Murph. Ever heard of it?
Before I had ever heard the word CrossFit, or Murph, a Marine told me about a brutal workout with hundreds of repetitions of calisthenics sandwiched between two 1-mile runs…
…all while wearing body armor…
He didn’t know the name of the workout, but he completed it with some other Marines. I’ll never forget that conversation because, I learned later, that was my introduction to Murph – it sounded insane.
And I wanted to try it…
To this day there is not a benchmark workout I have performed more times than Murph. Nor, while active duty, was there a benchmark workout I prescribed more times to those I trained, than Murph.
I would go so far as to say Murph is my favorite workout.
And that brings us here: The EO3 Murph Project
**UPDATE — Project is Complete**
Here’s how you can get caught up:
- Scroll through my Instagram where I posted almost every single Murph, my thoughts, times, etc.
- Read through all the results here: MURPH 52 Times: The Numbers
- Listen to the podcast episode I did after I completed my 52nd week of MURPH
- For questions on gear, supplements, thoughts at the halfway point you’ll want to read my article: “In the Weeds with MURPH”
A few weeks ago (6 weeks as of writing this), I decided I was going to do Murph once a week, every week, for one year.
I perform Murph every Saturday regardless of temperature, weather, feeling, location, etc.
You may be asking yourself why am I doing this, or better yet, why should you care…
Well, I never actually intended on writing much about it here, it was simply my training – what I wanted to do.
But after 6-weeks I saw some amazing (and unexpected) results, found out how to get really good at Murph, and I think Murph can be a real game changer in your routine.
Today, I want to provide you with more than a 6-week report, but perhaps a catalyst for action in your training.
Let’s get started!
What is Murph?
First, I do not want to get too far separated from Murph the workout and Murph the human being.
Knowing who Murph was is far more important than the workout.
So if you don’t know who LT. Michael P. Murphy was, please read:
LT. Michael P. Murphy (SEAL) was the officer-in-charge of a four-man SEAL element in support of Operation Red Wings, tasked with finding a key anti-coalition militia commander near Asadabad, Afghanistan. A fierce gun battle ensued on the steep face of the mountain between the SEALs and a much larger enemy force. Moving away from the protective mountain rocks, he knowingly exposed himself to increased enemy gunfire to radio his position to SOF Quick Reaction Forces. Though injured, LT. Murphy fought on, allowing one member of his team (Marcus Luttrell) to escape, before he was killed. For his selfless actions, LT. Michael Murphy was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on October 27, 2007. We honor his sacrifice and memory though The Murph Workout.
Every time you do this workout, remember.
Next, Murph the workout:
- 1 mile Run
- 100 Pull-ups
- 200 Push-ups
- 300 Squats
- 1 mile Run
Partition the pull-ups, push-ups, and squats as needed. Start and finish with a mile run. If you’ve got a twenty pound vest or body armor, wear it. For more in-depth details on movement standards you can check the Murph workout here.
That is Murph. Now you know.
So why do it so often?
Taking Murph (the workout) Off the Pedestal
Part of the reason I started doing Murph every week was to take it off the pedestal.
When people hear this workout coming up in their programming or at their gym, they fake sick, make excuses and over-scale.
I know this as a coach who would program this workout regularly and see it happen, even with the toughest athletes.
The experienced athletes didn’t feel it “fit” with their training and the inexperienced athletes were simply terrified.
It can be a long and grueling workout, and if that’s what it is in your mind, then that is what it will be.
But if you think it is just another workout, it will be just another workout.
(Unexpected) Results so Far…
Now, to state the obvious – I am getting fitter from Murph.
But I am not some guy who was sitting on his ass every week then decided to go get fit by doing weekly Murphs. I constantly battle myself and train to be stronger, faster and fitter than previous benchmarks.
Nothing in my diet or training has changed. The only thing that changed was the rearrangement of rest days and the addition of Murph every single week.
So what happened?
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I am PR’ing (setting a personal records) in workouts I haven’t been able to beat since 2013!! And not because I haven’t tried the workouts, I just haven’t PR’d some of these workouts in recent history until now. In 2013, I had the time to train 2-3 times a day (those days are long gone) and my conditioning was at one of the best points it has ever been.
But here’s what’s happened…
PR’s so far:
- 5K, new PR 19:51 (-39 seconds)
- Max Reps Pull-ups, new PR 56 reps (+6 reps)
- 500m Row, new PR 1:27 (-2 seconds)
- 30 Muscle-ups for time, new PR 6:35 (-65 seconds)
- Elizabeth, new PR 3:27 (-3 seconds)
- Diane, new PR 3:24 (-50 seconds)
I’ll admit, PR-ing the 5K and max reps pull-ups make perfect sense…MAYBE even the 30 muscle-ups for time.
But the 500m row, Elizabeth and Diane are completely different energy pathways. So it makes for a pretty interesting conversation.
Elizabeth and Diane do involve bodyweight movements, so maybe Murph just makes you a badass at anything that involves running or bodyweight.
That’d make sense, right?
We’ll see. I’m only 11% into finishing this project so I don’t have all the data and won’t jump to any conclusions (I have theories), but I will update you on what is actually happening.
What about Murph?
I am hitting PR’s in Murph each week, too.
- Murph Week (without vest) 1 – 37:43
- Murph Week (without vest) 2 – 36:07
- Murph Week (without vest) 3 – 31:53 (got strategic)
- Murph Week (without vest) 4 – 30:57
- Murph Week (without vest) 5 – 30:40
- Murph Week 6 (with Vest) – 35:55
*Note* – I waited to add the vest because I wanted my body to adjust to hitting the workout every week.
Now I don’t expect to PR Murph every week for 52 weeks, but I’d like to see how low it gets before I am fighting for seconds or milliseconds on PRs.
All this leaves me (and probably you) with one question…
Is my strength taking a hit??
The full answer is I don’t know, YET…
I say that because I have not maxed in all of my lifts recently, but will soon. However, I do know that I moved 315 lb for 11 reps on squat the other day and according to my past workout logs that puts me right on par with my “normal” strength level; i.e. I haven’t lifted more weight for more reps or the same weight for more reps.
Which proves I am not getting weaker, at least.
I’ll let you draw any conclusions or theories that you would like from the data. I’ll just keep working and reporting.
So how does one not suck at Murph?
The Best Murph Strategy
*Disclaimer* – I don’t know your fitness level or what you can handle. Consult your doctor, priest, lawyer, coach and whoever else you need to before taking my advice on Murph. This is what works for me. High-volume and high-intensity workouts can be dangerous, so don’t be stupid.
It’s not for the faint of heart.
Now, that we got that out of the way…
How to not suck at Murph…
After doing this multiple times I found there is only one sound piece of advice that will make you faster at Murph every time you attempt it, I’ll get to my best strategy in a minute…but’s it’s useless without this principle.
**DO NOT STOP! **
When I first started, I would come back from the run and take a short breather to chalk the hands and get my breath semi-under control, before latching on to the pull-up bar.
Bad idea. Too slow.
I also would take a few seconds here and there to gather myself throughout the calisthenics, and to let some of the muscle burn subside, only momentarily.
Bad idea. Too slow.
Now, I run straight from the mile without slowing down and grab onto the pull-up bar.
Reaching overhead when I am out of breath from a mile sprint (basically) makes it incredibly hard to breathe and throws my mind into a slight panic for the first 2-3 rounds of bodyweight movements, but guess what happens after that?
My body adapts. I catch my breath and I keep moving, and I never stop.
That should be your goal for Murph.
Now with that principle in mind, let’s talk strategy.
I’ve tried every strategy out there, not just in this 6 weeks, but in all of the times I have ever done Murph.
Here’s what works best:
1.) The Mile Runs: The runs are where you win or lose at Murph and are perhaps the biggest mental test. Go out hard on the first mile. Some disagree with this, but you have to adapt..go out hard! On the second mile dial your brain in with extreme focus. A lot of people treat the second mile as if they are going to get a completion medal, and are doing just as step above walking speed. If that’s all you got, that’s all you got…But I know (and you know) you have a little bit more. Don’t hold back. If you finish Murph and you aren’t gasping for breath, you went too slow on the last mile.
2.) The Calisthenics (big picture): If you didn’t catch it in the Murph workout description, you can partition the calisthenics however you would like. The BEST strategy is to do 20 rounds of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups and 15 squats. That’s it. I’ve tried straight through, I’ve tried bigger and smaller segments, nope they aren’t as fast. 20 round of 5-10-15, until it’s done.
3.) The pull-ups: Pull-ups are a big one in Murph. I am pretty good at pull-ups so they leave me with little struggle in sets of 5, with or without a vest. If you struggle with pull-ups, scale them until you can handle them. Or do them as singles and only rest for 1 SECOND every time you drop to the ground.
4.) The push-ups: Push-ups, for me, are the first thing to get very fatigued. This happens generally at the halfway mark so then I will do 5 push-ups, pause momentarily at the bottom, then do another 5. It helps me from having to actually rest. Until I can fix this problem (get stronger) it is my limiting factor. My advice is to get ahead of them and don’t get to total muscle failure.
5.) The squats: Here is THE place you will lose Murph, and fixing my squat problem is what knocked 5 minutes off my Murph, the first time I implemented it. You have to do the squats quickly!! If you do them slowly and rest at the top of each rep, you are wasting precious time. Find the fastest squat pace you can hold without burnout and keep it there as long as you can. Be very mindful about your squat pace, and don’t slow. Never break them up into fewer than 15 reps. Keep moving.
6.) Pacing Accountability: This is where you gut check yourself and make sure you are not slacking off. I use an Ironman Timex watch with a 100 lap counter. I tap the button on my watch every time I finish a round of calisthenics where I am constantly aware of my split times. I try to keep everything at a minute, or less. It will be different for everyone, but find a good split for yourself and make sure you aren’t doubling split times by the end of the workout. Hold yourself to a standard!!
And that’s all I’ve got on Murph, for now…
If you want to follow along, find me on Instagram where I will be posting results each week.
Want to join me (virtually)? Let’s do it!
Email me, tag me, mention me, whatever you want.
My challenge to everyone is to do at least ONE Murph before I finish out this project.
And when you do, let me know. Seriously.
If you’ve got a question, throw it in the comments.
To becoming better,
(NOTE: Want The Ultimate Minimal Equipment Training System? Use our free workouts and proven methods to create minimal-equipment, highly-efficient training and results. Get access here.)