High Knees: Calories Burned, How to & Benefits

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Last updated on January 30, 2024

Calories Burned by High Knees

The high knee exercise is very effective at burning calories whilst remaining low impact on your joints and muscles. Harvard Health has actually published a paper showing that in 30 minutes you can expect to burn around 165 – 210 calories, depending on your bodyweight.

This deceptively simple cardio exercise can activate your lower body and help burn calories, and a few sets can leave you breathless and your heart pumping rapidly. The best part is you can incorporate this exercise within your warm-up, high intensity interval training session, or resistance training program.

To help you boost your training routine, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to the high knees workout. Below we’ll discuss the high knees exercise, how to perform them, and their benefits.

How many calories burned by high knees exercise routine – Table

The table below shows the average number of calories burned based on the number of high knees done.


* Various factors can influence this, such as weight, age, sex, and intensity of exercise

How to do High Knees – including video

High knees are one of the best exercises for high-intensity interval training as they are not too impactful on your muscles or joints, and give you a full-body workout.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, wearing comfortable shoes that have a decent amount of cushioning.
  2. Brace your core by flexing and “pressing” or flexing your abs, this creates stability in your core.
  3. Whilst remaining upright, start by lifting your legs one by one in a running type fashion, with the goal of lifting your knees to about 90 degrees in relation to your pelvis.
  4. It might be easy to hold your hands at this point to remind yourself as to how high your knees need to be lifted. If not, raise your arms up and down like you would when you would sprint.
  5. You might move around a bit, so make sure to choose an area that has space for you to do the exercise.


Muscles worked while doing High Knees

High knees can a compound exercise if done correctly. Both the lower body muscles and upper body muscles are worked, which are listed below:

  • Calves
  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Adductors
  • Glutes
  • Hip Flexors
  • Abdominals
  • Transverse Abdominals
  • Shoulders


Common Mistakes to Avoid

Mistakes whilst doing these are relatively easy to avoid as you are using your body weight. The most common mistakes are listed below:


  • Keep your core stable, an unstable core can lead to injury.
  • Going too slow, the purpose of this exercise is cardio.
  • Not bringing the knees high enough. For reference, watch the youtube link above.
  • Not breathing. Goes without saying this can be very bad for you.
  • Not using your arms. They are part of keeping the momentum and stability.


Variations of High Knees


High Knee Skips

Instead of just raising your knee to your waist, you fling that knee up, and with this momentum you also jump. This may slow down the rate at which you do the exercise, however your intensity is much higher and you can increase the amount of calories burned. You can also use your arms to help you in this variation. You can expect to burn maybe 10% more calories than normal High Knees.

10 benefits of High Knees? 

High knees are the perfect addition to your workout routine, allowing you to burn body fat and lose weight. Here are several essential things to know about this one of the best cardiovascular exercises:

1. It Aids in Improved Heart Rate and Calorie Burn

Including high knees in your cardio exercises is an effective way to increase your heart rate, allowing you to improve muscle endurance and burn calories. 


What’s more? High knees are a “calisthenic exercise” that can help you lose up to seven calories per minute! 

2. It Allows You to Target Your Upper and Lower Body

Performing high knees helps activate your hip flexors, quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, and glutes. As a result, the exercise facilitates more calories burned, improved upper body muscles, and enhanced balance and coordination.


High-intensity high knees can improve your lower body and facilitate weight training. 


3. It Is Available in Multiple Variations 

The best part of incorporating high knees into your fitness routine is you don’t have to stick to one type of exercise. Instead, you can do lateral high or high knees with a twist to challenge your body, have fun, and burn more calories!


You can also try jumping high knees if you’re adventurous and want to create a high-intensity workout.

4. It Can Recruit Your Core Muscles

Another fantastic benefit of high knees is that it pulls your core and abdominal muscles. Its movement patterns activate your core muscles, improving coordination and posture while aiding in achieving your fitness goals. 


In fact, insightful research shows that running in place, like performing high knees, can improve core strength, resulting in improved posture.

5. It Fits in Warm-Up and Resistance Training Schedules 

High knees are a functional and diverse cardiovascular exercise that can fit into numerous fitness routines. Add it to your warm-up, interval, or weight training to boost muscle endurance and burn calories based on your unique preferences. 


The best way to start is by performing two minutes or 100 counts of high knees in your warm-up workout routine. But if you prefer a mild schedule, you can do 30 seconds of high knees with a 15-second break.

On the contrary, you can incorporate high knees into your resistance training set by performing 30-second high knees. Or you can do 35 high knees to improve your heart rate, enhance lower and upper body muscle endurance, and shed off body fat.

6. It Works Numerous Groups of Muscles 

High knees allow you to target your lower body, including hamstrings, glutes, calves, hip flexors, and quadriceps. In addition, it can boost endurance, strength, and power in your lower body.


High knees are vital in improving your mobility and core stability as they target your abdominals, obliques, and deep core muscles. As a result, it provides you with weightlifting strength and endurance for ab exercising.

7. It Offers Increased (or Decreased!) Intensity Alternatives

Although traditional high knees are ideal for improving your workout routine, you can increase or decrease its intensity based on need.


For instance, if you want to boost the intensity of high knees, you can lift your knees higher, move faster, add jumps, or twist. But if you want to decrease the intensity, we recommend moving slowly and lowering your knee position to a march.

8. It Works Well with Other Fun Exercises

Since high knees are the perfect warm-up, HIIT workout, and weight training exercise, you can combine them with numerous others to create the perfect fitness routine. 


For instance, you can create a high-intensity cardio workout by including jumping jacks, lateral hops, mountain climbers, squat jumps, and mountain climbers with high knees.

9. It Can Power Your Running

A less-known yet excellent benefit of high knees is improving your running form. The exercise strengthens your calves, boosts lower body endurance, and creates new neuromuscular connections.


The result? You can enhance your running form and ensure forefoot or midfoot striking to minimize potential injuries and run faster!

10. It Helps You Become Agile

High knees allow you to develop the speed and agility to sprint and perform other dynamic sports exercises. Therefore, by challenging your body to move quickly, this cardiovascular exercise aids you in becoming faster and more agile.


Besides this, the exercise strengthens your forefoot and toe muscles, ensuring balance and stability when jumping.

3 Tips For Performing High Knees

High knees are ideal for strengthening your muscles, but you must follow the right tips to mitigate the risk of injury. Here are several safety practices to remember:

  1. Start slow and gradually increase the number and intensity
  2. Ensure you engage your core muscles
  3. Clear your surrounding areas to avoid trippings

High Knees Calories Burned Conclusion

The high knees exercise engages multiple muscle groups in the entire body and can be done by an individual at any fitness level. Do high knees work ? yes, as we have demonstrated it is a great way to burn a lot of calories. So include it in your workout session and increase the intensity whilst maintaining proper form. It can be done anywhere and you won’t need a personal trainer !

Although this great exercise burns a lot of calories, its also important to maintain a balanced diet and understand your caloric burn. This is the amount of calories your need for your daily activities. This will allow those looking to lose body fat, like belly fat, to consume fewer calories, therefore be in a a caloric deficit, and shorten the amount of time to achieve their desired weight loss goal.

To maintain muscle mass and muscle strength make sure to continue with strength training.

Steve Theunissen has qualified from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and is a certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist. He has over 30 years experience in fitness and nutrition and currently working with famous fitness professionals. He is currently living in New Zealand with is wife and daughter.

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