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June 13, 2022 9 min read

Although a lot of people can boast of having large, well-developed upper bodies, there are far fewer that can justifiably claim to have large, awesome-looking legs, despite the fact that we use our legs every day, and strengthening them can have both aesthetic, practical, and health-related benefits

Your legs make up approximately 50% of our bodies’ muscle mass, which means there is a lot to be said about not skipping leg day.

One of the reasons that people do not put as much focus on their legs when they are strength training is that leg exercises are hard and often leave our legs sore, making it difficult to walk the next day. Because using our legs is all but unavoidable, it's a lot harder to deal with sore legs than it is to deal with a sore upper body. 

For this reason, people often don’t get past their first few leg days to the point where they reach the threshold where their legs stop being so sore.

While this is completely understandable, there are some avenues that you can take to minimize muscle soreness the next day, such as taking muscle recovery supplements like high-quality BCAAS/EAAS

Of course, this doesn’t mean that working out your legs isn’t difficult, but isn’t that part of the journey?

For those who do want to get ripped legs, one of the main muscle groups that they absolutely cannot ignore is the quadriceps or “quads.” 

Exploring the Vastus Medialis

The vastus medialis, also known as the vastus internus and the teardrop muscle, is one of the four muscles that make up the quadriceps group of muscles.

It originates from the upper part of the femoral shaft and inserts as a flattened tendon into the quadriceps femoris tendon, which inserts into the upper border of the patella. The purpose of the vastus medialis is to extend the knee, and for that reason, a weak vastus medialis may be the cause of knee pain which affects a large portion of the world’s adult population.

Strengthening the vastus medialis is, thus, very beneficial to improving knee pain and overall knee health since it plays such a big role in stabilizing the knee.

Moreover, a ripped vastus medialis can really make a difference in your overall leg strength and is a major factor in making your legs look great. 

The thing about the vastus medialis is that it often does not get enough activation with many typical quad exercises, which is why a lot of serious bodybuilders will make sure to include exercises that specifically target the vastus medialis in their strength training routine.

For those who want to know how to seriously improve their quad strength by focusing on the vastus medialis, keep reading. After we breakdown a little bit of quad anatomy, we have included the best 10 vastus medialis exercises available. With these exercises, you can be sure that you are working out your quads in the most efficient and effective way possible. 

Anatomy of the Quad

Quadriceps, or quads for short, is the collective term for the muscles on the front of your thighs. It’s sometimes called the quadriceps femoris, which means four-headed thigh muscle. The primary function of the quadriceps is knee extension.

The four muscles that make up the quadriceps are:

  1. Rectus Femoris  

This is the largest of the quad muscles. It’s also the only one that crosses both the hip and the knee joints, making it a biaxial muscle. Because of this, it not only extends the knee joint but due to its function alongside the hip flexors, it also bends the hip.  

  1. Vastus Lateralis 

Located on the outside of the thigh, this quadricep contributes to the width of your upper leg. It is a uniaxial muscle, which means it only crosses one joint. Because it does not cross your hip, its only function is knee extension. 

  1. Vastus Medialis 

The vastus medialis, which includes the vastus medialis oblique (VMO), is the teardrop-shaped muscle just above your knee. Like the other muscles, it is responsible for knee extension. It also helps make sure your patella or kneecap tracks and moves properly.

  1. Vastus Intermedius 

Located between and beneath vastus lateralis and vastus medialis, this muscle is not easy to see but, when well developed, contributes a lot to the size of your thigh. Despite having four different origin points, the four quadriceps muscles come together to form the single quadriceps tendon and then the patellar ligament. 

The 10 best vastus medialis exercises

Knowing the anatomy of the muscles in your body is important if you're serious about gaining mass. The vastus medialis is just one of the muscles that help make up your lower body, and training it can help contribute to bigger, stronger legs. 

  1. Heel Elevated Back Squat

Squats are the king of leg exercises, just like deadlifts are the king of back exercises. The heel elevated back squat is especially effective at building up your quadriceps, especially the vastus medialis.

By doing squats with a heel elevation, you’re able to drive the knee further forward, placing more muscular tension on the quads.

 How to Do the Heel Elevated Squat:

  1. Grab a weighted plate, dumbbells, or squat wedge. Place your heels on the plate, or object of your choice, and stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart (or however you normally place your feet when performing squats) and your toes on the ground. 
  1. With control, engage your core and glutes, maintaining an upright posture. Keeping your weight evenly distributed throughout your feet, inhale, and as you begin to lower down into a squat, push your hips backward like you were going to sit on a chair. Try to get your hips below your knees but don't force it, and remember to keep your torso vertical and your spine straight.
  1. Hold for one to three seconds, embrace your core, then exhale as you push through your feet to return to the starting position, leading from the crown of your head.
  1. This counts as one rep. 
  1. Hack Squat Machine 

The hack squat machine is a very effective quad exercise. Unlike leg presses, there is very little hamstring involvement in this exercise, especially if you adopt a narrow stance. This puts more pressure on your quads.

How to Use the Hack Squat Machine: 

  1. Load the bars on either side of the hack squat machine's sled with weight plates. The sled is the part that moves up and down with you as you exercise; because the machine moves in only one place, you don't need to put weight collars on the bars. 
  1. Position yourself in the machine again: feet flat on the platform, back against the machine's back pad, shoulders tucked firmly beneath the shoulder pads. Adjust your feet so that when you squat down, your knees won't bend forward past an imaginary line leading straight up from your toes.
  1. Take the weight of the sled on your shoulders, then flip the safety stopper handles out to release the safety stoppers. Let go of the stopper handles. 
  1. Keep your hips and shoulders against the back pad and your heels flat on the foot platform as you bend your knees, squatting down to about a 90-degree angle. Some less-conservative experts recommend stopping just short of full flexion; as a general rule, only go as far as is comfortable.
  1. Straighten your legs, pressing the sled back up to the starting position. 
  1. Reengage the safety stoppers by moving the sled as high on the machine as possible, then flipping the stopper handles back in toward your body. Carefully lower the sled until you feel it engage with the stoppers on both sides. 
  1. Side Lunge 

The side lunge is a great alternative to the regular lunge that specifically targets the vastus medialis. 

How to do a Side Lunge:

  1. Assume a standing position with your toes slightly flared out and your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.
  1. Keeping your left leg straight, bend your right knee and shift your weight to your right side. 
  1. Then, transition to the starting position and repeat on the left side. 
  1. Keep switching legs for a high number of repetitions. 
  1. Barbell Front Squat

The front squat trains the quads just as effectively as the back squat, even when you use less weight.

Moreover, the front squat places considerably less compressive forces on your knees and lower back, which makes it a particularly good quad exercise for bad knees.

How to Do a Front Squat: 

  1. Position a barbell in a squat rack at about the height of your breast bone (usually an inch or two higher than you would for the barbell squat).  
  1. Grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip and your palms facing away from you.  
  1. Step closer to the bar so that it presses against the top of your breast bone and push your elbows up and out in front of the bar.  
  1. With the bar resting on the front of your shoulders and held in place by your hands, lift it out of the rack, take one or two steps backward, and place your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing slightly outward. 
  1. Sit down and remember to keep your back straight, elbows up, and push your knees out in the same direction as your toes throughout each rep.  
  1. Stand up and return to the starting position. 
  1. Leg Extensions

No quad strengthening exercises isolate your quads like leg extensions.

With no movement at your hip, this exercise really activates the three vastus muscles, especially the Vastus Medialis, which is especially active during the last few degrees of knee extension.  

How to Do Leg Extensions: 

  1. Adjust the backrest so that, when you sit on the machine, your knees line up with the lever arm pivot point. Place your feet behind the roller pad, so it’s just above your ankles. 
  1. Straighten your legs, making sure you achieve full knee extension. Pause for 1-2 seconds with your legs straight. 
  1. Bend your legs and lower the weight back down, but do not let it touch the rest of the stack. That would give you a rest between reps, making this exercise less productive. 
  1. Prisoner Squats 

A lot of the best quad exercises require you to use gym equipment, but luckily there are some bodyweight leg exercises that can really blast your quads. Prisoner squats are one of them, and you can do them anywhere!

How to do a Prisoner Squat:

  1. Stand with your feet between shoulder and hip-width apart. Clasp your hands behind your head and push your elbows back to open your chest. 
  1. Push your hips back, bend your knees, and squat down as far as you can without rounding your lower back.
  1. Stand up, but only rise halfway. 
  1. Descend all the way back down and then stand fully upright. That’s one rep. 
  1. Raise your heels 2-4 inches to increase quad activation. 
  1. Bulgarian Split Squats

Most quad exercises work both legs at the same time, which is undeniably important for lifting heavier weights and building muscle, but always working out both legs at the same time can lead to imbalances between your left and right legs.

It's important to have some exercises that work one leg at a time so you can put more focus into one leg and correct these imbalances.  

How to do Bulgarian Split Squats:

  1. Stand with your back to a knee-high bench. Bend one leg and place the top of your foot on the bench behind. Hop forward and into a split stance. 
  1. Bend your legs and lower your rearmost knee to within 1-2 inches of the floor. Keep your body upright. 
  1. Stand back up and repeat. 
  1. Hold dumbbells in your hands to make this exercise harder. 
  1. Squat Jump

Explosive squat jumps activate the quick-twitch muscles in the quads, especially the vastus medialis.

How to Do Squat Jumps: 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  1. Start by doing a regular squat, engage your core, and jump up explosively. 
  1. When you land, lower your body back into the squat position to complete one rep. Make sure you land with your entire foot on the ground. Be sure to land as quietly as possible, which requires control.
  1. Seated Leg Press

Leg presses allow you to work your legs to the max with relative safety. The back support protects your back, and you can just flip the safety catchers across to take the weight if you can’t complete a rep. This makes leg presses an ideal exercise for going heavy with the weight.

How to Do Seated Leg Presses: 

  1. Sit on the leg press machine and place your feet on the footrest, roughly hip-width apart. Move your feet down the footrest to emphasize your quads. A narrower stance will help too. 
  1. Driving through your heels, press the weight up until your knees are straight. 
  1. Lower the weight as far as you can without rounding your lower back. Repeat. 
  1. Low Cable Split Squat

 

This cable-based squat variation is another great exercise for training one leg at a time.

The directional pull from the cable not only guides your path but also acts as a natural cue to drive the knee further forward, placing more tension on the quads. 

How to Do a Low Cable Split Squat:

 

  1. Set the cable attachment on the lowest peg and grasp the handle with the hand opposite from the working leg.  
  1. Take a step back and extend the non-working leg (same side leg that is holding the handle) back to position yourself into a staggered stance.  
  1. Drive the knee forward as far as possible.  
  1. From there, extend the knee and return to the starting position.  

Get Ready for Leg Day 

Now that you know the best exercises for the vastus medialis, you're all set to reach the maximum potential of your quad strength. Leg day can be hard, but with the right information, it can be a lot easier and less stressful.

Plus if you decide not to skip out on leg day, you will be rewarded with the knowledge that you are engaged in a full-body strength training routine, and you will no doubt see some tangible results!