Fortify & Reinforce Your Knees With A Strong Vastus Medialis
Every part of body is incredibly important and has its own purpose. However, when it comes to muscles that are under-appreciated, the vastus medialis is arguably near the top of that list.
Without the VMO muscle, we would not be able to walk – period. It is actually the only muscle that attaches to our kneecap to keep our entire knee joint in alignment. When your vastus medialis is secure, strong, and reliable, many painful situations are taken out of the equation.
How to Locate Your Vastus Medialis Oblique (VMO)
The easiest way to notice your vastus medialis is to think of a water droplet. Also known as the “tear drop” muscle, your VMO is the innermost quadricep muscle.
With your hand, find your patella (kneecap) and travel medially and superiorly a few inches. You should feel your vastus medialis muscle on your inner front thigh, right above the patella.
The Importance a Strong Vastus Medialis Muscle
To even bend your knee safely without patellar dislocation, you need the VMO muscle. The vastus medialis’ job is to stabilize the kneecap while your leg is bent, straightened, and everything in between.
If it’s weak, your patella can fall off track or cause pain all around your knee. The main culprit of having a weak VMO would be the unconscious habit of not extending your leg fully. Read My Hip Belt Squats article to learn how to strengthen hip extension.
Instead, if you work up to having a stronger vastus medialis, your knee can bend properly and without hesitation. Plus, athletes with strong VMO’s can powerfully push their legs from bent to extended without the patella falling off track.
Not only does it prevent kneecap derailing, the vastus medialis protects from hard hits to the inner thigh and knee.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
There are plenty of reasons why you may be experiencing patellofemoral pain – aches and pains in your knee. Take a look over this list and see if any of these rings a bell with how you feel.
Malalignment literally means bad or poor alignment regarding the patellar groove. When there are soft tissue and bone problems in your knee, subtle malalignment can happen over time.
Slowly but surely, the patella shifts in any direction that is affected the most. This can cause mild or severe pain depending on the degree of tissue and osteo irregularities.
As with anything related to the body, overtraining varies from person to person. Plus, overtraining heavily depends on if you’re recovering enough.
Whether it be running, walking, or bending too much, your knees can only take so much of a beating.
Joints are one our most valuable bodily resources, so they are usually the first to shout when pushed too hard.
Moreover, a hard hit or series of impacts to the knee can also be the cause of patellofemoral pain. In some sports where it is necessary to take impacts repeatably, this is also a form of joint overtraining.
Unbalanced Thigh Strength
For many, outer thighs (vastus lateralis) end up a lot stronger than the vastus medialis. This is known as a muscle imbalance.
If you happen to notice that you walk easily with your feet turned outward, instead of parallel, this is indicative of overpowering outer thighs.
An imbalance here can result in putting an overwhelming amount of pressure on the patella, which can add to or cause patellofemoral pain syndrome.
Also known as “runner’s knee”, this issue isn’t just for runners. It happens to many people for a handful of reasons.
Chondromalacia patellae is when the cartilage right underneath the kneecap softens and eventually deteriorates.
Similar to overtraining, this condition commonly shows up in athletes that consistently demand too much of their knees.
If there is no patellar misalignment present, this usually is coped by resting a few days. Yet that’s definitely not the case if you have this condition because of a weak vastus medialis.
Chronic grinding and pain are present as long as the cartilage is continually grinded down from an off-track kneecap.
Of course, this is a broad topic, but specific feet conditions are the result of patellofemoral pain.
Overpronating, feet rolling inward, while walking is another cause of patellofemoral pain.
How Vastus Medialis Strengthening Can Help You
If you already know that your vastus medialis is lacking, you can benefit from isolated VMO training. Whether you have knee pain or are an athlete looking to become more explosive, VMO isolation work is for you.
Most importantly, our joints need to be cared for with the long-term in mind. When a muscle imbalance is causing our knee joint to degrade faster than it should, this needs serious attention.
VMO work isn’t something to only take place in the weight room or at-home exercising, it is something it be aware of always.
As an example, when we walk, our gait is reflecting the strength of our vastus medialis. By being mindful of it daily, not only when training, VMO strengthening can be accelerated.
Vastus Medialis Exercises – Isolated Activation
Here are some exercises to help isolate your vastus medialis muscle. I highly suggest to learn and apply these techniques to pinpoint your VMO.
This exercise is similar to a regular squat expect your feet at very close together (parallel) and heels are elevated on a surface at least 3 inches high.
For convenience sake, you can use one or two weight plates for an elevated surface.
As you squat down, maintain a high chest, good posture, and keep your feet parallel. If your flexibility allows for it, try to have your hamstrings touch your calves on the downward movement.
For added VMO activation, focus on keeping more of the overall pressure on your big toe and inner part of your foot. In turn, this adds to the vastus medialis isolation by running the pressure up along to your inner thighs.
Depending on your strength level, feel free to perform this exercise with or without weight.
Your vastus medialis is nothing to be overlooked. When it’s taken care of and strengthened appropriately, you’re stepping into a whole new body. The VMO muscle is genuinely one of the small pieces that add up to something huge – your overall wellbeing and performance.