The groin muscles -- which include the adductor, gracilis and pectineus muscles of your inner thigh -- pull your leg toward your body's midline. If you're active in sports and physical activities that involve kicking, pivoting, suddenly starting and stopping and quickly changing direction, those muscles are particularly susceptible to strain. Simple stretching helps keep the groin muscles long and loose, which can enhance your performance on the playing field, boost your movement quality in the dance studio and help you stay injury-free.
As anxious as you are to loosen up, don't drop into a butterfly pose or side split when your muscles are cold, stiff and vulnerable to strain. Instead, stretch after cardio and strength-training workouts when your muscles and joints are warm, supple and ripe for the stretch. Between workouts, precede your groin-stretch session with a short bout of light cardio activity, such as brisk walking, high-knee marching or jumping rope. Even a brief warm-up for five to seven minutes is generally sufficient to increase circulation to your inner thighs, raise muscle-tissue temperature and lower your risk of stretch-related groin injury.
Dynamic stretches use constant and repetitive movement to raise muscle and connective tissue temperature, increase blood flow to the groin and stimulate the muscles in preparation for more rigorous activity. Based on evidence presented in the "Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports" in 2013, the American Council on Exercise recommends dynamic stretching before workouts, because movement-based stretching doesn't negatively affect strength and hinder performance in the way that prolonged holding of a static stretch apparently does. Do a dynamic groin stretch, such as leg swings to the side. When you perform leg swings, start slowly and keep your movements low. As your groin loosens up and you fall into an even rhythm, gradually pick up the pace and increase your range of motion. Perform dynamic stretches on both sides equally, even if you sense that one side is tighter than the other.
Hold It Right There
Static stretches -- which involve lengthening the groin muscles and holding them in an extended position for 15 to 30 seconds -- do have their place, however. Include a static groin stretch in your cool down or after a hot bath when your muscles are flexible. Take a wide stance, bend one knee and lunge slightly to the side to lengthen the groin muscles of your extended leg. Repeat the lunge to the other side. Alternatively, sit on the floor with your knees open to the sides and the soles of your feet pressed together. Straighten your spine and hinge forward from your hips while keeping your buttocks pressed into the floor. To stretch from a supine position, lie on your back with your buttocks and legs against a wall. Slowly open your legs into a "V" position until you feel light tension along your inner thighs. Hold static stretches for up to 30 seconds and repeat up to four times.
Pursuing a Side Split
Gymnasts, dancers and athletes who require extreme groin flexibility prize a perfect side split. If that's your goal, and if your groin area is supple enough to handle advanced stretching, use a straddle stretch to help you get there. Standing with your feet in a wide stance, hinge forward from your waist and rest your hands on the floor in front of you. Slowly slide your heels apart, lowering your hips directly down. As your legs extend to the side, keep your kneecaps facing up and your feet flexed back toward your shins to avoid excessive pressure on your knee ligaments. When you feel tension in your groin, hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Over time, as your groin loosens up more, increase the stretch by lowering your hips closer to the floor. Don't bounce or force the stretch and if you experience pain, pinching or popping, ease out of the stretch position immediately to prevent injury.