The vastus medialis oblique – also known as the VMO or teardrop thigh muscle – is an extensor muscle located on the inside of the thigh just above the knee. There are several exercises that could strengthen the VMO. Squats are especially helpful. A variety of seated exercises like leg presses and thigh contractions are also helpful. Moving your legs using step-ups and lunges can also strengthen the VMO.
- Do a double-leg squat. The double-leg squat is the basic squat form. To get started, stand with your legs shoulder-width apart. Cross your arms over your chest. Lower yourself down slowly as if you’re sitting in a chair. Keep your chest and head up and your eyes forward.
- Stop squatting when you feel as though you cannot lower yourself any further, and slowly stand back up.
- Your knees should not extend past the end of your toes.
- At the bottom of your squat, hold the position for about five seconds. Repeat 12-15 times.
- If you wish to engage your lateral hip stabilizers, you could step into an elastic band and pull it into position just above your knees before beginning the squat.
- A simple variation – the single-leg squat – is performed in the exact same way as the standard double-leg squat, but, as its name implies, you stand on just one leg while doing it.
- Squat on unstable surfaces. Fold your arms over your chest in an ‘X’. Stand on a foam pad or rubber air disc – both of which are available at sporting goods stores – and place your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Focus your eyes on a point in front of you and bend slightly at the knees. Lower your butt as if you are about to sit while keeping your chest and head up.
- When you achieve a 60-degree angle at the knees, hold the position for a second or two, then slowly stand back up.
- Keep your back straight throughout.
- Repeat 12 to 15 times.
- Squat on a wedge. Squat as you normally would in a double leg squat, but stand on an inclined plane with your toes facing downward (toward the lower edge of the wedge). A plane angled at 25 or 30 degrees should be sufficient to achieve increased VMO activation.
- Squat slowly. When performing a squat – either a double leg squat, a squat on unstable surfaces, or another type – do so at about 70-50% of the speed you normally would. For instance, if you normally take two seconds to squat, try squatting over a period of three or four seconds instead.
- A slow squat will increase muscular strength and help you achieve constant muscular tension.
- Do not reduce your squat speed by more than half.
- Squat lower than you normally do. A good squat will achieve a 60-degree bend in your knees. But if you can get even lower – to a knee angle of 80 degrees – you will activate your VMO even more.
- A squat of between 50 and 80 degrees is ideal, and will help you exercise your VMO.
- Do knee bends. Knee bends are a simple squat variant. Just stand a foot or two away from a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lean against the wall and angle your toes out and slightly to the sides.
- Slide your back slowly down the wall, keep your knees in a straight line between your feet and hips. Do not allow your knees to bend in towards each other.
- When your knees extend to a point where they are about the same distance from the wall as your mid foot, slide back up the wall, tensing your teardrop thigh muscle as you do so.
- Place a Swiss ball between your back and the wall for a smoother motion.
EditMoving Your Legs
- Perform a lunge. A lunge is a body resistance exercise that works the legs. To get started, assume a standing position and set one foot in front of the other until your leg forms a 90-degree angle. Your rear leg should extend out behind you and the thigh of your front leg should be parallel to the ground.
- Keep your back in a neutral position throughout the lunge. Do not flatten the curve of the lower back or arch your back.
- Do not let your knee go beyond your toes. In other words, when you bend the leg that you’ve extended out in front of you, the knee should not bend more than 90 degrees. If you cannot achieve a 90-degree bend in the knee, bend as deep as you possibly can.
- Hold the position for 10-20 seconds, then switch to your other leg.
- Do a step-up exercise. A step-up exercise, as its name implies, involves stepping up and onto a large crate or box. The box should be about as high as your knee. To get started, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes six inches from the box. Place one foot firmly on the box or crate, then drive your body weight forward and up to get on top of the box. Step down and repeat with your other leg.
- In a variation, you could try stepping up onto the box laterally (from the side). Keep the box or crate about six inches from the outside of the foot you wish to place on the crate first. With the box at your side, step up with the foot closest to it. Leave room to bring your other foot onto the box, too.
- Another variation involves holding dumbbells or free weights while doing the step-up exercise. Hold the weights in your hands while stepping up onto the crate or box.
- Stretch your iliotibial band. To stretch your iliotibial band while standing, cross your right leg behind your left. Bend laterally at the hip toward your left side. Do not bend forward as you do so. Hold the stretch for 20 to 60 seconds and repeat on the opposite side. Holding for any longer than one minute will not increase the benefit.
- Another option is to hold the pose for 15 seconds and repeat on the opposite side. Stretch your iliotibial band on each side three times to complete a set.
EditSitting Down to Work the VMO
- Do a thigh contraction. Sit with your back straight against a chair and your knees at a 90-degree angle. Lift one leg off the ground, extending your leg straight out so that your toes point directly up. Hold that pose for 15 seconds. Place the leg down again and switch legs. Repeat three times on each leg.
- Try a short arc quad. To perform a short arc quad, sit on the floor with your back against the wall. Place a rolled-up towel or a softball-sized rubber ball beneath your knee. Slowly raise the leg supported by the object. Repeat 12-15 times, then switch to the opposite side.
- Try a leg press. A leg press is an exercise performed on a leg press machine in which you extend and retract your legs while pressing against a given amount of weight. To perform the leg press, simply load the machine to your desired weight, then place your feet in the center of the press pad. Push off the pad by extending your legs. Hold the position for a few seconds, then bring your knees back toward you slowly.
- Repeat 12-15 times.
- You will strengthen your VMO more if you retract your legs further.
- For instance, if you retract your legs to a position where your knees touch your chest before pushing off again, you will work your VMO harder than you would by simply retracting your knees to a position where they form a 90-degree angle.
- If you are unsure how much weight you can sustain in your leg press, start with a small amount like 20 pounds. Gradually add weight in five-pound increments until you’re at a weight that causes moderate strain.
- Do thigh extensions. You can use a machine or resistance bands to do a thigh extension exercise and work your VMO. Be sure to maintain a soft bend in your knee when doing this exercise.
- Whether you are doing a thigh extension with a machine or resistance band, start out with a light weight or light resistance band.
- Sit in the seat or chair and place your legs behind the padded weight bar or loop the resistance band through the legs of the chair and around your ankles.
- Then, slowly extend your legs outwards, hold for a second and then slowly lower them back down. Repeat the exercise 12 to 15 times and do three sets.