How many times have you heard “there is no such thing as a one size fits all workout”? Even before it was a popular saying, I knew it was true. At every gym I had been to, I would find the same thing: well-meaning people working out body parts that they were not qualified to train. I would sit in the locker room and laugh at the people who were trying to work the same muscle groups as I.
Vastus Medialis is a muscle that is located in the knee (see your knee if you don’t know what I mean). It is also called the inner quadriceps muscle (also referred to as the quad, quadriceps, quads, or just quads). These muscles are mainly responsible for extending the knee.
The medius muscle (Vastus medialis) is one of the most important muscles of the lower body. It is the only quadriceps muscle that directly stabilizes the knee joint during lower body exercises such as squats, deadlifts and lunges.
Whether I’m working with my patients as a physical therapist or with online coaching clients: Strengthening this muscle is ALWAYS a top priority for me. Without a large, strong inner core, you are smaller, weaker and more vulnerable to injury!
The musculus medius, also known as the OMM, is one of the 4 main muscles of the quadriceps. It is a large, drop-shaped quadriceps muscle located at the top/inside of the knee.
Here is an excellent picture of the median muscle (vastus medialis):
From EMG research (electromyography) we know that different parts of the muscle can be affected by different exercises. For example, it is very easy to find exercises that target the long head, lateral head or medial head of the triceps muscle. The same thing happens when you train your quadriceps!
In this detailed guide, I’ll show you the best training strategies to strengthen the vastus medialis muscle.
One of the best exercises to train your quadriceps is the reverse squat. For example:
We know from EMG studies that the vastus medialis is most active at two different squat points:
- In the lower 15 degrees of the squat
- In the upper 15 degrees of the squat
If your goal is to strengthen the vastus medialis as quickly as possible, you can’t do it without it: You need to train with a full range of motion. This means squatting so that your hamstrings touch your calves in a low position. Remember that the vastus medialis works hardest in the last 15 degrees of range of motion.
Dmitry Klokov demonstrates perfect full range squats in the video above. If you really want to improve your vastus medialis muscle, there are many ways to modify your squat to engage this muscle more.
One of the best variations of the squat for OMM training is the so-called cycling squat. The basic idea is to squat with your heels together and lift your toes.
For example, here is an excellent demonstration of the cyclist squat:
Studies show that squatting with heels closed and squatting with heels raised affect the vastus medialis. The cycling squat also helps you squat with a straighter spine. Even great athletes find that they can maintain a straight back position during squats, putting more strain on the quadriceps and less on the hamstrings.
The cycling squat works best in sets of relatively high repetitions. If you try to use a very heavy weight in a bike squat, you will struggle to keep your balance or you will put too much pressure on the connective tissue in your knees.
Don’t worry, there are plenty of high-impact workout routines you can use with bike squats. One of my favorites is the original German volume training program.
The goal of German volume training is to perform 10 sets of 10 reps in two exercises, such as. B. Squats and leg extensions. You want to use the same weight in all 10 sets, so try to use your expected maximum weight of 20 reps. Here is an example of a training program:
German volume training cyclic squat distance
- A1: cyclist in back squat, 10 x 10, 4/0/2/0, rest 100 seconds
- A2 : Bilateral leg flexion (plantar flexion/extension), 10 x 10, 3/0/2/0, rest 100 seconds.
- B1 : Alternating stationary lunges DB, 3 x 12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest.
- B2 : 45 degree back extension (hold DB on chest), 3 x 12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest.
Here are the training videos for this session: Exercise A1, Exercise A2, Exercise B1, Exercise B2.
For this training it is very important that you maintain the indicated practice pace. This means that the cyclist squat uses a true down phase of 4 seconds and an up phase of 2 seconds. Get your overdue OMM back on track quickly with this procedure!
Another good strategy for hitting the vastus medialis is to find a way to spend more time in the lower squat. Remember that in the last 15 degrees of the back squat, the vastus medialis is used the most.
One of the best ways to increase your time under tension in the bottom position is to perform quarter squats. For the quarter squat, squat fully, get just above parallel, squat fully, and then squat until you lock out. This all counts as a rehearsal.
Here’s an excellent demonstration:
This variation is good in that you spend more time under tension in the lowest position, where the OMM muscles are used the most. My experience is that quarter squats work best in the 5-10 rep range. It’s almost like 10-20 regular reps because the time under tension for each rep you do is so long!
Here is a very simple squat exercise that anyone can do to strengthen their vastus medialis:
One quarter squat
- A1 : Quarter back squat (medium position / flat heels), 3 x 8-10, 3/0/1/0, 2 minutes rest.
- B1 : Leg press 45 degrees, 3 x 15-20, 2/0/1/0, 2 minutes rest
- C1 : Walking DB lunge, 3 x 15-20, 2/0/1/0, 2 minutes rest.
- D1 : Leg curl (plantarflexed/straight legs), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 2 minutes rest.
- E1 : Romanian deadlift, 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 2 minute break.
Here are the training videos for this session: Exercise A1, Exercise B1, Exercise C1, Exercise D1, Exercise E1.
Another great way to spend more time in the bottom squat is to pause in the bottom position for a few seconds. When you pause in the down position, you eliminate the stretch reflex from the exercise. The stretch reflex is the energy that builds up in the connective tissue during the downward phase of an exercise.
The stretch reflex acts like a spring to help you get out of basic position in almost any exercise. If you lie down for a while, you almost completely deprive yourself of the stretch reflex. This means your vastus medialis has to work much harder in the down position to lift your body.
One of the best variations of the break squat is called the Klokow squat. The Klokow squat is performed with a 7 second lowering phase and a 6 second lifting phase. For example:
The Klokow squat is practically the most extreme version of the break squat ever invented! They are named after Olympic weightlifting superstar Dmitry Klokov, who used them during his competitive career to increase his knee bending strength.
In my experience, Klokow squats work best when you do 6-8 sets with a weight heavy enough for one repetition. Here is an example of an approach you can try. Look at this:
Klokov Squat Road
- A1 : Back squat (medium position/flat heels), 6-8 x 1, 7/6/X/0, 2 minutes rest.
- A2 : Knee extension (legs in plantar flexion/face out), 6-8 x 2-3, 4/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest.
- B1 : Squat with front leg up, 3-4 x 5-7, 3/1/1/0, rest 1 minute
- B2 : 90 degrees back stretch (dumbbell on back), 3-4 x 5-7, 2/0/1/2, 1 minute rest
Here are the training videos: Exercise A1, Exercise A2, Exercise B1, Exercise B2.
As you can see, there are many ways to adjust your squat to make your vastus medialis work more. Cycling squats, quarter squats and even Klokow squats can be used to strengthen the OMM. Of course, there are many other types of exercises you can use to train this muscle.
One of the best exercises for the vastus medialis is the split squat. Here is an excellent demonstration of this exercise:
Split squats are one of the most underrated exercises for the lower body. They train all the major muscles of the lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and adductors. They are also great for improving flexibility and mobility because they really stretch the hip flexors. However, one of the best things about split squats is that they overload the medial muscle (vastus medialis).
Watch the above video again. In the down position, the athlete’s hamstrings completely encircle the knees. This is exactly what you need! This means that the vastus medialis will be working very, very hard during this exercise.
Split squats are one of the best exercises you can do if you are not strong enough to do full squats or if you cannot do them safely. Split squats help you strengthen the OMM and all the supporting muscles of the lower body, so you can squat safely.
Here is an example of a split squat program you can use to train the OMM and prepare your body for full back squats. Look at this:
Lower-body squat training
- A1 : Squat with front leg up (hold DBs), 5 x 6-8, 2/0/2/0, 10 seconds rest.
- A2 : Side step-up (with DBs), 5 x 10-15, 2/0/1/0, 3 minutes rest.
- B1 : Bilateral leg extension (legs bent dorsally/outside), 5 x 6-8, 2/0/2/0, rest 10 seconds.
- B2 : 45 degree back extension (hold DB on chest), 5 x 10-15, 2/0/1/0, 3 minutes rest.
Here are the training videos: Exercise A1, Exercise A2, Exercise B1, Exercise B2.
One of the advantages of split squats is that it is very easy to increase the load of the exercise. You can take a pair of dumbbells or place a barbell on your back to make the exercise more difficult. If split squats are still too easy for you, you can try more advanced variations of lunges.
Lunges are one of the best exercises for the vastus medialis that you can use. Your quadriceps have to work very hard as soon as your feet touch the ground to slow your body down and absorb the shock load. If you’re reading this article, you probably know how to perform a normal split.
I won’t waste your time describing this exercise. However, there is an advanced variant of the lock that you need to know: the lock.
The lunge is performed while standing on a platform 1 to 5 inches high. You step forward one foot and land on the ground, then do push-ups and stand on the platform again. For example:
The splits are like normal splits on steroids! You work your quadriceps eccentrically to absorb the impact when your forefoot lands on the ground. Lunges are an incredibly effective exercise to strengthen the vastus medialis, but you have to be careful with them.
I recommend doing most lunges with at least 8 reps. If you do less than 8 reps per set, you run the risk of overloading the connective tissue and increasing the risk of injury.
If you play a sport that requires you to jump or sprint, such as. B. American football, soccer or basketball, you need to know another exercise: the Petersen Step Up. The Petersen Step is named after Dr. Eric Petersen, a Canadian strength coach.
Dr. Petersen has been working with the Canadian National Ski Racing Team to find a way to improve the strength of the OMM to increase skiing efficiency and reduce the risk of injury. Dr. Petersen invented the Petersen Step, and the rest is history.
Here is an excellent demonstration of this exercise:
This is a very technical exercise. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- The foot of the working leg should be turned outward approximately 15 degrees.
- You want the entire weight of your working leg to rest on the ball of your feet.
- You should extend your knee forward over your toes.
- The heel of the unworked foot should always be slightly in front of the toes of the worked foot.
Why does this exercise work so well? That is an excellent question! Research shows that when you perform quadriceps exercises with more pressure on the ball of the foot, you actually increase activation of the vastus medialis. Many strength trainers, such as. B. Charles Polikin, use the Petersen step for all their athletes.
Here is Charles’ exact take on the Petersen step for improving the strength of the vastus medialis:
If there is one exercise that has made me a lot of money, it is the Petersen Step Forward.
That’s what I call confirmation! If you want to strengthen the vastus medialis and you can do this exercise safely, then this is one of the best exercises you can do. If you are not strong enough to do the Petersen Step Climb, consider the Poliquin Step Climb. You can watch a video of this exercise here.
Both exercises should be performed with a very high number of repetitions. Ideally, this would be B. Sets of 15-25 reps at a rate of 1/0/1/0.
And there you have it! You now know all the exercises and training methods to build a bigger and stronger vastus medialis muscle. If you start implementing these workout strategies, you will be rewarded with a bigger, stronger and healthier lower body.
So, what are you waiting for? Go back to the gym and train the vastus medialis however you want!
Someone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
Thanks for reading and good luck with your strength training!
Dr. Mike Jansen.
Thanks for stopping by my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT, and I am the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster, you’ve come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the best strength training resource in the world. So lean back, kick back and relax. There has never been a better time to lift weights or learn the art and science of developing strength training programs.
Link to Hafthor Björnsson’s training program!
Hafthor Björnsson’s training program!
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Link to the deadlift program of Haftor Björnsson (501kg!)
Hafthor Björnsson’s deadlift program (501kg!)
Hafthor Björnsson is an Icelandic professional strongman athlete and one of the men of planet Earth. In 2023, Hafthor broke the world record for deadlifts, lifting 501 pounds or…
Frequently Asked Questions
What exercise works the vastus medialis?
The vastus medialis is the muscle that runs along the inside of your thigh.
How do I get a stronger VMO?
The VMO is a muscle that attaches to the inside of your knee. It helps you extend your leg and flex your foot. Strengthening this muscle can help you perform better in sports like soccer, basketball, and tennis. To strengthen your VMO, you can do exercises like the following: Knee extensions: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Extend one leg out in front of you and bend the other knee so that it is at a 90-degree angle. Keep both knees straight as you extend them up toward the ceiling. Hold for a second, then lower them back down to starting position. Repeat 10 times on each side. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Extend one leg out in front of you and bend the other knee so that it is at a 90-degree angle. Keep both knees straight as you extend them up toward the ceiling. Hold for a second, then lower them back down to starting position. Repeat 10 times on each side. Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed forward, holding dumbbells or a barbell across your shoulders with both hands. Squat down, keeping your back straight and knees behind your toes. Keep your head up and chest out as you lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Push back up to starting position. Repeat 10 times on each side. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed forward, holding dumbbells or a barbell across your shoulders with both hands. Squat down, keeping your back straight and knees behind your toes. Keep your head up and chest out as you lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Push back up to starting position. Repeat 10 times on each side. Leg curls: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, holding a dumbbell in each hand with arms extended straight out from your sides. Curl one leg up toward your chest, keeping it straight as you do so, then lower it back down to starting position. Repeat 10 times on each side. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, holding a dumbbell in each hand with arms extended straight out from your sides. Curl one leg up toward your chest, keeping it straight as you do so, then lower it back down to starting position. Repeat 10 times on each side. Leg extensions: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, holding a dumbbell in each hand with arms extended straight out from your sides. Extend one leg out in front of you and bend the other knee so that it is at a 90-degree angle. Keep both knees straight as you extend them up toward the ceiling. Hold for a second, then lower them back down to starting position. Repeat 10 times on each side. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, holding a dumbbell in each hand with arms extended straight out from your sides. Extend one leg out in front of you and bend the other knee so that
How do you activate the VMO muscle?
The VMO muscle is activated by contracting the muscles on either side of the pelvis.
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