­­­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 it helps loosen muscle fibers and increase blood flow so your body can respond to exercise stress appropriately. A static stretch is the type you hold steady for a prolonged period. On the contrary, a dynamic stretch is similar to a warmup, 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 six groin muscles: the adductor magnus, adductor brevis, adductor longus, 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 adductors are the biggest muscle group, and most prone to injury. One of the most common injuries is a strain/tear to the muscle group.

Dr. Aueron recommends doing dynamic stretches before exercise to prevent injuries such as tears from happening. Dynamic stretches increase body temperature and cause connective tissue to move around a little, she says. Here are a few that she recommends:

Leg swing

  1. Stand with feet apart and lift 1 foot off the ground.
  2. Keep your weight on the heel of the standing foot.
  3. Starting slowly, swing your leg forward, back, and behind you in one movement.
  4. As you begin to loosen up, start to pick up the pace and increase your range of
  5. Perform 20 times on each leg.

Gate stretches

  1. Stand on your left leg while you lift your right leg up.
  2. Raise your right knee to hip level, turn it out and open away from your body. You will feel the stretch in your groin. This is referred to as “opening the gate.”
  3. Bring your knee back around in front of your body and then lower your leg. You just “closed the gate.”
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 with your right leg.

Crossover stretch

  1. Step to the left with your left foot.
  2. Swing your right foot around in front of your left leg.
  3. Step to the left again with your left foot.
  4. Repeat in the other direction.

Tip: This stretch is similar to the “grapevine” dance move, but just a bit faster. Get a good rhythm going by moving your hips!

Static stretches are ideal for after a workout to cool down. Static stretching without a warmup is less effective, as some research has shown, and in some studies, it’s even detrimental.

Lunge stretch

  1. Take a wide stance with your feet turned out approximately 45 degrees.
  2. Bend the left knee and lunge slightly to the left side to lengthen the inner thigh muscles of the extended and straightened right leg.
  3. Go back to the standing position and repeat on the other side.
  4. Repeat 3 times.

Tip: It’s important not to bounce. Approach the stretch gingerly, and hold for at least 30 seconds.

Butterfly stretch

  1. Sit straight up on the floor in with your knees bent and your feet pulled together so your legs are in “the butterfly position.”
  2. Put your hands around your ankles.
  3. 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, try this alternative:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs perpendicular to the floor and buttocks pressed against the wall.
  2. 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.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds.

If you want to avoid a groin injury, make sure you take a few minutes to warm up this commonly injured area. Warming up is essential to improve mobility in your hips and improve overall performance. When muscles and tendons aren’t warmed up, they don’t work as well. This can increase the chances of you getting a strain or partial tear. If you think you have a severe muscle injury, see your doctor. But as a general rule, if your pain is bearable, remember to RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.