This guide to postpartum double unders is for you if you:
- Recently had a baby
- Want to get back to pee-free double unders
- Need a guide to help you return
- Are a coach who helps postpartum athletes
In this blog, you’ll find the progression of exercises Dr. Alexis uses with her postpartum athletes to get them back to jumping rope and performing double unders in CrossFit workouts.
Plate Step Ups are great early-postpartum (<12 weeks post-baby) modifications to use in workouts: Watch the video for a demo!
STOP here if you are not yet 3 months (12 weeks) postpartum, no matter what type of delivery: vaginal or cesarian, complicated or uncomplicated, hospital birth or home birth.
Throughout pregnancy, your pelvic floor muscles are stretched and weakened. During vaginal births, these muscles are frequently injured. The abdominal core muscles are also stretched and weaned from months of pregnancy. And during cesarian deliveries (c-sections), the abdominal muscles are cut and later stitched together.
It takes a full 12 weeks for your tissues to adequately heal (on the outside AND inside). Therefore, 12 weeks is the minimum time-frame recommendation prior to returning to running or jumping. During this time, it is highly recommended to work with a women’s health &/or pelvic floor physical therapist. Together, you will develop a rehabilitation plan to:
- Prevent & manage pelvic organ prolapse symptoms
- Manage & eliminate urinary incontinence (peeing / leaking)
- Return to sexual function
- Progress back to exercise & activities you enjoy
3 Months Postpartum
After you’ve reached 12 weeks postpartum, worked with your pelvic floor physical therapist, AND are not experiencing(1) any of the following:
- Incontinence (urinary or stool leaking)
- Urgency (urinary or stool) with difficulty managing
- Pelvic or vaginal “heaviness” or “bulging” or “dragging” sensations
- Pain with sexual intercourse
- Difficulty defecating (pooping)
- Pain in pelvis, hips, or back
Then you’re ready to move on to the next steps in the double- under progression:
Heel drops initiate impact to the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles in a controlled manner. As a result, they are the perfect next-step in the progression. You control how much or how little you pound onto the ground with your heels, and you will notice how much your pelvic floor must work to keep up the demand!
First, you’ll spend a few weeks subbing out the double unders in your WODs with heel drops. After that, and after experiencing no symptoms for 4 to 6 workouts, you’ll then move on to small hops.
During this phase, control how much impact there is on your pelvic floor during this exercise. For less impact (easier on the pelvic floor): soften your knees as you land & jump at a slower pace. For more impact (more challenging): increase your pace! You should be able to perform the small hops at a workout pace for the entire WOD without symptoms prior to moving on to the next exercise.
Plate hops are increasingly challenging for your system because you’ll be moving forward and backwards, on and off the plate. As a result, your bladder and other pelvic floor muscles gain control in a whole new way.
Using the Rope, Postpartum
Now (& only now) are you confidently ready to pick up the rope & begin jumping with it. Initially, start out at a slow pac and then after you’ve successfully done a few workouts, increase your pace.
Pro-Tip: Ask your coach for a time-domain to work through instead of a rep-scheme. For example, if the workout is 100 doubles and scaled is 200 singles, then your coach may tell you to instead work for 90 seconds. Subsequently, you can focus on the quality of movement.
Penguin jumps are one of the best substitutes for double unders for postpartum athletes, and often one of the skipped-over in the progression.
You may feel silly, however, I promise you: you will get to your goal of double unders faster if you take this phase seriously. (Telling you to take an exercise seriously when it has “penguin” in its name is a tall order, I know!)
Sub the double unders out and the penguin jumps in for a few weeks. Work up to the point where you can do as many penguin jumps as prescribed double unders in the same coach-recommended time frame.
Now you should be able to do the prescribed rep-scheme of penguin jumps and it should take you no longer than the recommended time-frame for the prescribed double unders. If this is true, then you know you’re ready for the next step: single-single-double.
Congratulations! You just completed your first double under postpartum! Although we’re not quite at the end-road yet, take a moment to celebrate a big win here!
Stringing Double Unders Together
After a few weeks of symptom-free jump rope with this pattern, it’s time to string together those postpartum double unders:
Once you’ve achieved this phase, you may still need to make some modifications in order to achieve pee-free jumping. Oftentimes these modifications include:
- Reducing the reps (Example: Instead of doing 500 total in the workout, cutting the reps by 50% or 75% each round.)
- Breaking a big set into smaller sets with planned rest breaks (Example: During a set of 50, do 5 quick sets of 10 with planned deep breathing rest breaks.)
- Rearranging the order (Example: turning a chipper WOD into an AMRAP; instead of 100 doubles then 200 pull-ups then 300 pushups, you do 10 rounds of 10 doubles + 20 pull-ups + 30 pushups)
- Subbing out other high-impact exercise (Example: instead of doing a workout with running AND doubles or doubles AND box jumps, swap the running or box jumps for biking or step ups)
Seek Help From a Pelvic Floor Specialist
You should book with a Pelvic Floor Specialist in Physical Therapy if you:
- Followed everything in this guide and still had no success
- Are also having difficulty returning to other activities like pull-ups or running or box jumps
- Experience pain
- Need the clarity of an expert’s guidance
Note: Not all pelvic floor therapists are alike. You must feel comfortable with your therapist. You must be heard and understood by your therapist. Your therapist must be aware of your goals, and you need to know your therapist can help you achieve them. You are allowed & encouraged to get second and third opinions!
Postpartum Physical Therapy
Onward Tennessee’s Pregnant & Postpartum specialist, Dr. Alexis Morgan, PT, is both a Level 1 Crossfit Trainer and a Doctor of Physical Therapy. Being knowledgeable in both of these areas allows her to best help you bridge the gap between functional fitness and rehab.