CrossFit Open 21.3 and 21.4 Strategy Playbook for the Pregnant and Postpartum Athlete
How did the repeat of 17.1 go for you as 21.2? I don’t know about you but I feel like the Open has flown by as we are in the final week of just three this year. Too short for you? Just right? For me at the stage of life I’m currently in, at 16 weeks postpartum it was justttt right. Anyway… You are in the right place here if you are pregnant, postpartum, have any pelvic floor considerations (leaking urine at anytime including jumping and lifting, diastasis recti, pelvic organ prolapse), or, if you are a coach.
Some background on me if it’s your first time here. Hi! My name is Kerri Grace. I am a Level 2 CrossFit Coach, Level 1 USAW Coach, Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism Coach, and Certified Pre-Postnatal Coach amongst others. I have focused my coaching on the pregnant and postpartum populations after my own experience feeling lost and confused during pregnancy and postpartum, and through diastasis recti and an umbilical hernia.
Onto the workout! Surprise! We have not one, but two events this week. 21.3 and 21.4 have been announced and here is what’s on the whiteboard:
CF Open 21.3
For total time:
15 front squats
Then, rest 1 minute before continuing with:
15 front squats
30 chest-to-bar pull-ups
Then, rest 1 minute before continuing with:
15 front squats
30 bar muscle-ups
15 minute cap
CF Open 21.4
Complete the following complex for max load:
1 hang clean
Time begins immediately following the completion of 21.3.
Time cap: 7 min.
Notes on mindset and overall considerations. Start out at a very reasonable pace, you don’t want to start out too fast and burn out quickly. There is some built in rest here but still try to maintain talking pace throughout.
This brings me to breathing strategy. Breathing through the movements can be important. Try to exhale on the exertion or the difficult part of the movement. For this workout, that would mean exhaling on the lift up in ground to overhead, and inhaling as the weight comes back down or in between reps. For burpees, inhale on the way down and exhale as you push up until standing.
If you experience any symptoms of pain, pelvic pain or discomfort, incontinence, pressure or feeling of something falling out or your vagina, or pressure/discomfort in your abdomen/midline that may be a sign from your body to stop. Try to switch up your breathing strategy, lessening weight, slowing it down, one of the alternatives for that movement, or, if the symptoms do not dissipate potentially stop the workout. Your long term health and athleticsm is much more important than this workout.
Pregnant & Postpartum Athletes:
A couple of ways that you may find helpful to modify the front squats depending on your situation could be to scale the weight, squat to a box, or use DBs as a sub for a barbell.
Toes to Bar
I don’t recommend doing toes to bar or knee tucks for my pregnant athletes or for my postpartum athletes that are less than 6 months postpartum or have diastasis recti (unless you are working with a PFPT and PPA Coach that has worked on this with you and it is part of your programming). No matter how far postpartum you are, if you have diastasis recti, are coning during these movements, or have not trained them before now, I would not recommend doing them. . These movements tend to create additional pressure on an abdominal wall that is already stretched and under pressure due to baby. This is a risk vs. reward movement. There are many other ways you can train your midline without the added pressure. To learn more about intra-abdominal pressure and also coning you can click here.
Some potential movements to sub out for toes to bar –
Pallof Press: Wrap a band around a leg of the rig at around shoulder height. Hold the band at your sternum, and stand with your left shoulder pointed toward the rig. You want to be standing far enough away to create tension on the band. Keeping your shoulders and hips square, press the band straight out in front of your body, resisting the tendency to rotate toward the machine. Hold the position for a second, then slowly return your hands to your sternum. Depending on how you feel you could do 12 on each side, or 25 on each side. Exhale as you press the band away from your body and inhale as you bring it back in.
Slam Balls: Choose a weight that you are very comfortable lifting overhead. Make sure as you have the ball overhead you keep your ribs over the hips in a stacked position (try not to let the ribs flare out). Using your whole body, and being careful of the baby bump, slam the ball down onto the ground. Squat down to pick the ball up for your next rep. Inhale as you bring the ball overhead, then exhale and slam down.
– or –
Straight arm pulldowns. These are great because you still hit the lats as you do with toes to bar, and it is a great core movement as well without as much pressure. Exhale as you press down and inhale on the way up. In the video below I show one band around the rig for the standing version, you can do two to make it more difficult. It was too much for my core personally, so I chose not to demo it. There are both standing and lying versions, as well as options for lifting one leg at a time. Watch and feel for coning and management of pressure throughout this movement to determine if it is right for you.
Pull-ups/Bar Muscle Ups
Bar Muscle Ups are not recommended for my pregnant mamas for risk of hitting your belly on the bar. These movements are so dynamic and can typically create a great amount of intra-abdominal pressure. Also, kipping places additional tension on the already stressed abdomen from growing baby whether you are pregnant or postpartum. You want to watching for coning during this movement — some alternatives are below. *Postpartum mamas* If you have not already slowly re-introduced the movements outlined, I would not recommend trying them in this workout for the first time. Risk vs. reward here.
-Ring row/ring dip or combo: Consider doing the reps as ring rows followed by any version of a ring dip (that you can complete with no coning). Full ring dip, scaled with a box under feet, with feet on the ground ot help support etc.
-Simulating the muscle up movement with rings attached to the pullup rig with bands. This can be done standing, from a kneeling position, or sitting. Bonus here is you never have to leave the ground. Again watch for coning.
-Lat pull downs with band attached to rig.
The thruster is broken down into three parts: the squat, the press, and the weight.
The squat — If you are experiencing any symptoms of pain or leaking in the squat, modify the depth and/or consider squatting to a box.
The press — If you are finding that the press is either too taxing, winding you too much, or causing pain, consider taking the press out of it and only do the squat. Focus on keeping your ribs down, as opposed to flaring out.
Weight — Choose a weight that you are extremely comfortable moving for large sets. This is not the workout to do Rx if you are only able to do sets of 5 or less at that weight when you are fresh. This is just to say that you should be capable of large sets at the weight that you choose.
21.4 Barbell Complex
I wouldn’t recommend maxing out on this complex if you are pregnant or within 1 year postpartum AND have worked on increasing your loads to max weight in your training already. Here are a couple of alternative ideas here:
7 min EMOM at moderate load
Start light and work up to mod weight
Use DBs (think bar path pregnant)
Good luck and have fun!!!
Want some ideas on what to substitute movements for? I have created this free resource for YOU! If you are pregnant, postpartum, or have pelvic floor considerations and want the confusion taken out of how to modify the most commonly asked about CrossFit movements, you need this.
I go through what, when, how, and also provide video demonstrations for modifications of the following movements: