Vastus Lateralis & Intermedius Exercises

Woman weightlifting in exercise class

The vastus lateralis and vastus intermedius are two of the four muscles that make up the quadriceps group at the front of your upper thighs. The quadriceps is responsible extending your knee joints, and it often works alongside the glutes and calves when squatting, stepping and lunging. The vastus lateralis is located toward the outside of your thigh, while the intermedius is located at the center underneath the rectus femoris, a fellow quadricep muscle. When working your quads, give them 48 hours of healing and rest between sessions.


Having strong quads means you’ll be able to squat down and perform lower body movements with ease, and you won’t have any problem climbing stairs or lowering down to pick something up off the floor. Athletes build their quads to improve their performance on the field or court because of the muscle group’s heavy involvement in jumping, sprinting and squatting.

Isolation Exercise

You can isolate the vastus lateralis and vastus intermedius, as well as the other quadriceps muscles, by performing leg extensions. This involves sitting at a leg extension machine, which is available at most fitness facilities, and straightening your knees against resistance. By slightly turning your toes inward, you can better target the vastus lateralis at the outside of the legs, but all four quadriceps are involved any time you extend your knees.

Compound Exercises

Compound exercises involve movement around multiple joints. Activities such as squats, lunges and step-ups effectively build strength and tone in the quadriceps because they force the knees to extend against resistance. Simultaneously, your glutes extend your hips, and your calves plantar flex your calves. Squats involve setting your feet shoulder-width apart and then pushing your hips back and bending your knees to lower your hips to the floor. Lunges force each leg to work independently: Take a large step forward with one leg and then bend that lead knee to lower your hips, switching legs every time. Step-ups require a box or bench, and your knees extend as you step up onto the platform.


Compound exercises more closely mimic the type of movements you perform in your daily life. You’re not likely to perform movements where your quadriceps works alone, unless you’re sitting in a chair and straightening your legs. The quads work in coordination with your glutes and calves, so your leg workouts should feature more compound quadriceps exercises than isolation ones.