Here’s How to Prepare for the Memorial Day ‘Murph’ Workout

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Capt. Bush, participant of "The Murph Challenge 2016" is performing pull ups. (Photo Credit: Jin Sang Woo)

With Memorial Day coming, many avid exercisers (and some non-consistent exercisers) are considering doing the Memorial Day ‘Murph.’ The CrossFit-style workout is designed to honor Lt. Michael Murphy, a Navy SEAL who died in Operation Red Wing and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions.

Murph is not a workout challenge that you should do on a whim, as it’s an advanced level workout that pushes advanced level athletes. Many people scale it down, dropping the weight vest, decreasing the reps or both.

The Murph is tough. See for yourself:

While wearing a 20 lbs. weight vest (though I think this should be optional for most people)

  • Run 1 mile
  • 100 pull-ups
  • 200 push-ups
  • 300 squats
  • Run 1 mile

Here are some tips as well as a few workouts you should add to your week a few times over month of May in order to better prepare yourself:

1. You should take several weeks or a few months focused on building your calisthenics volume. A few great ways to do that can be found in the Classic Military PT Week where we use the PT Pyramid 1-10-1, PT SuperSet and the Max Rep Set Workout Trio. All of these workouts are also strategy options to completing the 100,200,300 rep requirement of the Murph.

2. Consider doing the first Murph without a 20 lbs. weight vest if this is your first time.

3. If you have never done 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups or 300 squats in a single workout day, don’t try them all at once your first time.

4. Try one of my favorite ways to get in the repetitions but spread it out over a few other types of exercises as you build up your repetitions:

Warmup with 1-5 burpee/pullup pyramid:

1 Pullup / 1 burpee - run 25 meters,

2 Pullup / 2 burpee - run 25 meters,

3 Pullup / 3 burpee - run 25 meters,

4 Pullup / 4 burpee - run 25 meters,

5 pull-ups, 5 burpees - run 25 meters - Mix in some dynamic stretches during the 25 meter warmup runs

Here is a good rule of thumb: The above warmup is 15 pull-ups and 15 burpees. If you fail at the 1-5 pyramid of pull-ups, you have no business doing a Murph workout that requires 100 total pull-ups, unless you are planning on doing most of the repetitions using assistance bands, a pulldown machine or other easier options of pulling exercises like dumbbell rows or bicep curls.

That goes for push-ups, too. If you have to resort to knee push-ups, do so, but you may want to avoid 200 reps if you are not used to it.

Max Rep Circuit:

  • 100 push press (50lbs)
  • 100 pulling reps (mix in rows, bicep curls to finish sets to get 100 PULLING reps)
  • 100 push-ups
  • 100 lunges (50/leg)
  • 100 squats
  • 100 kb swing
  • 5 minutes of total time in plank pose (keep track each cycle)
  • Run 400 meters every set of the complete circuit until all reps are completed

The way this workout works is to give you a max rep set of push press, followed by pull-ups (or pulling exercise, then push-ups, lunges or leg squats and kettlle bell swings. Keep track of your reps for each exercise as you will be done with the exercise in the circuit when you reach the 100 rep total. Do the plank pose for time as well.

Keep track of your total time as you are done when you total 5 minutes during the cycles of circuits you accomplish. BUT, you will run 400 meters at a moderate pace after every completion of the circuit.

You are done with the circuit when you have accumulated 100 reps for each exercise.

You will be in the Pain Cave for days after this workout if you are not used to this kind of calisthenics volume (with or without a weight vest). Once again, alter it to fit your abilities (even cut the reps in half) as one person’s easy workout challenge is another person’s trip to the hospital with rhabdomyolysis.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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