It Starts with a Man – The Murph Challenge in CrossFit

By Marcherry Garnica
May 10 2023

It Starts with a Man – The Murph Challenge in CrossFit

The “Murph” workout is one of the most famous CrossFit’s hero WODs.  This special workout is named after LT. Michael P. Murphy (SEAL), a fallen soldier who gave his life to protect his team and fought for freedom. Michael Murphy was killed in action in Afghanistan on June 28th, 2005 and in October 2007 he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Since 2010, this challenging workout has been performed by CrossFitters around the world on Memorial Day weekend.

“Murph”, the Soldier

SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy, from Patchogue, NY, was killed by enemy forces during a reconnaissance mission, Operation RedWing in 2005, while leading a four-man team tasked with finding a key Taliban leader in the mountainous terrain near Asadabad, Afghanistan. While the team was being attacked by a much larger enemy force, Murphy left his position of cover to get a clear signal in order to communicate with his headquarters. While moving to another location he exposed himself to enemy fire ending mortally wounded. During his last minutes of life, Murphy managed to provide his unit’s location and requested immediate support. Then, he returned to his cover position to continue the fight until finally succumbing to his wounds. This act led to the rescue of one member of his team and the recovery of the remains of the three who were killed in the battle.

Remarkable story, right? It makes sense why CrossFitters around the world appreciate so much Memorial Day and Murph. Doing this workout is a great way to honor the courage and sacrifice that Michael Murphy made on that day.

Murph”, the Workout

After deciding to join the navy, Murphy began running, doing strength training and climbing a rope tied to a tree in the backyard of his childhood home. Then, he discovered CrossFit and, inspired by this methodology, he put together his own WOD that fit with his SEAL job. He called this workout “Body Armor” because he performed it while wearing a 7.4kg military-issued vest. This weighted vest acts as insulation, making it even harder for your body to cool down and gives you just a hint of what it is like being a soldier in the Middle East.


1 mile Run

100 Pull-Ups

200 Push-Ups

300 Air Squats

1 mile Run

All while wearing a 20 lb. weight vest

The first time this workout was published on programming was on August 18, 2005. The following text was added to the WOD:

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.

Dave Castro, a former Navy SEAL and former CrossFit Director of Sport, used Murph as a welcome “party” for competitors at the 2015 CrossFit Games. Even if the athletes were still really fast, Murph made them look mortal, which only added to the workout’s legacy.

Creator: Thomas Campitelli 

Copyright: © CrossFit, Inc. 2015

To give you an idea how “fast” the female athletes were, Samantha Briggs (2013 Games champion) finished in first place in just over 39 minutes. And, Annie Thorisdottir (every CrossFit girls’ favorite) started strong but had to walk on the final mile run and did not finish within the 60-minute time cap. In the men’s division, Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson took first with a time of 38 minutes and 36 seconds; followed by Mat Fraser who was about a minute slower. Murphy’s standard time was 32 to 35 minutes, according to his father, Dan. What an athlete Murphy was!

As you can tell, “Murph” is not a workout to be taken lightly. Running two miles in total, plus tons of pull-ups, push-ups, and air squats, Murph is more than a workout, it’s a true challenge.

Murph”, the Challenge

The Murph workout involves a lot of running, pushing, and pulling and it can take a long time to finish it. This can easily turn into an arduous workout that you might not enjoy, but you don’t need to be a Navy SEAL to finish. Lt. Murphy wanted this workout to be a challenge in the sense of embracing the process. The emphasis is on having fun and seeing this workout as exciting and enriching. 

For a lot of us, the Rx option (wearing a weighted vest) can be daunting. But don’t worry, you can totally scale it and have fun while still working out hard. It may be one of the longest and toughest things you will do but at the end you will feel proud of yourself for honoring a hero through your effort and determination.

We would like to give you a couple of options for attacking this workout, hoping it will become one of your favorites, as it was for Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy.

The Rx:

Wearing a 20-pound weight vest, run 1 mile; do 100 pullups, 200 pushups, and 300 squats then run another mile.

The Rx with Partition:

Keep the weight vest but partition the reps. For example, run 1 mile; do 20 rounds of 5-10-15 pullups, pushups, and squats; then run another mile.

The Light Hero:

Same as The Rx with Partition but don’t wear the weighted vest.

The Featherweight Hero:

Do half of a Hero Murph: Run half a mile; do 50 pullups, 100 pushups, and 150 squats; then run another half mile. After doing this, you can scale up to 3/4 reps next time!

Consider also scaling the movements with these substitutes: 

Instead of running => row 1,600 meters using a Concept 2 rower or,

150 calories on Assault AirBike

Instead of pullups => Jumping pullups

Banded pullups
Ring rows

Instead of pushups => Hand-release pushups

 Box pushups 

Instead of squats => Squats to a bench, box or wall ball

Quarter squats

Murph”, the Strategy

It’s also important to take some time to figure out the strategy you are going to use for completing this workout. Below are different tips that can help you. For choosing the right one, try to match your goals and level of fitness. 

Start at a pace you can maintain: For instance, you can run at a pace that’s one minute slower than your pace for a 5K; and keep in mind that singles, particularly for pullups, work well as long as you stay consistent with the pace. 

Mind your transitions: Choose sets and number of reps that are comfortable enough to allow you to keep moving, you don’t want to take long periods of time to recover during transitions.

Save energy for the last 1 mile run: Give everything you have left on the last run and do your best to get a better time than the first run and finish like a real hero!


“Murph” is a celebration of the brave Navy SEAL who selflessly defended his team while fighting for freedom. This workout is an opportunity to honor this act and get an idea of just how hard the Navy SEALs train.

Truth to be told, it’s really easy to get overwhelmed by the quantity of the reps. But take it as a challenge, enjoy the process and focus on getting stronger. Every rep is another step closer to success. Listen to your body, stay focused, and don’t hesitate to scale the movements. The key is to keep moving, hydrate during and after, and allow for a well deserved recovery.

Enjoy the workout and remember why we do it!

and don’t forget to reward yourself.

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