CrossFit, Pregnancy/Postpartum

“Murph” Movement Strategy Playbook for Pregnant & Postpartum Athletes

Memorial Day Murph

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”. It is now 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.

Mindset

I want to start out by saying 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”.

I know Murph is not just a workout. I know it is more than that and what it stands for. I have done Murph many times and the feeling on this day is like nothing else. I literally get tears and a bit choked up even talking about it. It is a very special day and a very special workout. It can still mean a lot. It’s about doing YOUR best and YOUR effort and your respect. All of those things you can still give. It’s not about the number of reps you do, or if you do it at all.

{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. At sight of repeated coning, 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.}

Pregnant Athletes

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, be aware of 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 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. Also, watch for coning. I have a photo below to a post from @christyphillipsadkins regarding this as an example.

Modification 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.

-Banded Pulldowns: 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.

This video says chest to bar pullups but the same variations can apply:

  • If you notice coning, 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 a breathing strategy that works for you. 

Modification 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. Don’t worry about the depth of your 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

Breathing strategy 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. 

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 the appropriate capacity, and I would say that if you are experiencing any symptoms in general, or are less than 1 year postpartum with consistent training – I would not recommend the vest.

*Running: I wouldn’t generally recommend running if you are less than three months postpartum, have not worked up to running with a pelvic floor physical therapist or Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism Coach, or if you experience any symptoms while running (any pain, pelvic pressure, feeling like something is falling out of your vagina, leaking urine, joint pain).

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.

If you have worked your way back to running, but not yet a mile at a time, consider doing half, a quarter, or even less of the distance.

For another option, I would recommend hopping on a bike or rower instead of running. (When rowing, be aware of 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.

Modification 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.

-Banded Pulldowns: 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 repeated coning, 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 a breathing strategy that works for you. If you find that you are coning, have any pain or stretching feeling in your abdomen, 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.

Follow me on social media for more: Facebook, and Instagram.

I am available to work with you remotely online or in person in Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts. For more information about me and how I can help you through this chapter, please schedule a FREE 15-minute chat here, contact me directly at kerri@gracefitnessandnutrition or visit  Grace Fitness and Nutrition.

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

Coach Kerri

kerri@gracefitnessandnutrition.com

http://www.gracefitnessandnutrition.com

(401) 680-0330

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