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Murph Workout For All Levels Of Fitness

A CrossFit athlete preparing to complete the murph workout.

The CrossFit Murph workout is a formidable physical undertaking. This seemingly simple sweat session is hard going even for elite-level CrossFit athletes.


Consisting of only four separate exercises, organised into five stations, the Murph workout is a test of discipline and self-determination.


Completing the workout requires a rare mix of muscular endurance, strength, and cardiovascular fitness.


However, if you think you thinking about backing out, don’t! I’ve developed three variations of the Murph workout – one for beginners, intermediate, and advanced trainers.


What’s the Murph workout?

Murph is a standard CrossFit event that often features in regional and national competitions. Legend has it that one of the co-founders of the CrossFit movement created and named the event in honour of a military mate who was killed in combat.


The Murph workout consists of the following exercises:


1-Mile run
100 Pull-ups
200 Push-ups
300 Air squats
1-Mile run

Murph workout rules

That’s a pretty punishing workout I think you’ll agree. However, it gets worse. CrossFit competitors are required to clad themselves in a 20lb (just shy of 10kg) weighted vest. Also, there are rules.


First, all the reps must be performed to exacting specifications – no partial pull-ups or pathetic squat pumps. (But you can kip on the pull-ups.) Competitors perform pull-ups, push-ups, and air squats under the stony stare of eagle-eyed adjudicators. If a CrossFitter trims a few inches off a rep it won’t be counted. Repeat offences can incur time penalties or even disqualification.


Second, the exercises must be completed in the order shown. And you cannot progress from one station to the next until the distance and reps have been completed.


Fitness benefits of Murph workout

The Murph workout develops a wide range of components of fitness. Integrating it into your training routine can improve upper-body strength, whole-body muscle endurance, and cardio capacity.


Taking each component separately, the two 1-mile runs will enhance your aerobic stamina and burn fat. In addition to improving fitness conditioning, running – especially at a high tempo – strengthens the heart while enhancing the efficiency of the vascular system.


In contrast, bodyweight exercises – pull-ups, press-ups, and air squats – will improve whole-body muscle endurance. And if you wear a weighted vest while battling Murph, you’ll likely experience a noticeable bump in strength.


More benefits of Murph

In addition to developing multiple components of fitness, Murph is a fuss-free workout that requires minimal equipment. If you’ve got access to a pull-up bar (swings at your local park will do), a patch of ground, and a circuit to run around, you can Murph.


Sensing that you’re eager to get stuck into the workout, I’ll mention just one more benefit. As I discuss in a bit more detail below, there are loads of ways that you can modify Murph. For instance, you can reformat the workout to accommodate your current level of fitness.


Furthermore, the exercises can be substituted for ones that more closely align with your training objectives. To sum up, there are loads of possible permutations.


Murph workout level 1: Beginner

The first Murph workout has been modified for beginners and those with low fitness levels. You’ll notice that the exercise ordering closely aligns with the original. The differences are the cardio options – you can run, row or cycle – lat pull-down in place of pull-ups, and the rep reduction.


Pull-ups are a challenging exercise that few can do. Thus, the original Murph workout is beyond the physical reach of most people. However, substituting pull-ups with lat pull-downs makes it more accessible.


The same can be said of the high repetitions. Beginners and/or those with low fitness levels may find 200 press-ups insurmountable. But bringing the numbers down a bit and breaking them into sets opens up the workout to a wider audience.


This ‘pared down’ version of Murph can be used to develop your physicality for the full Monty.


Key points

  • Complete the suggested warm-up before undertaking the workout. Warm-up: 400m steady jog 5 lat pull-downs, 5 press-ups, 5 air squats 400m steady jog 5 lat pull-downs, 5 press-ups, 5 air squats 400m jog 5 lat pull-downs, 5 press-ups, 5 air squats 400m running 5 lat pull-downs, 5 press-ups, 5 air squats start the workout! Begin at the first station which involves either running, rowing, or cycling one mile.

  • Remember, before progressing to the next station, you must complete the one you’re on.

  • You can, of course, break the reps into sets. You’ll notice this has been factored into the session plan below.

  • Consider timing your performance as this can be used to compete against should you have another go at the workout.


Murph workout session plan for beginner trainers.

Murph workout level 2: Intermediate

This intermediate version of Murph brings you within touching distance of the original. Other than a slight modification of the exercises and rep numbers, it’s mostly the same.


Whereas in the beginner version pull-ups were replaced with lat pull-downs, here we’re taking a blended approach. You will be completing 50 lat pull-downs followed by 50 pull-ups.


Another slight difference is the cardio station. The only option is running but, to make it a bit more challenging, you are required to wear a weighted vest for the final mile. If you don’t have a weighted vest, you can compensate by increasing the incline to 3% (that’s if you are completing the workout at the gym).


Key points

  • Complete the suggested warm-up before undertaking the workout. Warm-up: 400m steady jog 5 lat pull-downs, 5 press-ups, 5 air squats 400m steady jog 10 lat pull-downs, 10 press-ups, 10 air squats 400m jog 15 lat pull-downs, 15 press-ups, 15 air squats 400m running 5 pull-ups, 20 press-ups, 20 air squats start the workout!

  • Begin at the first station: 1-mile run.

  • Remember, you must complete the full distance/reps before progressing to the next station.

  • You can, of course, break the reps into sets. You’ll notice this has been factored into the session plan below.

  • Consider timing your performance as this can be used to compete against should you have another go at the workout.


CrossFit Murph workout session plan for intermediate trainers.

Murph workout level 3: Advanced

The advanced Murph workout is a close reflection of the one CrossFit competitors duke it out over during the games. There’s one slight modification, and that is you are not required to wear a weighted vest. Of course, if you’ve got one kicking about and you want the full Murph experience, go for it.


However, don’t think that by not wearing a vest you’re in any way a wuss. I had a bash at the workout and found it tough going. It took me a little over 35 minutes to complete, which is not a time to be proud of. But then, I haven’t done pull-ups for yonks (old injury) and I’m crap at kipping. Excuses, excuses.


Yet, it provided an excellent full-body fitness conditioning session that could, with a bit more effort on my part, be crammed into 30 minutes.


Key points

  • Complete the suggested warm-up before undertaking the workout. Warm-up: 400m steady jog 5 pull-ups, 5 press-ups, 5 air squats 400m steady jog 5 pull-ups, 10 press-ups, 10 air squats 400m jog 5 pull-ups, 15 press-ups, 15 air squats 400m running 5 pull-ups, 20 press-ups, 20 air squats start the sesh!

  • Begin at the first station: 1-mile run.

  • Remember, you must complete the full distance/reps before progressing to the next station.

  • You can, of course, break the reps into sets. You’ll notice this has been factored into the session plan below.

  • Consider timing your performance as this can be used to compete against should you have another go at the workout.


Murph workout session plan for advanced trainers.

Murph workout modifications

The three Murph workouts above were designed to provide you with a fixed plan to follow. For some, this can be motivational. But there’s no rule prohibiting you from further adapting the plans to suit your exercise ability and fitness goals.


For example, if you wanted to tailor the workouts to target strength, you could replace the exercises with ones that involve resistance movements. Here’s how you could do this. Change pull-ups for bent-over rows, press-ups for bench presses, and air squats for barbell squats. Depending on how heavy you go, you may need to adjust the reps or break them into smaller sets.


Related: Learn how to build a Strength Program that gets results

Another way you could approach the workouts is with a training partner. Let’s say that you want to have a go at the advanced level but feel it’s a bit much for you at the moment. You could divide the distance and reps evenly between yourself and your partner. While one rests the other works.


And then there’s the annual Murph challenge that you could organise with your training partner(s). Once a month come together and compete for CrossFit supremacy. For a motivational boost, each competitor could contribute £10 – the winner takes the dosh and a month’s bragging rights.


Related: Are you ready to take on these 21 CrossFit WODs?

 

Enjoyed these CrossFit workouts?

Get your hands on 70 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 2.

This murph crossfit workout concludes with the Hungry4Fitness book of circuits and workouts.

 

The bio of the author of this blog on the murph workout.

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