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Murph Workout; Everything You Need To Know

Updated: Mar 11, 2023

If you’re relatively new to the CrossFit world, or even if you’ve been around for a while, you’ve probably heard of, or potentially even completed the dreaded ‘Murph Workout’.

It’s long, it’s painful, but it’s all for a good cause. We’ve answered all of your questions below.

To explain what Murph is, you first need to know what a ‘Hero WOD’ is.

What is a “Hero” WOD?

A Hero WOD is a workout specifically created by CrossFit to honour fallen soldiers in the line of duty. They are an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices of the fallen, to speak their name and honor their memory.

“These men were fathers, husbands and sons. They were brothers to their fellow SEALs. They were also CrossFitters. In their actions, these men embodied the values and spirit of true heroes, and to immortalize their courage, bravery and self-sacrifice, the CrossFit Hero workouts were created.”

–Russel Berger, CrossFit

So who was Murph?

Michael Murphy (May 7, 1976 – June 28, 2005) was a United States Navy SEAL officer who was awarded the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the War in Afghanistan. He was the first member of the United States Navy to receive the award since the Vietnam War.

“Murph” was killed on 28th June 2005 during a military operation known as “Operation Red Wings”. He had left cover and moved to a clearing away from the mountains (exposing himself to gunfire) in order to get a clear signal for his satellite phone so he could contact headquarters to tell them about the extremely bad situation that he & his team were in.

It was reported that he dropped the satellite phone after being shot more than 14 times but managed to pick the phone back up to finish the call. He then continued fighting from his exposed position until he died from his wounds.

If this story sounds familiar, it is probably because you have watched the movie Lone Survivor which outlines the true story of Operation Red Wings.

What is the Murph WOD?

Michael “Murph” Murphy was well known for creating a workout which he called “Body Armor” which involved a number of movements whilst wearing body armor weighing in at 16.4lb (7.4kg).

After his death, this workout became very popular among SEAL teams everywhere due to its simplicity and brutality.

On 17th August 2005, Greg Glassman (founder of CrossFit) posted the workout that you see below as CrossFit.Com Workout of the Day (WOD):

Murph workout

*With a 20 lb Vest or Body Armor (for Men) or 15lb Vest (for Women):

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

“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.”

Scaled versions for the Murph workout

Let’s face it; very few people will actually be able to finish the “RX” version of Murph and that’s OK. Below, we outline a few different ways that you can scale Murph to ensure you still get a great workout.

Murph scale option 1: Partition the workout

“Partitioning” the workout simply means breaking it down into smaller chunks. Instead of completing 100 pull-ups before moving onto the push-ups, you could look at splitting the workout into smaller rounds.

A common way that Murph is partitioned looks like this;

  • 1.6 km run

  • 10 rounds of 10 pull-ups, 20 push-ups, 30 air squats

  • 1.6km run

Another common strategy is to partition the reps into 20 rounds of “Cindy”: 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats.

Murph scale option 2: Without a weight vest

If you’re an everyday CrossFitter like us, there’s a high chance that it will take you 3+ hours to complete this workout if you have to wear a weight vest.

Trust us when we say that you will still have a great workout if you don’t use the weight vest.

Put your ego to the side for this workout and just try to complete it with your bodyweight if you haven’t done it before.

Murph scale option 3: Sit-ups, push press and/or knee push-ups

We’ve substituted pull-ups for sit-ups and/or push press before. This workout still bloody hurt!

Similarly, there’s no harm in substituting normal push-ups for knee push-ups.

Whatever you do though, DON’T lessen the reps. This workout is meant to be long & extremely arduous, hence why it is a “Hero” workout.

Murph in the CrossFit games

Murph has been an event in the CrossFit Games on three occasions; 2015, 2016 and 2020.

2020 looked a little different due to COVID with only five male and female athletes competing that year in total, but the original back to back years of Murph at the games were a delight for viewers…not so much for the athletes. Check out what went down below.

CrossFit Games 2015 - Murph Workout

Murph took place at the Crossfit Games for the first time in 2015 as a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the games. Unfortunately for the athletes, the event fell at midday in the glaring Californian sun, so I’m sure it felt like an evil game by Castro to push them to their limits.

Athletes had to complete Murph unpartitioned AND with a weight vest. So that’s a 1 mile run into 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, 300 air squats and a final 1 mile run all while wearing a weight vest…YUCK! But, these are the best of the best and most athletes still managed to get through it in style!

Top 3 Male athletes

  1. Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson: 38:36

  2. Mat Fraser: 39:20

  3. Noah Ohlsen: 39:33

Top 3 Female athletes

  1. Sam Briggs: 39:10

  2. Alethea Boon: 40:33

  3. Kristin Holte: 40:39

Whilst there were some incredible performances and times set by the above athletes, not all went to plan for some of the games’ biggest players. Annie Thorisdottir and Kara Webb were two of Murphs victims that year, both struggling through the heat and visibly struggling to keep moving. Annie ended up having to withdraw from the competition, and Kara Webb passed out directly after the event and received treatment for heatstroke. It was an event I’m sure a lot of athletes hoped was left in the past for a while…but as we know with the games, there’s always surprises around the corner. Roll on 2016…

You can check out the full 2015 replay here.

CrossFit Games 2016 - Murph Workout

Doing Murph once at the games is a gruelling test, but TWICE and in back to back years… Now that’s just cruel. Or if you’re a CrossFit junkie like us, you probably had the popcorn ready waiting to see how things would go compared to 2015.

This time however, we saw a slight change to the programming. Instead of the unpartitioned event, we saw it start as usual with a 1 mile run, then into 5 rounds of: 20 pull-ups, 40 push-ups, 60 squats and ending with the 1 mile run.

Times from the previous year were smashed and athletes were visibly much more prepared to endure such a long and physically demanding test. Maybe it was the programming that made this year's event easier for athletes, or it may have also helped that it was held earlier in the day this time!

Top 3 Male athletes

  1. Josh Bridges: 34:38

  2. Mat Fraser: 35:47

  3. Noah Ohlsen: 37:02

Top 3 Female athletes

  1. Kari Pearce: 36:42

  2. Katrin Davidsdottir: 36:48

  3. Carleen Mathews: 37:05

You can check out the full 2016 replay here.

What is the fastest Murph time ever?

Alec Blenis appears to have the world record for Murph at 32 minutes and 41 seconds. You can watch it here.

Other notable mentions include;

How can you complete a team murph?

In 2016, a Team Murph was completed at the CrossFit games. A team of 6 was required to complete the following;

  • 1800 meter run, with one team member laying on a stretcher

  • 100 worm push-presses

  • 300 chest-to-bar pull-ups

  • 100 worm squats

  • 1800 meter run, with one team member laying on a stretcher

That workout above is definitely the ADVANCED version of a team Murph.

For a normal CrossFit gym, we would recommend doing a Team Murph as below;

  • 1 mile (1600m) run as a PAIR

  • 100 pull-ups, split evenly between team members

  • 200 push-ups, split evenly between team members

  • 300 pull-ups, split evenly between team members

  • 1 mile (1600m) run as a PAIR*

*RX+: down a beer every 400m.

What is the Murph challenge?

The Murph challenge is the official fundraiser for the Michael Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation and is the primary means of fundraising for the foundation on an annual basis.

This fundraiser has raised over $1.8m since 2014 and awarded 34 scholarships in 2021.

You can learn more about the Murph challenge here.

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