What is the Murph Workout?
The “Murph Workout” is one of the so-called Hero Workouts1 in CrossFit and is also one of the most famous due to its background story. It is completed every year on Memorial Day2 in many American CrossFit boxes, but also in boxes around the world in the course of fundraising for military charities.
The workout was first published in 2005 under the name “Body Armor” and was considered the favorite workout of U.S. Navy Seals LT. Michael P. Murphy killed in Afghanistan. To honor and pay respect to his wartime service, the workout was later renamed “Murph.”
In 2015 and 2016, the Murph Workout was also part of the CrossFit Games. The best times were set in 2015 by Björgvin Karl Gudmundsson in the men’s competition with an incredible time of 38:36 min and in the women competition by Samantha Briggs with 39:10 min.
1 Hero Workouts are named after fallen US soldiers and are related in some way to the soldier in question. There are 68 Hero Workouts in total, which are much more strenuous and challenging compared to other WODs.
2 Memorial Day is a holiday in the U.S. held each year on the last Monday in May to honor those who have died in war for their country.
The Murph Workout includes one mile of running (1.6 km), 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 air squats, and another mile of running (1.6 km).
The individual partial exercises can either be performed one after the other or divided into individual rounds.
Typically, the Murph Workout is completed FOR TIME with a 14 lb (6 kg) weight vest for women and a 20 lb (9 kg) weight vest for men.
Scaling Options of the Murph Workout
Actually, the exercises listed above should all be performed one after the other. However, very few people will be able to do it just like that. That’s why there are various ways to make the workout a little “easier” or different so that even ambitious amateur athletes can share in the “Murph” experience.
a) Divide the exercises into rounds
Here you divide the exercises (pull-ups, push-ups, squats) into rounds with fewer repetitions. Thus, the total volume remains the same, but the volume per set is reduced and equalized in time.
So if you can do a maximum of 10 push-ups and 5 pull-ups at a time (unexhausted), simply divide the exercises into 20 rounds. Then 5 pull-ups followed by 10 push-ups and 15 squats are completed and the whole thing is repeated 20 times. The 1 mile run (1.6 km) at the beginning and end of the WOD will remain.
b) Divide the whole workout into rounds
Furthermore, it is also conceivable to divide the entire WOD, i.e. also the run at the beginning and at the end into rounds. For example, run 160 m, do 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 squats. Repeat 20 times.
c) Simplify exercises
Furthermore, it is conceivable to adapt the exercises to the respective progression level of the athlete while maintaining the same number of repetitions. For pull-ups, resistance bands can be used, and push-ups can be performed on a box or on the knees, for example.
d) Reduce total volume
If further simplification is needed, the length of the run and the number of repetitions can also be reduced/halved. Instead of 1.6 km, run 0.8 km at the beginning and end of the WOD, instead of 100 pull-ups do 50, 200 push-ups become 100 and 300 squats become 150.
Scaling Options Overview
The history behind – About LT. Michael P. Murphy
LT. Michael P. Murphy (SEAL) was the officer-in-charge of a four-man SEAL element in support of Operation Red Wings, tasked with finding a key anti-coalition militia commander near Asadabad, Afghanistan. Shortly after inserting into the objective area, the SEALs were spotted by three goat herders who were initially detained and then released. It is believed the goat herders immediately reported the SEALs’ presence to Taliban fighters.
A fierce gun battle ensued on the steep face of the mountain between the SEALs and a much larger enemy force. Despite the intensity of the firefight and suffering grave gunshot wounds himself, Murphy is credited with risking his own life to save the lives of his teammates. Murphy, intent on making contact with headquarters, but realizing this would be impossible in the extreme terrain where they were fighting, unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own life moved into the open, where he could gain a better position to transmit a call to get help for his men.
Moving away from the protective mountain rocks, he knowingly exposed himself to increased enemy gunfire. This deliberate and heroic act deprived him of cover and made him a target for the enemy. While continuing to be fired upon, Murphy made contact with the SOF Quick Reaction Force at Bagram Air Base and requested assistance. He calmly provided his unit’s location and the size of the enemy force while requesting immediate support for his team
At one point, he was shot in the back causing him to drop the transmitter. Murphy picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy who was closing in. Severely wounded, LT. Murphy returned to his cover position with his men and continued the battle.
LT. Murphy fought on, allowing one member of his team (Marcus Luttrell) to escape before he was killed. For his selfless actions, LT. Michael Murphy was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on October 27, 2007.