Sverri Nielsen, Denmark Rower

Rowing seat pad solves hamstring pain

Denmark’s Sverri Nielsen the single sculler uses the ProW Seat Pad while racing at Luzern World Cup.  You can see the pink

Sverri Nielsen, DEN Rowing

Sverri pushes off from the pontoon

pad taped to his scull seat top.

What you can’t see are the wedges inserted underneath the pad which lift up your pelvis off the seat giving relief to glute / hamstring / sciatic pain for many users.

Sverri Nielsen, Denmark Rower

Sverri Nielsen, DEN uses seat pad

Womens seat pad

We got a question from a reader

“Is there a women’s version, with wider holes? I have consistent rowing- or erging-related inflammation around the left sitting bone-piriformis-top of the hamstring, and really need a good seat pad. I’ve tried the usual ones, and they don’t hell much. Men’s ones make it worse.”

I do know about female pelvis sizes.  No there isn’t a different size for women, but the product has very wide holes already compared to most rowing seats.

The reader replied

Thanks for following up on this. I’m trying to find something that will help with persistent bruising/inflammation in the left sitting bone/piriformis area. Glute stretches help up to a point. Do you happen to have any advice?

And, yes we do have advice for sore bum while rowing or sculling or on the rowing machine.

My suggestion is to go to a sports masseuse and / or osteopath (NOT a physiotherapist).
Ask them to loosen off the musculature around your pelvis / IT band, upper thighs and lower back.  I find osteopaths consider the whole body and what is causing the injury not just treating the symptoms.
I suspect your muscles are very tight indeed and you may need to take a rest from sitting sport and rest them while they heal and relax back to a looser state.  Personally I enjoy intense yoga stretching for keeping me injury free – this could help you too after you’ve got your muscles reset back to their normal state.

COMMENTS (8)

  1. Graham Cawood

    Greetings. Three ideas that might help.
    1 Buy a sheet of 6mm stiff foam from a ‘Rubber’ shop, then make your own seat pads. Different shapes, thickness etc.
    2.I’m not sure that holes for the sit bones are a good idea. They presumably transfer pressure from the bones to the muscles
    and tendons nearby.
    3.Layback at the catch by rotating near the hips as you catch. This should reduce the muscle load at the sit bones, and the
    stress.

    Have fun!

    • Greg Spooner

      Graham – great ideas, especially when you’re in the early phases of finding the best seat pad for your own needs. Regarding your #2 recommendation, the holes in rowing seats are actually designed for the very purpose of distributing the load amongst the muscles and soft tissue around the sit bones and relying on our built-in padding around our bums. Bone and its outer layers especially are jam packed with more sensory nerves than anything else in the body… working kind of like a fracture detection system before the days of x-ray machines in every doctor’s office. When sitting in most seats or old dories/rowboats, you have the luxury of shifting weight to disperse the load. Sit long enough and it starts to burn down there, right? For rowing and sculling, you’re not only sitting for an extended time but also pivoting fore and aft while creating significant strain on the attachment points of your hamstrings (the sit bones!). For some, you could get away without those holes, but for rowers, I’d bet my money on keeping them there.

  2. Tim

    This seat really works – I have used one for over a year. Initially they feel uncomfortable but they I find that I can row longer without any pain compared to rocking backwards and forwards on a hard carbon seat.
    I also agree with the comment about using osteopaths to loosen off your back, etc first. I have benefited from this twice in the past 3 years. It’s amazing how fast they can solve problems that really seemed debilitating.

  3. Carl Douglas

    There’s a lot of misunderstanding about rowing seat discomfort. Since every rower has quite different proportions and distributions of hard and soft tissue, a seat pad on an “average seat” rarely eliminates contact conflict. It’s the “Princess and the Pea” problem – sensitive and easily damaged bits of you are being ground, up to 2000 times an hour, into a mismatched seat with inappropriately-shaped cavities. It wouldn’t be good for your face. It isn’t good for your rump. And an ill-fitting seat can cause lasting injury.

    For over a decade we’ve provided a customised seat service, instructions for which, in PDF form, are in this link: tinyurl.com/custom-seats

    Our customised seats put smiles on rowers’ faces worldwide. From the data you provide (see the link) we first generate, as a computer model, a seat shape which best protects the vulnerable parts of your anatomy by giving you the maximum supporting area (and thus the minimum local contact pressure) while also eliminating all points of hard contact.. Then we take perfectly symmetrical hot-pressed seat blanks and our CNC router machines out your unique profile.

    Every customised seat is different in shape, proportion and appearance from every other seat. There are no optimum shapes, for men or for women, as we are all of us different. And there is every chance that the left and riught hand sides of your seat will differ since few of us have perfect physical symmetry. Your new customised seat will be beautiful in looks and finish but, having been shaped specifically for you, it will not fit others and thus is most unlikely to be stolen.

    You can order through our web shop for delivery worldwide: https://shop.carldouglas.co.uk We’re here to take away your pain.

  4. Greg Spooner

    I’m a US-based physiotherapist in San Diego, California (RowPhysio.com), and I’ve had this very discussion many times with my client pool of rowing athletes who come to me from all over the USA with hamstring pain at or near the sit bones. There are many treatment approaches to solving this problem, and it’s critical to take a multi-pronged approach.

    The seat pad will certainly help but won’t solve the underlying problem or movement dysfunction which ultimately led the hamstrings to hurt. From an equipment perspective, Carl Douglas certainly is the most customized yet costly version, while for the majority of rowers, a seat pad like the one you offer will work just fine. From there, 2 key actions will not only reduce your chances from flare-ups but will likely solve the problem once and for all: (1) physio by a well-trained physio; (2) physio by a physio who knows rowing.

    By the sound of it, Rebecca, your last physio visit may have been of the cookie cutter variety, based solely on stretching and exercise following a poorly derived/researched treatment protocol, and clearly missing the critical component of bodywork in the form of hands-on soft tissue mobilization, muscle/fascia active release type techniques, joint mobilization, spinal manipulation for the right people, and guided specific exercises to retrain the hamstrings and nearby muscles how to succeed despite rowing’s repetitive strain. Unfortunately you missed a great opportunity to connect with a physiotherapist who understands the needs of a sports athlete and rowing itself. I know you’re not alone, too, and I’d love to hear more about your experiences so we can improve your access to quality physiotherapy by the best practitioners.

    Looking forward to more discussion and collaboration.

  5. Graham Cawood

    Straight back? Does the much coached straight back lead to greater contact between seat and hamstrings, and more pain.
    Dr. Fiona Wilson (visit on the web) recommends allowing the whole back to curve comfortably while rowing, primarily to reduce lower back pain. Will this also reduce hamstring contact and pain?
    I use a relaxed, curved back, layback at the catch, and rig about 40mm lower than normal, use 26 spm at 1:1 in:out. Rebound at the catch, and the finish. Legs and arms finish the stroke TOGETHER to allow leg rebound. All this reduces the load on the lower back,and hamstrings. I use a 10mm foam pad on my C2 erg and boat seat – NO holes!!!. No pain after daily 30mm sweats.
    Have painfree fun.

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