Runners, baseball players, and hockey players take note: you can pull a groin muscle if you don’t warm up or stretch first. Stretching can be especially valuable if you’re not a naturally flexible person.
Most researchers agree that a combination of static and dynamic stretching is useful because they help loosen muscle fibers and increase blood flow so your body can respond to exercise stress appropriately. Static stretches are the type you hold steady for 30 seconds. A dynamic stretch is similar to a warm-up, but more targeted. It prepares your body by mimicking the motion of your planned activity. When it comes to preventing groin injuries, dynamic stretching is important.
There are three groin muscles: the adductor, the gracilis, and the pectineus. They all connect from the pubic bone to the top of the thigh and inside of the knee. “Basically, they’re the muscles that pull your leg back to the middle if, for example, it’s off to the side,” says Dr. Julie Ann Aueron, a New York-based physical therapist and yoga teacher.
The adductor is the biggest muscle, and most prone to injury, she says. Possible injuries include strains and tears. Tears happen when muscles are overstretched, while strains are more severe tears: “You get a tear when you pull too hard and fast for the body to recognize or prevent the injury from occurring.”
Dr. Aueron recommends doing dynamic stretches before exercise to prevent injuries such as tears from happening. Dynamic stretches increase the body temperature and cause the connective tissue to move around a little, she says. Here are a few that she recommends:
- Stand with feet apart and lift one foot off the ground.
- Keep your weight on the heel of the standing foot.
- Starting slowly, swing your leg forward, back, and behind you in one movement.
- As you begin to loosen up, start to pick up the pace and
increase your range of
- “Open the gate”: stand on your left leg and flex your right hip.
- Raise your right knee to hip level, turn it out and open away from your body.
- You will feel the stretch in your groin.
- “Close the gate”: bring your knee up and around in front of your body (opposite to open the gate). Lower your leg and repeat, then do on the other side.
- Similar to the grapevine dance move but faster.
- Step to the left with your left foot.
- Swing your right foot around your left leg.
- Step to the left again with your left foot.
- Repeat in the other direction.
- Get a good rhythm going by moving your hips.
- Take a wide stance with your feet turned out approximately 45 degrees.
- Bend the left knee and lunge slightly to the left side
to lengthen the inner
thigh muscles of the extended and straightened right leg.
- Go back to the standing position and repeat on the other side.
- Repeat three times.
- It is important not to bounce. Approach the stretch gingerly, and hold for at least 30 seconds.
- Sit straight up on the floor in with your knees bent and your feet pulled together so your legs are in “the butterfly position.” Put your hands around your ankles.
- Keeping the spine straight and your buttocks pressed into the floor, slowly hinge forward at the waist and use your elbows to carefully press the knees apart. Do not round your back when leaning forward.
- If that pose does not work for you, lie on your back with your legs perpendicular to the floor and buttocks pressed against the wall.
- Slide your legs open into a wide "V" until you feel a light stretch on the inner thighs. Be sure to keep your lower back pressed to the floor as you move your legs.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
An Additional Tip
It’s important to keep the groin muscles in balance with one another, says Aueron. For example, while you want to keep your adductor groin muscles flexible, you don’t want them to end up stronger than the abductor muscles, which are on top of the glutes. This kind of imbalance can impact the way you move.
To keep the proper ratio, she suggests a more comprehensive exercise plan: “Perform a diverse workout, not just running – include multiple strengthening exercises like side planks or squats.”