Pulled groin injuries can happen pretty much anywhere to anyone. Wet turf, a tennis court or a patch of icy pavement are prime settings. You can injure your groin hurdling over a defender during a kickoff, lunging awkwardly to field a ground ball or making a save in a soccer match or hockey game.
It's not easy to prevent a pulled groin, but you can definitely minimize injury risk by devoting extra time in the weight room during the off-season. Beneficial exercises include those that strengthen the inner thighs and groin area with Forward, Lateral and Reverse Lunges, Step-Ups, Single-Leg Bodyweight Squats and regular Dumbbell or Barbell Squats.
In-season, a particularly good exercise is the seated or supine "Butterfly Stretch," where you press the bottoms of your feet together with your knees apart (so your legs resemble butterfly wings) and try to press your legs to the floor. These help keep the groin and inner thighs loose and flexible and avert tightness.
If you do injure your groin, here are some suggestions to get you back in the game.
Ice and heat
Ice reduces swelling and inflammation. A towel dipped in Epsom salts and warm water relaxes and loosens the muscles, increases circulation and improves range of motion.
After the inflammation and swelling are gone, use your fingers to further encourage the healing process. Firm pressure from your thumb or index and middle fingers promotes blood circulation and breaks up adhesions that cause lingering groin soreness and restrict movement.
Move around. Walking frequently prevents the groin and surrounding muscles from tightening up and delaying recovery.
Exercises for Pulled Groin Recovery
Three-Part Supine Movement
This non-weight-bearing exercise gently and effectively strengthens the injured groin and deters recurrences.
- Lie on your back on a slant board (or incline bench) and place your hands under your lower back for support.
- Raise your legs and perform a bicycling motion slowly for 10 seconds.
- Immediately follow with 10 seconds of straight-leg upward and downward chops.
- Complete the exercise with your legs bent and raised, and your feet angled diagonally.
- Open and close your legs in a scissor-like motion 10 times.
- Rest 15 seconds and perform two more sets.
Standing Bodyweight Multidirectional Lunges
These standard weight-bearing lunge movements further strengthen the groin and serve as a testing exercise for pain-free movement.
Forward and Reverse Lunges
- With your hands at your sides, lunge forward and backward five times with your right leg.
- Repeat five times with your left leg.
- Rest five seconds.
- Perform five reps for the right leg laterally and back to start.
- Perform five left leg Lateral Lunges.
- Rest five seconds.
- Start with your hands at your sides in an athletic stance with your right foot pointed out diagonally.
- Lunge diagonally with your right leg and back to start five times.
- Perform five left leg Diagonal Lunges.
If you experience any groin or inner thigh pain from any of the lunge movements, repeat the warm water and Epsom Salt application and massage therapy a few more times, then re-test with the multidirectional lunges to see if the pain is gone.
Jogging Followed By Multidirectional Sprints
If your lunges are pain-free, try jogging, followed by sprints (forward, lateral, reverse and diagonal).
Groin Strengthening Exercises
Include at least two of these bodyweight and/or dumbbell/kettlebell groin-strengthening exercises during each off-season workout to prevent injury and lower the risk of recurring inner-thigh issues. These exercises will enhance your performance by enabling you to lunge and run in multiple directions on the field, court or ice.
For this next set of exercises, you will need:
- Two moderately heavy dumbbells or kettlebells (80% RM)
- Thick resistant band for lower-body movements
- Paper plate or small towel
- Small pillow or cushion
- Bench or chair
- Assume an athletic stance with your back against a wall (or back against a med ball against a wall).
- Spread your legs wider than shoulder-width and point your feet out diagonally.
- Squat so your thighs are parallel with the floor and hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds. Squats wider than shoulder-width boost inner-thigh strength and build gluteal, quadricep and hamstring muscles.
- Rest for 10 seconds and do three sets.
- Rest for 30 seconds
- Perform Feet-Close-Together Wall Squats. These Squats target the outer thigh muscles and quadriceps.
DB or KB Squats
- Perform regular standing squats, holding dumbbells or kettlebells at shoulder level.
- Perform three sets of 10 reps at Wider-Than-Shoulder-Width Squats.
- Perform three sets of 10 Feet-Close-Together Squats.
Open Gate Walks
- Hold dbs or kbs at shoulder level in an athletic stance.
- Step forward with your right leg and raise your left leg high with your knee bent to waist level.
- Swing your left leg laterally (foot remains off floor) while engaging hip muscle.
- Return to start position and repeat with your right leg lift/lateral swing.
- Do 10 reps, rest 10 seconds and repeat two more sets.
- Open Gate Walks are an excellent gluteal, inner- and outer -thigh building exercise, which can also be performed as part of an effective dynamic lower-body pre-workout or pre-practice warm-up (without using dbs or kbs).
Bulgarian Split Squats
- Hold dbs or kbs at shoulder level facing away from a bench or chair.
- Have a pillow or cushion on the floor.
- With your right knee bent, place the top of your right foot on the bench behind you and keep your left foot on the floor with your left thigh in parallel squat position.
- Keep your back straight, chest out and abdominal muscles tight.
- Perform 10 deep squats with your left leg and right knee lowering toward the floor and touching the pillow each rep (lower slowly, pause one second at bottom of squat and explosively return to start position.)
- Switch sides with your left foot on the bench and do 10 Right-Leg Squats. Bulgarian Split Squats not only build lower-body muscles (glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings) but efficiently strengthen the groin and inner thighs.
- Hold dbs or kbs at shoulder level facing a bench or chair with your right foot on the bench.
- Explosively push down with your right leg and simultaneously lift your left leg off the floor and your knee up toward your waist.
- Repeat nine times (right foot always on the bench), then perform with your left foot on the bench and your right leg lifting off the floor 10 times.
Sliding Side Lunge
This bodyweight movement is similar to regular Lateral Lunges except one foot is atop a paper plate or small towel. It is best performed on a wooden gym floor, grass or turf, allowing the plate or towel to slide freely. The exercise targets the inner thighs, glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings.
- Begin with your arms extended out at shoulder level, the ball of your left foot on the towel and your feet hip-width apart.
- Slightly bend your right knee, tighten your abs and laterally slide your left foot. Pause one second and slide your left foot back to the start position. Perform 10 reps.
- Switch to the right foot on the towel and slide laterally right and back for 10 reps.
Lateral Band Shuffle
- Place a resistance band around both ankles.
- Begin with your arms outstretched at shoulder level and your feet hip-width apart.
- Step your left foot laterally left against the band's resistance.
- Bring the right leg to the left.
- Continue for 10 reps.
- Switch by first stepping laterally right against the resistance. Feel tension in your inner thighs while stepping laterally against the resistance.
Multidirectional DB or KB Lunges
- Hold dbs or kbs at shoulder level.
- Starting with right leg, alternately perform a Forward Lunge, Reverse Lunge, Lateral Lunge and Diagonal Lunge.
- Repeat the sequence with your right leg for 10 reps.
- Rest 10 seconds.
- Perform 10 multidirectional lunges with your left leg.
DB Lateral Walking Deadlifts
- Use one db for this movement.
- Begin in an athletic stance with your feet pointed out diagonally at shoulder-width.
- With the db upright, interlace your fingers around one end of it and grip it tightly.
- Keep your abs tight, your head up and your arms slightly bent.
- Lift the db off the floor toward your waist.
- Bring your left foot toward the right.
- Lower the db to the floor while bringing your right foot laterally right.
- Continue the sequence , going laterally right for 10 reps.
- Rest 10 seconds and do 10 Deadlifts leading with the left foot walking laterally to the left.
- The Best Exercises for Preventing a Groin Pull
- Keys to Preventing Groin Injuries in Hockey
- Natural Remedies for a Pulled Muscle to Keep You in the Game
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock