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Exercise Strengthen Your Quadriceps Ligament: the Vastus Medialis Obliquus (VMO) - The Tanzanite of Muscles

Updated on October 04, 2015

We have talked about the longest and largest muscles in our human body, we have identified the need for cardio and we have touched on the efficiency of the squat for changing our metabolism, yet we have left out one of the most beautiful jewels of the human body. For you see, if we view our muscles as a precious gem, the heart would be the diamond - the hardest stone and the most brilliant around all the muscles setting the stage for our great health. Another gem in the human body is the vastus medialis oblique or what I would consider the tanzanite of the human body. It is fairly soft gem, very rare and can be extremely beautiful - all the same characteristics of the beautiful tiny muscle that protects our knee joint.

What is the vastus medialis oblique or commonly referred to as the VMO? It is that beautiful teardrop muscle that often is the weakest and the hardest muscle to actively engage, it resides in the inner thigh next to the kneecap. It is this muscle that offers the protective powers to the knee joint. While all the muscles in the human body are important and the heart and lungs are clearly the reigning king and queen, and the sartorius and quadriceps make up most of the royal court, the VMO is the a relatively tiny soldier in this great kingdom that we call the human body.

The VMO is often the weakest muscle perhaps because of genetics, perhaps because of our new sedentary lifestyle, whatever the underlying reason, we need to know as much as we can about this beautiful muscle that has the power to prevent pain.

Thigh Muscles - VMO Muscle of the Quadricep

Kiana running on the beach with shadows showcasing the leg muscles including the VMO
Kiana running on the beach with shadows showcasing the leg muscles including the VMO | Source

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The Beauty and Function of the VMO and The Beauty of Precious Gems

The VMO is a beautiful muscle of the human body. It is also a muscle that protects our knees. Often we experience knee pain because we have allowed our muscle tone to languish.

While muscle atrophy is caused by not using the muscles enough, research has shown that as we age, we naturally loose muscle tone. This tells us an important story. Toning our muscles as we age is critical for our continued health.

Gems are interesting, if you have never seen an uncut stone and how rough and ugly it is, I encourage you to take the time and research it out on Google images. The tones are fascinating. It is simply amazing how a gemcutter can transform a piece of rough rock into a rare piece of art that is coveted for centuries.

While our muscle will not last for centuries, Our muscles and our health will improve if we act like the gemcutter and pay attention to the beauty that fine muscle tone can offer.

Beyond beauty, muscle tone can prevent pain. Do I have your attention now? If so, please read on and learn more about the beautiful muscles in our legs with special attention given to the difficult to engage VMO.

Vastus Medialis Oblique - A Rare Gem of the Human Body

diagram of the human body showcasing the quadriceps and the VMO vastus medialis oblique
diagram of the human body showcasing the quadriceps and the VMO vastus medialis oblique | Source
diagram showcsing the vastus medialis and how it protects the knee cap and stabilizes the knee joint
diagram showcsing the vastus medialis and how it protects the knee cap and stabilizes the knee joint | Source

VMO and Lack of Research - Fitness Research Remains the Orphan Child

Oh, we all love a mystery and ironically that is exactly what the VMO offers. We have a research theory about the VMO that it actually makes up two parts. What is currently being reported is a fact that I cannot confirm or deny - simply report that we do not have conclusive research.

I find this mystery outstanding given our technology. We can send a man to the moon, watch videos in the palm of our hand and our computers which used to reside in massive towers covering entire rooms now can be placed in our lightweight glasses.

For the lack of fitness research, however, my quote is simply this - "amazing, not surprising, simply amazing."

Fitness research is the orphan child.

No one supports research on fitness with the same level of funding as we do for prescriptions or for surgery. Physicians don't prescribe exercise, physicians don't even address the education of health but they do hand out the need for surgery and they with the pharmaceuticals make a bundle on innovative drugs.

Should we have a better understanding of this muscle - absolutely! It is no wonder they people are sent to physical therapy with trail and error results. If we don't fully understand it - how can we possibly train for it? Are all knee patients educated on the location of the VMO? I wasn't when I went to therapy - perhaps I was an anomaly?

Anatomy of the Quadricep Muscles

Known Knowledge of the VMO

"The Vastus Medialis is one of five muscles that reside in the anterior compartment of the thigh. The vasti muscles appear to act largely in a co-ordinated manner throughout the control of knee extension. The vastus medialis contributes to correct tracking of the patella[1] and characteristics of the vastus medialis, including its angle of insertion, correlate with presence of patellofemoral joint pain.[2] However, this syndrome is complex and definitive evidence of causality has not yet been published.

A division of the vastus medialis muscle into two populations of fibers has been hypothesized:

  1. one population is thought to be long and relatively inline with the quadriceps ligament: the vastus medialis longus (VML)
  2. the other is thought to be shorter and more obliquely oriented with respect to the quadriceps ligament: the vastus medialis obliquus (VMO).

At the present time, there is insufficient evidence to conclusively confirm or deny this hypothesis.[3] For clinical and rehabilitation purposes, the vastus medialis is often referred to simply as the VMO in reference to its potentially important role in correct patellar tracking and prevention of patellofemoral joint syndrome."

Muscles of the Lower Extremity - Protect Your Knees

diagram of the leg muscles showcasing the
diagram of the leg muscles showcasing the | Source

Tendon

Definition: "A tendon (or sinew) is a tough band of fibrous connective tissue that usually connects muscle to bone and is capable of withstanding tension."

Ligament

Definition: "a ligament is the fibrous tissue that connects bones to other bones."

Oblique

Definition: "a muscle neither parallel nor perpendicular to the long axis of a body or limb."

Anatomy of the Quadricep

anatomy of the quadricep muscles - the four heads in color and labelled vastus intermedius Recutus femoris, vastus laterals, vastus medialis
anatomy of the quadricep muscles - the four heads in color and labelled vastus intermedius Recutus femoris, vastus laterals, vastus medialis | Source

Understanding the VMO and the Meaning of the Words

To understand this tiny, beautiful muscle, we must understand the terms behind it. Let's start with the last word - "oblique". Oblique is a a muscle neither parallel nor perpendicular to the long axis of a body or limb. We often hear this term for the abdominal muscles. If you look at the muscles of the human body we are not built like tinker toys with perfectly perpendicular lines.

Like fine jewelry, the human body houses muscles with beautiful swirls that can travel in a slanted fashion, surrounding joints and serving to protect them.

This is the essence of this beautiful teardrop leg muscle we have nicknamed the VMO.

So then what does "vastus" mean? One definition I found is very simple - "vastus one of the great muscles upon the front of the thigh", another listed the vastus as a resistor. Here is the long story about the vastus:

"The Vastus Medialis is one of five muscles that reside in the anterior compartment of the thigh. The vasti muscles appear to act largely in a co-ordinated manner throughout the control of knee extension. The vastus medialis contributes to correct tracking of the patella[1] and characteristics of the vastus medialis, including its angle of insertion, correlate with presence of patellofemoral joint pain.[2] However, this syndrome is complex and definitive evidence of causality has not yet been published."

Having stated all that my layman's response is the vastus is a great muscle, a great resistor that serves to provide support to the knee joint. While it mentions the knee cap - and the VMO may serve more of the cap rather than the joint medically, from my personal knowledge of my own body, I find when my VMO is stronger, I have less knee joint pain.

I am not a medical professional, I am simply a babyboomer who has lived and survived without surgery so far knee pain.

From a simple standpoint, I would describe the VMO as a rare gem, a soft gem to be protected and greatly coveted in our human body. To me, the VMO is the tanzanite of all gems.

Sartorius, Rectus Femoris, Vastus Intermedius, Vastus Lateralis and Vastus Medialis Oblique

We have discussed at length the fact that the sartorius is the longest muscle in the human body (I couldn't resist the pun - forgive me!). And we have mentioned that the quadriceps are the largest muscles in the human body.

So we have learned why the leg muscles play such an important part not just in function but also in changing our metabolism. Research has proven that we can change our metabolism if we change our muscle structure.

So target toning the largest and longest muscles really make logical sense.

Yet, we have not describe in detail the four muscles that comprise the "quads" of the quadriceps. We all know quad means four but can you list the four muscles that comprise the quadriceps?


Various Colors of the Tanzanite Gem

chart showcasing the various colors of the tanzanite gem
chart showcasing the various colors of the tanzanite gem | Source

Investment Grade Tanzanite and Investment Grade Muscle Tone

We have a more precise grading of gemstones than we have of grading muscle tone. Yes, we can quantify our fat with BMI but where do we ever grade our muscle tone?

The tanzanite is a gem that is softer than the sapphire and of course, all gems are softer than the diamond. The diamond is the hardest precious gem known to mankind (see the Mohs chart for further details).

Mohs Hardness Scale of Gems in Layman Terms

colorful chart with purple and pinks in the background that details in layman's terms the Mohs hardness of precious and semi-precious gems
colorful chart with purple and pinks in the background that details in layman's terms the Mohs hardness of precious and semi-precious gems | Source

Should there be a grade of muscle strength? Similar to the gem strength?

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Learn the Beautiful Gems of the Human Body

The human body offers us more than just function, it offers a beauty if we take the time to understand the muscle group, its function and how it is more than just a beautiful gem.

We covet jewels but sadly we rarely covet the muscles that are truly our precious gems.

What are your thoughts about the muscles of the human body? Do you consider our muscles valuable jewels?

I wish we had a MOHS grading scale where an app could diagnose my quadricep muscle and grade my exercise progress in the same visual manner we grade precious gems.

Do you look at your muscles in wonder and awe as I do? Or have you just never had a change to give it a second thought?

I hope I motivated you to forever the change the paradigm of fitness and the muscles in the human body.

Please if you have time, drop me a line and share your experiences with fitness. Should fitness and the attainment of muscles be more coveted than diamonds and other gems and precious metals?

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© 2014 Kelly A Burnett

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    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The VMO is something I am learning about here - thanks so much for the quality write!

    • Easy Exercise profile image
      Author

      Kelly A Burnett 3 years ago from United States

      ChristyWrites,

      I was surprised myself to learn so much about it when I was researching the knees. It was difficult to find at first but then when I hit the body builder term of teardrop then the doors opened up very wide. I wish I was taught this in my doctor's office or when I was in grade schools. There are essential pieces of education we are leaving out and this is a critical piece.

      Also I was surprised to see the researches detail the lack of research. We know the VMO stabilizes the knee but there were still a number of assumptions made.

      It is a sad statement when we have the technology that we have and yet our knowledge of fitness is the size of a dust mite in comparison to the tanker load of options available to us for prescriptions and for surgery.

      The VMO I think is a cool muscle to learn about. I truly believe it is a hidden gem.

      Thank you so much for stopping by. You are an outstanding writer whom I greatly admire, I am honored you stopped by and shared.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 22 months ago from Long Island, NY

      You definitely did your research and you wrote a very useful and educational hub on the muscles surrounding the knee. A long time ago I had trouble with one knee and I went to physical therapy, which helped. My doctor never taught me about the muscles however. Then more recently I tore my rotator cuff by using my shoulder in the wrong way lifting heavy objects. As you mentioned, doctors don't care to educate patients. And we never learn these things in school either. I think it's important.

      I agree with you that people can lead healthier lives if they understood their muscles and tendons better. I know, I for one, would have avoided tearing my rotator cuff. Since then I've educated myself and actually avoided surgery by understanding how to retrain the existing muscles to take over from the torn tendon. This goes to show what education can achieve. And your hub is very helpful with respect to the VMO of the knee.

    • Easy Exercise profile image
      Author

      Kelly A Burnett 22 months ago from United States

      Hi Glenn,

      Oh, the need for research! And oh, how I wish our medical group would marry into fitness. The muscles can help the joints.

      And the shoulder injury, in my personal experience, is the single most painful and the easiest injury to avoid. But alas our education is just not there - yet! I remain hopeful that we will get our act together and realize that some movements are only for the elite in fitness - the pull-up and some of the machine movements are not meant for 80-90% of the populace. That doesn't mean we are sub-class - it means we must build to that elite level before extending that movement.

      I love Cross Fit and greatly admire the founder Greg Glassman but Cross Fit along with all other exercise professionals have not yet "segregated" exercises - yes, exercises need to be "segregated". That is a strong statement but the pain from a rotator cuff injury, in my opinion (please remember I am not a physician) is excruciating. I have had friend after friend share with me that they injured their rotator cuff during exercise - some during Cross Fit - some with an elite certified personal trainer (yes, with 30 years behind him!). I greatly appreciate you mentioning this in hopes that we allow the medical/fitness world to team together to denote exercise is always great, but some exercise movements need to be done only after accomplishing strong cardio and strong muscles.

      I get mad when a preventable injury occurs or when doctors don't "teach" fitness and how the muscles protect the knees. This is not "rocket science" - this is our body and we all need this information.

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