Are You Ready for the Murph Workout? It’s Time to Prepare and Build a Strategy

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (May 25, 2019) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 3rd Class Marcdennis Manaloto, from Yorktown, Virginia, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) air department, participates in the Murph Challenge at Huntington Hall. Named after Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Michael Murphy, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2005, the Murph is a physical fitness challenge honoring fallen service members. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jonathan Pankau)

Memorial Murph Workouts are becoming a more mainstream event in the fitness community. All the excitement inspires many unprepared people to attempt the event. These workouts are not designed for beginners, but if you still want to support a great cause and raise money for veterans groups, you should prepare now and create a workable strategy for yourself.

Otherwise, the pain of 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 squats bookended with a 1-mile run before and after the PT section can be overwhelming.

Many who successfully have conquered the Murph have used the following series of workouts to accumulate the repetitions needed for success.

Note: If you have never done 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups or 300 squats in a single workout, Memorial Day is NOT the time to try it for the first time even if you think you are in shape. You may want to find alternative exercises like TRX rows, knee push-ups or half squats for your first few workouts as you prepare your body for this event. There is a 20-pound weight vest requirement for this workout, but it is recommended if you cannot do 100 pull-ups in a workout, don’t use a weight vest.

The PT Pyramid Murph

Here is a classic method to break up the repetitions into 19 sets by using the 1-10-1 pyramid.

Set 1: 1 pull-up, 2 push-ups, 3 squats

Set 2: 2 pull-ups, 4 push-ups, 6 squats

Set 3: 3 pull-ups, 6 push-ups, 9 squats

Set 4: 4 pull-ups, 8 push-ups, 12 squats …

Keep going up the pyramid until you get to 10 which will be 10 pull-ups, 20 push-ups and 30 squats. You now have an option. If you want to make this easier, start back over at set 1 and work your way back up the pyramid again to set 9. That will complete 19 sets and you will have accumulated 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats with many sub-max effort sets.

The other way to do this is the typical pyramid where you work your way up the pyramid to set 10, then repeat in reverse order from 9 down to 1. You still perform the same repetitions, but it’s just a little harder with several higher reps sets in a row.

Consider the double ladder version if you are new to this kind of volume in calisthenics.

The Murph Super Set

The goal of this workout is to accumulate the repetition in sub max rep sets, but with fewer than the above PT pyramid 19 sets. This one is a 10-set workout and features easy math.

Repeat 10 times Pull-ups 10 Push-ups 20 Squats 30

This method is a little faster than the above pyramid option, but also requires high muscle stamina and calisthenics development. Warm up with a one-mile run and cool down with a one-mile run after you have completed the repetitions.

The Final Option

This is for advanced athletes who want to crush the Murph in as few sets as possible. The goal here is to do maximum effort (not quite to failure but close during each set) until you reach the 100, 200, 300 repetitions. It is recommended you do a circuit of the three exercises and limit each event to a minute or two of time.

For example, someone trained to do this workout well may be able to do the repetitions required in 4-5 sets. The workout would look like this:

Set 1:

Max Pull-ups: 25

Max Push-ups: 80

Max Squats: 60

Set 2:

Max Pull-ups: 25

Max Push-ups: 70

Max Squats: 60

And so on.

You have to keep track of your total repetitions each set. As you can see here, this athlete is almost halfway done in two sets with 50 pull-ups, 150 push-ups and 120 squats.

Repetitions may drop as the athlete tires, but achieving the completed event in 4-5 sets is very doable at this rate. As with the other events, run one mile prior to starting and a mile when complete.

Over the next two months leading to Memorial Day, consider adding one of these methods to your workout week each week. Once you figure out the best option for you, you’ll be ready to enjoy a nice group workout with like-minded friends outdoors at a local park.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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