What is the muscle right above the knee?
Ah, that muscle above your knee. The one that pops out like a shiny new vein when you flex your leg and makes it look like you’ve got some sort of tentacle growing out from under your flesh? Yeah, that one. It’s kind of weird-looking, but hey – so are most of our body parts if we really stop and think about it.
So what’s up with this mysterious appendage? How did it get there, what does it do, and how can we make sure we’re taking care of it properly? In this article (sorry), I’m going to answer all those questions (don’t say I never did anything for ya)!
First off: Let’s Get Terminology-Friendly
Before we dive in too deep (knee-deep, amirite?), let’s make sure we’re all on the same page regarding some key terms:
- Quadriceps femoris: This is the big ol’ muscle group at the front of your thigh. You know, the one(s) responsible for making stairs evil.
- Patella: Aka “the kneecap”. Sorry for that cringe-inducing word combo.
- Tibia: One half of the lower-leg bone duo.
- Fibula: The other half.
With those vocab words credited where they belong (Merriam Webster had nothing to do with them), let’s boogie on down to…
A Brief Anatomy Lesson
The muscle in question here is called the vastus medialis oblique (VMO)(which sounds super smart until you find out everyone calls it by its acronym). It lives (figuratively; don’t worry – no creepy crawlies involved here) within our good friend Quadricep Land and attaches just below our patella.
This pocket-sized powerhouse might be small compared to its neighboring quads, but it’s mighty. Its main job is to help stabilize our knee and control the direction of our kneecap – and if that doesn’t sound important, just imagine trying to enjoy a game of basketball or volleyball with an unstable knee-out-of-whack situation. Yikes.
So Why Does It Look So Freakin’ Weird?
If you’re anything like me (and let’s face it, you probably are since we all have the same bone structure unless some sort of mad scientist altered your DNA), you may have noticed that your VMO sometimes seems kinda…bubbly. Like there’s a separate lump nestled within the bigger quadricep muscle.
Don’t freak out (remember: VMO = helpful friend, not evil entity); this is totally normal! That “lump” is actually just where the fibers of the VMO attach in a way that makes them look more defined. Think of it as a little optical illusion bonus for fitness enthusiasts!
How Can I Take Care Of My VMO?
Now here comes perhaps one of the most pressing questions (besides “Does Chipotle really put addicting chemicals in their guac?”):
How do we strengthen this bad boy?!
Well, first things first – any exercises which target our larger quad muscles will engage our VMO as well. This includes classics like squats and lunges.
But if you want to really hone in on making those Vs pop (
--and by "Vs", I mean both victory signs AND visible vastus medialis), try incorporating these accessory moves into your workout routine:
Terminal Knee Extensions
1) Sit on edge of sturdy chair or bench (this isn’t time for slouching off regular ol’ chairs!)
2) Securely tie exercise tubing around lower leg
3) Place towel roll under back thigh so knee hangs off bench
4) Extend knee, hold at count of two and slowly lower
--Speaking from experience, make sure you're in a clear area while attempting these to avoid accidentally beaning your neighbor with the unassuming tubing)
Bodyweight Band Abduction Squats
1) Loop an exercise band above both knees (Or if that was too technical, just shove one through the other)
2) Standing feet shoulder distance apart.
3) Lower into squat position.
4) Keep tension on band by pushing out against resistance.
--This is some next-level leg day stuff; feel free to strut around like a boss when completing it.)
Incorporating these moves (in addition to any quad-targeted workouts already in your routine`) will help ensure a healthy VMO and stabilize your knee for years of good arch-nemesis-fighting balance!
At the end of the day (which may or may not be conveniently aligned with leg day), our little ole pal VMO might seem like just another muscle – but don’t let appearances deceive you. This guy has some important work he’s doing behind-the-scenes (
--well, kneecap-scene) to keep us moving smoothly and without injury. So give him some love via those accessory exercises mentioned earlier (and/or regular sleeveless-tunic-and-gold-mesh outfit compliments) – chances are he’ll thank you for it!