you can find tips on drills, exercises, and general training. Click here to see the full series.

Why High Knees?

High Knees is a simple drill that most runners have done at some point. Many coaches include it as a part of drills that are practiced routinely or as a part of a daily warm up. It’s a common drill for many reasons. Coaches use it to:

  • Warm up
  • Teach their runners how to be light on their feet
  • Help runners adjust to forefoot striking at a higher intensity
  • Teach runners to reduce the amount of time their foot touches the ground
  • Reinforce good running form with regular practice
  • Increase stride length/top end speed

How To Do It

Start by marching in place.

  • Raise your knee to your waist
  • Stop when it is at a right angle with your torso
  • Lower your leg to the ground and repeat with the opposite leg

Then, move to jogging in place.

  • Keep your knees at waist level
  • Focus on good form: forefoot striking, staying under your center-of-gravity, leaning slightly forward (do not lean back), keep your spine, shoulders and head straight, drive your arms forward

Finally, begin moving forward.

  • Start slowly and gradually increase your intensity
  • Focus on maintaining good form and not speed (remember this is usually a warm up)
  • Try to minimize the amount of time your foot is touching the ground

Additional Notes:

For most runners, you do not need a large stride length. You need to focus on maintaining a cadence of about 180 strides per minute. If you maintain good form, your stride length will vary depending on how fast you are running. Racers, especially sprinters, worry about their stride length because it helps them maximize their speed. Even if you aren’t a competitive runner, it is still nice to know you have that “extra gear” if you ever need it.

One way to practice running form is to run in place and begin leaning forward at your ankles. You will eventually fall forward and will begin running as your legs move beneath your torso to keep you upright. When looking at it through this prism, High Knees seems like a counter-intuitive drill. However, it’s important to know that when you are actually running, your knees will not necessarily be raised to your waist, unless you are sprinting. You will also be focused on moving forward, not bouncing upward. Your knee height when running is something that should be passive – you do not think about it. For the purposes of this drill, you will need to, so you can help train good form into your muscle memory – and you won’t have to in the future.

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March 30th, 2012
Written By: Brett



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