How to Scale Pull-Ups for Murph Workout

Written By Shona  |  Murph 

So you’re ready to take on Murph… minus the pull-ups? If you don’t have pull-ups yet, don’t have a pull-up bar, or maybe you’re struggling with some nagging injuries, there’s no need to skip this Memorial Day workout altogether; I have some great substitutions for you!

As a quick recap, here’s the work to be completed for time in hero WOD Murph;

  • One-mile run
  • 100 pull-ups
  • 200 push-ups
  • 300 squats
  • One-mile run

(wearing a 20lbs vest for males/14lbs vest for females)

The pull-ups, push ups and squats can be partitioned any way.

There are endless ways to scale this workout as a whole, but in this article we’re discussing the pull-ups only. Let me kick off by saying that if you’re looking at scaling any of the movements in Murph, I recommend ditching the weight vest until you’re sailing through the workout Rx’d. 

How to scale pull ups for Murph workout

How many pull-ups in the Murph workout?

In ‘Murph’, there are 100 pull-ups altogether. These can be completed ‘straight through’ or partitioned into smaller sets, for example, 5 pull-ups, 10 push ups, 15 squats for 20 rounds. One of the ways we can scale the pull-ups is by reducing the number of reps. This is a great option if you have pull-ups but 100 of them in a workout would be too much volume for you.

If you’d be confident completing 3 reps in each set rather than 5, that would be 60 total pull-ups altogether and an effective scaling option. 

What types of pull ups are in Murph?

Any pull-up variation is acceptable; providing you begin (or pass through) under the bar with straight arms and finish the rep with your chin above the bar. This can be achieved with strict pull-ups, kipping pull-ups or butterfly pull-ups. 

What’s a good substitute if you don’t have a pull up bar?

If you don’t have a pull-up bar, don’t panic - I have some effective substitutions for you so that you can still take part in honoring Navy SEAL, Lt. Michael P. Murphy. 

  1. Rings Rows or TRX Rows:
    This is a solid option if you have a set of rings or a TRX system that can be attached to any kind of beam - or even a tree outdoors!
  2. Barbell Pull-Ups:
    Got a squat rack with barbell? Create your own makeshift pull-up bar; either with your heels resting on the floor to make them easier, or turn it into an L-sit pull-up for added difficulty!
  3. Dumbbell or Barbell Rows:
    Another rowing option; this time with more limited equipment. A bent over row allows you to use both arms at the same time. 

3 x pull up scale options for Murph

If you’re looking to take part in this year’s Murph challenge but don’t yet have pull-ups, here are 3 alternatives you can scale to;

  1. Jumping Pull-Ups:
    This one is my favorite because it matches the tempo and effort of a kipping pull-up and so preserves the stimulus of the workout. If you have a box and a pull-up bar give this a go! If you haven’t heard of these before, start off by grabbing a box and placing it underneath your pull-up bar. You’ll then perform a kipping pull-up but with your feet remaining on the box, and only jumping off when you go to pull your chin over the bar. You can make these harder by lowering the height of the box and easier by raising it. 
  2. Ring Rows:
    If you don’t feel confident with the jumping variation, try swapping the pull-ups for ring rows. You can make them more challenging by walking your feet forward, or if you need to make them easier, just walk your feet back until your body is more upright.
  3. Banded Pull-Down:
    This variation is probably the most accessible for beginners, and has the added bonus of not being affected by bodyweight. You can do these seated on the floor or on a bench or box and can choose a band thickness that suits your own abilities.

To Summarize

Murph is a workout that anyone can take part in, providing the reps and movements are scaled appropriately. To find what works for you, try a few rounds of the variations you plan to use in the weeks leading up to it to give you an idea of how it’ll feel in the WOD. My favorite option is the jumping pull-up, but any pulling movement that you can complete with confidence can be a great substitute in this workout. 

Useful Links To Help You With Murph

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