Wall Balls & Rowing For Pregnant & Postpartum Athletes: CrossFit Open 19.1

Here we are, back to the Open! I’ll be posting weekly with tips on how to approach the workouts if you are pregnant or postpartum.

First - when I’m talking postpartum that could be a huge range of years. Most definitely I would apply this advice to anyone in their first year postpartum because healing is still happening, sleep is still likely lacking, and it’s still the rebuilding phase of working out post pregnancy. But, I would also apply this advice to anyone who is years postpartum but is experiencing pelvic floor and/or core symptoms: leaking, significant diastasis, prolapse, pelvic pain, etc.

Before we get to the individual workouts, I recommend reading “Why The CrossFit Open Can Wait.” While it’s not specific to the individual workouts, I talk all about the mindset side of the Open if you are pregnant or postpartum, and feeling feeling left out of the fun this year.

Open Workout 19.1:

15-minute AMRAP

  • 19 wall balls

  • 19 cal row

3 things pop out at me for this workout:

  1. High volume: You can accumulate A LOT of reps in 15-minutes, regardless of the fact it’s “just” a 14lb or 10lb ball.

  2. Alignment during wall balls: There can be a tendency to thrust your rib cage which throws your core & pelvic floor alignment out, which may or may not cause an increase in symptoms (pelvic floor heaviness for example). Rib thrusting during pregnancy while loading overhead is also not something I would recommend in order to be mindful of your diastasis.

  3. Breath holding during wall balls: A tendency as it gets tougher with more and more reps is to breath hold during the movement, which puts extra pressure on your pelvic floor as well as core.

  4. Rowing pressure on core: Core positioning and engagement required by rowing can cause coning for pregnant women, as well as postpartum women with diastasis.

Considerations & Modifications:

  • High volume workout considerations:

    • Take set rest breaks after each movement. Example: Take 20-30 seconds rest after completing your full set of wall balls, or 10-15 seconds rest after each set of 5 wall balls, and 20-30 seconds rest after completing your row. If pregnant, aim to work at a pace that allows you to carry on a conversation.

    • Reduce the number of reps and cals performed each round to allow better attention to your reps, and not performing as many at that exhausted point. For example, 10 wall balls and 10 calorie row, still implementing the conversational pace if pregnant.

    • Slooooow and steady. Ignore the “push the pace” cheers, and stay in your own lane, mama. Think long term here - not just 15-minutes of glory:)

Wall Balls:

  • Alignment during wall balls, specifically rib cage:

    • Consider using a lighter ball or lower height target, to be able to better control keeping your rib cage down and stacked over your rib cage.

    • Instead of wall balls, sub in med ball thrusters so you can focus on pressing overhead while keeping your rib cage down, or perform med ball squats. If the med ball is awkward, by all means, sub in dumbbells.

  • Breath holding during wall balls:

    • However you choose to breath, just ensure you ARE breathing! One option could be to inhale as you lower down, and exhale as you rise up. Another option could be to just continually breath, not necessarily matching breath to movement.


  • Rowing pressure on core:

    • If you notice coning of your abdomen, try stopping your pull prior to leaning back (stop at more of an upright seated position) and see if that changes the outcome.

    • Pay attention to your breathing, by exhaling as you pull, does it allow you to better control your core and avoid coning? If you aren’t comfortable matching your breath to pulls (eg. inhale as you recover, exhale as you pull your arms/push your legs) try breathing throughout - does taking away breath-holding change the outcome?

    • The above tips can also be useful if managing prolapse, as managing pressure through position and breath may also carry over to your pelvic floor, not just your abdomen and coning.

    • If altering your technique doesn’t help the coning, consider switching to the bike for calories instead.

Proof that I do as I say below - here’s me modifying my own 19.1. I’m currently doing a lot of corrective exercise for my low back, and one of the things that aggravates my back is squatting. So I did the entire workout doing wall ball lunges instead. Not as bad as it sounds when all you’ve been doing is single-leg work for 4 weeks straight :) Thank you to Jenn @ Most Physical Preparation for the pic!