Do Front Squats Work the VMO?

Get that teardrop-shaped muscle to pop.
i Jupiterimages/ Images

Strong quadriceps require dedicated time and work. Defined quads require even more. One of the most visible parts of the quadriceps is the vastus medialis oblique. This muscle is located on the inner thigh just above the knee cap and, when it's developed, forms a teardrop shape. If you currently lack this definition, front squats will work the VMO and give your quads a strong, athletic appearance.

VMO Anatomy

The vastus medialis is one of the four muscles that makes up the quadriceps. The vastus medialis is located on the front of the inner thigh and assists the other three muscles in knee extension. The inferior, or lowest, portion of the muscle is referred to as the VMO. These muscle fibers are responsible for stabilizing the knee cap. When the VMO fibers are weak, your knee cap will not track properly, which can lead to knee pain or injury.

Front Squat Technique

To use a front squat to strengthen your VMO, you've got to be able to perform the squat properly. Begin by standing with your legs about shoulder-width apart. If you're using additional resistance, position a barbell across your upper chest and the front of your shoulders, securing it in place with an overhand grip. Alternately, hold dumbbells in each hand or just use your body weight. Stabilize your abdomen, slightly arch your low back and look straight ahead. Maintain this position throughout the exercise. Inhale deeply and bend your knees to lower into a squat. Lower until your thighs reach horizontal, checking that your toes don't extend beyond your knees, then press through your heels to extend your legs and return to the upright position. Exhale at the end of the movement.

Activation of the VMO

Although front squats do work the VMO, you can increase the activation of these muscle fibers and improve strength gains. The VMO is more fully activated during the final degrees of knee extension -- concentrate on locking out your knees at the top of the front squat. The other end of the squat is also important for working the VMO -- squatting past parallel activates the VMO. If you choose to follow this advice, do so intelligently. If you have to break form or if your thighs rest on your calves, your thighs are not strong enough or you lack hip flexibility. Lower your weight, reduce your squat depth and work on improving flexibility and strength before further pursuing deep squats.

VMO Workout Tips

If your goal is to have strong thighs, then the front squat alone may not be enough. A few other exercises, including the step-up, split squat and bicycling, work the VMO. Cycling can be done every day, but strength exercises should be done only every other day with at least 48 hours in between sessions to allow your muscles to fully recover. Perform two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions of each strength exercise.


If you suspect you have a VMO weakness, do not try to self-diagnose. Seek medical advice from a qualified professional such as an orthopaedic surgeon, physical therapist or sports medicine specialist. Consult with your health care provider before beginning a new exercise program.

the nest