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Most guys who strive for physical excellence grow up with the idea ingrained into them. It’s not something that they necessarily want to do, but they know that thigh strength and mass must be built with plenty of barbell squats. Indeed, squats are a wonderful way to build the base of thigh mass and largely, it’s hard to find an overall exercise that’s quite as effective as the squat. However, squats activate a large bulk of the fibers in the quadriceps group of the anterior thigh without much discrimination to which muscles are selected. That’s fine if every muscle belly in your thighs grow at the same rate, but it’s disastrous to someone who wants to achieve a certain degree of balance and symmetry while showing each ripped muscle fiber in the anterior thigh.

Thigh symmetry is something most people have to work on. Sometimes the medial side of the thigh is great, but there’s absolutely no sweep at all to the outside of the thigh. Alternatively, the lateral (outside) sweep of their thighs is adequate or maybe even good, but the medial (inside) thigh, especially just above the knee, is flat. One area that will really distinguish a great thigh from a good thigh is the development of the “teardrop” shape of the lower thigh, just above the knee joint, while showing superior separation in each of the muscles of the quadriceps.

Overview of the Vastus Muscles

The three vastus muscles make up the majority of the anterior thigh. The vastus medialis is attached to the medial (inner) part of the femur bone (thigh bone) and it forms a teardrop-like shape just above and to the medial side of the knee when it’s well developed. The vastus lateralis muscle is attached to the lateral (outer) part of the femur. The vastus intermedius is attached to the femur and is located intermediately between the vastus lateralis and the vastus medialis. The fibers of all three vasti muscles converge on the quadriceps tendon, which crosses the patella (kneecap) to attach to the tibia bone just below the knee. The quadriceps tendon changes its name as it crosses the patella, where it’s called the patellar ligament.

The three vasti muscles have one primary function, which is to extend the leg at the knee joint. In addition, a small part of the vastus medialis muscle, the vastus medialis oblique (VMO), attaches to

the medial part of the patella and it’s thought to help the patella track properly during movement of the knee. The patella won’t track properly and it will pull to the lateral side if the VMO is weaker than the muscles on the lateral side of the thigh. This sets up a potential knee injury for anyone who’s sprinting, jogging or even walking upstairs. Clearly, if a weak vastus medialis (or disproportionately weak relative to the other muscles in the quadriceps) is problematic for low, stress-filled activities, you can only imagine the disaster that awaits someone with this muscle imbalance who’s doing a gut-busting set of leg presses or heavy, deep squats.

The vastus medialis and especially the VMO part of this muscle is primarily responsible for tibial rotation (rotation of the tibia bone of the lower leg on the femur) during knee extensions. This rotation or “twist” has been shown to increase the activation of the VMO portion of the vastus lateralis even more than doing knee extensions with the hip adducted (thigh rotated so that the medial portion of the knee is facing mostly upward). Dorsiflexion of the foot (moving the ankles so the toes are pointing toward your head) increases the activation of the VMO by more than 20 percent. This is because the dorsiflexor muscles stabilize the tibia during knee flexion and resist rotation of the tibia on the femur as the knee straightens.

Single-Leg Knee Extensions With a Twist

The three vastus muscles of the anterior thigh are strongly activated by single-leg knee extensions. By adding a twist, you’ll be able to directly activate the VMO portion of the vastus medialis muscle.

1. You should always warm your knees up thoroughly before doing any direct exercise. This is especially important if knee extensions don’t follow another thigh exercise. A few minutes of stretching and some stationary cycling are well worth the investment in protecting and warming up the delicate knee joints.

2. Adjust the seat of a knee extension machine so that the pivot point of the lifting arm is directly adjacent to the center of the side of your knee joint. Next, place the ankle roller of the knee extension machine so that it’s above the foot on the lower part of the leg (above the ankle joint).

3. For the first repetition, it’s a good idea to lift the weight with both legs. This is to reduce the stretch and tension that will otherwise be transmitted through the quadriceps tendon to the patella just to obtain enough inertia to lift the weight from the rest of the stack. Straighten both knees so the weight is lifted from the stack.

4. After the initial lift, let the working limb take over and lower the weight. The lift should be slow and controlled, unless you’re fond of tendon, ligament and cartilage damage.

5. The next repetition upward should be done solely by the working leg. This time, about halfway up (and well before the knees are straight), you should begin to dorisflex (pull the toes upward toward your face) the toes of the foot on the exercising leg. At the same time, you should try to rotate the leg inward so the inside of the knee (the side where the vastus medialis sits) is rotated medially (i.e., toward the inside part of the other thigh). If you do it correctly, the big toe of the exercising foot will be facing inward as if you’re pigeon-toed and the surface of the vastus medialis will rotate toward the midline of your body. This “twist,” or rotation, will help to activate the vastus medialis and dorsiflexion, which will help to stabilize the joint and increase activation of the VMO part of the vastus medialis.

6. At the end of the lift upward, the knee joint should be straight, but just slightly short of a total knee lockout. Be careful that you don’t “jam” the knee joint into a fully locked-out position, because this could cause knee cartilage damage, especially with heavy weights. Hold the top position for a count of three before lowering the weight.

7. Lower the weight slowly as you untwist the movement back to the starting position where your knee is flexed to 90 degrees. Just before the weight stack contacts the remaining plates at the bottom, start lifting it upward for the next repetition (yes, with the same leg!).

8. After you finish the first leg of your first set, take a short break and then start with the next leg. As before, start the first repetition with both legs then let your working limb take the load. Complete the set on the second leg and get off of the extension machine and stretch the entire quadriceps group of the exercised limbs.

If you really want to kick your training to the next notch, try adding four to five forced repetitions at the end of your last set or two. As you reach the point of failure (for example, with your right leg) use just enough help from the non-working leg to get the weight to the top, then let the working leg take over completely to lower the weight. Repeat the lowering of the weight with the fatigued right limb and lift the weight upward with both limbs until you’ve completed your forced reps. The downward movement should be slower than the upward phase because you’re resisting the pull of gravity. Start with only one set of forced repetitions following your last set; otherwise you’ll find it very hard to go up and down the stairs for the next few days.

If you’re someone who has a poorly developed vastus medialis and VMO and you want to carve that teardrop into your lower thighs, then you should make sure you’re carefully completing the twists as you’re extending your legs. Even without the twists, the leg extension is a great way to carve and thicken the muscle bellies of each of the vasti muscles. This exercise is certainly not for the faint of heart, especially if you’re adding forced repetitions to the mix. However, if you see this pain as an investment, and if you have the discipline and the drive to push through the torched-enhanced repetitions (especially during the final stages of this exercise), you’ll soon be enjoying your new shape and slabs of shredded, vastus beef.


1. Andersen LL, Magnusson SP, Nielsen M, Haleem J, Poulsen K and Aagaard P. Neuromuscular activation in conventional therapeutic exercises and heavy resistance exercises: implications for rehabilitation. Phys Ther, 86: 683-697, 2006.

2. Coburn JW, Housh TJ, Cramer JT, Weir JP, Miller JM, Beck TW, Malek MH and Johnson GO. Mechanomyographic and electromyographic responses of the vastus medialis muscle during isometric and concentric muscle actions. J Strength Cond Res, 19: 412-420, 2005.

3. Coburn JW, Housh TJ, Malek MH, Weir JP, Cramer JT, Beck TW and Johnson GO. Mechanomyographic and electromyographic responses to eccentric muscle contractions. Muscle Nerve, 33: 664-671, 2006.

4. Gomez TR, Ma F, Adams JB, Stoutenberg M and Signorile JF. The impact of seatback angle on electromyographical activity of the lower back and quadriceps muscles during bilateral knee extension. J Strength Cond Res, 19: 908-917, 2005.

5. Laaksonen MS, Kyrolainen H, Kalliokoski KK, Nuutila P and Knuuti J. The association between muscle EMG and perfusion in knee extensor muscles. Clin Physiol Funct Imaging, 26: 99-105, 2006.

6. Stoutenberg M, Pluchino AP, Ma F, Hoctor JE and Signorile JF. The impact of foot position on electromyographical activity of the superficial quadriceps muscles during leg extension. J Strength Cond Res, 19: 931-938, 2005.

The post Get Ripped Quads With Single-Leg Extensions appeared first on FitnessRX for Men.

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By: Stephen E. Alway, Ph.D., FACSM
Title: Get Ripped Quads With Single-Leg Extensions
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Published Date: Fri, 13 Jan 2023 17:16:21 +0000

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Skill of the Week: Open a Can Without a Can Opener

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A man’s ability to adapt to any situation is an important part of his masculinity. We’ll be republishing an illustrated guide from our archive every Sunday so that you can improve your manly knowledge week by week.

Remember the scene from The Road, where the boy and father find a perfectly stocked, untouched survival bunker? They happily gawk as they take crate after can of canned goods. It’s an oasis in otherwise desolate and apocalyptic terrain. The two open the cans using a can opener and prepare a meal of canned peaches and pears. “They licked their spoons, tipped their bowls and drunk the sweet syrup.”

What if the father and son didn’t find a can opener in their supplies? As long as they were aware of some other opening methods, it was not a problem.

Cans of food, despite their appearance, are actually made from a thin layer of aluminum. It’s easy to exploit the cans’ weakness using a variety tools. If you ever find yourself without a jar opener, here are three easy ways to open your food.

Ted Slampyak is the illustrator.

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Baller Awards

‘Bogotá Story’ Takes Top Prize at Palm Springs International ShortFest

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PALM SPRINGS, CA (June 23, 2024) – The 2024 Palm Springs International ShortFest announced its Festival juried and audience award winners as part of the Awards Brunch at the Renaissance Hotel Palm Springs. Awards and cash prizes worth $25,000 including five Academy Award® qualifying awards were presented to the winners selected from the 310 short […]


By: Joey Moser
Title: ‘Bogotá Story’ Takes Top Prize at Palm Springs International ShortFest
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Published Date: Sun, 23 Jun 2024 20:47:53 +0000

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Frontier Adventure

Astronomers See a Black Hole Wake Up from its Ancient Slumber

Four years ago, the supermassive black hole hidden in the heart of galaxy SDSS1335+0728 roared awake and announced its presence with a blast of radiation. It marks the first time astronomers witnessed a sudden activation of a supermassive black hole in real time.

“Imagine you’ve been observing a distant galaxy for years, and it always seemed calm and inactive,” said Paula Sánchez Sáez, an astronomer at ESO in Germany and lead author of the study of this object. “Suddenly, its [core] starts showing dramatic changes in brightness, unlike any typical events we’ve seen before.”

This is what happened to SDSS1335+0728, which is now officially classified as having an active galactic nucleus (AGN). It experienced what’s called a “nuclear transient.” Essentially, that means the galaxy now has a very bright compact region. However, it wasn’t always that bright and astronomers want to understand what caused it to wake up.

This artist’s impression shows two stages in the formation of a disc of gas and dust around the massive black hole at the center of the galaxy SDSS1335+0728. The core of this galaxy lit up in 2019 and keeps brightening today — the first time astronomers observed a massive black hole become active as it happened. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Looking for Transients in all the Right Places

The unusual brightness variations were detected by the Zwicky Transient Facility in California, which gives constant, real-time alerts about such things as transient flaring and brightening in the hearts of galaxies like SDSS1335+0728. In addition, several other facilities observed the variations, too, and brightness changes were found in archival data from several other observatories.

The sudden brightenings could be due to many things, including the cannibalization of stars and clouds of gas that stray too near supermassive black holes. How often they brighten and how a quiescent galaxy nucleus changes to an active one are topics that astronomers are using such surveys and observations to understand. They’re looking not just at distant galaxies, but activity within the neighborhood of our own galaxy’s supermassive black hole, too.

Galaxy and Its Supermassive Black Hole

Most galaxies have stupendously massive black holes at their hearts. They typically sequester away at least a hundred thousand times the mass of the Sun (sometimes more). It’s all trapped by gravity and nothing ever escapes, not even light. “These giant monsters usually are sleeping and not directly visible,” said study co-author Claudio Ricci, from Chile’s Diego Portales University. “In the case of SDSS1335+0728, we were able to observe the awakening of the massive black hole, [which] suddenly started to feast on gas available in its surroundings, becoming very bright.”

A black hole itself doesn’t emit any light at all. Instead, it sucks everything in, including light. However, the region around the black hole—called the accretion disk—is a pretty active place. It’s where material trapped by the intense gravitational pull of the black hole swirls around like water going down a drain. All that stuff—mostly gas, some dust—is threaded through with magnetic fields. Friction between accretions of the material heats it up. And, that act of heating gives off radiation. If there’s enough of it, we see light being given off. Intense active regions emit x-rays, which indicate the level of activity.

Gravity’s Slice-and-dice Activity

There’s also something called tidal disruption, which happens when something like a star or a cloud of gas gets trapped in the gravitational field. These things take time—on the order of years to occur. When they happen, the gravitational pull of the black hole eventually rips the star or cloud apart. That also gives off radiation. In fact, a very slow-motion tidal disruption event may be occurring at the heart of SDSS1335+0728. If so, it could be one of the longest and dimmest ones ever seen.

Regardless of what’s causing the brightening, the ultimate fate of some of the material is to end up inside the black hole. The rest of it gets superheated in the accretion disk and signals its fate through increased radiation.

Black Hole Growth and a Wake-up Call

The supermassive black holes in the hearts of galaxies grow from smaller ones to larger ones through mergers. We don’t see those growth patterns in real time, since they occur over millions of years. The merger scenario says that when galaxies come together, their central black holes (if they have them) do, too.

Simulation of merging supermassive black holes. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Scott NobleDid you miss our previous article…

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