The Key To The Knee – The Vastus Medialis Oblique (VMO)
A Quick Overview
The VMO, or teardrop muscle as it is often referred to, is one of a group of muscles found at the front of the leg. Specifically, forming part of the vastus medialis, or inner musculature, of the thigh.
Anatomically the VMO is found on the inside of the leg, just above the knee. Functionally it works to extend (straighten) the leg through the last few degrees of the knees range.
Marked weakness and atrophy of the quadriceps muscle is often observed after knee injury, knee surgery or in patients with knee joint arthritis. Ongoing quadriceps weakness is clinically important, as it is associated with impaired knee-joint stability and physical function. Moreover, weaker quadriceps have been associated with an increased rate of loading at the knee whilst greater quadriceps strength may protect against knee pain, patellofemoral cartilage loss and tibiofemoral joint-space narrowing.
In summary, weaker leg muscles mean painful, less stable knees, and who wants that? The VMO’s key role in stabilising the knee makes targeting it correctly an essential part of any knee prehab or rehab programme! The implications of robust, strong leg muscles, and specifically a well balanced and strong vastus medialis are truly far reaching!
Prehab – The Best Way To Avoid Rehab:
It seems pretty obvious therefore that the best way to keep our knees healthy is to keep the muscles around them in great shape! Below are some of my favourite ways to promote VMO activation and strengthening. Perhaps pick a few of days as activation warm-up drills before training, or finish off with them after a work-out:
- Start with your foam roller!
Foam rollers are a great tool to have available and something I suggest to most of my patients. A quick foam roll is an essential part of any warm up, targeting the low back, hamstrings and quadriceps in this case.
Harder to reach areas can be targeted using a trigger point release ball.
- Half Squat Monster Walk.
Using a suitable therraband and tie your ankles together. Get into a half-squat and slowly move one ankle away from the other, really focusing on squeezing your bum and keeping your torso upright.
- Single leg four-point cross.
Get into a single-leg half squat on your working leg and hold. Using your other leg tap a point in front, behind, to the left and right of you (a four pointed cross). Thats one repetition. Experiment with different squat depths on your working-leg, remember that lower ranges will target the VMO less, whilst the closer you are to a locked knee, the more the VMO will come into play.
- Single leg box squats.
Use a box or step which reaches approximately hip height and stand right at the edge, working leg flat and facing forward. Slowly lower yourself into a single leg squat, trying to reach the floor. Without resting at the base, bring yourself back to the starting stance.
One of my favourite leg exercises, truly an all rounder!
- Isometric Leg Extension Hold
The leg extension machine has been getting a lot of flak lately in strength and conditioning circles due to the high level of load it may place through the knee joint.
I like reducing the amount of joint loading whilst still reaping stability and strengthening benefits through isometric holds on a leg extension machine.
Load up the leg extension to around 45% of your one repetition maximum, raise to a few degrees away from knee locking and hold. A protocol of 5 sets of 45 second holds, with 2 minutes rest in between repetitions works wonders!
If you do have any specific concerns regarding any aches or pains I urge you to contact a licensed physiotherapist.
Wishing you all healthier, happier knees!
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