Knee Cap Exercises
for Patellar Maltracking

Knee cap exercises can be really helpful in reducing knee pain.  They strengthen the VMO muscles (Vastus Medialis Oblique) around the patella improving how the kneecap moves.

The VMO muscles are part of the quadriceps muscles and are found on the inner side of the knee. Their job is to control the kneecap movement, known as patellar tracking. They hold the kneecap in the middle of the patellar groove so it glides smoothly during any leg movement.

If the kneecap muscles are weak, the kneecap shifts slightly to the outer side of the knee. This prevents it from moving properly, known as patellar maltracking, which leads to pain and irritation. Knee cap pain is common and is often caused by conditions such as Runners Knee and Chondromalacia Patella.

Why Do Knee Cap Exercises?

The VMO muscles should be working the whole time when the knee moves, but if there is knee pain or there has been a kneecap injury such as a dislocation, they often switch off and stop working properly. Regular quads strengthening exercises e.g. squats and lunges, don’t specifically target the VMO muscles. They need to be strengthened in a slightly different way.

Here you will find some easy to perform yet effective knee cap exercises for the VMO muscles. They will improve your patellar tracking and the stability of your knee.

Finding the Knee Cap Muscles

The VMO knee cap muscles are extremely important for controlling how the patella moves

Before you can strengthen the knee cap muscles, you need to know how to make sure they are working.

Sit comfortably in a chair and put your fingers at the top of your kneecap. Move your fingers up an inch, and inwards an inch so you are on a soft fleshy bit – this is the VMO. Push your knee and foot down into the floor and you should feel the muscle tighten/clench under your fingers.

It might take a few goes before you feel this – keep practising. When you are doing any of the knee cap exercises below, keep checking that you can feel the VMO muscles working.

Knee Cap Exercises

Once you are happy that your VMO muscles are working, you can start doing these exercises. Get the hang of stages 1 and 2 before moving on to stage 3.

1) VMO Stage 1

Starting Position: Sit in a chair, feet hip width apart with a soft football in between your knees

Knee Cap Exercises.  Approved use by

Action: Clench your buttocks, clench your knees and gently squeeze the ball with your knees. Hold for 3-5 secs and relax

Repetition: Repeat 10-20x, 2x daily

Tips: 1) Feel for the VMO muscle tightening with your fingers
2) When you squeeze the ball, make sure the squeezing movement comes from your knees, not your hips

2) VMO Stage 2

Starting Position: Lying on your back with a pillow under your knees so knees are bent 30°. Feet hip width apart with a soft football in between your knees

Action: Squeeze the football as with stage 1 ex (clench buttocks and knee muscles) and then lift the foot of the weak leg up off the bed, straightening the knee. Hold for 3 secs, slowly lower the leg and finally relax the knee.

Repetition: Repeat 10-20x, 2x daily

Note: Ensure that you keep squeezing the ball throughout the exercise – keep the knee and buttock clench going throughout.
2) Keep the knee resting on the pillow – do not lift it up

3) VMO Stage 3

Starting Position: Stand with your back against the wall, feet hip width apart about 10cm away from the wall. Place a soft football in between your knees

Action: Squeeze the ball as with stage 1 & 2 (clench knees and buttocks) and then slowly squat down as far as comfortable. Hold for 3 secs and come back up

Repetition: Repeat 10-20x, 2x daily

Progression: Progress the exercise by gradually increasing the depth of the squat but take care not to aggravate your knee pain.

What Next?

Once you have got the hang of these knee cap exercises you can incorporate the VMO clenches into your other exercises such as squats and lunges. Visit the knee exercises section for help finding the right exercises for different knee problems to help you beat your knee pain.

You can also visit the knee cap pain section to find out more about the common causes of patella problems.

Go to Knee Treatment Guide or Homepage

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