ACL injuries happen to the best of us, an unfortunate consequence of pushing your body to its limits. However, you can reduce the risk of an ACL injury by strengthening your VMO.
The vastus medialis oblique, the VMO, is one of four quadriceps muscles. If you flex your quads, you'll notice a large tear-drop-shaped muscle toward the inner part of your thigh. That's your VMO.
According to Ryan Flaherty, founder of Prolific Athletes (Carlsbad, California) and strength coach for elite athletes like Marcus Mariota, a strong VMO improves knee stability, especially during multi-directional movements. Flaherty cites research findings that many ACL injuries in football players can be attributed to an underdeveloped VMO. To help his athletes avoid ACL injuries, he makes VMO strengthening a priority.
Flaherty's go-to exercise is Band Two-Way Touches. Although it doesn't look like it strengthens a part of your quads—you're probably accustomed to Leg Extensions—this move lights your VMO on fire.
In the video above, Flaherty provides instruction. One leg moves, while the weight is over the stationary leg. You actually work the VMO of the stationary leg, which gives you an idea of how it functions as a stabilizer. You don't move the muscle, but you will feel it working.
Perform this exercise once or twice per week to build strength in your VMO and prevent ACL injuries.
Band Two-Way Touches
- Wrap a resistance band around your left ankle and attach the opposite end to a fixed position.
- Stand in a quarter-squat position with your feet hip-width apart and the band to your left.
- Remove all slack in the band.
- With all your weight on your right leg, tap your left foot on the ground about 2 feet to the side and again directly under your body.
- Continue for the specified number of reps and repeat with your left leg.
- Repeat with the resistance band positioned behind your body.
Sets/Reps: 3x25 each leg, each variation
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