Training for Murph

If you've ever fancied training for Murph but didn't know where to start, this is a simple programme that will get you there. On the other hand, if you've never heard of Murph, it might be a challenge worth pursuing.

A Workout to Remember a Hero

Murph is a workout performed on Memorial Day every year by many special forces and crossfitters. It is named in memory of Navy Lt. Michael Murphy who died in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005.

It's become quite popular as a test of physical capacity and I've had a few people ask me how I would train for it, so here's my programming to get there.

Before laying out the programme, you need to know what makes up the Murph workout.

In a 20lb weight vest (or body armour), complete the following movements for time:

  • 1-mile run
  • 100 pull-ups (no kipping)
  • 200 push-ups
  • 300 air squats
  • 1-mile run

You either do the pull-ups, push-ups and air squats sequentially in one go or break them into segments, which is how we're going to do it: 20 rounds of 5 pull-ups, 10 press-ups and 15 air squats. This is also how they do it at the Crossfit Games.

The approach below is a very simple way of training for Murph, but simplicity is usually the best route to any goal. How long it takes you to get to the full Murph depends on where you are now, thus it's not a "12 weeks to Murph" programme.

How to do it...

Always complete a good mobility warm-up before starting each session when training for Murph and always run the first mile. You don't need to run the second mile every time in training, but should do so every 3rd or 4th workout as a minimum.

Baseline Testing

First, decide whether you are ready to wear the 20lb vest yet. As a guide, if you can perform more than 10 pull-ups, 20 press-ups and 15 air squats with bodyweight, you should probably wear the weighted vest.

For the test...

  • Run a mile
  • Perform as many pull-ups as possible - resist the urge to kip
  • Rest 1 minute
  • Perform as many press-ups as possible
  • Rest 1 minute
  • Perform as many air squats as possible

Use these numbers to calculate week 1.

Week 1

Perform the workout just once a week. Keep the rest of your training programme as normal.

Using 30% of the best numbers you achieved in your test (rounded down for fractions)...

  • Run a mile
  • Perform 12 rounds of pull-ups, press-ups and air squats with as little rest as possible (rest enough that you can achieve your numbers on EVERY round)
  • Run a mile (optional) 

How to progress your plan

Progression for this programme is simple.

  • For the first few weeks, add one or two rounds a week
  • Once you're able to complete 16 rounds, add one rep of each exercise per round until you achieve 5 pull-ups, 10 press-ups and 15 air squats.
  • It's not necessary to have done the full 20 rounds before you attempt the challenge. The motivation of "competition" should comfortably see you through.

Adding Weight

If you've not used the weighted vest yet, add this at the point that you can do 16 full rounds, but do the test again and start back at 12 rounds of 30%. There's a very good chance that you'll be able to progress a lot faster to 16 rounds and then full Murph.

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Will Newton

In over twenty years of coaching, Will has coached everyone from absolute beginners to world champions. His interest in getting the best results for athletes who compete for the love of the sport, rather than as professionals, drives him to find the most effective ways to get results.

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