I have a client who is about to be given a professional contract with a premier league football club, but his vastus medialis on both quads are under developed and weak. What specific strength/functional strength exercises should I prescribe to counteract this?
Thanks for your question and client concern! To be successful in training and conditioning, it is important to delineate between functional anatomy and anatomical anatomy, seeing as its functional anatomy that makes up how we exercise. Anatomical anatomy books will tell us that the quads extend the knee concentrically (which they can), yet in movements that include gravity, ground reaction forces, momentum, etc., they:
- Provide anterior stabilization of the knee via deceleration of flexion (when we hit the ground).
- Act as the primary shock absorber of the lower extremity. Coordinates with subtalar joint pronation. Knee flexion is created by gravity and the heel rocker mechanism (proper foot function).
- Vastus Medialis Oblique decelerates knee pronation (femoral internal rotation). Pulls the patella away from the lateral femoral condyle.
- Create an external rotary force on the femur due to its lateral angle of pull and patellar contact with the lateral femoral condyle.
So, as you can see, functional anatomy is much more complex than our anatomy books lead us to believe. The take home is simple. First, work on enhancing your athlete’s ability to decelerate in all planes of motion (sagittal, frontal and transverse). For example, a multiplanar single leg squat from the up-to-down position accomplishes the above mentioned function. If you were to follow anatomical anatomy, you would apply a leg extension exercise resulting in POOR results when the athlete (or any client) returned to a gravity-based field (life). For more great information, please refer to Gary Gray’s Functional Video Digest Series titled The Knee-Volume 1.1.