The Murph WOD: Goal Times, Tips, and Safety

A Memorial Day Workout

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Murph is a CrossFit Hero WOD dedicated to Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy of Patchogue, New York. Murphy was killed in Afghanistan on June 28th, 2005.

The Murph WOD was one of Lieutenant Murphy’s favorites, and he originally named it Body Armor. After his death, the CrossFit community renamed the workout after Lieutenant Murphy. The Murph WOD has become the commemorative workout for Memorial Day. Every year, millions of CrossFitters take to the streets and their pull-up bars to celebrate Lieutenant Murphy and our armed forces.

Gyms around the world can sign up to be hosts for Murph as part of the official Murph Challenge. Becoming a standard host is free, but becoming an official host benefits the LT. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation.

Murph isn’t a typical CrossFit workout. It’s one of the longest, most grueling CrossFit WODs with times ranging from 40 minutes to more than one hour, depending on the athlete’s skill level and endurance.

Also Known As: Memorial Day WOD, Body Armor WOD

Score: For time (athletes complete the challenge as fast as possible)

Equipment Needed: Pull-up bar or rig, body armor or weighted vest (optional)

Level: Advanced, but can be modified for beginners

Benefits

The benefits of Murph aren’t just physical—this workout requires mental strength and dedication.

Cardiovascular Fitness

Murph is a long, intense workout that will test your endurance. With two miles and 600 total reps, Murph is difficult to complete if you don’t have a solid cardiovascular fitness foundation.

Muscle Endurance

The 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 air squats in Murph are a true test of muscular endurance. While strength is important, these high rep ranges will tax your slow-twitch muscle fibers and test your ability to repeatedly exert force.

Mental Strength

Arduous workouts like Murph are one of the best ways to test your mental capacity. It takes a great deal of willpower and dedication to complete a workout like Murph.

Remembrance

Murph isn’t just another WOD done to improve fitness; rather, it’s a commemoration of armed service members who have given the ultimate sacrifice. Try to remember why you’re doing Murph when you start to feel like giving up.

Step-by-Step Instructions

The Murph WOD is as follows:

  1. Complete a 1-mile run.
  2. Perform 100 pull-ups.
  3. Perform 200 push-ups.
  4. Complete 300 air squats.
  5. Complete another 1-mile run.

During these exercises (or for as many of them as you can), wear a 20-pound weighted vest or body armor if you have it handy. The prescribed version of Murph also includes kipping pull-ups, standard push-ups, and standard air squats.

Kipping Pull-Ups

The kipping pull-up evolved as a way to achieve more pull-up volume than one can get with strict (or standard) pull-ups. Kipping pull-ups involve a leg swing and hip snap to propel the body upward, helping you get your chin over the bar, decreasing the force needed to achieve the “up” position.

Standard Push-Ups

To do a pushup, lay face-down on the floor with your palms on the floor shoulder-width apart and the balls of your feet touching the ground. From there, push yourself up, keeping your body in a straight line (don’t arch your back), and keep your elbows pointed to your toes.

Air Squat

To do an air squat, stand with your heels just wider than your hips and point your toes out slightly. Push your hips back and down, descending to the lowest point of your squat. The crease of your hips should be below your knees. Maintain your balance in your heels and drive through your heels to return to the standing position.

Splitting Up the Reps

You may partition the pull-ups, push-ups and air squats in a way that makes sense for you, but you must begin and end with a 1-mile run. One of the most common ways to partition Murph is to do 20 rounds of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats.

Other popular ways to divide Murph include:

  • The 5-5-5-15 method: 20 rounds of 5 push-ups, 5 pull-ups, 5 push-ups, and 15 air squats.
  • The 5-5-5-10-5 method: 20 rounds of 5 pull-ups, 5 air squats, 5 push-ups, 10 air squats, and 5 push-ups.

Common Mistakes

There are a few mistakes you’ll want to avoid making when you do Murph in order to protect yourself from injury.

Going Too Fast

The biggest and most common mistake people make when doing Murph is going too fast at the beginning of the workout.

With a long, high-volume workout like Murph, you’ll want to pace yourself. Starting off too quickly will make it difficult to complete the workout.

It helps if you know your average mile time or if you’ve tracked your exercising heart rate prior to attempting the workout. If you don’t know your mile time or heart rate, then try to run the first mile at a pace that makes you breathe hard, but not at a pace that has you gasping for air.

If you find that you paced yourself too slow in the beginning, you can always speed up toward the middle and end of the workout.

Partitioning Incorrectly

It’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses when doing Murph. For example, if you struggle with pull-ups, you’ll want to give yourself as much time as possible between sets. The 5-5-5-15 and 5-5-5-10-5 methods both work well for people who struggle with pull-ups.

Wearing a Vest Without Proper Strength 

While the prescribed version of Murph includes a 20-pound vest or body armor, don’t wear it if you haven’t developed a solid foundation of cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance.

If you can’t complete Murph in under one hour without a vest, definitely don’t wear one. You can always work your way up to that.

Modifications and Variations

Perhaps the greatest thing about the Murph WOD is that it’s scalable for everyone. Athletes of all skill, strength, and endurance levels can complete Murph.

Assisted Pull-Ups

If you can’t yet complete a pull-up (let alone 100 of them), try out different variations of assisted pull-ups.

Resistance Band: You can use a rubber resistance band to offset some of your body weight and help propel you upwards.

Jumping Pull-Ups: Jumping pull-ups involve standing on an elevated platform (such as a box) and jumping to get your chin over the bar.

Body-Weight Rows: If pull-ups are totally out of the question for you, try body-weight rows on a TRX, gymnastic rings, or other suspension equipment. For a body-weight row, you simply hold onto the suspension equipment in a horizontal position with arms extended and pull your body to the handles.

Modified Push-ups

Push-ups are a very difficult body-weight movement. There are three main ways to modify them if you can’t complete a full push-up. From least to most difficult, these are push-ups against the wall, push-ups on your knees, and push-ups on a box or bench.

Against the Wall: Stand about two feet away from a wall and place your hands on the wall. From this standing position, bend your elbows and lower your body toward the wall.

On the Knees: Instead of holding yourself up in the plank position on your hands and toes, lower your knees to the ground. From that position, lower your body to the ground and then push up to return to the starting position.

On a Box or Bench: This is similar to a push-up against the wall, but your hands will be on a box or bench instead. Keep your weight on your toes and lower your body to the box or bench—then, push back up.

Modified Squats

There aren’t very many ways to modify air squats, but a few minor tweaks can help if you struggle with mobility or strength.

TRX Squats: Using a TRX or other suspended support is helpful if you don’t have the strength to perform an air squat correctly. Adjust the TRX straps to your height and hold them in front of you with your arms extended. From there, lower down into a squat and then stand back up.

Heel Raise: If mobility is your problem (that is, you struggle to squat with good form because your ankles or hips are tight), raising your heels may help. Before you start Murph, set up a squat station with small weights (like a 2.5-pound plate) on the ground. When it’s time to squat, place your heels on the weights for added elevation to help with mobility.

Safety and Precautions

There are a number of steps you should take before attempting Murph.

Mobilize and Warm Up

Murph is a full-body workout that will tax all of your muscles. Before starting the workout, you should warm up with some light aerobic work, such as rowing or jogging at an easy pace. Then, complete dynamic stretches for the ankles, calves, quads, hamstrings, hips, back, wrists, arms, and shoulders.

Hydrate

In just one hour of exercise, the body can lose more than a quart of water. The American Council on Exercise recommends the following hydration guidelines: Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before you start exercising. Drink 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up. Take additional water breaks during Murph if needed.

Pace Yourself

Pacing yourself is one of the most important precautions you can take when doing Murph. It’s best if you have good knowledge of your running pace and exercising heart rate, but if you don’t, just remember one rule: Don’t go too fast too soon.

Recover

After any workout, you should implement a recovery regimen. Make sure to rehydrate with water and electrolytes, and eat a meal or snack with carbs and protein as soon after as possible. Passive stretching and foam-rolling can help to reduce soreness and speed up the muscle recovery process.

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