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Collectively the quadricep muscles play an important role in helping make day to day activities, such as walking and lifting things off the ground, easier.
Another primary function of the quadriceps is providing stability to the knee joint helping to prevent injuries. They also work in conjunction with other muscles meaning that if you have weak quads this could be resulting in other leg muscles having to work overtime.
As the quads are large muscles, it is a good idea to focus on isolation exercises that aim to work each of the four muscles individually.
This article will focus on medial quad exercises specifically aimed at activating the vastus medialis muscle.
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The vastus medialis makes up one of the four quadriceps muscles and is in front of your thigh and runs down along the inside of the thigh. The muscle is innervated by the femoral nerve and the tendon of the quadriceps connects to the patellar ligament. The vastus medialis aids with extension of the knee joint and stabilises the kneecap.
A weak vastus medialis is a leading cause of knee pain and injuries. By focusing on leg exercises that build strong legs, will help to limit knee pain. One of the many advantages of medial quad exercises is the strengthening of the leg muscles.
The Anatomy of Quadriceps
Before considering vastus medialis’ exercises, it is worth understanding the anatomy of quadriceps muscles. As mentioned above, this is because the vastus medialis collaborates with the other three muscles and helps with running, climbing, walking and squatting.
The quadriceps femoris is a group of muscles located to the front of the upper leg which cover the front and sides of the femur bone. Their main function is knee extension and hip flexion. The three vastus muscles sit beneath the superficial muscle being the rectus femoris.
The vastus lateralis runs laterally down the outside of the femur and connects to the femoral nerve and crosses over the knee joint. It’s the largest and most powerful of the quadriceps group of muscles and helps with knee extension (bringing the knee up). It works with vastus medialis to help stabilise the knee joint.
The rectus femoris muscle sits just beneath the skin and comprises of two heads that originate from the pelvis. It is the only quad muscle that crosses the hip joint running down the leg and inserting into the top of the patella. It’s responsible for knee extension and hip flexion. As it’s a superficial muscle, building strength to this muscle increases muscle mass which gives definition to the upper leg.
The vastus medialis sits closest to the midline of the body, it originates from the femur and adductor muscles, running down the inside of the thigh and crossing over at the knee joint. It helps with knee extension and knee stability.
Vastus intermedius sits beneath the rectus femoris on the upper (two-thirds) of the thigh. It is the deepest muscle in the quadriceps. It sits along the anterior and lateral surface of the femur bone and is responsible for extension of the knee joint.
The Function of Vastus Medialis
As previously stated, the vastus medialis operates in conjunction with the other quadricepmus muscles to perform an extension of the knee joint, which in turn extends the leg. This muscle assists the knee joints locking mechanism and is particularly crucial during the final phase of leg extension.
The vastus medialis is further divided into the vastus medialis longus (VML) and the vastus medialis obliquus (VMO).
When activated, the vastus medialis provides greater control over kneecap motion and additional stability. Because of the knee’s anatomical design, the kneecap always moves to the outer side of the knee when the leg is bent.
When the vastus medialis is weak, strength and stamina suffer, and the muscle exhausts quickly. Eventually, this leads to instability in the knee, pain in the patellofemoral joint, and potentially even dislocation of the kneecap.
By focusing on building strong quads and incorporating specific leg exercises into your strength training may help to reduce the likelihood of developing such knee problems.
Best Medial Quad Exercises To Build Vastus Medialis
Below are some of the best exercises for the medialis which can be done at home or the gym helping to improve quad strength. Before getting started with these exercises, it is important to first activate the VMO (Vastus Medialis Oblique).
VMO Activation Work Out
- To activate the VMO, take a resistance band and place it just around and above the knees.
- Stand with feet just past shoulder width apart.
- Squat down whilst externally push out at the knees.
- Hold for a second at the bottom before pushing back up through the heels.
This exercise will ensure that the VMO and VML, which are essential for exercise function, are activated and warmed up.
Floor Knee Extension
The floor knee extension will help with stabilising the knee joint and all you need is an exercise mat.
- Begin by sitting on the exercise mat with your back flat against a wall.
- Retract your shoulders and keep your chest and head up.
- Place one leg straight out in front of you with your toes pointing slightly outwards.
- Bring the knee of the other leg up towards your chest and keep your foot on the floor.
- Hold the hamstring of the bent leg with both holds, this helps provide stability.
- Slowly raise the straight leg up from the floor, go as high as you can whilst keeping the leg straight.
- Hold for a second before lowering back down.
- Repeat this movement for 10 reps before switching legs.
Hip Adduction Squat
This multi-joint movement is a great exercise for developing the legs quickly and efficiently. Aside from building overall leg strength it will activate the gluteal muscles, the hamstrings, and the hip adductors.
- Start by standing against a wall with a small exercise ball held between your knees.
- Place your hands on your hips and squat down, your back should be flat against the wall providing you with support.
- Once you have reached a point where your thighs are parallel to the floor hold this position
- Squeeze the ball as you hold.
If you struggle to hold the position at 45 degrees, then drop down slightly lower.
Sidewise Heel Drop
When done with proper form this exercise can improve execution of movement such as lunges and squats, without experiencing knee pain.
- Stand upright on an elevated surface such as a bench, make sure the bench is positioned sideways against a wall.
- Stand with the wall to your side and place your hand against the wall for stability.
- Take the foot furthest from the wall and place it so one side of the foot is on the bench with the other side hanging off.
- Lift the foot nearest the wall so you are now standing on one leg.
- Drop the foot down sideways so that you can feel a stretch.
- Hold at the bottom for a second or two before returning.
- Repeat around 15 times before switching legs.
Single Leg Raise
One leg raise is a floor-based exercise that helps to build hip flexor and quadriceps strength.
- Lie down on an exercise mat with one leg out straight with the other leg bent with the foot flat on the ground.
- Engage the core muscles and the quad muscles of the straight leg.
- Inhale and raise the straight leg until it’s as high as the thigh of the bent leg.
- Be careful not to arch the back while performing the exercise.
- Hold the position for one count. Now exhale and gradually lower down the right leg to the initial position (two inches away from the mat).
- After 15 repetitions of five sets each, switch legs.
Lift the right leg only to the point of the thigh of the opposite leg. If the raise exceeds this height this will focus more on the hip flexors.
Exercising the Vastus Medialis
Regardless of your exercise goals or sports activities, working out the vastus medialis muscle can have a significant impact on the activities of everyday life. It is important to note that the above exercises will not isolate the vastus medialis and will instead strengthen the entire quadriceps muscle group putting them into the category of compound exercises.
Benefits of training the vastus medialis.
Boosts Athletic Performance
The quadriceps are a large and powerful muscle group and play an important part in human bodily performance. Athletes in many sports will benefit from having strong quads. What’s more, strengthened leg muscles can help prevent knee injuries during athletic activities.
Whilst the superficial muscle of the rectus femoris is responsible for giving the upper front leg it’s desirable appearance, the vastus medialis also plays a part in overall aesthetics of the quadriceps. In bodybuilding circles, the VM is commonly referred to as the teardrop muscle and development can really make the inner thigh pop.
Increased Knee Stability
By providing stability to the knee joint and protecting against knee injuries, the vastus medialis stands head and shoulders above the other quadriceps muscles. It has been proven that people with well-developed legs experience fewer or no knee problems. Furthermore, a weak vastus medialis muscle is a major contributor to patellofemoral pain syndrome.
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The medial quad or vastus medialis is an important leg muscle that can be strengthened to gain a lot of benefits. These include improved body performance, knee stability, and body aesthetics.
With the right training focusing on specific quad muscles, leg day can be easier and if you want to reap the full benefits, try out the exercises mentioned in this article.