Is Swimming Good for Hamstring Injury? (Your Options Listed)

Hamstring injuries are one of the most common injuries for athletes. They can also be one of the most annoying injuries to deal with because the hamstrings are used in virtually every activity.

However, there are ways to continue to be active while recovering from injury. In fact, staying active can be a great way to aid in the recovery process, though you should always ask your doctor if it’s safe for your body.

Can I Swim with Sore Hamstrings?

If you are not experiencing pain when swimming, then you are likely just fine to swim with some general hamstring soreness. In fact, swimming can help with the recovery process, leading to less soreness overall. (Source)

Sore hamstrings are usually the result of working out, especially if it’s a new workout or you pushed yourself more than usual. Exercise causes tiny micro-tears in the muscles which then need to be repaired, ultimately leading to growth. It can be tempting to skip your workout when you’re feeling sore, but this can actually be counterproductive.

It’s often better to spend some time doing light, active recovery work. (Source)

This will help get your blood flowing to the sore areas, which can minimize the discomfort.

Here are a few other things you can do to optimize your recovery (Source):

Warm Up and Cool Down

It’s very important to incorporate a warm up and cool down into each workout. It will add a little bit of time, but it will also save you a ton of time in the long run in terms of injury prevention and overall performance.

Warming up should involve dynamic movement (no static stretches) to get the heart rate up. A cool down can just be five to ten minutes of moderate effort aerobic activity. For example, if you went for a hard run, make sure the last bit is an easy walk to bring your heart rate back to normal.

Drink More Water

Sore muscles can be caused by inadequate hydration, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water for the activity you’re doing.

It can be especially challenging to drink enough water when you’re swimming because you may not feel as thirsty as you would during a run or bike ride.

Make sure you’re drinking enough throughout the day, too, not only during your workout.

Fuel Properly

Making sure you consume the proper fuel for your workouts can decrease your risk of muscle soreness.

This includes fueling with slow-release complex carbs before your workout and then some protein afterward.

Your muscles need the energy to get through the workout and then energy to aid in the recovery process.

Get Some Sleep

Sleep is a key part of the recovery process as this is when your muscles have a chance to heal. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep a night, but don’t hesitate to get more if you can.

Additional Recovery

Try a massage or foam rolling to get additional recovery benefits. This can help release the small knots that develop in your muscles from all of those microtears.

Aim for at least one massage a month. Foam rolling can be added daily.

What Exercise Can You Do With A Hamstring Injury?

Make sure you consult your doctor or physical therapist before doing any exercise while injured. You don’t want to risk making the injury worse. If it was a serious injury, you will likely have a list of exercises prescribed by a physical therapist that will aid in your recovery.

If it was a minor strain, though, you can still do some light cardio training that doesn’t put too much weight on the affected leg (Source):


The freestyle and backstroke in particular are a great choice if you’re swimming with a hamstring injury as these strokes don’t require much use of the legs. To keep the legs out of it entirely, put a swimming board between your legs and only use your arms.

Rowing Ergometer

This whole-body exercise can be modified to use only the upper body pulling motion. However, if you aren’t experiencing significant pain in your legs, you can go for the full rowing option to increase blood flow to the hamstrings.

Stationary Bike

A stationary bike is a safe way to complete a low-intensity cardio workout without too much hamstring strain. You can experiment with clipping in or using the cages, depending on what amount of effort you want your hamstrings to do.


Walking is a great, low-impact way to keep your cardiovascular fitness up while recovering from an injury. Pick a pace that’s comfortable for you to maintain while keeping your heart rate elevated.

In addition to these cardio activities, you can incorporate yoga or stretch for more recovery benefits.

Maintaining your mobility while you recover from an injury can make coming back to your sport that much easier. It’s also a great way to relieve general muscle soreness.

What Do Hamstrings Do in Swimming?

Swimming is a full body exercise that relies on all of the muscles in your thighs to keep you moving. There are three muscles in the hamstrings:

  • Biceps femoris – closest to the outside of the body
  • Semimembranosus – closest to the middle of the body
  • Semitendinosus – between the biceps femoris and semimembranosus

Each of these three muscles are activated during a front crawl, breaststroke, butterfly, and backstroke


For the crawl and freestyle, each kick has two phases: propulsive and recovery. The beginning of the kick starts when the hip flexor is activated; the recovery phase is when the leg rises up towards the water and the gluteal muscles contract.

The breaststroke works in the same way, except both legs are going through the motion at the same time.

Final Thoughts

Recovering from a hamstring injury can take time, so be patient with the process. Trying to rush through it can make the injury worse or result in additional injuries.

Always consult with your doctor or physical therapist before returning to any activity after an injury.

We also recommend that you check out our post titled “Is Swimming Good for Herniated Discs And Back Pain?

Aprill Emig

Based out of Duluth, MN Aprill loves to write about the outdoors, education, and all forms of adventure. You can find her mountain biking, running, or playing roller derby.

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