The Murph Workout Guide + What’s A Good Murph Time?

We break down the ins and outs of the Murph Workout challenge, including where it comes from, what it entails, and how to train for it

CrossFit has become notorious for having some killer workouts.

Most CrossFit workouts combine various strength exercises, bodyweight exercises, cardio or metabolic conditioning exercises, and sometimes even speed and power exercises.

The most popular CrossFit workouts, or those that serve as benchmarks, are called WODs, which stands for “Workout of the Day.” Nailing the WOD is a badge of honor for CrossFitters, and completing the hardest WODs is much like a runner finishing his or her first 5k, 10k, or even marathon.

The Murph workout is a specific CrossFit WOD named after the late Lieutenant Michael Murphy, a Navy Seal. It is a demanding workout that involves running and performing different bodyweight exercises, all while wearing a weighted vest.

In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know, including how to do the Murph WOD, a good Murph WOD time, and how to improve your Murph WOD time.

Let’s jump in!

A person doing a pull-up with a weight vest on.

What Is the Murph CrossFit Workout?

The Murph workout is a specific CrossFit WOD (workout of the day).

It is one of the special “Hero WODs,” which are not just named as such because they are among the most punishing and rigorous CrossFit workouts, but also because they are created for and named after CrossFit athletes who are part of the military or police forces who have died in service.

Who Is The Murph Workout Named After?

The Murph workout was designed and named in honor of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy. Murphy was a decorated US Navy SEAL who died while serving in Afghanistan in 2005 at the age of 29 during Operation Red Wings. 

Shortly after joining the SEALs, Murphy became a CrossFit athlete and was known to often wear his combat armor during his training. It was because of Murphy’s signature armor worn during his intense workouts that the Murphy WOD requires wearing a weighted vest.

Indeed, one of Murphy’s favorite workout routines was called “Body Armor,” which ultimately became the CrossFit Hero WOD, now called the Murph WOD, or Murph workout.

The History Of The Murphy Challenge

Two years after Murphy’s death, Dr. Joshua Appel, the leader of the team who had recovered Murphy’s body and helped rescue the lone survivor of the operation, gathered several people at his CrossFit gym.

Whilst wearing Murph’s armor which he had recovered at the time, he and the others completed Murph’s workout in memory of those who had lost their lives serving.

From then on, it became a tradition, and in 2010 the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation was founded. The foundation began accepting donations from participants to help grow the challenge.1The Murph Challenge. (n.d.). The Murph Challange. Retrieved December 30, 2023, from https://themurphchallenge.com/pages/about-the-foundation

Since then, the challenge has continued to become more popular year by year.

As a tradition in the CrossFit community, the Murph WOD is performed on Memorial Day, which is an American holiday celebrated on the last day in May to honor first responders and soldiers like Murphy, who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

A person doing a pull-up.

How to Do the Murph Workout

The Murph workout involves running and performing bodyweight exercises, all while wearing a weighted vest. Men must wear a 20-pound weighted vest, and women must wear a 14-pound weighted vest during the workout.

Here is what the Murph workout involves:

Murph Workout Breakdown:

  • 1 Mile Run
  • 200 Push-ups
  • 300 Squats
  • 1 Mile Run

What Equipment Do You Need:

To complete the challenge, you need a pullup bar, a space in which to do press-ups and squats, the space to run one mile, and a 20lb weighted vest (if undertaking the full version of the workout).

You could choose to do the workout at a CrossFit gym.

Is The Murph Workout Difficult?

The Murph workout is undoubtedly a major undertaking that requires serious physical and mental determination and fitness. 

The entire Murph workout involves running two miles and completing a whopping 600 reps of bodyweight movements, all while wearing a 14- or 20-pound weighted vest.

The Murph is also a pretty difficult CrossFit WOD in terms of the amount of volume that comprises the overall workout.

It takes physical endurance—both in terms of cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, and muscular endurance—and mental grit.

A person with a weight vest on.

How Long Does It Take to Do the Murphy Challenge?

The Murph workout is scored based on the time it takes to complete the entire workout in order from start to finish.

It typically takes most CrossFit athletes about an hour to complete, but elite athletes can finish the workout in under 40 minutes. 

For example, during the 2015 CrossFit Games, Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson, the Program Athlete at that time, won the Murph Challenge in a time of 38:36, and Samantha Briggs finished the Murph challenge in 39:10.2LLC, C. (n.d.). 2015. Games.crossfit.com. Retrieved December 30, 2023, from https://games.crossfit.com/workouts/games/2015

The current world record with a weighted vest is 32:41 by athlete Alec Blenis in 2021.

A person doing a push-up.

What Is A Good Murph Workout Time?

A good Murph workout time depends on your fitness level and experience.

In general, the average Murph time for beginners is 63-80 minutes, so any Murph finish time that’s an hour or less would be good for beginners. 

The average Murph WOD time for intermediates is 50-58 minutes, so a good time for an athlete with a year or two of training experience would be under 50 minutes.

A good Murph workout time for advanced or elite athletes would be anything less than 40 minutes. Most advanced athletes finish in the 40-45-minute range. 

Training Strategies for the Murph Workout

The Murph workout is quite challenging, even for experienced athletes who have a lot of muscular strength and endurance.

Hence, if you want to conquer the challenge for the first time, there are several ways you can modify the workout during training to help you crush it.

Based on my history as a professional personal trainer, here are a few tips for modifying the Murph workout for beginners or for those who want to improve their Murph workout time:

A person running in a mountainous area.

#1: Drop the Weighted Vest

For beginners, one of the simplest things you can do to modify the Murph workout is to forgo wearing the weighted vest and perform the entire workout as written with just your body weight.

Adding 14 or 20 pounds, for women and men, respectively, is extremely difficult. Although Lieutenant Murphy loved to wear his “body armor,” it can certainly take a while to build up the strength and fitness to handle such a significant external load. 

#2: Split Up the Exercises Into Sets

Performing 100 pull-ups in a row, 200 push-ups in a row, and even 300 bodyweight squats in a row are extremely challenging tasks that induce significant localized muscular fatigue.

Even doing 10 to 20 pull-ups in one set is often the maximum number fit individuals can handle, so the thought of going 5-10 times as many in a row may be completely impossible.

Therefore, one of the best ways to modify the Murph workout as you build up your muscular strength and endurance is to split up the exercises into sets and perform several rounds, rather than completing all of the reps for each workout continuously.

A person doing an air squat.

In fact, sometimes the Murph workout is even split up into different rounds to make it easier for all fitness levels in competitions.

For example, even in the 2016 CrossFit Games, competitors performed a partitioned Murph workout that still preserved the same volume but reduced localized muscular fatigue by breaking up the exercises into sets.3LLC, C. (n.d.). 2016. Games.crossfit.com. https://games.crossfit.com/workouts/games/2016

An example of a partitioned Murphy workout challenge is as follows: 

Partitioned Murphy Workout

  • 1-mile Run
  • 5 rounds of: 20 Pull-ups, 40 Push-Ups, and 60 Air Squats
  • Finish with a 1-mile run

If this is still too challenging, you can do 10 rounds, with 10 pull-ups, 20 push-ups, and 30 bodyweight squats per round bookended with the 1-mile runs.

#3: Perform a Half Murph

Who says you have to take on the entire Murph WOD challenge on your first go-round?

Start with a half Murph. Run a half mile, and then do 50 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, and 150 squats, finishing with another half-mile run.

If that is still too challenging, break it down even further and do 1/4 of the workout.

As your fitness improves, you can increase the number of reps you perform until you can complete the entire Murphy challenge.

A person doing a kneeling push-up.

#4: Modify the Murph Workout Exercises

Another reasonable way to modify the Murph workout for beginners is to modify the actual exercises in the workout itself.

For example, instead of performing full pull-ups (even without the weighted vest), which are often too challenging for beginners, perform assisted pull-ups using either an assisted pull-up weight machine or a resistance band under your legs to help offset some of your weight.

You can perform the push-ups on your knees if you’re not yet strong enough to do full push-ups, or at least not 200 full push-ups.

#5: Walk/Run

If you’re an avid gym goer and the bodyweight strength exercises in the Murph workout aren’t your downfall, but the two one-mile runs are brutal, use a walk/run approach. 

For example, you can do the runs on a track and run every straightaway (100m) and walk the curves (100m), or run for 1-2 minutes and then walk 30 seconds.

A person walking.

#6: Stick With It

Like most CrossFit WODs, the Murph is a great benchmark challenge. See where you are now, how long it takes you, and how much you can do.

Keep doing the workout.

Commit to trying it once a week or every other week and see how much you can improve over a matter of several months.

Progress takes time, but it also takes consistency. Don’t avoid the parts that challenge you. Focus your workouts on your weaknesses, and you’ll be amazed at how much faster you can finish the Murphy workout challenge.

Have you done the Murph WOD? What was your time like? Which part of the workout is hardest for you? Let us know!

If you are starting out and would like to learn how to master the pull-up, check out our Pull Up Workout Plan For Beginners to get started today!

A pull up, an exercise in the Murph workout.

References

Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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