Try These 9 Brutal Workouts to Honor Fallen Troops

Try These 9 Brutal Workouts to Honor Fallen Troops
Rows of 20" boxes stand ready for participants to complete the Chad workout in Virginia Beach. (Photo Credit: Kinsley Wilkinson)

When Sara Wilkinson was first approached about creating a memorial workout and fundraiser in memory of her husband Chad, she was hesitant. As the spouse of a Navy SEAL, Wilkinson was used to keeping things very private, very quiet. But after a 10-day solo van trip through the Pacific Northwest, she changed her mind.

"I just came to realize Chad's not here, and he doesn't get to make those decisions anymore," Wilkinson said. "If I'm struck with just such a profound tragedy, how can I turn it around and make something hopefully good come from it? I thought let's just use the power and the motivation of the messaging to try to create change."

With support from the Navy SEAL Foundation and GORUCK -- a veteran-owned rucksack company -- in 2020, the Chad1000x event had more than 4,500 participants and raised over $100,000 to support veteran mental health initiatives. In 2021, the workout will be done around Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

Wilkinson, who spent time on the CrossFit Headquarters Seminar Staff teaching around the world, says there are two main ways to scale any workout to fit skill and fitness levels: reduce the load (the amount of weight lifted) or limit the intensity by cutting the number of repetitions or the amount of time. It is also very common for these nine brutal workouts for people to do both.


Perhaps the most well-known of the Hero workouts, Murph was created in honor of Navy Lt. Michael Murphy, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. This was his favorite workout. You can scale this workout by cutting it in half or by doing it without the weighted vest or both -- and it's scored for time. Murph is done traditionally on Memorial Day Weekend.

  • 1-mile run
  • 100 pull-ups
  • 200 push-ups
  • 300 air squats
  • 1-mile run

*With a 20-pound vest or body armor


DT was programmed at the CrossFit Games a few times and is a grueling barbell workout. Air Force Staff Sgt. Timothy P. Davis, 28, was killed on Feb. 20, 2009, when his vehicle was struck by an IED. This workout is for time and is scaled most commonly for weight. "Double DT" was done one year, making it 10 rounds instead of five, and "Heavy DT" increases the weight to 205 and 145 pounds, respectively.

5 rounds for time

  • 12 deadlifts (155/105 lb.)
  • 9 hang power cleans (155/105 lb.)
  • 6 push jerks (155/105 lb.)


Created in memory of Army Capt. Jennifer M. Moreno, who died in Afghanistan on Oct. 6, 2013. Moreno was on her first deployment, she volunteered to serve with a special operations Cultural Support Team. This workout is 20 minutes long and is scored by as many repetitions/rounds as you can do. If you don't have a barbell or need to scale the weight, you could substitute air squats for both types of squats.

20-minute AMRAP (as many repetitions as possible)

  • 20 overhead squats (45 lb.)
  • 20 back squats (45 lb.)
  • 400-meter run


While serving in Afghanistan, Army Staff Sgt. Edwardo Loredo died on June 24, 2010, when insurgents attacked with an IED. Loredo previously served in Iraq. The six rounds of 24 movements is representative of the date he died. You can scale this workout by doing either three rounds or 12 of each movement and a 200m run.

6 rounds for time

  • 24 air squats
  • 24 push-ups
  • 24 walking lunges
  • 400m run


U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Aaron N. Holleyman was killed on Aug. 30, 2004, when his vehicle was hit by an IED in Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group based in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Those numbers are used in the repetition scheme in this workout, and the 30 rounds correspond with Aug. 30. This workout can be scaled by making it a partner workout and sharing the load, as well as lowering the weight, replacing handstand push-ups with regular push-ups and reducing the rounds.

30 rounds for time

  • 5 wall ball shots (20/14 lb.)
  • 3 handstand push-ups
  • 1 power clean (225/155 lb.)


Created for Army Capt. Dan Whitten, this workout doesn't involve super heavy weights or very complicated movements, but it is a tough mental grind. Whitten was killed on Feb. 2, 2010, in Afghanistan. If needed, you can scale this workout to three or four rounds or reduce the run.

5 rounds for time

  • 22 kettlebell swings (70 lb./53 lb.)
  • 22 box jumps (24/20 inches)
  • 400m run
  • 22 burpees
  • 22 wall ball shots (20/14 lb.)


Army Specialist Hilda Clayton died July 2, 2013, from a non-combat incident during a training exercise with the Afghan National Army. This workout is long, hard and will require pacing. If you don't have a rowing machine, you can substitute a 1,000m run. You also can do banded or jumping pull-ups and skip the vest. This workout is scored by time.

  • 100-calorie row
  • 75 thrusters (45 lb. barbell)
  • 50 pull-ups
  • 75 wall ball shots (20/14 lb.)
  • 100-calorie row

*Wear a 20 lb./14 lb. vest if available


Air Force 1st Lt. Joseph Helton was killed near Baghdad on Sept. 8, 2009. He served in the Security Forces and was assigned to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. This workout is for time and can be scaled by reducing the run distance and the weight on the double dumbbell squat cleans.

3 rounds for time

  • 800m run
  • 30 dumbbell squat cleans (2 x 50/35 lb.)
  • 30 burpees


Chad is the workout selected to honor Navy SEAL Chad Wilkinson, who died by suicide on Oct. 29, 2018. Wilkinson served for 21 years and used this workout as training for mountain climbing. Sara Wilkinson recommends scaling this workout by splitting the work with a friend, doing it without a ruck or doing it with lighter weight. Register to do Chad with GORUCK and consider supporting the Navy SEAL Foundation Veterans Day weekend in 2021.

  • 1,000 weighted box step-ups

*20" box, 45/35 lb. pack

-- Rebecca Alwine can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @rebecca_alwine.

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