• Rachel Moore PT DPT

A Guide to Murph for the Pregnant and Postpartum Athlete

Updated: Sep 8


It’s almost Memorial Day, and for many fitness enthusiasts in the world, that means one thing- it’s almost time for Murph!

For many pregnant and postpartum athletes, it may seem daunting-if you can’t do it rx, why bother doing it, right? Wrong!

Murph is one of those terrible but wonderful fitness ventures that’s about so much more than the workout. It’s about the community, the experience, and the meaning behind the WOD. That being said, there are many ways you can still participate, even if you are a pregnant or early postpartum athlete!

First let’s talk about what Murph is:

1 mile run

100 pull ups

200 push ups

300 air squats

1 mile run

All with a 20# vest if you’re going RX.

There are several options to modify Murph.

You can opt out of the vest.

You can do a partitioned Murph. There are SO many options out there on how to break up partitions, but two examples are:

1 mile run

20 rounds of:

5 pull ups

10 pushups

15 air squats

1 mile run

OR

1 mile run

10 rounds of:

10 pull ups

20 push ups

30 air squats

1 mile run

For others, a half Murph is their go to:

800m run

50 pull ups

100 pushups

150 squats

800m run

The half murph can also be partitioned into rounds. Needless to say, there is a SOME form of Murph for everyone out there!

Once you have decided on which version of Murph you are going to do, it’s time to talk modifications for the pregnant and postpartum athlete!

Intensity

A key to remember when deciding what to do for Murph during pregnancy is that intensity matters during pregnancy! When exercising, the easiest way to figure out intensity is to use the “talk test”-you should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising (even if that conversation is breathy). In both the pregnancy and postpartum phase, it’s key to remember that your pelvic floor, like every other muscle in your body, is made up of just that-muscles. They fatigue with work over time. You may start the workout guns blazing feeling great, and because this is a long duration exercise, may notice symptoms coming on during the workout. Setting a realistic expectation for yourself is key here. If you do feel an onset of pelvic symptoms, whether that be pain, leaking, bleeding, or fullness, regress the exercise. Don’t just push through hoping it will go away, or you will likely be paying for it later!

The Run

Depending on where you are in your pregnancy, it may still be possible for you to run! If you are in first or early second trimester and you are able to run without an onset of pelvic floor symptoms (fullness, bladder leakage, pelvic pain), there is no need to modify the run. The second mile in particular has potential to get dicey-your pelvic floor will likely be fatigued and you may notice symptoms in the second mile that you didn’t have in the first mile. Be aware of your symptoms, and if you notice an onset of any of the above mentioned symptoms, opt to break up your running instead. One example of a way to break up the running would be to add segments of running between rounds in a partitioned Murph. For example:

“buy in”

10 pull ups

20 pushups

30 air squats

400m run

10 pull ups

20 pushups

30 air squats

Repeat 8 times

“buy out”

10 pull ups

20 pushups

30 air squats

This gets you to the total of 10 rounds of 10/20/30, with the 8 400s spread out between rounds

The benefit of breaking up the running is it allows your pelvic floor to recover from the dynamic demands of running (which is really repetitive single leg hopping) between rounds.

That being said, if you have not been running at all, now is not be the time to jump in to 2 miles of running, on top of the other movements during this workout. Another great alternative is to sub out the run for rowing or biking. Bike 80 calories on the assault bike, 3200 meters on bike erg, or row 2000 meters at the beginning and end of the workout instead of running.

The Pull Ups

In early pregnancy, there may be no need to modify this movement. If you are able to maintain core integrity while performing pull ups and hanging from the bar, you are good to go! However, if you experience coning or doming during the pull up, I would suggest modifying. It’s important to note that this is a long workout-so your pull ups in reps 1-10 will likely look significantly different than reps 90-100. If you are concerned about performing the movement with core control for 100 reps straight, opt for the partitioned version instead.

If you are beyond the point in pregnancy where you are no longer hanging from the bar, you can substitute the pull ups all together. Ring rows or banded lat pull downs are both great alternatives for the pull up movement. Just like in early pregnancy, be aware of whether or not you notice abdominal coning or doming on the pull—going into Murph with a plan on your breathing/bracing will help to maintain good core integrity as you fatigue! For the ring rows and pull downs, Exhale and envision bracing your abs on the PULLING portion of the movement.

For the postpartum athlete, the main considerations continue to be in regards to the core—you can use the same modifications listed above for the movement.

The Push Ups

Many people don’t consider just how much core control is involved in a push up, but if you have ever tried to do a push up when your abs are sore from something else, you will quickly notice just how important they are in this movement! Part of what makes this so difficult after the pull ups (aside from the fact that you just ran a mile and did 100 pull ups…) is the fact that your midline is already beginning to fatigue at this point.

In early pregnancy, you likely will not need to modify this movement for range of motion. As pregnancy progresses and your bump grows, you will likely need to do inclined pushups. The lower the surface, the more difficult (and similar to a true pushup) this will be. That being said, if a 20” box is too difficult for you to do without feeling loss of core control or any pelvic symptoms, you can regress to a taller box, or to wall push ups. Finally, if pushups feel to difficult to handle, hook a band up to an upright on the rig, and do banded chest presses

In the early postpartum phase, if you find you are having difficulty maintaining core integrity while performing pushups, performing push ups on your knees will decrease the difficulty. This shortens the lever arm of contact points for your body, and therefor is less stressful on your midline. Elevated pushups and banded chest presses are also an option if knee push ups are too difficult.

The Squats

300. Air. Squats. That is a ton! The standard here is for butt to go below hip crease-basically that just means breaking parallel. Honestly, no one is expecting all of these air squats to look perfect. Think of all the work you’ve done to this point- odds are you are pretty wiped out! Play with your stance with these to introduce some variance- feet wider, feet more narrow, one foot staggered in front of the other.

If squatting below parallel is a no go for you, elevate the squats and give yourself a target, so you know you aren’t pushing past your limit. Using a bench, a box, or for some women even a wall ball can give you a spot to aim for, while managing the depth you are performing.

If air squats in and of themselves are too difficult, switch it out for sit to stands! Pick a surface that is challenging but doable, and sit down. Then, stand up! Repeat 300 times. See, that easy!

The most important part of Murph, which sounds crazy, is to have fun with it. It will suck. Embrace the suck, don't be ashamed to scale or modify however you need to, and enjoy being a part of a community that comes together on a special day to honor fallen soldiers!


Are you excited to tackle Murph while pregnant, or early postpartum? Comment below and tell me your thoughts!

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Spring, TX 77373

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