Here we explain groin strain stretching and strengthening exercises for recovering from and preventing groin strain injuries. Both stretching, strengthening, and sports-specific exercises are important.
Always seek professional advice before starting a rehabilitation program. The exercises below should form part of a full groin strain rehabilitation program.
Groin stretches should not be done during the initial acute phase of a torn muscle. This is usually 72 hours but maybe longer.
- See our full groin strain rehabilitation program
Short adductor stretch
Groin stretches performed with bent knees target the short groin muscles
- Gently press down with the elbows onto the knees to increase the stretch
- If it is painful then stop. Groin stretching must be performed pain-free
- Do not force it
- Relax into the stretch
- You should feel a gentle stretch in the inner thigh
- Hold for up to 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 3 times
See our full groin strain rehabilitation program
Straight leg standing groin stretches
Stretching the groin with your leg straight targets the long adductor muscles that attach below the knee.
- Stand with your feet wide apart as shown, and lean away from the side you are stretching
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 5 times a day
- Change the angle of your foot on the floor to stretch different parts of the muscle
Seated groin stretches
This is a more relaxed way of taking the load off the muscle whilst stretching.
Hip flexor stretching
Although strictly not one of the groin stretches this exercise is still important. The adductor muscle assists in flexion of the hip (pulling the knee forwards and upwards).
This will stretch the adductor muscles more specifically in the direction they are used for running. It can be done standing or lying off the edge of a couch/massage table. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 5 times a day.
Groin Strain Rehab Program
Our step-by-step rehabilitation program takes you from initial injury to full fitness.
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Dynamic groin stretches
This should be done as the athlete returns to full activity. Dynamic stretching will stretch the muscle whilst it is moving and should be part of any warm-up prior to training.
- Gently swing the leg in a relaxed manner – It should not be forced
- Forcing the muscle is ballistic stretching and can cause damage to the muscles
- Aim for 10 swings on each leg, repeat 3 times a day
- A good, relaxed swing is what is required, gradually increasing the height of the swing
- Continue stretches until fully fit and before exercise when back fit
- All stretches must be performed pain-free and do not push too hard!
Groin strengthening exercises
Groin strengthening exercises can begin as soon as pain allows, after the initial acute healing phase. Do not do any exercise if it is painful as you may be making the injury worse.
No strengthening exercises at all during the acute stage. Be patient and rest. Focus on applying the treatment techniques for the first 2 to 5 days.
Begin gentle isometric groin exercises so that you can walk pain-free after at least 3 days of no strengthening.
Isometric groin exercises
Isometric (static) groin exercises are usually the safest strengthening exercise to start within the early stages of rehabilitation.
The muscle contracts, but there is no actual movement. They should be performed with legs bent and straight, and ideally with a different-sized ball between your knees to vary the angle.
Short adductor muscles are strengthened with the legs bent. Resistance can be applied by a therapist or partner with the hands. Or use medicine balls and gym balls placed between your knees.
Start with 3 sets of 10 secs once a day and build up to 3 sets of 10 secs done twice a day. To work the short adductors in the outer range a much larger gym ball can be used.
Long adductors – place a ball between the ankles, with the legs straight, and gently press inwards with the legs. Squeeze the legs together and hold, relax and repeat.
Start with 3 sets of 10 secs once a day and build up to 3 sets of 10 secs done twice a day.
Dynamic groin exercises
Start dynamic groin exercises with the band or cables in a gym. Dynamic exercises involve movement against resistance.
Straight leg raise
This is a more advanced exercise.
- Sit upright with feet rotated outwards
- Lift one leg slightly off the ground, and move the leg outwards whilst keeping off the ground
- Return to the middle, then rest for a couple of seconds
- If strong enough take the leg out again without resting
- Aim for 3 sets of 10 repetitions daily
This exercise is progressed further by performing it on a couch or bed with one leg relaxed down the side of the couch.
- Raise the leg upwards and across the other leg, lower, and repeat 10 times
- Build up to 3 sets of 10 then increase the resistance by adding weight to the ankle
Amore advanced exercise which focuses on strengthening the muscle whilst it lengthens.
It is important to see how the muscle is the following day before overdoing this exercise as eccentric exercises are more likely to produce muscle soreness.
With the patient sitting down, legs out straight, the therapist slowly moves the leg out to the side and the patient resists the movement but not so much that the leg doesn’t move.
This can be done very gently at first with the therapist increasing the resistance load and intensity over time.
Hip adduction groin exercises using gravity
There are three different ways of performing hip adduction exercises using gravity for resistance.
In the first one, a chair is used and the lower leg is raised towards the top one. Hold briefly then lower and repeat. Begin with 1 set of 10 reps building to 3 sets of 15 reps daily.
A slightly harder variation involves lying on your side with the top leg bent over to the front of the lower leg.
The lower leg is raised as high as is comfortable, hold briefly then lower. This works the adductor muscles in the inner range of motion.
Finally, the most difficult version brings the core muscles into play as both legs are straight lying sideways again.
Raise the top leg up then by contracting the adductor muscle and keeping the core muscle firm the lower leg is raised up to meet the top leg.
Hold briefly then lower and repeat. Ankle weights can be used to increase the difficulty of any of these exercises.
Resistance band adduction
This groin exercise works the adductor muscles through both the inner and outer range of motion. Tie one end of a section of the resistance band around your ankle.
Tie the other end around something sturdy, close to ground level. Stand away from the attachment point, stand on the uninvolved leg, and hold on to something for balance if necessary.
Take the involved leg out to the side as far as possible and make sure the band is taught in this position. Keep the knee straight as you bring your leg into the centre and across the supporting leg, against the resistance of the band.
Slowly return to the starting position and repeat 10 times initially. Gradually increase the number of reps you perform.
These strengthen the groin muscles in a more functional position. By using a medicine ball in the lateral lunge (side lunge) the athlete is able to add weight to the exercise as well as use it to aid balance.
The athlete steps to the side keeping the toes forwards and the feet flat. Whilst keeping the involved leg straight, squat through the hip of the involved leg ensuring that the knee is in line with the foot.
The athlete holds the ball out to help maintain balance. Squat as low as possible and hold for 2 seconds. Push back to the starting position.
Wide leg Squat groin exercise
Performing a squat in a wide leg position works the adductor muscles (groin) more than a conventional squat. Using a resistance band also works the abductors more.
The starting position for a wide leg squat is with the feet more than shoulder-width apart and the toes pointing outwards. From here the athlete bends both knees, keeping their back straight.
Ideally, the knee should reach a right angle (90 degrees), but if not this is something you can work on.
Don’t go past a right angle. Make sure the knees do not more in front of the toes and keep your weight over the midfoot and heel.
Start core exercises to improve abdominal strength because of the close relationship between the groin and abdominals
Professional Sports Physiotherapist Neal Reynolds explains how to approach groin strain rehabilitation exercises.
Remember, exercises should be done pain-free and should not be sore during, afterwards or the next day. It is better to be patient and do too little than too much and have to go back a stage.
References & further reading on groin exercises
- Serner A, Tol JL, Jomaah N et al. Diagnosis of acute groin injuries: a prospective study of 110 athletes. Am J Sports Med 2015;43(8):1857–64.
- Serner A, van Eijck CH, Beumer BR et al. Study quality on groin injury management remains low: a systematic review on treatment of groin pain in athletes. Br J Sports Med 2015;49(12):813.
- Weir A, Brukner P, Delahunt E et al. Doha agreement meeting on terminology and definitions in groin pain in athletes. Br J Sports Med 2015;49:768–74.
- Hölmich P, Uhrskou P, Ulnits L et al. Effectiveness of active physical training as treatment for long-standing adductor- related groin pain in athletes: randomised trial. Lancet 1999;353:439–43.