July 02, 2021 9 min read

You may have thought about training like an Olympian, but have you ever thought about training like a military soldier?

The Murph Workout is a military-style challenge within the CrossFit community used to test extreme endurance and strength.

Additionally, the Murph Workout can be used to build a great level of fitness. Even those not in the large circle of CrossFitters can give the challenge a try and will likely build some serious endurance along the way.

Group of people lifting weights at crossfit training at gym.

What is CrossFit?

Often considered a form of exercise, CrossFit is really more accurately described as a lifestyle that targets strength, endurance, athleticism, and overall health. Additionally, CrossFit is characterized by an intense sense of community.

CrossFit uses various high-intensity workouts paired with compound lifting for a total body enhancement. Most who try CrossFit are often immediately taken by this method of training and shortly become life-long members and participants in the sport.

What is the Murph Workout?

The Murph Workout is named after Michael P. Murphy, a Navy SEAL Lieutenant who was killed on June 28, 2005, in Afghanistan. Murphy was highly decorated and even won the Medal of Honor, the highest honor in the U.S. military, making Murphy the first person in the Navy to receive the honor since the Vietnam War.

Murphy became a member of the CrossFit community shortly after joining the military in an effort to achieve a high level of physical fitness. Murphy eventually developed his own CrossFit workout, which he gave the name “Body Armor”.Murphy’s “Body Armor” required him to do a myriad of different exercises. These exercises included running, squatting, and doing push-ups and pull-ups, all while in his deployment gear: a vest that weighed about 16.4 pounds. 

After Murphy’s death, his workout became a popularized form of training within the Navy SEALs. Later on, a SEAL team member got the training method out into the CrossFit world by contacting CrossFit developer, Greg Glassman, who added the workout to the several other CrossFit Hero workouts.

The workout was published to the CrossFit website as a Hero WOD, or “Hero Workout of the Day”, giving remembrance to Michael Murphy. In 2015, the workout was also used in the 2015 CrossFit Games, a competition for top CrossFitters.

Over the years, the workout has been used as a symbolic way to honor the military. The workout is especially popular on Memorial Day with CrossFit groups, military members, and others participating in a nationwide remembrance often called “Memorial Day Murph” or “Murph WOD”.

How to Do a Murph Workout

Though simple in structure and formulation, a Murph Workout is no easy task. After completing a Murph Workout, you’ll be sweaty, tired, and maybe even sore for several days. But don’t let this deter you from completing the workout as it is a great honor to do so.

The first part of the Murph challenge is a 1-mile run.

This can be done on an outdoor track or on a treadmill. If you’d like to stay true to Murphy’s “Body Armor” style, do this mile wearing a weight vest. You can potentially wear a backpack with weights inside if you don’t have access to a vest. However,  be sure the backpack provides high support to avoid back injuries.

The second step in the Murph Workout is a daunting 100 pull-up challenge.

Yes, you read that right, 100! Once again, Michael Murphy would have done all of those while wearing a heavy 16.4 lb vest. If you don’t have a vest, you can add resistance to a pull-up by holding a dumbbell between your feet or using a dip vest with a weighted plate attached.

The third part of the challenge is a whopping 200 push-ups.

Add a weight plate to your back to mimic the resistance of a weighted vest.It doesn’t stop there! Next, you’ll do 300 air squats, so get ready for an intense lower-body burn. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbells if desired. 

Tired yet?

Too bad, the Murph Workout is finished with another grueling 1-mile run!

In addition to a large number of repetitions, the Murph Workout is typically a time-focused challenge with participants aiming to complete the challenge as quickly as possible. The fastest time for completion of the workout is reportedly an impressive 13 minutes and 53 seconds.

Benefits of the Murph Workout

We’ve laid out exactly how to do a Murph Workout and you’re probably left wondering why anyone would want to do this challenge. All jokes aside, the Murph Workout is not only a great way to honor veterans and current military members, as well as Michael Murphy’s service and ultimate sacrifice, but it is also a sure way to test and increase your fitness level. Additional benefits include:

Minimal Equipment Required

While Murphy wore a weighted vest during his workouts, some participants choose to go without since the workout is quite challenging already.

Furthermore, a weight vest is not a common piece of fitness equipment. However, you can choose to add dumbbells or kettlebells to certain parts of the workout for added resistance.

Though, you’ll likely discover that body weight is more than sufficient to feel a burn in this demanding workout. The only real required piece of equipment is something stable enough for pull-ups. Doorway pull-up bars are one of the most popular ways to go. This fix can be as cheap as $30, making the Murph challenge an affordable method of training.

Boosts Mental Toughness

In addition to the numerous physical benefits of this challenge, completing a Murph Workout demands a lot of mental focus and determination. Completing this challenge should be considered a huge psychological win as you’ll have to push through a mile run, six-hundred total repetitions of pull-ups, push-ups, and squats, then finish it all off with another one-miler. 

It can’t be sugar-coated, this challenge is super tough. Quitting will probably cross your mind several times. However, the end of that second run will probably be one of the most rewarding ends of a training session you’ve ever had, all while supporting a healthy lifestyle, mind, and a great cause.

Simplicity

Perhaps one of the biggest pluses of the Murph Workout is its simplicity. This workout does not require any advanced movements and the structure of the program is formulated even simpler. The simplicity of the Murph Workout makes it a no-excuse, no-fuss way to challenge your abilities and get the most from your workout.

Works Several Muscle Groups

The Murph Workout is simple yet manages to target several muscle groups. The runs will target your cardiovascular ability while also giving you a good lower body and core workout. The pull-ups are great for your back muscles and biceps as well as your core.

Push-ups target your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core. The 300 squats will give you an intense burn in the glutes, quads, and hamstrings, all while recruit your core for stability. Since the repetitions are incredibly high, this workout is really focused on muscular endurance rather than muscle hypertrophy.

Can Be Done Anywhere

The Murph Workout does not require access to a gym, a teacher, or classes. Of course, you can choose to embark on the challenge in an indoor space, but your local track, sidewalks, or yard can work just fine. The point of the workout is to challenge and provide growth physically, not create unnecessary obstacles that can hinder your access to physical exercise.

Supports A Good Cause

If you’ve been looking for a meaningful way to support the U.S. troops and pay respects to service members across the nation, the Murph Workout is a good way to do so. Often, Memorial Day is celebrated as a chance for a long weekend or maybe even an outdoor party while the real meaning of the holiday is overlooked.

Every year on Memorial Day, thousands are completing the Murph Workout challenge to show their support and appreciation.

In addition to completing or participating in the workout challenge, you can typically find charities funds to donate to in honor of Murphy. However, even just participating in the challenge is a great way to spread awareness and encourage others to observe military efforts.

Despite all the simplicity of the Murph Workout, it is still an effective way to challenge your body and get stronger.

However, perhaps the one downfall of the Murphy Workout is the lack of accessibility. You’ll need to be able to run a total of two miles and do several hundred push-ups all while in a weighted vest to do the Murph challenge exactly how Michael Murphy did.

Therefore, we would consider this workout to require a decent physical fitness level established prior to the training.

Tips for Completing the Murph Workout Challenge

If you’re looking to complete the Murph Workout, you may feel like there is a large and nearly impossible task ahead of you. However, with the proper preparation and training, the Murph Workout can be and has been done!

Complete the Murph Training Program

Most people cannot complete the full-on Murph challenge on demand, which is why the Murph Workout official website has formulated a Murph Training program.

This training program claims to prepare anyone of any fitness level for completion of the Murph Workout.

You can also formulate your own training plan. While the simplest training program may seem like doing small versions of the Murph challenge for each training session, a more efficient training program might be more complex than the actual challenge. We recommend doing movements like sit-ups, burpees, barbell squats, jumping pull-ups, deadlifts, and sprints to prepare for the real challenge.

Be Realistic

As stated, the Murph Workout is not for the faint of heart. Though, the best results often come from the hardest challenges. Taking the steps to complete the Murph challenge requires a realistic look at your current fitness level and physical capabilities.

Only then can you accurately prepare for the workout, whether it be through the Murph training program or through your own training plan.

Furthermore, being realistic about your starting point ensures consistency. If you constantly expect more than your abilities, you will likely fail and give up easily. Slow and steady progress, while bad for impatience, is key to the completion of goals as big as the Murph Workout.

Be Smart

If you’re closer to gearing up to completing the full-on challenge, remember the importance of pacing. You may start a Murph Workout with tons of energy, blowing through the first mile at a super-fast pace.

This leaves you with little steam for the rest of the challenge. It is best to partition your energy throughout the challenge, ensuring a steady and consistent use of your energy storage.

Young sporty man preparing protein shake at table

Eat Right

In addition to training up to the Murph Workout, you must have a good idea of a healthy diet. What you put into your body will often determine what you can get out of your body. Building the necessary muscle and endurance for the challenge will take a diet rich in nutrients and calories, with a special emphasis on protein for muscle recovery and carbs for endurance energy.

While many people have no issues with carbohydrate intake, protein and calories in surplus can prove to be extremely difficult to obtain. However, this is an easy fix with the use of flavored protein powders and mass gainer supplements.

Hydrate

Hydration is an incredibly important and often overlooked part of a healthy lifestyle. While you should always aim for proper hydration, completing challenges such as the Murph challenge is especially hydration-demanding.

When training to complete and especially when participating in the Murph Challenge, be sure to pay close attention to your water intake as this can be a large determiner of challenge completion or non-completion.

Utilize Sets

100, 200, and 300 are all huge numbers for reps, so nobody is asking you to complete the reps all in one go. Utilize the structure of sets for each exercise, formulating the set to fit your specific fitness level. Of course, with a higher number of sets for lower reps and more breaks, you won’t be any competition for a top-time spot.

Still, you can definitely use a decreasing set structure to work your way up to larger and larger sets. Many CrossFitters utilize a set structure they call “Cindy”. Cindy simply refers to a structure of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats, done for 20 rounds.

Warm-Up

Weightlifters often don’t warm-up in order to get the most from their sets. However, with endurance challenges like the Murph Workout, warming up can prevent injury and help prepare your muscles for prolonged use. We don’t recommend anything too energy-draining. Simple stretching and light movement should be sufficient.

Find a Group

Doing any challenge is better with others who understand the struggles of embarking on such a journey and can provide support and companionship along the way. There are several gyms with official Murph Workout hosts, however, you don’t need a gym or even the physical presence of a Murph Workout companion. You can always search online for the Murph Workout community, which is on several platforms.

One study done in Japan determined the support of group exercise contributes greatly to overall health and balance in life. A group or friend can not only help keep you accountable but also push you in every single training session. This is especially important in challenges as demanding as the Murph Workout challenge, which tests you both physically and mentally.

The Murph Fitness Challenge: You Can Do It!

Don’t let the difficulty deter you from embarking on the journey towards Murph challenge completion.

While you will need a higher-than-average level of focus and energy to complete such a task, simply work up to the challenge.

If you’ve always wondered what it’s like to train like the military, look no further. The Murph Workout holds a plethora of various benefits while offering a wide range of different challenges.

Unlike other workout challenges, the Murph Workout supports a cause that may be meaningful to you, making it a challenge worth taking.


x