How to Safely Program Memorial Day Murph

If your affiliate is anything like ours, performing the Hero WOD “Murph” on Memorial Day is not only the kick-off to summer training, but is also a great community event and chance for everyone to push through something that is extremely mentally and physically demanding, and meaningful. However, for most affiliates out there, this year’s event will be quite different, so we want to help provide our affiliates with a few creative ways to program Murph that ensures your members get a safe, appropriate, and challenging version of Murph this year. 

It’s crucially important that we provide our members with a workout prescription that coincides with their current training status, and specifically, volume of pull ups. At home workouts have fortunately allowed many athletes to keep their air squat and push up capacity under them, but most do not have the luxury of a pull up bar program that continued to provide pull ups in workouts. We also cannot underestimate the fact that athletes push harder in the presence of others, so even athletes who have been doing a lot of bodyweight workouts alone should still have a close eye kept on them for safety.

For these reasons, you will notice two of the three options are time priority workouts. We are recommending an AMRAP version (or time cap) to ensure that the clock helps controls the volume. The AMRAP version will allow those of your members who have been training consistently to get a feeling similar to Murph while also providing an opportunity for your less consistent members to receive the desired stimulus without overdoing it. Before starting any of these three versions, coaches should have a conversation with their athletes about their recent training volume as well as any potential injuries that may have occurred during social distancing. We recommend erring on the side of caution and not allowing your athletes to bully you into doing a version of Murph you don’t think would be safe. You’re in charge, Coach. 

If your affiliate chooses to use a more traditional, task-priority Murph rather than the AMRAP version, you will notice the substitution of kettlebell swings or snatches. The main reason for this change outside of logistical concerns is the risk of injury and the unnecessary severe soreness that could follow. Even athletes who may have been performing strict pull ups in door-jam pull up bars are ill-suited to perform a large dose of kipping pull ups, as the higher intensity and volume in a shorter period of time is the real risk. Kettlebell swings or snatches will still elicit the metabolic response we want and incorporate a grip element that pull ups would normally induce. Frankly, kettlebell swings will likely make the workout harder, given that most athletes can perform far more swings than pull ups without stopping. Be prepared to have athletes tell you “that was way worse than ‘regular’ Murph!” 

While we understand that Murph is supposed to be a daunting and grueling workout, it would be irresponsible of us to recommend a movement and volume that your athletes have not had exposure to in months. Our home affiliates will be prescribing the KB Swing/Snatch variation with a 60-minute cap this year, allowing us to run 90-minute classes throughout Memorial Day.

Maybe the most effective way to communicate this is to remind athletes that Murph is not about the movements or the workout itself, but rather the meaning behind it. Don’t treat the modified Murph as a downgrade, but rather as another chance to get a great workout with friends that may have been absent over the past couple months! To help get athletes in the right mindset (one of humility and gratitude), you can find Lt. Michael Murphy’s Medal of Honor Citation and information about an American hero.

Read: Lt. Michael Murphy’s Medal of Honor Citation

Option #1
AMRAP 45 Minutes
800m Run
15 Pull Ups
40 Push Ups
65 Air Squats

Option #2
AMRAP 60 Minutes
800m Run
25 Backpack High Pulls 50/40lbs
50 Push Ups
75 Air Squats

Option #3
For Time
1 Mile Run
100 KB Swings/Snatches 53/35lb
200 Push Ups
300 Air Squats
1 Mile Run
60 minute cap, partition as desired.


Written by Matt Sherburne



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