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What Is the Murph CrossFit Workout?

This Ultra-Challenging CrossFit WOD is a Physical and Emotional Workout

Memorial Day marks an important day in the CrossFit community, where CrossFit boxes (aka gyms) across the country do a Murph workout to honor Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. Murph is one of the many classic Crossfit hero WODs (workout of the day). A hero WOD is a tribute to a fallen member of the military or first responder who died while serving honorably in the line of duty. Although the Murph is typically done on Memorial Day, like all hero WODS, it can be done at any time. And because this is such a challenging workout, many people start training for it a couple months beforehand.

The Murph workout involves four basic exercises: running, pull-ups, push-ups, and air squats. If you do this workout on Memorial Day at a CrossFit gym, you may find many of the athletes who serve in the military performing this workout in full uniform, to honor Lt. Murphy and all the men and women who have served our country. From my experience, I can attest that it's very emotional. Here's the background story behind the Murph workout, an explanation of how to do the Murph workout, and two variations of the Murph workout for beginners.

What's the Story Behind the Murph Workout?

While on tour in Afghanistan, Lt. Murphy was leading a team of three fellow Navy SEALS on a mission, when goat herders discovered the team's hiding spot. Instead of killing the herders, Murphy let them go. An hour after the herders were set free, more than 100 Taliban fighters opened fire on Murphy and his team; it is believed the herders disclosed the SEALS' location. In an attempt to save his team, Murphy walked into a clearing to make a satellite call for help and was shot, but not before signing off with a "thank you." He later died of his wounds. He was 29. After his death, Lt. Murphy was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. His favorite workout, originally named Body Armor, is now referred to as the "Murph" in his honor.

Murph Workout

Equipment needed: pull-up bar

Directions: Complete one round of the workout below for time (as fast as you can). Optional: Wear a 20-pound vest or body armor. After completing the Murph, hydrate well and do this 10-minute stretching routine.

Complete 1 round:
1-mile run
100 pull-ups
200 push-ups
300 air squats
1-mile run

For most people, this workout is incredibly challenging, or impossible, especially if you can't even do one pull-up. Keep reading for two different versions to modify this workout for beginners.

Murph Workout For Beginners

These two Murph variations still involve running two miles and doing the same amount of reps — 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 air squats — but they give your muscles a break, so the Murph may seem less daunting. The first variation below still took me 42 minutes to complete, and after three days, my arms and legs were still sore.

Beginner Murph Workout: Variation 1

Complete 4 rounds:
800-meter run (1/2 mile)
5 rounds:

Since this variation might seems a little confusing, let's break it down. After running a half mile, you complete five rounds of the pull-ups, push-ups, and air squats. Then repeat the entire workout three more times, starting with the half mile run.

Beginner Murph Workout: Variation 2

Complete 1 round:
1-mile run
20 rounds of:
  • 5 pull-ups
  • 10 push-ups
  • 15 air squats
1-mile run

In this variation, you split up the pull-ups, push-ups, and air squats into 20 rounds with low reps, but one-mile runs still bookend the strength workout.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Kathryna Hancock
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