Dynamic stretching, rather than static stretching, is recommended prior to a workout to warm up your body. You can increase flexibility, improve circulation, enhance recovery and decrease your risk of injury by stretching while moving. High knees are a dynamic stretching exercise that opens up the lower body.
To do the high-knee dynamic stretch, step forward with your right leg and raise your left knee toward your chest. Wrap your hands or arms around the shin and pull the knee close to your chest. Hold for a second and then step forward with the left leg and repeat by hugging in the right knee. Continue to alternate for one to three sets of 30 to 60 seconds.
High knee stretching activates the glutes, particularly the gluteus maximus -- the large muscle that forms the shape of the buttocks. The move also warms up your hip flexors, also called the illiopsoas muscles. These muscles attach your leg to the spine and fire with most movement of the legs, including walking, running and jumping. The hip adductors, the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus are also stretched and prepped for activity with the high-knee stretch.
Who Should Do High Knee Stretches?
Most athletes benefit from doing high knee stretches. Soccer and basketball players, runners and hurdlers, for example, all need warm glutes, adductors and hip flexors to perform well in their sport. You don't have to be a competitive athlete to incorporate high-knee drills before exercise. Doing them before a run or a casual game of touch football can be a valuable way to warm up and potentially prevent injury.
Other Dynamic Stretches
High-knee stretches are part of a total dynamic stretching warm-up routine. Include slow mountain climbers, squats, lunges, jacks and core rotations. A complete dynamic warm-up lasts about 10 minutes.