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Weak Link Training: Boost Your Big Exercises

Neglecting specific muscles can hinder your progress. This week, our expert exposes one of your potential weak links, the VMO.

The VMO – vastus medialis oblique - is often better known as your “teardrop muscle”. It’s located on the medial side (inside) of the knee and is part of the quadriceps group. The sad truth is, most people have issues in their big lifts like squats, deadlifts, and split stance work due to inefficiencies in this little muscle.

The VMO, as small as it is, is a big stabilizer to the knee joint. If it’s not firing, you’ll notice issues with weakness at the bottom of your squat, incomplete depth, and wobbling. On top of this, you’ll likely be experiencing chronic knee pain in any given place surrounding the kneecap.

Try this workout to kick-start the VMO into action:

EXERCISE ONE:

Terminal Knee Extensions 

Remember to push through the balls of the feet the entire time, and don’t put too much pressure on the heel. Doing so will encourage the quadriceps(VMO especially) to fire more exclusively.

Perform 3 sets of 15 reps per leg, and keep a slow tempo for all reps.

EXERCISE TWO:

Peterson Step Ups

Before adding weight, look to increase your range of motion by using a higher box. Remember to keep good technique. As the box gets higher, work to slow your descent to the floor – don’t just “drop” or “fall” downwards!

Perform 3 sets of 15 step ups per leg.

EXERCISE THREE:

Front Foot Elevated Split Squat 

To progress this movement, use a lower box. Remember to keep the tension on the quads the entire time, and press through the ball of the foot.

Work for 12 reps per leg and perform 3 sets.

One More Thing

It’s important to know that when one muscle isn’t doing its job, another muscle likely is. In the case of a sleeping VMO, the muscles on the lateral side of the leg are often tight and overused to correspond. That being said, it’s encouraged to foam roll the IT band and outer thigh muscles, so they can be relaxed and forfeit some of the stress they’re undergoing during exercise when left unattended.

If you’re a guy struggling with the performance of your big lifts, taking a look at your VMO can be just what the doctor ordered to bust through a plateau. You’ll be glad you did – and your knees will thank you too!

About the Trainer: Lee Boyce

Lee Boyce, CPT is a strength coach based in Toronto, ON. A former Kinesiology Major, Lee competed as a sprinter and long jumper at the National level. His work has been featured in many major magazines including Men's Health, Musclemag, TNATION, and also on national television. For more on Lee, check him out at leeboycetraining.com, @coachleeboyce and Facebook.

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