CrossFit, Pregnancy/Postpartum

“Murph” Movement Strategy Playbook for Pregnant and Postpartum Athletes

Memorial Day Murph

Movement Strategy Playbook for Pregnancy and Postpartum Athletes

 

Every year on Memorial Day, it has become a tradition for CrossFit gyms around the country to do the Hero WOD, “Murph”. The work out as prescribed (RX) is as follows:

For time:
1 mile Run
100 Pull-ups
200 Push-ups
300 Squats
1 mile Run

In memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., who was killed in Afghanistan June 28th, 2005.

This workout was one of Mike’s favorites and he’d named it “Body Armor”. From here on it will be referred to as “Murph” in honor of the focused warrior and great American who wanted nothing more in life than to serve this great country and the beautiful people who make it what it is.

Partition the pull-ups, push-ups, and squats as needed. Start and finish with a mile run. As prescribed the workout is done while wearing a 20 pound vest or body armor.

I’m going to break up my recommendations by Pregnant Athletes, Postpartum Athletes, then some general ways to scale the workout that anyone can utilize. I want to start out by saying however that this is a very high volume, intense workout. There is nothing wrong with NOT doing Murph this year if you do not feel up to it. Please have a risk vs. reward mindset when deciding if it is something that you will be doing, there are many, many years to come that you will be able to do “Murph”.

Pregnant Athletes

Piston breathing is going to be very important throughout this workout. If you reach a point at any time that you cannot maintain breathing throughout the movements, scale further, slow down, or stop if you cannot get it under control. Please reach out to me directly or check out Julie Wiebe and piston strategy to learn more.

If you are pregnant, I would not recommend wearing a weight vest – you already have your built in weight vest carrying baby around. Even if you are not yet showing, I would not recommend the vest. Risk vs. reward mindset here – ask yourself why you want to wear the vest and whether the risk is worth any potential reward. This workout is already taxing enough without a vest. You do not have anything to prove to anyone.

*Running: I wouldn’t generally recommend running for pregnant athletes further along than first trimester run OR those in their first trimester that feel any pressure, experience symptoms, or discomfort while running. Remember, a mile is a longer distance, and running puts a lot of impact and pressure on the pelvic floor, especially while you are pregnant and already experiencing pressure from your growing baby. Running only increases impact, pressure, and possible risk for injury.

I would recommend hopping on a bike or rower instead of running. (When rowing, ensure there is no coning as you lean back through the stroke. If there is, dial in breathing strategy and try to keep your torso upright throughout the movement and see if that alleviates it. If it does not, consider the bike instead.)

*Pull-ups: I know this is probably something that you do not want to hear, however, if you are further along than your first trimester (or experiencing any pulling sensations in your abdomen), please consider not kipping these. Kipping puts an enormous amount of stretch on your already very stretched abdomen. There is no need to overstretch and put more demand on our bodies (risk vs. reward), including pressure on our abs and linea alba (which can contribute to coning). Also, watch for coning. I have a photo below to a post from @christyphillipsadkins regarding this as an example.

Scaling options:

-If you can perform strict reps, this is an option as long as there is no coning. Do fewer reps when subbing in strict. Depending on your strength level with strict pullups, I would recommend a 3-5 ratio. For example: 1 strict pull-up for every 5 kipping.

-Ring rows: Consider doing the reps as ring rows with your feet positioned where you can complete the reps with no coning. A more difficult ring row option is vertical ring rows. I wanted to do a video for you guys on these, however couldn’t make it to the gym, so I’ve found this one that gives you a good overview. One option, not mentioned in this video is having your feet in front of you. This will give you more support underneath you, and allow you to utilize your legs, should you need to. Check it out here.

-Simulate the pull up movement with bands attached to rig with PVC pipe hanging. You can be seated and pull the PVC pipe down just as if you were performing a pull-up. The bonus here is that you never have to leave the ground. Again, watch for coning.

  • If you notice any coning, please stop. Try modifying your breathing strategy and/or decrease the intensity of the movement. If coning continues, choose another pull-up option.

Photo of coning below.

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 9.51.20 PM

*Pushups:I would advise against doing these RX if you are past your first trimester or have any sort of baby belly. Another thing to note is that pushups require a huge amount of core strength, and put a lot of pressure on the abdomen – which means there is a good chance of coning if not using proper breathing strategies. Piston breathing is going to be very important here to manage that pressure in your core.

Scaling options:

You could consider doing elevated pushups with hands on a box the higher the box, the more scaled the movement), or scale to wall pushups if necessary.

*Squats: Make sure to breathe through your squats, you should never be having to hold your breath, and utilize the piston strategy. Don’t worry about the depth of you squats. Do the range of motion that feels good and comfortable to you and that you have no symptoms in. You can use a box to squat down to, this will provide a physical and consistent target to squat down to.

Postpartum Athletes

Piston breathing is going to be very important throughout this workout. If you reach a point at any time that you cannot maintain breathing throughout the movements, scale further, slow down, or stop if you cannot get it under control. Please reach out to me directly or check out Julie Wiebe and piston strategy to learn more.

When it comes to whether or not to wear a weight vest I would challenge you to weigh risk vs. reward mindset here – ask yourself why you want to wear the vest and whether the risk is worth any potential reward. This workout is already taxing enough without a vest. You do not have anything to prove to anyone. You must have appropriate capacity, and I would say that if you are experiencing any symptoms in general – I would not recommend the vest.

*Running: I wouldn’t generally recommend running if you are less than three months postpartum, or if you experience any symptoms while running. Having a baby is a HUGE impact on your pelvic floor and it takes the body a while to heal, even if you had a “perfect” pregnancy and delivery. Another thing to consider is capacity. Coming back to working out after having a baby is not easy, and when you add in factors such as sleep deprivation, stress, and consistency in workouts it can be even more difficult. Please take the factors into account when you are coming up with your Murph strategy. Please reach out if you need some help deciding what you should do. Remember, a mile is a long distance, and running puts a lot of impact and pressure on the pelvic floor. Running only increases impact, pressure, and possible risk for injury/exacerbating symptoms.

For another option, I would recommend hopping on a bike or rower instead of running. (When rowing, ensure there is no coning as you lean back. If there is, try to dial in breathing strategy and keep your torso upright throughout the movement and see if that alleviates it. If you cannot get it under control, consider the bike as another option.)

*Pull-ups:If you are newly postpartum (less than three months) or have a healing diastasis, please consider not kipping these. Kipping puts an enormous amount of stretch on your abdomen that has already been stretched when you were pregnant and is still healing. Also, watch for coning. I have a photo below to a post from @christyphillipsadkins as an example.

Scaling options:

-If you can perform strict reps, this is an option as long as there is no coning. Do fewer reps when subbing in strict. Depending on your strength level with strict pullups, I would recommend a 3-5 ratio. For example: 1 strict pull-up for every 5 kipping.

-Ring rows: Consider doing the reps as ring rows with your feet positioned where you can complete the reps with no coning. A more difficult ring row option is vertical ring rows. I wanted to do a video for you guys on these, however couldn’t make it to the gym, so I’ve found this one that gives you a good overview. One option, not mentioned in this video is having your feet in front of you. This will give you more support underneath you, and allow you to utilize your legs, should you need to. Check it out here.

-Simulating the pull up movement with bands attached to rig with PVC pipe hanging. You can be seated and pull the PVC pipe down just as if you were performing a pull-up. The bonus here is that you never have to leave the ground. Again, watch for coning.

  • If you noticed any coning, please stop. Try modifying your breathing strategy and/or decrease the intensity of the movement. If coning continues, choose another pull-up option.

Photo of coning below.

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 9.51.20 PM

*Pushups:The consideration here will be if you can perform the movement without coning. Pushups require a huge amount of core strength, and put a lot of pressure on the abdomen – which means there is a good chance of coning if not using proper breathing strategies. Piston breathing is going to be very important here to manage that pressure in your core. If you find that you are coning, you could consider doing elevated pushups with hands on a box, or scale to wall pushups if necessary. Try to find the most difficult version of these you can complete with good form and no coning.

*Squats: Make sure to breathe through your squats, you should never be having to hold your breath, and utilize the piston strategy. Don’t worry about the depth of you squats, do the range of motion that feels good and comfortable to you and that you have no symptoms in. You can use a box to squat down to, this will provide a physical and consistent target to squat down to.

General Scaling Options

These are scaling options that anyone can utilize in addition to the options above.

  • Scale the distance and number of reps. A half Murph consists of ½ mile (800m), 50 pullups, 100 pushups, and 150 squats, followed by another ½ mile. A quarter Murph is ¼ mile (400m) 25 pullups, 50 pushups, and 75 squats followed by another ¼ mile.
  • Partner Murph. Team up with one or more people and share the work! Break of the mile however you want to, as well as the rep scheme. This builds in rest as well, if one person is doing the work – the rest are resting.
  • Breaking up the pull-ups, pushup, and squats reps into sets. The most popular option is “Cindy” style, which is 20 rounds of 5 pull-ups, 10 pushups, and 15 squats. Find the number of sets/reps that work for you.

Have fun and be safe!!!!

[Please do not work out if you do not have clearance from your Doctor, and follow any restrictions they may have in place for you.]

[I recommend all postpartum women get assessed by a pelvic floor physical therapist. You can find one in your area here. I also highly recommend finding a Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism (P&PA) coach in your area to go over strategy with specific movements, programming and recommendations. You can find one here.

[At any sight of coning with any movement, stop and reassess. Stop if you begin experiencing “leaking”, any sensation of something “falling out” and/or anything that doesn’t feel right. Take more breaks as needed, if it’s due to fatigue. Focus on your breathing and movement strategy. If you continue to have symptoms, scale the movement more or stop the workout. If you haven’t consulted with a healthcare provider and/or postpartum fitness specialist regarding your symptoms, please do.]

If you have specific questions regarding this post, please comment below or contact me via social media or email. I’m happy to help – but remember my advice is not accompanied with an in person assessment, which is the best way to make recommendations. If you are interested in meeting with me, or discussing anything that may be on your mind, please send me a direct message or email me at kerri@gracefitnessandnutrition.com.

Thank you for reading. Stay strong, stay beautiful, and happy Memorial Day!

Coach Kerri

photo of me

http://www.gracefitnessandnutrition.com

 

 

 

 

 

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