Should You Be Doing Murph On Memorial Day?

May 22, 2020 by
Photo Credit: The WOD Life

It’s almost Memorial Day and that means one thing for CrossFitters in the United States: “Murph.”

The traditional Hero Workout completed by CrossFitters on the last Monday of May has been the cause of much debate amid recent gym closures and reopenings due to the spread of the coronavirus. Many athletes have been stuck at home with very little chance to condition for the workload required.

A test for the Fittest: “Murph,” completed to honor Naval Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, is arguably one of the most famous CrossFit workouts.  

For time:

1-mile run
100 pullups
200 pushups
300 squats
1-mile run

The workout — to be completed wearing a weight vest — made its first appearance on CrossFit’s main site on August 28, 2005. It took hold as a Memorial Day tradition in the following years and was again made famous at the 2015 CrossFit Games. There, under the midday sun, several athletes, including Annie Thorisdottir and Kara Saunders (then Webb) suffering heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Björgvin Karl Gudmundsson was the men’s winner that year with a time of 38:36.

  • “‘Murph’ is obviously a workout that I hold close to my heart…my performance in it in 2015 is still to this day the biggest milestone of my CrossFit career,” Gudmundsson said.

“Irresponsible at best.”: That’s how CrossFit Games Athlete and Coach Dex Hopkins described any affiliate or coach not considering the consequences of programming Murph during a time when many gyms remain closed and others are in the early stages of reopening.  

  • “We value and are entrusted with directing the health and wellness of our members, and to take you from a minimal equipment, limited movement environment, and throwing you into a massive amount of intensity and volume seems irresponsible at best,” he said.

So, stick to tradition or scale it back? It’s a question dividing some of the most experienced CrossFit programmers out there.

  • Phil Hesketh from Prepared Programming said while Murph on Memorial Day is tradition, people need to be cautious.
  • “As we have seen from its two appearances at the Crossfit Games, this workout — when done with intensity — has devastating results on even the best-trained athletes in the world. With all the home training people have been doing I’m sure they are ready to crush the run, push-ups and squats but it’s the pull-ups that worry me a little,” he said.
  • Games Athlete Brandon Swan from SwanStrong Programming said on one hand, while many athletes may not have built up specific “Murph Prep,” limited at home workouts may work in their favor.
  • “There is a very good chance that people have done a lot of volume when it comes to running, pushups and air squats over the past few months. High volume pulling exercises with dumbbells, such as snatches or power cleans would also provide some conditioning for pull-ups,” he told the Morning Chalk Up.
  • The team behind Matt Chan’s TrainFTW told the Morning Chalk Up despite widespread gym closures, those who have been following their program at home are as prepared as they’ll ever be.
  • “Our programming specifically ramped up to Murph even with the at home options. We started ramping up 6-8 weeks out, with 2 targeted workouts a week. Eric even videoed himself doing supine truck and table rows,” Cherie Chan said.
  • But those who haven’t followed this approach to a tee should excess caution.

Ok, so the jury is out but consider this:  Clearly we’re not all in the same boat and Ray Gorman from Active Life gave some in-depth guidelines “to help you decide if you’re ready or not” to tackle Murph.

  • Quite simply put if you haven’t done at least 65 pullups, 130 pushups, 200 squats and 1.3 miles per week for the last four weeks, Ray said you should delay or at the very least scale back Murph as prescribed.
  • All coaches seem to agree, if your gym has been closed, Murph volume pull-ups should not be your first workout back on the rig.
View this post on Instagram

??It’s that time of year, but with extremely different circumstances?? – The meaning behind a hero wod is without a doubt powerful. Similar to any other workout we encounter, we have to look at our preparation surrounding the event. – “Murph” is a lot of volume to start, here’s some guidelines to help you decide if you’re ready or not. – Workload accumulation – to do Murph as prescribed in a week, you needed an average per week over the last 4 weeks of: 65 pull-ups, 130 push ups, 200 squats, and 1.3 miles. Remember this is PER WEEK, over the last 4 weeks. – Pull-up accessibility – this is likely the limiting factor if your gym was closed. Murph volume pull-ups should not be your first workout back on the rig. – A delayed option – if your gym opened on the 15th, like some areas, consider delaying Murph until Labor Day. This will give your tissues adequate time to build up to the 4 week averages listed above. – Murph experience – your first Murph should be a half, then build from there. A vest is out of the question unless you’ve completed a <45 min attempt. – There’s a lot of training ahead of you, and potentially a lot of rebuilding to do. While this is typically a time of year when inquiries spike, we don’t need more of that. – Train safe. Plan for long term. You can still pay your respects to our heroes, just be cognizant of your joint health! – #TurnPro

A post shared by Ray Gorman PT, DPT, SFMA (@raygormandpt) on

Scaling might be your best option:

  • Phil Hesketh’s recommendation: Even experienced athletes, who’ve had a little time away from a pull-up rig should consider doing Murph partitioned. “Doing the partitioned version — 5 pull-ups at a time — may help control your movement efficiency slightly and not expose you to the big unbroken sets that usually make your super sore. If your pull-ups were already not that great before the quarantine then I would definitely be looking to scale that movement this year,” he said.
  • Brandon Swan is on the same page: 20 rounds of Cindy. 
  • Active Life coach Ray Gorman added that a first Murph attempt should be a half-Murph, then building up from there. And, regardless of whether you’ve been in isolation or not. “A vest is out of the question unless you’ve completed a less than 45 min attempt,” he said.
  • 2015 CrossFit Games “Murph” event winner, Björgvin Karl Gudmundsson advises breaking the workout up and pacing slowly this year. “This is especially relevant to those of you who have been out of the gym for a long time and are maybe not in the shape that you are used to being in. Breaking up the sets is the key for survival in Murph. Trust me, I know.”
  • Dex Hopkins recognizes there are many athletes out there sticking to the “Murph Memorial Day” tradition and suggested either doing the workout as a team or substituting the pull-ups for sit-ups or kettlebell swings. That’s probably a great option if you’re still social distancing and stuck at home.

A delayed option: The Morning Chalk Up has seen many affiliates, particularly those who’ve only just reopened, reschedule Murph until July Fourth, or even Labor Day. This was also recommended by the Active Life team, who said the four-week preparation would be ideal to condition your body for the 600 reps and 2 miles of running.