Examining the Role of High Knee Lift in Sprinting

Posted In: Blog Discussion

  • Mike Young
    Keymaster
    Mike Young on #18616

    If you go to any track meet or practice you’ll likely hear the sprint coach yelling “KNEES UP” to one or more of his athletes. And perhaps the most utilized drill in the entire sport is the high knee drill. So what’s behind this ubiquitous cue? Why do we want athletes to lift the knees when they run fast? Many recognize and observe the benefit in performance but few understand the actual mecha

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    ELITETRACK Founder


    Participant
    peterthach28@yahoo.com on #118546

    Would an active knee lift be too taxing to hold for an 800?

    Mike Young
    Keymaster
    Mike Young on #118547

    That somewhat depends on how fast you are but in general, I’d say that other than the elite of the elite males, the energy cost of a high knee recovery outweighs the benefits.

    ELITETRACK Founder


    Participant
    the_chosen_one on #118549

    High Knee lift is a myth…knee lift in elites happen to be a bi-product of pushing/acclerating the thigh forward. Artificially focusing on knee lift is a total miss.


    Participant
    Albert Naugle Gudiño on #118552

    High Knee lift is a myth…knee lift in elites happen to be a bi-product of pushing/acclerating the thigh forward. Artificially focusing on knee lift is a total miss.

    I somewhat agree with this. I’ve always thought (and been taught) that the high knee recovery is a result of forces being pushed into the ground and that force being transferred through the body. I realize the more I’m able to relax on the recovery phase the higher my knees, the more extension I get, thus the longer my stride… Could all just be sensations but I feel that if you concentrate on pulling your knees up, your not putting all your force into the ground…

    Mike?


    Participant
    the_chosen_one on #118554

    To add, if you ever look at elites, the thigh or knee is never parallel or 90degrees. You are correct that the perceived “high” knee/thigh lift is attributed to the heel recovery & toe dorsiflexsion.


    Participant
    Ryan Banta on #118559

    Chosen one I think dr. Ralph Mann would disagree with you. Pick up his book actually the biggest difference between elite and non-elite is front side mechanics which of course includes proper knee lift

    "Nature hides her secret because of her essential loftiness, but not by means of ruse." -Albert Einstein

    Mike Young
    Keymaster
    Mike Young on #118560

    High Knee lift is a myth…knee lift in elites happen to be a bi-product of pushing/acclerating the thigh forward. Artificially focusing on knee lift is a total miss.

    Since the knee is essentially the most distal part of the knee, how is it that ‘pushing / accelerating the thigh forward’ is not the same as knee lift other than semantics?

    Both EMG studies on sprinters and the kinematic studies of Dr. Mann and others contradict you’re assertion that high knee recovery isn’t active and important.

    Perhaps it (high knees messing things up as you say) is more a case that ‘high knees’ is not a cue that works for many in the context of the other cues or training that are being used.

    I know you haven’t said this but since we’re on the topic, I wanted to dispel the idea that athletes get to their peak hip flexion based on a ‘rebound’ of the leg from the ground. This was a popular idea for a while but this is absolute nonsense refuted by EMG and observational studies as well as basic biomechanical estimations of what it would take to get the thigh to recover with significant hip flexion.

    The best sprinters from yesterday, the best sprinters from today, men and women, all have big front side mechanics / high knee recovery.

    ELITETRACK Founder


    Participant
    Anthony Wallace on #118561

    Well Put Mike “big front side mechanics / high knee recovery.”


    Participant
    W.E. Price on #118562

    What I see most from developmental and even some emerging athletes are poor execution of high knee drills. I would believe that there are better preparatory and/or activation exercises than pointed high knee runs with excessive back leaning.

    Mike Young
    Keymaster
    Mike Young on #118563

    W.E. Price-
    I agree. After ‘b-skips’ it’s probably the worst performed drill out there.

    ELITETRACK Founder


    Participant
    the_chosen_one on #118564

    [quote author="the_chosen_one" date="1353702589"]High Knee lift is a myth…knee lift in elites happen to be a bi-product of pushing/acclerating the thigh forward. Artificially focusing on knee lift is a total miss.

    Since the knee is essentially the most distal part of the knee, how is it that ‘pushing / accelerating the thigh forward’ is not the same as knee lift other than semantics?

    Both EMG studies on sprinters and the kinematic studies of Dr. Mann and others contradict you’re assertion that high knee recovery isn’t active and important.

    Perhaps it (high knees messing things up as you say) is more a case that ‘high knees’ is not a cue that works for many in the context of the other cues or training that are being used.

    I know you haven’t said this but since we’re on the topic, I wanted to dispel the idea that athletes get to their peak hip flexion based on a ‘rebound’ of the leg from the ground. This was a popular idea for a while but this is absolute nonsense refuted by EMG and observational studies as well as basic biomechanical estimations of what it would take to get the thigh to recover with significant hip flexion.

    The best sprinters from yesterday, the best sprinters from today, men and women, all have big front side mechanics / high knee recovery.[/quote]

    Mike, it is not the high knee recovery but rather a heel recovery….the knee position is the chicken after the laid egg. I’m sure you’ve even heard Loren speak and teach thigh pop/acceleration and not high knee recovery.


    Participant
    the_chosen_one on #118565

    Chosen one I think dr. Ralph Mann would disagree with you. Pick up his book actually the biggest difference between elite and non-elite is front side mechanics which of course includes proper knee lift

    With all due respect to Dr. Ralph Mann…but there is a difference between what the data tells us and what actually happens. I think we sometimes get lost in the science or the need to create an explanation rather that just looking at things for what they are.


    Participant
    the_chosen_one on #118566

    W.E. Price-
    I agree. After ‘b-skips’ it’s probably the worst performed drill out there.

    Not to be controversial but technically, the “A” skip or running “A” is the only things that remotely resembles a real track movement. I don’t teach B’s…C’s at all as there is no crossover and I find other ways to prep. What I do use is a heel recovery drill which is similar to what folks would call high knees but the focus is on a circular heel recovery with dorsiflexion irrespective of how high the knee gets. This is to prepare for optimal ground force output. Just because you bring a hammer over your head to drive a nail in doesn’t mean your going to drive the nail in further. We must look at the speed of the limb or acceleration of the thigh.

    Bring the hammer over my head without a focus on limb speed creates more air time and less force. The notion that elites spend more time in the air is a symptom….what really is happening is they are recovering the heel faster which creates the thigh/limb speed needed to output optimal force. In. Doing this, when you don’t look at the whole but instead the pieces you see a high knee position.

    Food for thought…


    Participant
    Ryan Banta on #118568

    [quote author="Ryan Banta" date="1353714745"]Chosen one I think dr. Ralph Mann would disagree with you. Pick up his book actually the biggest difference between elite and non-elite is front side mechanics which of course includes proper knee lift

    With all due respect to Dr. Ralph Mann…but there is a difference between what the data tells us and what actually happens. I think we sometimes get lost in the science or the need to create an explanation rather that just looking at things for what they are.[/quote]

    I assume you are a coach have you broke down film on these athletes? Also do you own or have read Ralph Mann’s book? It is what we are seeing the front side along with high knee lift. The ideal model is not always present in some cases but overwhelming so in elites on average again of all points measured in the stride the front side mechanics is the biggest difference then any other point in the stride. As for drills something’s need to be included not because they improve you knee lift but for other reasons like just making your athlete more athletic and to avoid the over usage of some move,ent patterns that can lead to injury. In addition b skips might not improve front side mechanics but it does prepare the body to load the hamstring without injury by its hip, knee, ankle, and back pawing action

    "Nature hides her secret because of her essential loftiness, but not by means of ruse." -Albert Einstein

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