How to Pick Up Knees When Running

Picking up your knees gives you more acceleration.

Picking up your knees gives you more acceleration.

When running with a group of other people, you may have noticed that while some runners shuffle along, other more energetic types bring their knees up to their chest with every stride. This is because picking up your knees increases your speed and acceleration. A high knee lift allows you to step down onto the ground with more force, which gives you more power as you push off. To get this additional burst of momentum with each step, pay attention to your running form as you bring your knees up.

Maintain proper running form by keeping your head up and your eyes facing ahead of you, not down. Your torso should be straight, with a slight forward lean to keep your momentum going forward.

Swing your arms forward and back at your sides as you run, without any side-to-side movement or crossing them in front of your chest as you stride. Keep your hands unclenched and loosely curled, with your shoulders relaxed to avoid tensing up your upper body. Swinging your arms at your sides will allow you to keep your balance as you bring your knees up.

Lift your knee forward, not straight up, as you run. This will keep your body low to the ground and moving with forward momentum, rather than bouncing up and down, which can slow you down.

Push off on the balls of your feet to get your knee out in front of you, and bring it back down on the ball when it lands. Make sure to step down underneath your hips, rather than in front of you, as this will maintain your forward momentum. Landing on the ball of your foot in front of you will act as a "brake" on your acceleration with each step.

Tip

  • When you're not running, you can still work on your high knee lifts through other exercises. Squats, lunges and deadlifts all strengthen your quadriceps and hamstring muscles that control the flexion of your knee, while knee lifts and tuck jumps are good ways to build up explosive power in your hips and legs.

Warning

  • If you have recently suffered an injury to your knees, hips or ankles, picking up your knees may not be for you. Consult with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any new exercise routine.
 

About the Author

Todd Maternowski began writing in 1996 as one of the co-founders of "The Chicago Criterion." He joined the local online news revolutionaries at Pegasus News in 2006, where he continues to work to this day. He studied religion at the University of Chicago.

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