Discovering the Vulnerability of the Groin Muscles
When the word “vulnerable” comes to mind, you may think of situations where you are emotionally susceptible, such as confessing your feelings to someone or facing the consequences of lies. However, when applied to the body, one specific area stands out: the muscles in your groin.
According to Dr. Grayson Wickham, founder of Movement Vault, the groin muscles are highly prone to injury. Ignoring groin stretches can leave them vulnerable, potentially resulting in pain, discomfort, muscle tightness, and even injuries.
Therefore, in order to prioritize the safety of your groin, it’s essential to gain a better understanding of this often overlooked muscle group. Continue reading to learn why it is so susceptible, how to protect it, and the most effective groin stretches to incorporate into your exercise routine.
A Comprehensive Look at the Groin
The term “groin” refers to the area where the legs meet the pelvis. It encompasses various muscle groups, such as the inner thigh hip adductors, front thigh hip flexors, and to some extent, the back thigh hip extensors (hamstrings and glutes), as explained by Dr. Erin Abell, a physical therapist at Pure Barre. In addition to facilitating safe and fluid movements, the groin muscles also play a vital role in maintaining the stability and health of your knees, back, ankles, and core.
Let’s Face the Truth: Your Groin Muscles are Probably Stiff
Sorry to bring you the bad news, but unless you’re a professional dancer or yoga instructor, it’s highly likely that your groin muscles are incredibly tight. According to Wickham, your body adjusts to the positions it spends the most time in, and considering the average person sits for long hours every day, this results in the groin muscles being constantly in a shortened position. And a shortened position equates to tightness.
Furthermore, Wickham explains that most exercise routines primarily involve movements in the frontal plane, meaning forward and backward movements. This lack of side-to-side movements, whether you’re a runner, cyclist, walker, or CrossFitter, further contributes to tightness in the hips and groin.
Additionally, lifestyle factors like dehydration, chronic stress, and poor quality and quantity of sleep can also contribute to increased muscle tightness, according to Abell.
If you’ve experienced one of those (and honestly, who hasn’t?), you’ll surely desire to give importance to hip stretches.
Advantages of Incorporating Groin Stretches into Your Routine
To be straightforward: Tense muscles can cause discomfort. However, making an effort to enhance your groin flexibility can gradually alleviate pain and unease, as stated by Abell. Enhanced flexibility in this area can also decrease the probability of experiencing muscle injuries related to the groin (e.g. strains), she states. In other words, dedicating time to performing groin stretches could help prevent future pain.
Oh, and don’t forget that childhood song that goes, “the hip bone’s connected to the knee bone?” It’s applicable in this context, according to Abell. “The jingle describes the fact that one joint’s health is dependent upon the health of joints that are closest to it,” she explains. It’s a concept known as regional interdependence in the realm of physical therapy. Simply put, it means that “optimizing flexibility, strength, and coordination of the groin region can also assist in protecting your back, knees, ankles, and feet during daily activities,” she says.
Apart from reducing pain and minimizing the risk of injury, improved groin flexibility (thanks to groin stretches!) can enhance athletic performance — particularly in sports that involve sideways movements like soccer, martial arts, rugby, rock climbing, and yoga, says Meghan Braun, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., owner of Body Mechanics Physical Therapy in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Most Effective Groin Stretches for Flexibility
Let’s be very clear: Yes, it is possible to enhance groin flexibility. It’s a gradual process, but “regularly stretching and strengthening the groin muscles will help you increase and maintain groin flexibility, and decrease the risk of a groin injury,” says Braun.
Curious about how to stretch your groin precisely? Wonder no more! Below, six groin stretches that physical therapists recommend for improving flexibility and reducing the risk of injury.
Wide Leg Stretch
This traditional hamstring stretch is also ideal for loosening your groin. Perform it consistently (meaning every single day) and “you’ll start to notice that you can descend a bit further into the position and widen your legs into a broader straddle without bending your knees,” says Abell.
A. Begin by sitting on the floor with legs extended and in a straddle position, knees facing the ceiling, feet flexed. Engage your core then pivot at the hips and gradually walk your hands forward.
B. Lower your chest to the floor as much as possible, without rounding your lower or upper back.
C. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then attempt to sink a little lower with each exhale. Repeat this process 3 times before walking your hands back to the starting position.
Known as Mandukasana in yoga, frog stretch is a hip-opening groin stretch you’ll definitely feel — trust. Because this move can be uncomfortable when performed on hard surfaces, try padding your knee joints with two folded towels or ab mats, suggests Wickham.
A. Begin on all fours, knees stacked under hips, wrists under shoulders. Maintaining a 90-degree bend in each knee, slowly slide knees outward as far as possible. Shift to forearms or keep hands planted, whichever is more comfortable.
B. Get as low as you can, then contract adductor muscles (inner thighs) as hard as possible for 10 seconds. Relax, breathe deeply, and lower more if you can.
C. Repeat for 10 total reps of 10-second contractions before returning to start.
Sure, this may have been your favorite way to sit in kindergarten, but decades later it’s not a casual position, it’s a groin stretch — and a good one. “Repeat this daily and gradually [and] as your hips become more mobile, you will notice that you can lower your knees closer to the ground,” says Abell.
A. Start sitting on the floor, soles of feet pressed together. Brace core, keep chest puffed out, and draw shoulders down and back while allowing knees to fall open. To increase the intensity, move feet closer to groin.
B. Hold here for 30 seconds, focusing on taking long, slow deep breaths. Rest for 30 seconds then repeat 2 more times.
Named because you’ll look like a dog taking a leak when you do it, the fire hydrant is good at stretching your glutes, groin, and hamstrings, says Wickham. It also strengthens your abductors — the muscles on the outsides of your hip and glutes — which will help counteract any inner-thigh or groin tightness.
A. Start on all fours. Draw belly button up towards spine to activate core.
B. Lift right leg up to the side, keeping back flat and torso tight. Maintain a 90-degree bend in right knee.
C. Lift as high as possible without dumping all the weight into left leg, ideally to hip height.
D. At the top, flex glutes and abductors for 10 seconds. Relax and repeat for 3 reps before bringing right leg down.
E. Switch sides; repeat.
With or without weight, the cossack squat can help strengthen your quads, glutes, hip flexors, and core. But that’s not all this multitasker does: “The cossack squat also offers a solid groin stretch,” says Wickham.
A. Stand with feet at the width of the hips, then take a massive step out to the left. While keeping the chest inflated, simultaneously flex the left knee and transfer the weight into the left side.
B. Carefully lower down as much as possible. Transfer the weight from the right foot to the right heel, elevating the toes towards the ceiling.
C. Maintain this position for 10 seconds. Switch sides and repeat. Continue alternating for 8 repetitions.
If the cossack squat presented a challenging stretch for your groin, you can continue practicing that version or use a support to assist with the wide-legged squat. As depicted in the image above, you can place dip bars, a chair, or another type of support in front of you to make this squat variation slightly easier.
A. Stand with feet positioned a few inches wider than the width of the hips, with toes pointed out at approximately 15 degrees. Stabilize the midline, then push the hips backward and flex the knees while maintaining a vertical chest.
B. Continue descending until you feel the stretch or until the knees are flexed at a 90-degree angle, whichever comes first.
C. Engage the glute muscles, hold for 30 seconds. Release and try to lower a little further. Repeat for 2 additional repetitions.
What If Your Groin Is Already Strained or Pulled?
First and foremost, if you are experiencing pain in your groin area, promptly visit a physical therapist or doctor. If you can identify when the injury occurred—for example, if you felt a pull while playing soccer or noticed slight discomfort during squatting—seek the guidance of a physical therapist as it may indicate a strain.
However, if you are unsure about when the potential injury occurred, it is advisable to consult your primary healthcare provider instead. Braun recommends this because a strain, a hernia, bladder infection, or pregnancy-related issue can all cause a similar sensation in the groin. Ruling out these health complications should be the initial step.
It is crucial to get checked out for the following reason: If your groin is strained, you should avoid performing any of the above groin stretches. Braun explains that a groin strain happens when the muscles are excessively stretched. Continuously stretching an already overstretched muscle only exacerbates the strain. Therefore, if you have a pulled or strained groin, these stretches are not suitable.
While a physical therapist can develop a customized treatment plan based on your individual needs, you can also try some dynamic stretches and, if possible, apply ice to the groin for 15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours within the first 48 hours of the injury onset, as recommended by Braun.