High Knee Drills

by Developing Speed
Kinetic Select June 2017


High knee drills help develop coordinated front-side mechanics and are often used as part of a warm-up. This article details several high knee drills that you can use with your athletes.

The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book Developing Speed, published by Human Kinetics. All text and images provided by Human Kinetics.

Aim: To develop coordinated front-side mechanics, often used as part of a warm-up and to teach technique.

Action: Several variations of the high-knee drill, including marching As, A skips, and running As are possible. The difference between them is the speed at which they are performed. This drill can be used to learn rhythm and to work on knee lift and leg speed. This is accomplished by performing high knee lifts (marching, skips, or running) at different rhythms. Coaches can choose from several variations. For example, an athlete can perform a high knee drive on only one side or on every second stride on a certain side or alternate from left leg to right leg by performing a high knee every three strides.

Marching As: Marching As use a relatively slow movement emphasizing a high knee lift with full extension of the stance, or supporting, leg. The athlete stands upright facing forward and performs a marching action with each leg. The knee of the lead leg drives up so that the thigh is parallel to the ground (photo a). The athlete uses a corresponding arm action, emphasizing full flexion of the arm. When the arm moves to the front, the hand should come up to the chin, and when it moves to the rear, the hand should end behind the hip. On the rear movement, the arm opens slightly at the elbow.

A Skips: The athlete uses the same technique as outlined for marching As, but on each stride, the athlete skips off of the stance leg as the legs alternate, maintaining rhythm throughout the drill (photo b). The athlete will achieve a greater degree of extension in the trail leg than in marching As and will leave the ground.

Running: As The athlete uses fast-paced alternation, emphasizing the high knee, fast cadence, and drive downward of the leg. Full extension off of the stance leg lifts the athlete higher in the air than in the previous drills (photo c).

With Developing Speed, the National Strength and Conditioning Association has created the definitive resource for developing speed training programs that optimize athletic performance. Including assessments and the application of speed training to eight specific sports, this authoritative guide provides all the tools needed for maximizing speed.

The book is available in bookstores everywhere, as well as online at the NSCA Store.

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