High-knee exercises are similar to knee kicks in soccer.
High-knee exercises are an intense exercise that targets and tones your core, upper thighs, buttocks and calves. Because of the one-legged stance during the movement, this exercise also serves to help improve your balance. And once you are able to move repetitively through your high-knee exercises for an extended time, you can achieve aerobic intensity and help to burn calories and increase your metabolism. Selecting certain high-knee exercises and variations can guide you in toning your legs - specifically, the muscles under the quadriceps in your inner thighs and other muscles around your outer hip - to meet your fitness goals.
High-knee exercises build strength and speed in your leg muscles, while simultaneously improving your balance.
Master Basic Form
To perform the standard high-knee exercise, stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart. Lift one leg, bringing your knee up towards your chest, holding for a second or two before lowering your leg back to the floor. Next, bring your opposite leg upwards in the same motion and continue to move back and forth between your right and left side. Take care not to arch or round your lower back and to keep your pelvis stationary during the exercise to reduce back strain.
Tone Your Legs
The sets of power muscles in this exercise that lift your leg as you bend your hip include two sets of hip flexor muscles along your inner thigh and to the outside of your pelvis. Because of this, high knees can help you to target and strengthen your inner thigh and outer hip areas. However, as your body works to maintain balance on the standing leg during the exercise, you can isometrically tone your calf, quadriceps, hamstrings and buttock muscles on the standing leg. The calf muscle is also contracted on the raised leg if you push off the ground with your foot, extending your ankle.
Include More Muscles
Some variations of this exercise can help you reach additional muscles in your leg and core. To shift to targeting your outer thigh muscles, or the adductors, along with the quadriceps, start with your feet about two to three feet apart and keep your knees outward to the side of your body as you raise your leg, maintaining the wide stance throughout. Also, you can engage your oblique core muscles more by adding a gentle trunk rotation during the exercise. Keeping your pelvis totally still, slightly rotate your trunk towards the lifted leg. In other words, bring your right shoulder towards your lifted left leg and extend your right hand out over your left knee.
Up the Intensity
There are multiple ways to ramp up your intensity during high knees. You can add weight cuffs around your ankles or, if you are adding the abdominal rotation, hold dumbbells in your hands. Increase your speed and number of repetitions to increase the aerobic intensity. To add to your leg power, try a plyometric version by jumping to lift both legs into the high-knee position at the same time.