May has flown by, which means that Memorial Day and "Murph" is around the corner. For any non-CrossFitter, Murph is a hero WOD commonly performed on Memorial Day. Murph is 1 mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, 300 air squats and a final 1 mile run. 

Murph 2016 vs Murph 2017 at 24 weeks pregnant

Murph 2016 vs Murph 2017 at 24 weeks pregnant

Yes, that is a lot of volume. It's a long workout, which means to perform Rx (with a weight vest), there should be good capacity. If that capacity is not there, it's a recipe for injury or illness. Hopefully you have been preparing for Murph- if not, here are some scaling recommendations for injured, pregnant & postpartum athletes. If you don't fall into those categories, I'd recommend talking to your coach about appropriate scaling for Murph.

Injured Athletes

As a physical therapist, my professional recommendation is, if something hurts, don't do it.

Shoulder/arm injury:

  • DO NOT WEAR A VEST IF YOU HAVE SHOULDER PAIN/INJURY. Please read that again, I'm not yelling, just talking sternly.

  • Pull ups are very likely not friendly to those with shoulder pain. I recommend scaling pull ups to ring rows if you have pain. If you are able to hang from the bar, doing pull ups with a better/tighter kip and more strict-like movements will likely feel better on the shoulders.

  • Push ups may also be an issue as well. Scale to incline push ups (box, wall, dumbbells) if necessary. Hand-release push ups may help decrease the symptoms in the bottom position.

  • Break the movements into smaller sets- sets of 5 reps of the movements, alternating movements to give the shoulders a little rest.

  • Do not be afraid to scale the reps. Consider halving the pull ups and push ups. If you do strict pull ups, I'd recommend doing 33 or 34 reps total (1:3 ratio).

Hip/knee/leg injury:

  • Consider scaling the run to the bike or rower. If you are able to run for shorter distances, consider scaling the run to a half mile each time.

  • Squats should be performed to a depth that is comfortable- remember you can always decrease the amount of reps.

  • Use a box or ball as a target with squats if necessary to keep from going into a painful range.

  • Scaling air squats to the bike would another appropriate substitute if the above recommendations continue to cause symptoms. Perform for the amount of time it would take on average to perform the squats.

Back injury:

  • Keep your core tight & activated during push ups- I like the cue "pull your belly button towards your ribs" and squeeze your butt.

  • Using a box or ball as a target for air squats if squatting to a certain depth causes back pain.

Pregnant Athletes

  • Piston breathing strategy is going to be huge here- please look up Julie Wiebe and piston breathing strategy if you have not already.

  • Breathe through the workout. Focus on maintaining a steady pace- no going balls to the wall here please! I would definitely recommend considering scaling the number of reps, especially for those later in their pregnancy.

  • If you begin experiencing symptoms at all during the workout, please stop and find a more appropriate scale. If you are unable to reduce your symptoms, I recommend stopping the workout.

  • Please don't wear a vest if you're've got a built in one already!

  • Running: I would generally recommend scaling to the bike or rower- it is a "longer" run, so there's an increased chance of fatigue and possibly symptoms. Running causes impact, which will put additional stress on the pelvic floor.

    • The pelvic floor is already under a lot of stress with a growing baby- adding impact only increases that stress and possible risk of injury. That risk for injury could be during pregnancy or postpartum.

  • Pull ups: I do not recommend kipping beyond the first trimester, or once you feel the kip start to pull on your belly - whichever happens faster. Kipping will stretch the front of our bodies- which is already getting stretched from the belly. No need to overstretch and put more demand on our bodies, including pressure on our abs and linea alba (which can contribute to coning).

    • If you have the strength, scaling to strict pull ups may be an option. Again use the 1 strict pull up : 3 kipping pull up ratio.

    • If you feel comfortable getting in/out of a band, that can be an option as well.

    • Ring rows are a great substitution as well- no worries with getting in & out of a band, and you can adjust your feet position mid-set if you're starting to cone.

    • Another option could be a seated pull down with a band and PVC.

    • If you noticed any coning, stop. Try modifying your breathing strategy and/or decrease the intensity of the movement. If coning continues, scale further.

    • Bottom line is no coning!

  • Push ups: Again, use the piston breathing strategy here.

    • Make sure there is no coning- push ups require a lot of core strength, and are likely to put pressure on the already stressed abdominal muscles.

    • Elevate your hands so there's room for the belly. Using dumbbells, a box or wall are all ways to accommodate!

  • Squats: Focusing on breath is important here, use the piston breathing strategy!

    • Squat to a depth that is comfortable to you. Use a bench or box if necessary.

      • If squatting is uncomfortable, scale to the bike.

Postpartum Athletes

  • If you aren't using a good strategy like the piston breathing strategy, please look up Julie Wiebe and the piston breathing strategy. It is literally a game changer.

  • Focus on moving at a steady pace through the workout. Being mindful of your strategy as the reps increase is important- as the workout continues, you'll fatigue. Fatigue will make it more challenging to perform piston strategy and can put additional stress on those weak/healing areas such as the pelvic floor and abdominals.

  • Scaling the reps is a great way to accommodate the changes your postpartum body is still dealing with- scaling the run and/or the bodyweight movements.

  • I would not recommend adding a vest if you have not been training for Murph in that capacity. That extra weight will fatigue your core even quicker, increasing the risk of symptoms.

  • Running: Ok to do as long as you've been cleared by a pelvic floor PT, and have no symptoms. If you have not run much, and haven't tried working up to a mile, I would recommend scaling the distance.

    • Other appropriate scales would be the bike or rower (no coning!).

  • Pull ups: If regular pull ups are not part of your workouts yet, there's no need to try them in this high volume workout. Instead do pull ups as you have been in training, continuing to focus on breath with movement.

    • I don't recommend kipping movements until you've been assessed by a pelvic floor PT and cleared to try them. Too much of that force and stretching too soon on a healing diastasis is going to keep it from healing and closing. Especially with the high volume reps.

    • There are several options for pull ups if you "don't have them". Ring rows, banded pull ups, pull downs with a band and PVC, etc.

    • If you notice any coning, stop. Try modifying your breathing strategy and/or decrease the intensity of the movement. If coning continues, scale further.

    • Bottom line is no coning!

  • Push ups: If regular push ups cause symptoms or you're not able to maintain good alignment, please scale to whatever option you've been using in training.

    • If you are doing regular push ups, use the piston strategy and focus on keeping the abdominals & glutes engaged to decrease risk of symptoms.

    • Scaling options include knees, hands elevated on bench/box/dumbbells/wall.

    • If you notice coning, stop. Try to adjust your strategy and technique- if you're unable to perform without coning or other symptoms, please modify.

  • Squats: Focusing on breath is important here, use the piston breathing strategy!

    • Squat to a depth that is comfortable to you. Use a bench or box if necessary. Keep good alignment- do you have a butt wink? Don't go so low. Focus on getting that pelvic floor to work with your breathing.

    • Scaling to the bike is another option.

Coaches - 

When considering scaling an athlete, try to keep in the mind what functional movement is being performed. Is it a variation of the squat, hinge, pull, push, etc.? Try to maintain the integrity of the functional movement, while modifying it a level that is appropriate for your individual athletes. If you would like to learn more about coaching pregnant and postpartum athletes, please look into Brianna Battles' coaching course here. For questions regarding scaling/modifications for the injured athlete, please feel free to contact me and/or work directly with the athlete's healthcare provider.

***All pregnant and postpartum women should have their physician's approval to workout. If you don't, please do not workout. If you have any physician restrictions, to ignore them is placing you and your baby's health in jeopardy.

***I recommend all postpartum women get assessed by a pelvic floor physical therapist. Find one by you here. I also highly recommend finding a Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism coach by you to go over strategy with specific exercises, programming and recommendations. Find one here.

***At any sight of coning with any movement, stop. Stop if you begin experiencing "leaking", 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 via social media or email. I'm happy to help- but remember my advice is not accompanied with a hands-on assessment, which is the best way to make recommendations. If you are interested in meeting with me, please contact me. If you're interested in finding an appropriate healthcare provider/coach, please contact me and I will do my best to help you find one.