For those of you who take part in active exercise, competitive sports, or have a general interest in the human anatomy, you will have come across the term quadriceps – or at least you should have.
Now, if you aren’t aware of your quadriceps and you thought it was an extinct race of dinosaurs, you’re about to be hit with a stark awakening. Your quadriceps, in short, are the muscles that make up your thighs – four muscles in each quad, to be exact. These muscles are referred to as the below:
- Vastus Intermedius – The most in-depth muscle of the four that sits beneath the following three.
- Vastus Lateralis – As the name suggests, the Vastus Laterlalis is situated on the quadriceps’ outside or lateral side.
- Vastus Medialis – Often referred to as the ‘teardrop,’ the Vastus Medialis is located on the quadriceps’ inner side and ends near your patella (kneecap).
- Rectus Femoris – The ‘Rec-Fem’ is a superficial muscle (A muscle felt through the skin) that sits on the top of your quadriceps between the Medialis and the Lateralis.
Throughout this article, we will be dissecting the Vastus Medialis more specifically, without going into too much detail regarding its supporting counterparts mentioned above.
This muscle’s primary function is to work collectively with its surrounding muscles to straighten the knee and efficiently extend the leg. For many people, it’s an area that’s substantially weaker than the rest due to improper training or activity. As a result of this, their knee’s strength is also compromised, along with their ability to train lower body exercises effectively. This, my friend, is not good.
Vastus Medialis vs. Vastus Medialis Oblique (VMO)
Anybody out there like controversy? Well, it’s been said that the Vastus Medialis also has an accompanying muscle known as the Vastus Medialis Oblique (VMO). Its job is to provide the Vastus Medialis with an additional function by helping maintain stability and offer support to the kneecap.
Let’s say the VMO wasn’t there; now, given the natural design and shape of the knee, it would mean the kneecap or patella would move marginally to the outer side of the knee as we bend our legs. As a result, excessive friction would occur via the cartilage lining at the rear of the kneecap, thus increasing the likelihood of dislocation in this area.
Due to the VMO’s placement and direction of its muscle fibers, it’s able to rectify any chance of the above from taking place as it pulls the kneecap inwards or medially. By doing this, the kneecap is capable of making smooth glides up and down the channel of the femur (thigh bone) to prevent friction from taking place at the rear of the kneecap.
But where’s the controversy, you may ask?
Many physiotherapists widely accept that the VMO is an independent muscle. On the other hand, some anatomical experts believe the VMO is not a separate muscle but a part of the Vastus Medialis. However, for this article, we will accept that both are just as important as the other as they work hand in hand to complete any day-to-day functions.
Maybe they should joust in honor of their opposing views, and the winner gets rights to the definition? Just a suggestion.
Benefits Of Training Your Vastus Medialis
Vastus Medialis training is essential for anybody that requires a healthy degree of functionality and strength in their lower body – which is pretty much everybody.
Although we can’t necessarily train this muscle without incorporating the rest of the quads, we can still emphasize this area, so it gets some extra stimulation.
There are many Vastus Medialis strengthening exercises that we will discuss in later detail but for now, let’s discuss how training this muscle can benefit you in everyday life.
Quadricep muscles that lack strength, especially the Vastus Medialis, can result in fragile knees and provoke chronic pain. Implementing Vastus Medialis strengthening exercises can help build strong foundations and prevent injury through weakness or painful sensations in the knee proximity.
Vastus Medialis training prevents injury, but it’s also essential for improving any athletic movement such as; running, jumping, and lunging, even more so when conducting unilateral exercises requiring a greater degree of stability and control.
The above movements are explosive, which means they rely on fast yet powerful muscle contractions. With that said, if you choose to perform them knowing your quads are weak and underperforming, you could be setting yourself up for imminent injury.
Upscale Your Aesthetics
Sometimes looking good is the goal. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen if you have a chiseled set of tree trunks? Maybe you tear an old collection of shorts that weren’t designed for your new Quadzilla legs?
Training your quads enables you to enhance your lower body’s overall appearance by bringing those bulging muscles to the surface. However, you will need to consider changes in your diet and your training to see a significant improvement, no pain, no gain!
Importance of Vastus Medialis Exercises
Suppose you believe that the Vastus Medialis and the Vastus Medialis Oblique are different muscles or the same. In that case, it makes no difference in exercises to perform as they complement one another with their shared workload.
It’s vital to ensure the VMO gets the stimulation it needs to avoid bouts of weakness or misfiring from taking place. This is the last thing we want as a weak or misfiring VMO can lead to various debilitating injuries relating to knee pain, knee instability, and potential dislocation.
So, without further ado, let’s get into some insightful Vastus Medialis and Vastus Medialis Oblique exercises to help avoid injury and increase overall functionality in your lower body.
The Best Vastus Medialis Exercises
The split squat is a fantastic unilateral exercise that will drastically help strengthen your Vastus Medialis and VMO. For this exercise, please ensure you have enough training experience and strength to perform it without causing injury, as it’s all about slow-controlled reps!
- Ensure your trailing foot is planted by its toes on the elevated equipment situated behind you.
- Step forward with your leading foot around 2-3 feet from your elevated equipment until your trailing leg has a minimal bend.
- While keeping a neutral (straight) back, lean forward approximately 10-20 degrees.
- Brace your core and squat down via your front leg until your hamstring is parallel to the floor.
- Once you’ve descended to the bottom of the rep, take a second to pause and then drive upwards through your heel while engaging your quads, glutes, and core throughout the movement.
- Repeat while maintaining this form throughout the entire set. You may use additional weight to increase intensity.
If you want a starting point on how to strengthen your Vastus Medialis, then look no further. Step-ups are a fundamental exercise that can be altered and performed for anybody that wants to add to their Vastus Medialis training. Although it’s a unilateral exercise, you can swap and change your elevated surface height to meet your level of difficulty. This makes it an excellent exercise for people of all abilities and ages.
- Stand in front of your chosen elevated surface (e.g., a flat workout bench or a small step). Feel free to hold a set of dumbbells in either hand for added intensity.
- Wear a set of clothing that isn’t restrictive in your leg area as you will need the freedom to move up and down at various heights.
- While keeping your back straight and ensuring your core is braced, step up onto the elevated platform or surface with one foot and thrust your glutes forward as you get to the top.
- Step down with the opposite foot you used to step onto the surface and repeat this cycle as many times as desired.
- Ensure your posture is strict throughout the movement. If there are signs of instability, cut the set short and take a break to recover.
Squats are one of the best compound exercises to grace the fitness world and are especially beneficial for Vastus Medialis strengthening exercises. They help develop our posture, our stability, our lower body strength, our core strength, and the list goes on.
You can perform many different squats, such as the back squat, overhead squat, front squat, and the Jefferson squat. All of which have slightly different benefits than the other, but for the sake of Vastus Medialis training, we will be looking at the pause squat.
- Stand on a flat but hard surface with your feet at least shoulder-width apart.
- Brace your core as you focus on keeping a straight back posture before descending your hips until they’re in line with your knees.
- Another handy coaching point is to aim for at least a 90-degree bend in the knee and look to ensure your hamstrings are parallel with the floor.
- As you descend into the squat position, you should firmly plant your heels, and your knees should run in the direction of your feet but never overlapping the toes. This will help with a strong center of mass and avoid things such as knee valgus.
- It would help if you held this squat in the isometric phase (the bottom of the squat where you’re holding the position) for your desired time.
- Push through your heels and squeeze your glutes and legs as you rise back to the top.
- Repeat this process as many times as you wish.
Leg extensions are one of the very best Vastus Medialis isolation exercises out there due to working nothing but the legs. Although it does incorporate all muscles in the quadriceps, it does place great emphasis on the Vastus Medialis and VMO precisely.
Nearly all gyms will have a leg extension machine that’s very easy to use, and you can flip between weights as you deem necessary. However, if you don’t have access to a gym, you can still perform this exercise via a standard dining chair. All you have to do is attach a stretchy resistance band to the chair leg, place your foot through the other end of the band, and you’re good to go!
- Sit in the leg extension machine and ensure the padded rest is placed on your foot just below your toes.
- Keep a firm grip on the handles on either side of the machine. By doing this, you help keep all tension in the quadriceps during the exercise.
- While holding the machine’s side handles, you should extend your legs using only your quadriceps until you lockout into the movement’s concentric phase.
- Lockout for 1-2 seconds before gently lowering the load eccentrically back to the starting position but without the weighted plates touching each other on the machine. If you do this, you will lose tension in your quadriceps.
- To increase the added difficulty, you can adjust the weight accordingly or perform unilateral reps with only one leg. Conversely, if it’s too difficult, you may drop the weight to a suitable intensity.
- Repeat this process as many times as you desire.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the lunge before, am I right? Well, have you ever considered the side lunge? Perhaps not, but let me tell you why incorporating the side lunge into your Vastus Medialis training can help strengthen that teardrop in no time.
- Ensure you’re on a stable and flat surface while standing with your feet outside of shoulder-width apart as your toes point slightly outwards.
- While keeping your left leg straight, you will bend your right knee and drop your hips downwards as you transfer your weight to the right leg.
- Hold for one second before pushing off your right leg through your heel into the starting position and repeating the opposite leg’s action.
- Interchange this cycle for your desired amount of reps and sets until you’ve achieved your goal.
- You can increase the difficulty by placing dumbbells in either hand or holding a weight in the center of your body with two hands.
- Be mindful that you may not be able to drop your hips as low as you would during a traditional squat. Due to the mechanics of the exercise, your range may be restricted, which is entirely normal.
The leg press can look like an intimidating machine to novice gym users, especially when the bigger guys max the plates on them. But let me assure you, it’s a staple piece of equipment that everybody should be using regardless of experience, as it’s one of the best Vastus Medialis strengthening exercises you can perform.
- Ensure you have a comfortable weight on the machine. You must firmly plant your feet on the press plate at hip-width, and your toes must be pointing forward to target the desired area.
- Make sure you’re comfortable with releasing the safety lever on the side of the machine. This enables you to press the plate forward and lock it back into place when you’re finished.
- Begin by pressing the plate forward without locking your knees out and release the safety lever at the same time.
- Once you’ve got to a point before the lockout would occur, lower the plate down slow and controlled. You should aim to get as close to your chest as possible with your knees but don’t worry if you can’t do this just yet.
- Increase the difficulty with an additional weight if you find the reps are too easy. You can also incorporate pause reps as you descend to your chest too.
- Repeat this cycle for your desired number of reps or sets.
So there we have it. We’ve finally reached the end of our Vastus Medialis training. We hope you gained some valuable information from this article and implement it accordingly to your future routines.
Training your Vastus Medialis or Vastus Medialis Oblique in isolation can be rather tricky, so be wary that most of these exercises will simultaneously utilize all muscles in the quadriceps. With that said, we have included ways in the above to help target and activate your Vastus Medialis more effectively than other traditional exercises so you can make that teardrop pop with a bang.
Lastly, it’s crucial before conducting these exercises that you know the movements and perform them correctly, especially with activities such as the leg press. You must handle this machine with great care due to the safety levers as an unfortunate mistake such as forgetting to clamp the levers down will result in serious injury. Not only this, but you must ensure the weight you’re using can be handled safely and efficiently above all else.
Who would’ve thought the Vastus Medialis and VMO played such a vital role in our everyday life, aye? Now you know how much of a pivotal role they both play, it’s time to bookmark this article, take notes, or do whatever it is you do to keep it close at all times to keep referring to it if needed.