Memorial Day in the CrossFit community is synonymous with one workout: Murph. Of the many Hero WODs CrossFit has written over the years, this one is the most famous. (But despite how it looks on the whiteboard, it’s not the most difficult…by a long shot). The workout is this:

Run 1 mile
100 Pull Ups
200 Push Ups
300 Air Squats
Run 1 mile
Partition the reps any way you like.
Technically, Rx would be if you are also wearing a 20lb weighted vest.
(Very few ever take us up on that offer.)

Murph is named for Navy Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy. CrossFit introduced this workout in 2015 with the following:

In memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael P. 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.

If you are somewhat new to CrossFit, this can seem overwhelming. So let’s talk about scaling and strategy.

Scaling the Movements
First, if you can’t do pull ups, you obviously need to scale that movement the way you would in any other class with a high volume of pull-ups. I would suggest ring rows over jumping or banded pull ups, but the latter two are options. You know you are going to be sore after this workout anyways and jumping pull ups can make it worse. Be sure to not let yourself down slowly on the reps…you need to just drop. Bands are ok, but you will spend a lot of time in transition.

Here’s the pro tip for the first timer: this workout is all about the push ups. Pretty much everyone ends up modifying their push ups to get through 200. You will either end up “snaking” your way up and down to the floor, or you will need to do box push ups where your body angle is not parallel to the floor.

Air squats should only be scaled for depth if you have orthopedic issues preventing you from full squats.

Scaling the Reps
This is the easy part, and the way this workout – seemingly impossible – becomes accessible to everyone. Just don’t do as much! How about Half Murph:

Run 800m
50 Pull Ups
100 Push Ups
150 Air Squats
Run 800m

You could also do Partner Murph, where you and a friend split up the reps…one works and one rests. Run 800m together. You can cut back on the reps anyway you like, but try to keep the same ratios.

When it comes to any CrossFit workout, I immediately think of Mike Tyson when he said “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” That’s usually true. Not so much here. Having a plan is a good thing, even if you find you have to adjust it as you go. It’s all about how you break up the reps. I’ve done this enough to know how I am going to do it again.

I start with “The Classic”:

20 Rounds of
5 Pull Ups
10 Push Ups
15 Squats
(Remember ‘Cindy’ last week?)

But again, this workout is all about the push ups. So it only takes a few rounds before 10 straight push ups becomes too much. So at that point, I simply split those ten so it looks like:

5 Pull Ups
5 Push Ups
15 Squats
5 Push Ups

And I can usually carry that rep scheme to the end.

This workout is more “tedious” than it is “hard”, if that makes sense. You just have to keep moving and chip away at the reps.

Final Thoughts
This is a “hero” workout. It is meant to honor someone who has fallen in the line of duty. The story of Michael Murphy is well-known, made public in the book and movie Lone Survivor.

So it is meant to challenge you and push you well out of your comfort zone, much like our men and women in the armed services do everyday. So when you are deep into the workout and not sure you can finish, or not sure you can run that last mike, get outside yourself.

I hope that none of you ever finds yourself in the situation Murph and his men were in and that you will never have to make a decision like he did. But maybe someday you will be hiking in the Shenandoah and a friend will get hurt, and it’s up to you go get help. Ponder that as you are working. Would you stop? More thoughts on that in the video below, from 2016.

We will be doing Murph on Monday at 9am and 10am. See you there!

Bonus if you read this far: you can also do it at 11am, with this caveat. I am doing it then myself, so there is no one there to “coach”. It’s not a class. It’s just you joining me. 11am.

See you Monday,


This is also Murph.