Every year tens of thousands of athletes around the world gather at CrossFit affiliates, military bases, and local parks to do the workout Murph and honor those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. This Memorial Day tradition is near and dear to the CrossFit community and its longstanding relationship with the military.
The tradition was born out of CrossFit’s Hero workouts, which are created in honor of men and women who have died in the line of action or while serving their country or local community.
Perhaps the most well-known CrossFit Hero workout is Murph, named after Lt. Michael Murphy who died in Afghanistan in 2005 while serving his country. While the workout is long and grueling, you won’t hear athletes complain. Instead, athletes show up to pay their respects and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
The workout specifies that athletes can “partition the pull-ups, push-ups, and squats as needed” which presents a rare element in a CrossFit workout as most times athletes are required to finish all of the reps of an exercise before moving on to the next. In Murph, while the run portions must be done as a sandwich around the reps, athletes may break up the pull-ups, push-ups, and squats however they’d like.
The workout specifies that athletes can “partition the pull-ups, push-ups, and squats as needed” which presents a rare element in a CrossFit workout as most times athletes are required to finish all of the reps of an exercise before moving on to the next. In Murph, while the run portions must be done as a sandwich around the reps, athletes may break up the pull-ups, push-ups, and squats however they’d like. Spending a bit of time thinking through your rep scheme can help both the newbie and veteran athlete succeed in this workout.
Spending a bit of time thinking through your rep scheme can help both the newbie and veteran athlete succeed in this workout. For the newer athlete, it will help them feel confident as they attempt a workout that on paper looks quite intimidating, but when broken down, can be quite manageable. For the veteran athlete, it can help them learn about pacing and strategy to get the best possible time.
1 mile Run
1 mile Run
In memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., who was killed in Afghanistan June 28th, 2005. This workout was one of Mike’s favorites, and he’d named it “Body Armor.” From here on it will be referred to as “Murph” in honor of the focused warrior and great American who wanted nothing more in life than to serve this great country and the beautiful people who make it what it is.
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.
So What Rep Scheme Should I Do?
So how do you decide on the best way to break up your reps to prevent fall off and get the best possible time? The strategy, no matter the level of athlete, is to pick the rep scheme that allows for continuous steady movement and eliminates periods where athletes are too muscularly fatigued to complete reps of the next movement.
Here’s how you go about deciding on the rep scheme that is right for you.
First, Pick Your Weakest Movement
First, pick your weakest movement from pull-ups, push-ups, and squats. Next, determine the number of reps that you know, without a doubt, that you could ALWAYS do in a single set of that movement.
For example, say that push-ups are your weakest movement and you know that you can always bust out 6 reps in a row of a push-up. From there, you build your rep scheme around that number so that the proportion of pull-ups to push-ups to squats is proportional. In this example, the athlete’s rep scheme would be 3/6/9 reps for 33 rounds + 1 round of 1/2/3 to make for the 100/200/300 totals.
The benefit of building your rep scheme based on your weakest movement is that you eliminate moving toward failure and standing around a lot breaking up sets. That time adds up in an hour long workout! This method keeps the athlete moving and minimizes rest and total muscular fatigue.
Below we’ve outlined a few of the more common rep schemes that athletes tackle.
2/4/6 for 50 Rounds
If the idea of tackling 100 pull-ups seems doable but something that is not a drop in the bucket, choose 2/4/6. Sure, you might feel like a rabbit as you transition 150 times between movements, but you will prevent total failure (i.e., singles with lots of rest between) on the pull-ups.
3/6/9 for 33 Rounds + 1 Round of 1/2/3
This is a great place to start if you’re doing Murph for the first time, with or without a vest, and you know that the push-ups are your limiting factor. The 6 push-ups seem to be a sweet spot for many people allowing them to move seamlessly through 33 sets of 6 push-ups. If you are nervous about being able to complete 3 pull-ups in a row, head back to 2/4/6 land.
5/10/15 for 20 Rounds
If you’re strong at pull-ups and know that the 5 is no problem, this is an excellent option if you believe you can maintain unbroken push-ups through the first 10-13 rounds. See below for more detail on what to do with this rep scheme if you do break down on the push-ups.
One important consideration is that if you do choose to wear a vest, your range of motion for the pull-ups will be slightly smaller as the plates and material of the vest will make contact with the ground, not your chest.
10/20/30 for 10 Rounds
If you’re a ninja at push-ups, go after this rep scheme. This rep scheme is also popular with athletes who get annoyed with counting all of those rounds!
20/40/60 for 5 Rounds
This rep scheme isn’t very popular with many; however, we did want to note it here as it was done at the 2016 CrossFit Games. All athletes were required to do the same rep scheme for competition purposes.
There’s no requirement to do this rep scheme. Sure, they did it at the Games in 2015 but remember the workout specifies to break up the reps as desired. In 2016, the athletes at the Games broke up the reps into five rounds of 20/40/60.
Breaking Up the Push-ups Within Each Round
Now, what happens if your rep scheme goes to sh*#?! You have one more tool in your toolbox – split the movement that is breaking down into two sets within each round. In our 5/10/15 example, this would become: 5 pull-ups / 5 push-ups / 15 air squats / 5 push-ups.
By dividing the set of push-ups into two, you eliminate time standing around waiting to become fresh enough to complete the set.
Pick a Strategy and See It Through
However you decide to tackle Murph, we recommend you decide on a plan and stick with it! If you find yourself 5-10 rounds into your rep scheme and think you could have tackled more significant numbers, we recommend you HOLD and see if that plays out for the entire workout. It’s quite easy to feel GREAT during the first 28 minutes of Murph, but frequently that's when things go awry.
Be sure to record detailed Notes in SugarWOD so you can make an informed decision next year.
Are you doing Murph this Memorial Day? Have questions about how you might tackle the workout? Post to comments.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 05/20/2019 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.