CrossFit is known for its super-intense workouts of the day (WODs), but what many newbies don’t know is that there are workouts that go above and beyond the sport’s usual intensity. These are called “hero WODs,” and they generally honor a fallen member of the military, making them more meaningful than the average workout. Among the toughest and most notorious? The CrossFit Murph workout.
“The Murph WOD is a hero workout named after Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy,” explains Blake Shutterly, a CrossFit coach at Neo Fifth in NYC. “It is one of the most difficult workouts you will ever do; most hero workouts are. They’re not only physically challenging but also mentally challenging. Most CrossFit gyms around the world perform the Murph challenge on Memorial Day.” Once a year is pretty standard, she says, but some gyms will program the CrossFit Murph workout on other holidays or even on a regular old day to test members’ limits. (FYI, here’s how to avoid CrossFit injuries and stay on your workout game.)
The CrossFit Murph workout is probably best left to the frequent WOD-ers rather than newbies still learning proper form and building strength and endurance. And though the Murph challenge is extremely tough, it’s worth it to make it to the end. “It’s really gratifying when you finish knowing you gave it your all and pushed harder than you normally would in a regular workout,” says Shutterly. (Related: Tips to Build Mental Strength from Pro Runner Kara Goucher)
What is the Murph workout, exactly? The CrossFit Murph workout itself consists of a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and another one-mile run, all done consecutively. The most challenging part of the Murph WOD is the sheer volume and length of the workout, so, a little strategizing is required to make it through the whole thing. Each Murph exercise set can be broken up in order to make the Murph challenge feasible for the average exerciser. If you do decide to break up the reps, make sure you keep track of how many sets you’ve done on a piece of paper so you don’t lose count. Another way to scale down the Murph CrossFit workout is to simply cut it in half. This is a great choice for those who have never done the Murph workout before, or for those who are newer to the movements.
Of course, as with all hero WODs, your mindset is key. “You can expect your arms to start to fail on the push-ups, and your legs to turn to jello from the squats,” she says. “Your mind will want you to stop before your body does, so it’s important to remember the bigger meaning behind the workout, and that will always keep you going.”
How it works: Begin the Murph WOD with a one-mile run, then move on to these exercise modifications (if needed) to complete all the reps. Finish with another one-mile run.