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The Murph Workout Challenge: What It Is, Plus the Benefits

Reading Time: 4 minutes 45 seconds

By: ISSA

Date: 2022-05-30


If you don’t update your workout regularly or set solid goals, both you and your fitness clients can get bored. With boredom comes reduced motivation, leading to missed exercise sessions. The problem is that sometimes it can feel as if you’ve tried every exercise the fitness world has to offer. 

If you’re looking for a new challenge, the Murph workout is one that delivers results while sparking you and your client’s motivation once again. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is the Murph Workout?

The Murph workout is a type of CrossFit workout. It includes:

  • 1 mile run

  • 300 air squats (an air squat is essentially a bodyweight squat)

  • 200 push ups

  • 100 pull ups

  • 1 mile run

With this workout, you can do the squats, push ups, and pull ups in any order. As long as they are sandwiched between a 1 mile run on each end, you are good to go.

You also don’t have to do all reps of each strength training exercise at one time. For example, you might do 30 air squats, 20 push ups, and 10 pulls, then start this sequence over again until you’ve completed all the reps. The Murph CrossFit workout offers many different options.

How the Workout Got Its Name

The Murph workout is a CrossFit Hero WOD (workout of the day). These are CrossFit workouts created in honor of service members who’ve lost their lives too soon but also impacted the CrossFit world. Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy is one of these persons.

Lt. Michael Murphy was killed in Afghanistan in 2005 at just 29 years of age. According to an account provided by the U.S. Navy, Mike Murphy was part of a four-man Navy Seal team searching for Ahmad Shah, a suspected terrorist. During this search, the team was surrounded on three sides and attacked by more than 50 anti-coalition militia.

While trying to retreat, Lieutenant Murphy risked his life in an attempt to save his teammates. He did this by moving into the open to try to get a better signal for calling for help. This exposed him to enemy gunfire, but he calmly made contact with his base and requested assistance. Even after being shot in the back, he completed the call. 

Eventually, Murphy returned to cover and continued his fight, along with three of his Navy SEAL brothers. However, after two hours, three members of the team had lost their lives, Michael P. Murphy being one and Matthew Axelson and Danny Dietz being the two others. Marcus Luttrell was the lone survivor. After his death, Murphy was awarded a congressional medal for his courage and bravery that day. 

Before his passing, Lt. Murphy was a known CrossFit enthusiast. One of his favorite workouts was one he called “Body Armor” as he did it while wearing a weight vest. Today, we know it as the Murph workout. (His friends and family called him Murph.) With this workout, the legacy of this fallen soldier lives on.

Murph Workout Benefits

Research indicates that CrossFit training provides a number of physical benefits. Among them are:

  • Increased cardiovascular fitness

  • Improved anaerobic capacity

  • Better body composition

This research adds that CrossFit offers mental benefits as well. It increases exercise enjoyment and satisfaction. It also provides a challenge while giving exercisers a path to goal achievement. Together, this leads to high levels of participant retention.

The individual exercises included in the Murph workout offer a full-body workout. Each pull up increases strength in the upper body. Each squat works the lower body. With each push up, the core muscles are stressed. 

When these movements are split up into rounds, it forces the body to work harder. Every round feels more difficult than the next. But once you’re done with this workout, the sense of accomplishment that you feel makes all the discomfort worth it.

Increase Intensity with a Weighted Vest

Technically, you don’t have to do the Murph workout with a weight vest. Although, if you’re looking for a more intense challenge, the weighted Murph delivers.

For male participants, this vest often adds another 20 pounds. For female competitors, a 14-pound vest is typically the norm. 

Joining the Official Murph Challenge

Sometimes, competing in a challenge can make completing a tough workout that much sweeter. It also provides a bit of camaraderie with others who also like to push their bodies to the limit.

If this sounds appealing to you, you may want to participate in the Murph Challenge. This event is held on Memorial Day each year. Thus, it is often referred to as the Memorial Day Murph Workout.

Proceeds from the event go toward the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation. Since 2014, more than $1.8 million has been raised through the Murph Challenge. In 2021 alone, 34 scholarships were given out as a result of the proceeds collected.

Should you take the Murph Challenge, you will be asked to submit your completion time. This time is added to the Official Worldwide Leaderboard so you can see how you compare to others completing the challenge. The five men and five women who complete the challenge the fastest receive recognition for their times.

Prepping for the Murph Workout or Murph Challenge

Completing multiple sets of the exercises contained in the Murph workout requires a lot of endurance. So, building your endurance is a good first step in Murph prep. 

Start with just one set of a set number of pull ups, push ups, and air squats. When that becomes easier, add more sets to the workout. Keep adding sets until you’ve hit the numbers required in the Murph workout. Over time, your endurance will improve, enabling you to do the entire workout in one single session.

Once you can do that, start working on your time. See how fast you can get through the challenge, striving to shorten the time it takes in each training session. 

Don’t forget that you don’t have to split up the individual exercises contained in the Murph if you don’t want to. If you don’t split them into different sets, this is referred to as an unpartitioned workout. WOD Time Calculator reports that good times for an unpartitioned Murph are:

  • Beginner Athlete - 63:45 to 70:07

  • Average Athlete - 47:01 to 57:17

  • Advanced Athlete - 36:45 to 40:37

  • Elite Athlete - 32:34

  • Regional Athlete - 28:35

Building strength is important too. Because the Murph workout hits all areas of the body, resistance training must work these same areas. 

Incorporate upper body exercises to build strength in the arms, chest, shoulders, and upper back. Do lower body movements to develop the legs, glutes, and hips. A good core workout improves strength in the abs, lower back, and surrounding areas. 

Becoming a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach provides the knowledge needed to develop a safe, effective strength training program. You may even decide to use what you learn to host your own Murph Challenge, giving you just one more way to keep your clients motivated while honoring the memory of Lieutenant Michael Murphy.


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Resources

Medal of Honor Recipient Michael P Murphy. United States Navy. Retrieved 12 May 2022, from https://www.navy.mil/MEDAL-OF-HONOR-RECIPIENT-MICHAEL-P-MURPHY/.

Gianzina, E.A., Kassotaki, O.A. The benefits and risks of the high-intensity CrossFit training. Sport Sci Health 15, 21–33 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11332-018-0521-7

The Murph Challenge. The Murph Challange. Retrieved 12 May 2022, from https://themurphchallenge.com/.

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