High Knees – Bodyweight Cardio Exercise Guide with Photos


Muscles Targeted: The high knees exercise primarily targets the lower body and focuses attention on the muscles of the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and butt. It’s also a great exercise that targets the secondary muscles of the lower abdominals which are affected when you raise your knees up toward your waist on each repetition. As you raise and lower your legs, your hips also come into play with this movement which helps to strengthen the muscles in this important area.


High Knees

Exercise Instructions: To perform the high knees exercise, make sure you have proper footwear since it’s somewhat of a higher impact cardio exercise. With an athletic stance, you will start by raising your right knee up toward your waist as high as you can comfortably go and then lowering it down to the ground while simultaneously bringing your left knee up toward your waist in the same fashion. You want to keep your arms and hands in a “runners” position (not hanging straight down) with your elbows at about a 90 degree angle. The overall pace and tempo of this exercise will be quick and explosive.

Why This Exercise is Important: The high knees exercise is important for a number of reasons. First, it’s an excellent exercise to strengthen your lower body and it helps to tone the large muscles in your legs and butt. This movement is beneficial for improving your cardiovascular performance, endurance and stamina. It also helps to improve your agility which is beneficial when playing different sports and performing in athletic events. Your lower abdominal muscles are targeted very effectively so it’s a great exercise for anyone who wants to tighten up their midsection. One of the best things about the high knees exercise is that you don’t need any type of equipment or machines. Since you’re using your own bodyweight you will be able to perform this exercise just about anywhere!

Things To Avoid: Technique and pace are the most important things to be aware of when performing the high knees exercise. You want to make sure to bring your knees up far enough in order to engage the correct muscles so try your best to raise your knees so they are about parallel with your belly button at the top of the movement. Your pace should be brisk but under control while performing this exercise. Avoid getting out of balance by moving your legs too fast and losing your form. Avoid letting your arms hang straight down to your sides and place them in an athletic “runners” position with your elbows bent at about 90 degrees. Executing this movement in front of a mirror will help to make sure your technique is correct.

Reps and Sets: The total number of sets and repetitions is based on your current level of fitness. For most beginners, starting out with 3-5 sets of 10-20 repetitions works well. A full repetition is when you have successfully raised and lowered each leg. Instead of counting repetitions, you may want to use a stop watch or timer while performing high knees and do multiple sets of timed intervals. A set of continuous high knees for 30-60 seconds works well for intermediate to advanced individuals. High knees can be combined with several different bodyweight cardio exercises to create an effective calorie burning fat loss workout routine. Here is a sample of a powerful routine you can include in your cardio regimen:

  • High Knees: 30 seconds
  • Burpees: 10 reps
  • Mountain Climbers: 20 reps

By combining 2-3 different bodyweight exercises into a complete routine, you will be able to target your body from multiple angles which will help to build strength and power in your physique while also burning a lot of calories which will help you attain a lean and fit physique! Check out our entire exercise guides database for exclusive access to over 500 muscle building and fat burning exercises!

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