Going Upside Down In Pregnancy & Postpartum: CrossFit Open 19.3

Welcome back for week 3 of the CrossFit Open! If you’re new here, hi! And welcome. Each week I’m offering considerations, strategies, and modifications for the Open workouts for pregnant and postpartum athletes.

Open 19.3 - For Time:

  • 200-ft. dumbbell overhead lunge [Scaled: front-rack]

  • 50 dumbbell box step-ups [Scaled: same]

  • 50 strict handstand push-ups [Scaled: 5-in. elevated]

  • 200-ft. handstand walk [Scaled: bear crawl]

    • Time cap: 10 minutes

    • Men: 50-lb. dumbbell / 24-in. box

    • Women: 35-lb. dumbbell / 20-in. box

As in previous weeks, let’s break this down movement by movement!

Dumbbell Overhead Lunges

Considerations:

  • The main consideration with an overhead position while pregnant or postpartum is are you able to maintain core control to keep your ribs over your hips, without thrusting your rib cage up to the sky? Thrusting your rib cage puts extra tension on your core - of consideration if you’re healing a diastasis, or are pregnant and trying to keep avoid excess stretching. Second, thrusting your rib cage takes your diaphragm, core, and pelvic floor out of alignment, possibly meaning more strain on your pelvic floor than necessary.

  • If you’re experiencing pelvic pain like pubic symphysis (in the front) or SI joint (either side of your bum), lunges may be something that is aggravating to you at this point. Really, my only advice here is, if it hurts, don’t do it:)

Modifications:

  • Front rack carry, and/or reduced weight: could help to take away any rib thrusting, and will be kinder on your core and pelvic floor.

  • Squat instead of lunging for pelvic pain: Since the squats won’t move you forward, either pick a reasonable number to do that you can do with controlled form, or take a few steps forward after each squat.

Dumbbell Box Step-Ups

Considerations:

  • Hip movement: Pelvic pain or not, as we get bigger in pregnancy and adapt a “waddle”, there’s no need to exaggerate this movement with a step onto a 20” box. Try to pay attention to if you’re able to maintain control on the way up and down.

  • Again, if you’re experiencing pelvic pain like pubic symphysis (in the front) or SI joint (either side of your bum), step-ups may be aggravating. Same advice as above - if it hurts, don’t do it, or at least not as written:)

Modifications:

  • Lower box and/or reduced weight: Does a lower box or step help you better control the movement? Does it diminish your pelvic pain?

  • Hip thrust (shoulders elevated), with or without dumbbell on your hips. Alternate between right leg, left leg, and both legs for variation.

  • Consider reducing reps.

Handstand Push-Ups

Considerations:

  • Holy core pressure batman. Lol. I don’t even know what else to say. Hah! Read below under “Handstand Walk” for my take on doing these upside down movements. For the record - being upside down isn’t necessarily the issue - if you’re a gymnast or yogi and have been inverted for the last 5, 10, 20 years, your body is familiar with this position. What’s more the issue, is the core control required to do the movements while upside down - the push up or walking itself.

  • Plus the whole being upside down thing in pregnancy - nausea, dizziness, acid-reflux, all the blood rushing to your head.

Modifications:

  • 5-in. elevated: while this is the scaled option, I don’t particularly love it as a modification. It’s sort of like saying single skips are a modification for double-unders. Still a TON of core pressure here. Let’s maybe leave upside down for a little later.

  • Push-ups: From the floor - still core intense but not as much, or incline - getting better on the core pressure situation now.

  • Dumbbell Z Press: From a seated position this one is all upper body, and is a great alternative to HSPU. Not only that, you’re directly working on strength to eventually be able to do a HSPU, when the timing is right.

  • For any of the above, feel free to reduce reps as well. 50 is a LOT of one movement in a row, and form is likely to diminish no matter how strong your first 20 look.

Handstand Walk

Considerations:

  • Core pressure, core alignment - all of it! For fun, I googled “pregnant handstand walking” and found a number of videos that visually showed what I expected to see - a LOT of lumbar curve. Think about it - you’re walking on your hands, feet in the air, with a large belly throwing your centre of gravity off. Most women won’t have the strength (or balance) to maintain a neutral spine, so to compensate for the belly their belly is forward, while hands and feet are behind - resulting in a huge “C” shaped body. The resulting pressure on your outstretched belly is a lot, as you walk across the floor.

  • While postpartum doesn’t have a belly pulling you forward, I’d still caution being in this “C” shaped position and the strain it will place on your linea alba (abdominal muscles), particuarly if you are healing or managing diastasis.

  • Again, being upside down in pregnancy and dealing with nausea, dizziness, and/or acid-reflux. Not fun.

Modifications:

  • Bear crawl: If having your head down doesn’t make you dizzy or want to vomit, bear crawl is a much more core friendly movement.

  • Offset front rack kettlebell carry: If you’re later into pregnancy and being bent over in any way shape or form is just not happening, opt for an upright walk instead. You’re still working on a ton of core stabilization, plus you can walk the same distance as everyone else - just be sure to switch hands at the half-way point.

How did you modify your workout? Let me know below! I’ll be doing mine later today and will check in with you all after:)

Double-Unders and Toes-To-Bar in Pregnancy & Postpartum: CrossFit Open 19.2

Open 19.2

  • 8-min. AMRAP + bonus time:

  • 25 toes-to-bars

  • 50 double-unders

  • 15 squat cleans, 135/85

  • 25 toes-to-bars

  • 50 double-unders

  • 13 squat cleans, 185/115lb

My first thought when I saw this? "Well shit." Haha. Way to throw some of the least pregnancy and postpartum friendly movements in this week!

My toes-to-bar strength hasn't returned yet, nor has my pelvic floor stamina for that many double-unders at once. Ah well, modifications here I come:)

If you are new here, each week I'm doing a post on the Open workouts with considerations and modifications for pregnant and postpartum athletes. Postpartum can be any point in time from 4 months to 10 years postpartum. These considerations would also apply to anyone who hasn't had children, but who is experiencing pelvic floor or core dysfunction. Let's dive in.

Toes-To-Bar

Considerations:

  • Main consideration here is the core pressure that's created. While you may visually be able to see it on your abdomen with coning, what you may not also feel is the pressure on your pelvic floor.

  • [Edit] During pregnancy I would not recommend T2B, K2E, or hollow holds due to the core pressure they create.

Strategies:

  • Breath: You're going to see a common theme here week to week;) Test out what works for you - exhaling as you start your kip, or maybe a little bit later of an exhale as you raise your legs.

  • Core control: If you are coning or trenching, are you able to activate your abdominals to control the gap and pressure as you raise up? Practice first on the ground so you can get a solid feel for it, and then progress your way back up to the bar.

Modifications:

  • Knees to elbows: Can you better control your breath and core if the movement is shortened?

  • Ball slams: They'll keep the pace of your workout moving, again remember to breath with these!

  • Hollow body hold or repetitions: The hollow body position transfers to so many CrossFit movements. What do you notice? Are you better able to control your core with repetitions? Or with a steady hold? When you're steady holding, how long are you able to hold it before you feel your core engagement start to go?

  • Birddog: Seriously Nicole, birddog in the Open? Here's the thing. If you aren't at a point where you are able to control coning or pressure or your breathing, why chance taking a few steps backwards in your recovery for an Open workout? Yes, they are exciting, it feels like everyone is doing it, but remember you're in this for the long game. Is it worth the risk to push hard for a couple Open workouts, only to be a few steps behind in physio and recovery after? Be kind to yourself, and your healing or growing body. 

Double-Unders

Considerations:

  • Where do I start, lol. Double-unders are highly taxing on your pelvic floor. So are single skips while we're at it, just not quiiiite as much. If you experience leaking during skipping, I wouldn't recommend it. Leaking is a sign that your body is taxed - perhaps your pelvic floor is tight, perhaps it's weak - either way, leaking is a sign to back off of skipping.

  • If you are postpartum and aren’t experiencing leaking, I still would not recommend diving into skipping in your first year UNLESS you have built up to impact movements slowly, and with a ton of strength work in addition (like, a few months of strength work). If you’re only just starting to introduce skipping or impact work into your workouts again - 50 double-unders isn’t the way to introduce it;)

  • If you are pregnant, even if you're not experiencing leaking, I recommend to my clients to stop skipping after the first trimester, that is if they reeeeaaaally want to be skipping at all - if it’s not important to them, we’ll remove it right away. Again, where is your risk versus reward conversation taking you?

Strategies:

  • Alignment: Rib cage down, chest straight ahead, eyes forward.

  • Breathing: Breath naturally. Double-unders aren't a movement you'll be able to match breath to movement for, so just keep breathing, focusing on big breaths into your ribcage - avoiding breathing only into your chest (shallow breathing).

  • Relax your belly: This is probably one of the ones I see the most with clients - and to be honest with myself until I caught it and realized it was causing the majority of my problems with double-unders. Our mind says, "I'm jumping, I need to grip to keep from leaking and protect my pelvic floor" but our pelvic floor says, "hey, you're restricting my natural movement by squeezing me with a vice grip - lay off a little and let me do my job." [Side note: wouldn't it be seriously amazing if our pelvic floor could actually tell us what it needs? I mean, assuming we'd listen all the time?]

Modifications:

  • Single skips (if not pregnant, and if you’ve built up to skipping over a number of months): If the above strategies don't address leaking, try single skips. If that's enough of a change in stimulus that it stops leaking, carry on. If not, try the below.

  • Bike: The bike, like ball slams, will keep your workout moving if that is your goal. For 50 double-unders I'd probably sub around 10-15 cals on the bike, again depending how early postpartum, how late in pregnancy, or how exhausted you are from the previous night's (lack of) sleep.

Squat Cleans

Considerations:

  • Load: 85lb may be a doable weight for you, but the caution I would place here is that you have 15 reps in a row, in a competitive environment. Can you breath through each rep? Can you do each rep with proper form?

  • Exhaustion: You’re coming straight off of 75 reps before getting to your first round of squat cleans, meaning you’re already going to be out of breath and fatigued. The first two things that usually go in this case? Form, and breathing. Form is a consideration for anyone, regardless of pregnancy and postpartum. Breathing and not straining or holding your breath is going to be important for pelvic floor and core pressure.

  • Power movement: With any power movement, there is no slowing it down, unlike a squat or deadlift that you can really take your time on to pay attention to form and breath. It’s a dynamic movement requiring quick response by your whole body - brain, muscles, joints, and pelvic floor.

Modifications:

  • Dumbbell hang power clean: Particularly if you are pregnant and your belly is now in the way of the bar path, switch to dumbbell hang cleans instead. By continuing to train with a barbell you are undoing all your previous training to drill the correct bar path in. [Check my blog post here on this very topic].

  • Reduce load, reps, and range of motion: Perform with an empty barbell, cut the reps in half, reduce to a hang power clean - do any one of or combination of these to allow you to move with intention for each rep.

I am loving seeing your posts on how you are modifying your workouts!! Please keep tagging me and keep them coming. You are also a HUGE support to moms going through the same thing - it’s so helpful knowing you aren’t the only one wishing you could do it, and knowing that there are more like you out there who have long term health in mind over one season or competition. Big love to all of you who are taking care of yourselves, it’s not easy, but you are doing it.