May 5, 2021

Considering "Murph"? - Your 1st Time Survival Guide

Considering "Murph"? - Your 1st Time Survival Guide

By James Rose


We're approaching that time of the year where Crossfitters and other fitness enthusiasts come together to "enjoy" the metabolic challenge that is...Murph!

What is it?

Murph is a "Hero WOD" commonly performed on Memorial Day every year. This is to honour the late Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on June 28th, 2005.

The Workout:

Typically worn with a 20lb weight vest for males, and a 14lb weight vest for females.

- 1 Mile Run

- 100 Pull-Ups

- 200 Push-Ups

- 300 Air Squats

- 1 Mile Run

So how should I plan for it?

It all depends of course on your current level of fitness! Most people choose to do it without the weighted vest. Most people also choose to break up the movements (more on that later.) Ultimately, there's no shame in not being able to do the workout as written (its the taking part that counts!), so work on all those movements primarily that you know need extra focus. *cough* pull-ups *cough*

Below are some ideas on ways to improve in all of those areas.

For the Mile Run: From now until Memorial Day, it's worth spending extra time on unbroken distance running. Start with 1/8 mile (0.12m on a treadmill) at a comfortable jogging pace, then 1/4 mile, before eventually working up to 1/2 mile. Before leaping to the mile, focus next on intensity, so vary your speed on a 1/4 mile burst and 1/2 mile run. Then push for the mile, limiting your breaks but focusing on a steady jog pace.

For the Pull-Ups: Many Crossfit gyms allow their participants to substitute strict pull-ups, as 100 reps is...well ...quite a challenge - especially if "butterfly" or "kipping" pull-ups aren't a thing for you yet. So here are some alternatives, in order of descending difficulty, that help you work towards the real thing, or maybe even sub in, if your space allows:

1) Jumping Pull-Ups (using a 12" - 16" box).

2) Barbell "Inverted" Rows.

3) Ring Rows (or TRX Rows).

4) Empty Barbell Bicep Curls.

See which of these you can perform unbroken for 10 reps. Ideally if we go into this breaking up the reps, then you need to be to do some consistent unbroken reps. Remember, 100 is a high number! 

For the Push-Ups: This upper body "push" movement can also be challenging! Dropping to the knees is the first immediate go-to, followed by push-ups from an elevated surface, such as a 16" box. But here are some other things to work on to help improve those pressing muscles:

1) Dumbbell Floor Presses, with a 10-rep max weight

2) Dips off a bench, with legs straight out in front (heels on the ground)

3) Standing Cable Press, with a 10-rep max weight

4) Bench Press!! 

Again, focus on a move that can be done efficiently with at least 10 unbroken reps. Remember, you're doing 200 of these...that's double 100! 

For the Air Squats: Of the three bodyweight movements, this one seems to be the most attainable. Barring any knee or hip issues, the best way to improve to do more of them! Focus primarily on your depth of squat, to improve muscle elasticity as well as acceleration/speed out of the squat, to improve your output. Adding weights (like a single dumbbell held by the chest) is another good way to heighten overall leg strength! 


One of the best ways to accomplish Murph first time is by breaking up the 3 middle movements into sets. So instead of doing 100 reps straight through of Pull-Ups, you would do something like 10 rounds of 10 Pull-Ups, 20 Push-Ups and 30 Air Squats. Or 20 Rounds of 5 Pull-Ups, 10 Push-Ups and 15 Air Squats. Most Crossfit gyms allow this. With the Mile Run, pace yourself! You don't want to burn out too early!

Final Message:

If you're nervous about just completing Murph, consider other overall scaling options. Crossfit gyms usually post up their own versions of Murph which include options very do-able for most people. Some people even do their first Murph by doing half of everything - and that's OK too. As mentioned before, it's the taking part that counts and ultimately, if you plan to try it again next year, it gives you a great benchmark for improvement.