Can Rowing Cause Hip Pain?

Rowing is a fantastic full-body workout, renowned for its efficiency in burning calories and building strength. However, like any physical activity, it’s not without its potential downsides. One issue that some rowers encounter is hip pain. This might seem surprising given that rowing is often seen as a low-impact sport. Yet, the repetitive motion and specific physical demands of rowing can, indeed, lead to discomfort or even injury.

The Biomechanics of Rowing

Rowing is a highly intricate sport demanding the absolute harmony of both upper and lower body movements. Observing it through the lens of biomechanics, rowing is characterised by a cyclic motion that is divided into four primary phases: the catch, the drive, the finish, and the recovery. The catch phase is the moment when the oar blade is placed in the water. Following this, the drive phase occurs, wherein the rower exerts force on the oar handles, propelling the boat forward. 

A significant amount of power is required from the legs, back, and arms during this phase. The legs start the drive with a dynamic thrust, trailed by the torso leaning back and ending with the arms pulling the oar handle. The finish is where the oar is taken out of the water. Lastly, the recovery prepares the rower for the next cycle by returning to the starting position, the catch.

In the recovery phase, the rower returns to the starting position in preparation for the next stroke. This phase is a mirror image of the drive phase but executed in a controlled, relaxed manner. The arms extend first, followed by the trunk leaning forward, and finally, the legs bending at the knees. Throughout these phases, the hip joint plays a pivotal role as it acts as a bridge between the powerful leg drive and the upper body. Understanding the biomechanics of rowing can help athletes optimize their technique, improve performance, and most importantly, prevent injuries.

Rowing and Hip Pain: The Connection

Photo by Lucas Lenzi on Unsplash

Rowing, despite being a low-impact sport, can sometimes lead to hip pain. This is mainly due to the repetitive motions and intense pressure that the activity places on the hip joint. During rowing, the hips act as a pivotal point, transferring power from the lower body to the upper body. In the drive phase of the stroke, when the legs push against the footplate, a significant amount of force goes through the hips. Over time, this constant pressure can cause discomfort and inflammation in the hip joint and surrounding tissues.

Moreover, the hip flexors, a group of muscles located in the front of the hip, can become overworked and tight due to the repeated bending and extending action during rowing. This tightness not only limits the range of motion but can also lead to pain. Additionally, improper rowing technique or overtraining can exacerbate these issues, making it essential for rowers to pay attention to their form and training regimen. Understanding the connection between rowing and hip pain can help athletes better manage and prevent potential injuries.

Preventing Hip Pain During Rowing

It has been observed that the primary cause of hip pain in rowers is often due to overuse of the hip flexor muscles. This can be particularly true for those who engage in rowing frequently or intensively without taking enough time to rest and stretch these muscles. The tendon at the top of the hip flexor muscle group is particularly susceptible to strain and inflammation, leading to pain and discomfort.

Interestingly, it’s not rowing itself that directly causes hip pain. Instead, it’s the lack of attention to tight hip flexors during rowing that can lead to discomfort in the hip or even the groin. A common injury associated with rowing is Snapping Hip Syndrome, characterized by a palpable or audible “snapping” sensation in the hip during movement. Moreover, the repetitive motions required for rowing may also contribute to labral injuries within the hip joint. Therefore, maintaining proper technique, pacing, and incorporating hip flexor mobility exercises can play a significant role in preventing these injuries and maintaining hip health among rowers.

When to Seek Medical Advice

Experiencing mild discomfort in the hips after an intense rowing session can be normal. However, if you notice persistent pain, swelling, or discomfort that doesn’t improve with rest and over-the-counter pain relievers, it may be time to seek medical advice. Additionally, if your hip pain is associated with a sharp, sudden onset of pain, a popping sensation during injury, inability to bear weight on the leg, or if the hip joint looks deformed, these could be signs of a more serious injury such as a fracture or dislocation and immediate medical attention should be sought.

Furthermore, if hip pain is disrupting your sleep, affecting your ability to perform daily activities, or persists despite self-care measures like rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE), you should consult a healthcare professional. Chronic hip pain could be indicative of conditions like tendonitis, bursitis, or even arthritis. A physical therapist, sports medicine specialist, or orthopaedic doctor can provide a proper diagnosis and create an individualized treatment plan. This may involve physical therapy, medication, lifestyle modifications, or in some cases, surgical intervention. Remember, early intervention can prevent further damage and help you get back to your rowing routine safely and efficiently.

Overall, while rowing offers a multitude of health benefits and is an excellent full-body exercise, it can occasionally lead to hip pain. This discomfort arises primarily from overworked hip flexors and the continuous pressure exerted on the hip joint during the rowing motion. However, these issues are largely preventable. By adopting proper rowing techniques, incorporating adequate rest periods, and implementing regular hip flexor stretches into their training routine, rowers can significantly reduce their risk of hip-related issues. As with any sport, understanding the biomechanics and potential risks involved in rowing is key to maintaining optimal performance and overall health.


Q: What is the connection between rowing and hip pain? 

A: The repetitive motions and intense pressure of rowing can lead to hip pain. This is mainly due to the significant amount of force that goes through the hips during the drive phase of the stroke. Over time, this constant pressure can cause discomfort and inflammation in the hip joint and surrounding tissues.

Q: How can improper rowing technique contribute to hip pain? 

A: Improper rowing technique, such as opening the body too early during the drive phase, can put unnecessary strain on the hip flexors. This can lead to tightness, limiting the range of motion and causing pain.

Q: Can regular flexibility and strength training exercises help prevent hip pain from rowing? 

A: Yes, incorporating regular flexibility and strength training exercises into your routine can help prevent hip pain. These exercises can keep your muscles flexible and less prone to injury, enhance muscle balance around the hip joint, and provide better support.

Q: What should I do if I start experiencing hip pain from rowing? 

A: If you start experiencing hip pain, it’s essential to listen to your body. You may need to take a break, adjust your technique, or seek professional advice. It’s always best to address these issues early to prevent them from worsening.