When it comes to choosing a partitioning method for Murph, there are a few common methods that come to mind. However, I’ve found that there are an almost infinite number of ways to slice up this workout that play to the strengths of the individual.
The most common Murph partitioning methods are to break the reps up into 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 squats for 20 rounds or 4 pull-ups, 8 push-ups, and 12 air squats for 25 rounds. However, there are many less common methods for how to partition Murph.
Whether you’re trying to comprehend how you’ll survive Murph, or you’re a seasoned veteran contemplating your next Murph PR, you’ll want to give this article a read-through.
The most common partitioned Murph methods
As mentioned above, the most common partitioning methods for Murph are:
- 20 Rounds of “Hard Cindy”
- 25 Rounds of 4/8/12
The advantage of these traditional partitioning schemes is that they provide a very clean path to 100/200/300 repetitions on the calisthenics. They are also accessible to most people if they are in good enough shape.
However, I would not recommend doing your first Murph this way unless you are fairly confident that you can finish (something you can sort out in your Murph training).
Choose one of these options only if you’re currently capable of doing 15+ pull-ups in one go, or at least capable of doing 10+ pull-ups with a 20lb weighted vest (or body armor).
Even individuals using some clever Murph strategies (like making on-the-fly changes to their partitioning scheme) may be surprised at how fatigued they get if they are hitting muscular failure early in the workout.
Less common (but easier) partitioning methods
If you’re tempted to scale the Murph WOD because you doubt your ability to complete the whole thing, it may be worth it to take a look at some “less reps, more rounds” partitioning schemes before making the decision to scale.
There are a number of good reasons to switch down to a “less reps, more rounds” variation of the Murph, even if the math isn’t quite as clean:
- 3/6/9 for 33 rounds (finish with a single round of 1/2/3)
- 2/4/6 for 50 rounds
These partitioning schemes are easier is because they allow us to stave off fatigue for longer. Rather than having to shake out our arms mid-set, we are simply doing less reps per set but continuing to grind by moving on to another exercise.
For someone who is new to the Murph Challenge (or perhaps doing it with a weighted vest for the first time), these “high round count” partitioning schemes are often just the ticket to keep moving the entire time.
The disadvantage is that you’re significantly increasing the number of transitions you’ll be doing, thus adding time.
“Split” partitioning methods
If you’re tempted to leave out pull-ups (or another exercise) altogether, try partitioning the pull-ups or push-ups even further.
There are numerous “split” partitioning schemes that can be used for Murph, and they can be used to address weaknesses or as part of a greater strategy for completing the full Murph.
If you struggle doing 20-25 sets of 8-10 push-ups, try splitting the push-ups in half like so:
- 5 push-ups, 5 pull-ups, 5 push-ups, 15 air squats for 20 rounds, or
- 4 push-ups, 4 pull-ups, 4 push-ups, 12 air squats for 25 rounds
If you struggle doing 2-25 sets of 4-5 pull-ups, try splitting the push-ups in half:
- 3 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 2 pull-ups, 15 air squats for 20 rounds, or
- 2 pull-ups, 8 push-ups, 2 pull-ups, 15 air squats for 25 rounds
Lastly, if you struggle with both upper body exercises, you could split them both up:
- 3 pull-ups, 5 push-ups, 2 pull-ups, 5 push-ups, 15 air squats for 20 rounds, or
- 2 pull-ups, 4 push-ups, 2 pull-ups, 4 push-ups, 15 air squats for 25 rounds
If the above set and rep schemes seem overly complex, don’t worry. Once you try them once or twice, you’ll see that they are actually fairly straightforward. Using poker chips or a deck of cards, you can easily track your rounds so you don’t get lost in the numbers.
The obvious disadvantage to split partitioning is that you significantly increase the number of transitions you’ll be doing, which leads to added time.
However, remember that whatever keeps you moving is likely going to lead to the best time. Your mileage may vary here – you’ll want to test these methods out in advance to see which one suits you best.
Other atypical partitioning methods
If you’re looking to mix it up, here are couple fun variations that also workout cleanly into the 100/200/300 repetition requirements:
The pyramid method
If you’ve ever tried pyramid workouts for push-ups or pull-ups, you’re already aware of the advantages of this type of workout. There’s a natural warm-up and cool-down built into the workout, which tends to make for a very compact workout with a definite “max-out” in the middle.
To do the pyramid method:
- Start with 1/2/3, continue to 2/4/6, and so on. Add 1 pull-up, 2 push-ups, and 3 squats every round.
- Continue up the “pyramid” until you’ve hit 10/20/30.
- Come back down the pyramid, removing 1 pull-up, 2 push-ups, and 3 squats every round.
- Once you hit 1/2/3 (your last set) you’ll have completed 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 squats.
The front-loading squats method
If you’ve got legs of steel but find the last mile to be murder, you’re not alone. One creative solution to this is to “front load” the squats by doubling the repetitions on your squats for only the first half of the Murph.
This means that once you complete the half-way point, you’re done with squats! In practice, it would look like:
- 10 rounds of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 30 squats, followed by
- 10 rounds of 5 pull-ups and 10 push-ups
Alternatively, you could do:
- 12 rounds of 4 pull-ups, 8 push-ups, 25 squats, followed by
- 13 rounds of 4 pull-ups and 8 squats
This method is underrated and relatively unknown. It will allow your legs to get a very long rest before having run in the weighted vest for the last mile.
The “max effort” method
Perhaps one of the most brutal ways to partition the Murph is with the max effort method. This version is as brutish as it sounds:
- Pull-ups – as many reps as possible, stopping 1-2 reps shy of failure
- Push-ups – as many reps as possible, stopping 1-2 reps shy of failure
- Squats – as many reps as possible in 2 minutes
- Continue until all 100/200/300 reps are completed
If you’re bold enough to try this version, you’ll definitely want a pad of paper and a pen handy, so you can write down your reps after each set.
Higher repetition partitioning methods
If you’ve got very good muscular endurance (20+ strict pull-ups in a row), then perhaps you’d be best served by doing more repetitions per round, for less rounds total. A few variations:
- 6/12/18 for 16 rounds, followed by 1 round of 4/8/12
- 7/14/21 for 14 rounds, followed by 1 round of 2/4/6
- 8/16/24 for 12 rounds, followed by 1 round of 4/8/12
- 9/18/27 for 11 rounds, followed by 1 round of 1/2/3
- 10/20/30 for 10 rounds
How to determine the best way to partition Murph for you
The best way to determine which partitioning method to use is to try them out! You don’t have to engage in the high volume of Murph every time you try one out:
In the weeks leading up to Murph, you should have plenty of time to complete numerous half-Murphs and quarter-Murphs to see if there’s a specific variation that suits your individual strengths and weaknesses best.
It’s much better to find out in training that a particular partitioning scheme is too challenging for you than to get half-way through on Memorial Day and realize you’re completely crushed.
As always, remember that we’re completing a Hero WOD designed to commemorate and honor those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice while serving this great country. It’s supposed to be hard, but it’s not supposed to break us down to the point of injury or failure.
Good luck, and have a great Memorial Day!