Known as the teardrop muscle, the vastus medialis is one of four quadriceps muscles located on the front of the thigh and works to extend the knee joint and stabilize the kneecap. Devoting a strength-training routine to vastus medialis exercises can help sculpt your legs and prevent knee injury.
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Vastus Medialis Exercises
The knee joint allows you to walk, bend and perform most of your daily physical activities. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says that strengthening the muscles that support the knee can reduce stress on this joint, as well as keep your knees healthy and prevent injury.
In a December 2019 study from the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers evaluated vastus medialis weakness and found that such a weakness causes increased outward drifting of the knee and correlates with knee pain.
To strengthen your knees, performing these strengthening movements at home and at the gym on a consistent basis can help.
Move 1: Step-Ups
- Stand facing a bench or a step.
- Place one foot on the bench and step up.
- Step up with the other foot.
- Step down with the first foot.
- Step down with the other foot.
- Repeat for 2 sets of 12 to 15 reps.
The Mayo Clinic recommends alternating your lead foot each time, and says that step-ups work not only your quadriceps, but also your hamstrings and glutes.
Move 2: Lunges
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Take a big step forward.
- Bend your front knee to 90 degrees and drop your back knee down until it almost touches the floor.
- Return to starting position.
- Repeat the movement using the opposite leg.
- Complete 1 set of 15 to 20 repetitions on each leg.
If you have poor balance, stand next to a sturdy object, such as a chair or countertop, for support during the lunge.
Move 3: Resistance Band Single-Leg Extensions
- Wrap a resistance band around the leg of a chair, then sit down with your back straight.
- Wrap the other end of the band around one ankle.
- Slowly extend your leg at the knee until it is straight but not locked.
- Slowly lower the leg back down.
- Perform 15 repetitions for 3 to 4 sets.
Move 4: Leg Press
Sit in the leg press machine and place both feet on the platform hip-width apart with toes straight forward.
Press the platform up, and release the safety.
Lower the platform down as far as possible, or until your knees touch your chest.
If this movement feels too easy, you can add weight until this feels challenging. Don't put too much weight on the machine as you could risk injury.
Return to starting position by extending your knees and hips.
Repeat for 2 sets of 10 to 15 reps.
Move 5: Machine Leg Extensions
- Sit at a leg extension machine and move your legs behind the pad.
- Adjust the machine so that the pad is at a little higher than your ankles and your knees fall right at the edge of the seat.
- Push both of your legs up until they have a slight bend in them.
- Squeeze at the top of the movement to contract the vastus medialis on both legs.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times.
- Complete 2 sets of 10 to 15 reps.
You can also perform a one-leg extension by using only one leg at a time. Do 2 sets of 10 to 15 reps on each leg, alternating legs between each set.
Vastus Medialis Stretching
Before you perform any of these vastus medialis exercises, you should conduct a warm up, which includes five to 10 minutes of light activity, according to the Mayo Clinic.
After you finish your strength training exercises, you should stretch your quad because this helps keep your joints flexible and improves their range of motion. When stretching, the Mayo Clinic provides the following guidance:
- Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.
- Don't forget to breathe.
- Don't bounce.
- Don't push yourself to the point you feel pain.
- Stretch slowly and gently.
To begin, the Mayo Clinic suggests the following quadriceps stretch, which can be done anywhere you have a sturdy object available.
Move 1: Quad Stretch
- Hold your hand against a wall.
- Grasp your ankle and pull your leg back behind you.
- Hold for 30 seconds. Keep your abs tight and pull gently until you feel a stretch in the quads.
- Switch legs and repeat.
- Complete 2 sets.
Move 2: Knee-to-Chest Stretch
- Lie on your back.
- Keep one leg straight on the ground as you bend your other leg and wrap your hand around the bent leg.
- Bring your bent knee to your chest.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
- Switch legs.
- Complete 2 sets.
Vastus Medialis Treatment
If you injure your vastus medialis, you should apply ice to the injured area and lightly stretch the muscle for 20 minutes. You can repeat this one to two times every two hours for the first two to three days, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Public Health and Medicine (UW).
During these three days, avoid working out any lower extremity to allow the vastus medialis muscle the time it needs to heal. You might also find it necessary to use crutches or elastic bandages if the vastus medialis pain is too severe and you can't walk. The UW recommends not using any heat or heat rubs during this time.
After three to seven days, you can start mild stretching two to three times per day and light physical activity such as walking/jogging, swimming or using a stationary bicycle. You should also ice the vastus medialis 15 to 20 minutes after you finish your workout.
Read more: 6 Deadlift Variations to Add to Leg Day
- Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine: "The Vastus Medialis Insertion Is More Proximal and Medial in Patients With Patellar Instability: A Magnetic Resonance Imaging Case-Control Study"
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Knee Exercises"
- Mayo Clinic: "Slide Show: A Guide to Basic Stretches"
- University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Public Health and Medicine: "Quadriceps Contusion"
- Mayo Clinic: "Video: Step-Up Exercise"