Memorial Day Murph Workout: The Ultimate Strategy

Written By Ben  |  Murph 

I’ll never forget my first Memorial Day Murph workout.

Most of us would probably say the same - it’s not a workout that is easily forgotten. Two miles total, and tons of pull-ups, push-ups, and air squats… Murph isn’t a workout to be taken lightly.

There’s a pretty good chance you’ll see Murph pop-up in your gym’s programming. Whether you’ve done the workout before or not, it’s important to go into it with a strategy, and spend some time training for it. Read on for a few tips and tricks so that you can smartly (and safely) take on Memorial Day Murph.

Murph Workout

Why do we do Memorial Day Murph?

Above all else, keep in mind that this is a hero workout. This workout isn’t about your time, your strategy, or your “RX” ability  - instead this is to remember the hero that the workout is recognizing. In this case, the hero is LT. Michael P. Murphy who was killed in action in Afghanistan on June 28th, 2005.

If you’re new to CrossFit, you’ll soon find out that Hero WOD’s are commonly programmed in gyms - and it's not just to challenge your fitness. It’s a great chance to not only remember the fallen - but also preserve and retell the stories of amazing courage and sacrifice.

What is the Murph workout?

Here’s a rundown of the workout:

  • 1 mile Run
  • 100 Pull-Ups
  • 200 Push-Ups
  • 300 Air Squats
  • 1 mile Run

Note: If you are set on doing Murph ‘Rx’ - then you must wear a 20 lb. vest or body armor.

Here is a direct excerpt from the programming. PLEASE READ CLOSELY. 

In memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., who was killed in Afghanistan June 28th, 2005.

This workout was one of Mike's favorites and he'd named it "Body Armor". From here on it will be referred to as "Murph" in honor of the focused warrior and great American who wanted nothing more in life than to serve this great country and the beautiful people who make it what it is.

Partition the pull-ups, push-ups, and squats as needed. Start and finish with a mile run. If you've got a twenty pound vest or body armor, wear it.

The History of Memorial Day Murph

Murph was first programmed on CrossFit's mainsite in August of 2005 - and has gone on to be programmed in the CrossFit Games twice now. When they announced the workout Murph during the CrossFit Games, it was “straight through” without any breaking up of the reps, but when programming on the CFHQ Mainsite, “partition the pull-ups, push-ups, and squats as needed” is the specific standard mentioned.

Needless to say… it’s a workout that every CrossFit athlete should do. There are plenty of ways to divide the reps, and scale accordingly, so that you don’t end up having to skip training for an entire week afterwards.

Another good idea is to start your Murph training by building up the volume gradually in the weeks prior. Within WODprep Masters, Head Coach CJ has been programming various workouts with the intention of prepping for Murph. Not only will our athletes have the benefits of being able to strategise more effectively, but there will be less risk of injury.   

Should you break up the reps during Murph? Is that still considered “Rx”?

There is no bigger debate than this when it comes to Murph…

“If you break up the pull-ups, push-ups, and squats during Murph, is it still considered Rx, or is that considered scaling?”

Beware of the "internet hero."

I’ve seen hundreds of comments from internet heros that claim they are superior than everyone else. They think that doing the workout “straight through” is the only way, and boy are they excited to tell everyone about it. They post pictures of themselves and their score, and they’re quick to jump all over anyone who breaks up the reps. “Not Rx!” “Doesn’t count unless you go straight through.” “Murphy wouldn’t break it up, and neither should you. Straight through is the only Rx.

Listen to me closely: there is no room in this workout for stupidity.

It’s a workout to honor a fallen hero. Would LT Murphy break up the reps? Probably not. Because he was a badass. Heck, he’d probably wear a vest heavier than 20lbs, but guess what, he wouldn’t brag about it and post his score as “Rx+”.

He would just do it. Not for fame. Not for glory.

Another thing… do you think LT Murphy would criticize someone who breaks up the reps and tell them that they didn’t do the workout correctly? “Um, excuse me. If you break up the reps, that’s not Rx...did you see me do the workout straight through? I got a great score.”

No. He wouldn’t. Because remember, he’s badass, and he wasn’t training for himself. He was training to protect the rest of his SEAL team.

Get off your high horse, and do the workout however you want. If you think you can do the workout straight through, do it. It’s hard as hell. If you want to break up the reps, then that’s OK - do that. It’s still hard as hell. 

Above everything: Honor the fallen soldier, not yourself.

How to warm-up for Murph

Warming up correctly for Murph is going to be crucial due to the high volume of reps - particurily with your upper body. To get your arms loosened up and ready to go, check out this pull-up warm up workout from Coach Garry:

Something else important to note for this workout is hand care. You’re looking at a lot of pull-ups - so if you haven’t taken care of your calluses lately… or don’t know how, do yourself a favor and check out this video:

Memorial Day Murph Workout: The Strategy

Below are a few different tips and strategies depending on what your goals are for the workout, and your level of fitness. If you’re planning to do Murph scaled (Half Murph), scroll down to tip #4.

By the way - with 300 air squats on the board, now is a better time than ever to make sure your air squat form is fine-tuned and ready to go…

(Struggling with Hip Mobility? We've got a great article on just that!)

memorial day murph

Murph Tip #1: Break up your reps (if you choose)

If you’re not going through the reps consecutively, then make sure that you partition your reps in a way that is going to let you keep moving the entire time. The pull-ups, push-ups and air squats are going to take up the majority of the workout, so if you can break them up in a way that will let you keep moving with minimal rest, you’re setting yourself up for success.

You have a few options when it comes to breaking up your reps. One could be to go at the workout ‘Cindy’ style - 20 rounds of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 air squats.

Another option would be to set up ‘smart sets’ and break up the specific movement that is going to wear you out the most quickly. For example, if you struggle the most with push-ups… break them up even more than the rest of the movements. Try a rep scheme of:

20 rounds:

  • 5 push-ups
  • 5 pull-ups
  • 5 push-ups
  • 15 air squats

Note: Smart sets are only a good idea if you can maintain fast transitions

If you don’t like the idea of doing 20 rounds, and have a pretty good capacity, below is a different way to split them up, with higher reps.

10 rounds:

  • 10 pull-up
  • 20 push-ups
  • 30 air squats

Murph Tip #2: Mind your transitions

A ton of time can be wasted transitioning from each of the three movements - especially when you’re breaking them into so many small sets. Keep in mind, in this workout you’re moving from the pull-up bar, to the floor, up to squats, potentially 20 times.

That’s a lot of transitioning.

Especially in the later rounds… if you find yourself dilly-dallying around, shaking out your legs or arms instead of hopping into the next movement… you’re wasting A LOT of seconds.

When planning your rep schemes, pick sets and reps that are comfortable enough to allow you to keep moving, instead of having to take long periods of time to recover during transitions.

Murph Tip #3: Singles are OK

We give this advice for a lot of Open workouts as well, and the same goes for Murph - singles are OK.

If you completely gas out and start to struggle to string together sets of pull-ups - move to singles. As long as you can keep moving and stay consistent with singles, this Murph strategy will work.

Note: Make sure if you do move to singles for pull-ups, that you are using a pull-up bar that is just within reach. It’s a big waste of energy to have to jump to a pull-up bar that is much higher than you.

murph workout strategy

Murph Tip #4: Scaling

If you read nothing else on this page, please read this: scale the Murph workout properly.

This is a very high volume of reps. I’ve heard too many stories of athletes struggling through Murph for 90+ minutes (keep in mind, Games athletes can do Murph under 40 minutes) and end up with Rhabdo… or just completely destroying their arms and can’t make it to the gym for the next week.

Yes, it’s supposed to be a grinder, and it’s supposed to suck. But that doesn’t mean that you should throw logic out the window and injure yourself.

Murph Scaling Options

If you’re still looking for a challenge, and Memorial Day Murph seems a bit too much for your ability level, consider doing a Half Murph.

Half Murph

  • 800 m. run
  • 50 pull-ups
  • 100 push-ups
  • 150 air squats
  • 800 m. run

Even with Half Murph, I suggest breaking up the reps in one of the recommended versions above… for example, 10 rounds of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats would be a good choice.

If you can’t do pull-ups yet, feel free to use the following scaling options:

>>> Seated Pull-ups

>>> Other pull-up scaling options

If you're looking for more free pull-up training, check out our ultimate pull-up guide here:

Memorial Day Murph Workout: Recovery

Recovery from the workout Murph is going to be key here - don’t overlook it.

HYDRATE! Drink electrolyte-spiked water before, during, and after the workout as you’ll be losing a lot of fluids throughout - especially if it’s a warmer day.

Sidenote: Copious amounts of beer is not generally a good recovery choice, especially when you’re already dehydrated. PLEASE drink water first and throughout the rest of your day. And then of course, eat some great food, and take some time to rest.

Enjoy the workout, remember why we do it, and have a great Memorial Day!

Honor the fallen soldier, not yourself.

  • Loved this article. Murph would not have bragged and would have encouraged all. Be thankful for men like Murph. They sacrificed all so we can live how we live.

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