Deceptively simple, brutal, and rewarding. I found a workout called the Murph Challenge through friends involved in Crossfit.
They swore by it.
At first, it sounds challenging but completely manageable. I'm no Crossfitter. But a few days after hearing about the Murph Challenge, I decided to give it a shot.
Boy did it surprise me.The Murph Challenge is a powerful test of mental fortitude, physical strength, endurance, and personal resilience. Click To Tweet
As a complete novice, I scoured the web for more information. I put together what I believed to be the essentials and got started. I just finished another Murph this morning. If you're looking to try the Murph Challenge, here's what I wish I knew before my first experience.
What is the Murph Challenge?
The Murph Challenge was a favorite workout of LT. Michael P. Murphy. He first posted the workout in 2005 originally calling it “body armor”, and since then the fitness community has turned it into a Crossfit Hero WOD (workout of the day).
Since his passing, his workout was renamed to “The Murph Challenge” in commemoration. Now, it's the official annual fundraiser of the LT. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation. Although often performed in the sweltering heat of Memorial Day, the Murph Challenge is useful year round.
So what exactly is the workout?
The Murph Challenge consists of running and bodyweight exercise done for time:
- 1-mile run
- 100 pull-ups
- 200 pushups
- 300 squats
- 1-mile run
Murph himself encouraged the use of body armor or a 20lb weighted vest. The entire challenge takes between 30 minutes to over an hour, depending on your conditioning and any added weight.
Beyond the physical components:
“The Murph Challenge is more than just a workout. It is a tradition that helps push us, humble us, and allows us the opportunity to dedicate a bit of pain and sweat to honor, LT. Michael P. Murphy, a man who sacrificed everything he had for our freedom.”The Murph Challenge Website
How to Do The Murph Challenge
I found that the workout needs little explanation.
That said, some strategic planning can mean the difference between surpassing your expectations, and cutting the challenge short.
Murph Challenge Rules
- The official challenge requires 20 pounds of armor or weighted vest.
- Must start with a 1 mile run.
- Bodyweight exercises can be performed in any order, split up however you desire. Complete the 100, 200, and 300 however desired.
- Must finish with the 1 mile run.
Outside those rules, anything is fair game.
The Gear Needed
The Murph Challenge is an ideal workout when equipment is sparse and gyms shutdown. You don't need much:
- A pull-up bar. I struggled most with pull-ups, but for an extra challenge you could use a tree branch or thicker bar.
- Somewhere to run. Grass is best if you don't love running or have shin splints.
- A weight vest (optional). Once the basic challenge becomes routine, add a vest. I left mine back in California, but soon enough will progress.
While not recommended for beginners, the official Murph Challenge prescribes a 20-pound weight vest like the one below:
Modified Murph Challenge
The Murph Challenge is a big undertaking. Unless you're in fantastic shape already, you might consider working up to it. The modified Murph Challenge is the beginner's friend.
Here are a few unofficial tips you can pull to make the event easier:
- No weight vest. You won't need the extra 20 pounds.
- Time. Eventually, the goal is to keep beating your previous times. To start, take your time.
- Reduce reps. If you cannot run a mile, target 1/2 mile. Likewise, 75 pull-ups may be more realistic than 100.
- Split sets. Most people break the target reps into 10 pull-ups, followed by 20 pushups, and 30 squats. You'll get more rest by splitting it into more sets of fewer reps. For example 5, 10, 15 instead.
- Use resistance bands. If necessary, bands can help you squeeze out those last couple (otherwise impossible) reps.
- Optimize timing. Two facets: heat, and workout preference. You'll last longer in cooler weather. Also, time your challenge around when you workout best. Evening or morning. I prefer the early morning as the sun rises.
Murph Challenge & Training Tips
- Don't start with a weighted vest. Beginners shouldn't use weighted vests.
- Tailor the workout to your fitness level: If the numbers sound ambitious on paper, they'll sound harder around pullup 75, pushup 150, and squat 275. Scale back as necessary to your current fitness level. Better to subtract a few reps and finish than quit midway through.
- Hydrate. Consume plenty of water, salt, and electrolytes before the event. Even in the dead of New York winter, I'm sure to sweat.
- Focus on each rep. Halfway into my first challenge, I panicked when I calculated how much I had left. Taking it rep by rep makes the it more manageable.
- Mentally prepare. First timer Murphers' often underestimate the mental side of the challenge. Know that the mind is first to quit, and have a strategy.
- Chunk exercise. While the elite bang-out 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups, and 300 squats in a few—or even one—sets, most do best by chunking the reps.
- Slow and steady. Beginners race through the first mile. Pace yourself. If you're huffing and puffing before you start the calisthenics, you'll regret all 600 reps.
- Fuel up. Unless you're a keto-adapted fat-burning machine, you'll want fuel. The challenge is both aerobically and anaerobically taxing. Avoid the classic keto mistake of demonizing carbs. Post-workout carbs speed up recovery.
Common Murph Challenge Questions
How long does it take to do the Murph workout?
A good goal for the average person is to break 1 hour. Average Murph Challenge times range from 30 to 50 minutes.
Can you do the Murph everyday?
You can do the Murph Challenge every day for short periods of time. Like other forms of overtraining, everyday Murph can eventually lead to injury, Rhabdomyolysis, and hormonal imbalances. It's best to progress slowly. Start with once every other week. Then weekly. Next, twice weekly. If you do daily Murph sessions you must perfect your recovery. Even more so if low-carb.
Is Murph done with strict pull ups?
The official Murph Challenge is done with strict (no kip) pull-ups. However, modified versions do not require strict pull-ups.
Does Murph build muscle?
Murph is most effective for fat loss, conditioning, and cardio. But it can build muscle if used properly. In order to get strong using Murph, you must push yourself by increasing your pace or resistance each session. Otherwise, your body stops adapting.
Murph Challenge Workout Training
Hardcore Crossfitters love crown this one of their top challenges. The Murph Challenge is an ultimate mind and body tester for hardcore fitness enthusiasts.
Know what you're getting yourself into with the Murph.
By going into it with a plan, you're setting yourself up for success.
Take it easy your first session. If the workout is excrutiatingly painful, will you come back?
Murph is all about improvement. Feeling good enough to train Murph week after week (or every day) is the driver of results.
Seeing my time improve by five minutes from my first to second Murph was satisfying, and necessary ammo to persist.
Try the challenge. If it's too difficult, make it a goal and slowly build up to it. Complete a Murph and realize your grit.