Welcome to this week’s post on programming/scaling/modifying CrossFit for pregnant and postpartum athletes. This week’s programming is a mix of weightlifting for strength and a unique take on monostructural modality workouts.
As always, thanks to my husband for allowing me to use programming from Light the Fire CrossFit for this blog series.
Pass throughs: Probably won’t be an issue, but modify to another comfortable shoulder stretch if needed.
Keep in mind alignment- ribs should stay stacked over the pelvis.
OHS: Go to depth that feels comfortable on squats, also keep in mind alignment!
OHS walk: This is probably ok for those whose belly isn’t too big, but be mindful that the “walking” aspect may cause discomfort/symptoms for those who have had pubic symphysis issues.
Scale to air/OH squats.
OHS hops: I would not recommend an athlete perform this movement once they get to the 2nd trimester.
The impact of the hopping on the pelvis, possibility of falling/losing balance are the main reasons I would not recommend this.
Scale to sumo squat stretch if comfortable or other position that allows for a stretch in the bottom of the squat.
Push-up plank hold: If athletes begin to cone with planks, modify them to an incline style to decrease the demand on the core.
Arch hold: For pregnant athletes, I would switch this movement to holding a supine bridge instead once the belly starts to show or if being prone (on stomach) is uncomfortable sooner.
Newly postpartum athletes- focus on engaging the pelvic floor and TA, and then slowly "add" extremities in from there.
I would recommend when adding the extremities, to focus on either upper body or lower body only at first, and as this gets easier/more comfortable, add more.
Athletes that have a diastasis that is still healing should be mindful of their strategy, breath and alignment in this position.
Side plank holds: If athletes begin to cone with side planks, modify them to an incline style to decrease the demand on the core.
I would also consider another isometric hold substitute, such as a single arm farmer’s carry walk or hold.
Athletes should not be holding their breath during any portion of the routine. Exhale!
Snatch: Once past the first trimester, I recommend athletes perform a power snatch + overhead squat.
Catching the barbell in the bottom of the squat can put additional (& unneeded) stress on the pelvic floor, which we definitely don’t need to do at this point!
Exhale on pull and during the catch.
I also recommend athletes who are further along consider going from the high hang position, to avoid contact with the belly.
If athletes are finding that they are having to take the barbell way around the belly, consider performing overhead squats only, taking the barbell from the rack if needed.
Inhale down, exhale up.
We work so hard to establish a good barbell path - continuing to perform barbell movements around a belly causes a deviation from that good barbell path. That means after the pregnancy, you have to re-learn your barbell path!
Postpartum athletes- find a weight that feels light and you can perform each rep with good technique.
Newly postpartum athletes may benefit from doing power snatch + OHS instead of squat snatch. Again relating back to the extra stress of catching in the bottom of the squat on the pelvic floor.
Choose appropriate weights that cause no symptoms. I would also be ok if an athlete wanted to just stay at one weight or not jump up in weight every round.
If the athlete is uncomfortable using a barbell or has bumped their “bump”, scale to dumbbells instead. In this scenario, I would have the athlete do dumbbell hang power cleans and front squats with the dumbbells.
OHS: Go to the depth that feels comfortable for the athlete.
Inhale down, exhale up.
I do not recommend pregnant or newly postpartum athletes run. Instead choose another monostructural movement.
In this scenario, I would have pregnant athletes use the bike and rower (as long as no coning!), and go for longer distances & alternating between the two pieces of equipment. i.e. 1000m/800m/600m/400m - can scale the distances any way you like!
Another option would be sled push/pull, decreasing the weight at specific intervals.
Postpartum athletes who have been cleared to run, consider scaling the distance if necessary or substitute another monostructural movement.
Postpartum athletes who have been recently cleared to run - I would not have them run with any object. Instead I would probably have them do a mix of monostructural movements- run, bike, row, etc.
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.