The annual Murph Challenge is one of the things I look forward to each year. Aside from being one of the most complete workouts out there, it’s a chance to simultaneously test our fitness levels while reflecting on the sacrifices of those who paid the ultimate price.
However, there are many people out there who can’t (or don’t want to) complete the regular Murph Challenge as written:
- 1-mile run
- 100 pull-ups
- 200 push-ups
- 300 squats
- 1-mile run
- Wearing a 20lb weight vest (or body armor)
That is totally okay, and below we’ve collected some of the more convenient ways to modify the Murph Challenge.
There are two main reasons to modify the Murph Challenge: either you need to make it easier due to a strength limitation, or you need to modify it to make up for an equipment restriction (such as not having access to a pull-up bar, weight vest, or place to run).
Below you’ll find 11 easy Murph modifications to suit any fitness level. Hopefully this list will get you thinking as you develop your strategy for Murph this year:
Modify Murph to make it easier
If the thought of the full challenge makes you squeamish, try scaling the Murph challenge down using some of these ideas:
1. Remove the vest
This is perhaps the most obvious modification to the Murph Challenge if you need to make it easier. If you struggle to complete multiple sets of the standard exercises or running while wearing a weight vest, There’s no shame in just skipping the vest altogether.
2. Use a resistance band for assisted pull-ups
Many people who first hear about the Murph Challenge balk at the idea of doing 100 pull-ups in a weight vest, even if they are perfectly capable of doing pull-ups normally. If this describes you, try rigging up a resistance band around the bar before you begin. Resistance bands are great for helping get through the sticking point of the pull-up and increasing reps.
3. Substitute rows for pull-ups
If pull-ups are too challenging for you, or if 100 pull-ups seem out of reach, it’s perfectly viable to substitute another back exercise for pull-ups. Here are a few options you could try, based on what equipment you have access to:
- Resistance band rows (band wrapped around the feet)
- Dumbbell rows (use a weight between 20-25% of your body weight)
- Inverted rows or ring rows
- Towel rows (towel wrapped around a pole or column)
4. Do knee push-ups
If the prospect of doing 200 regular push-ups makes you cringe, try doing knee push-ups. You could do all of the push-ups in this fashion, or you could split them up (for instance, do the first 100 push-ups normally, and the second 100 from the knees).
5. Do the half Murph
The half Murph is a beast of a workout in its own right. If you’re unsure of whether you can complete the full Murph Challenge, simply do a half Murph your first time around. This variation is also useful if you find the regular Murph takes you way too long (over an hour).
The way to do this workout is simple: run half a mile, then do 50 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, 150 squats, and run another half mile.
6. Do the quarter Murph
If you’re a true beginner, it may make sense to try a quarter murph workout the first time. This workout is exactly what it sounds like: a quarter-mile run, followed by 25 pull-ups, 50 push-ups, 75 squats, and another quarter-mile run.
As an aside, this workout makes an excellent training session if you’re working on training for the full Murph.
Modify Murph due to equipment restrictions
If you don’t have access to a pull-up bar, weight vest, or space to run, here are some easy exercise swaps to retain the integrity of the regular Murph Challenge:
7. Lose the vest but increase the reps
Shoutout to Kensui Fitness for this idea. If you don’t have access to a weight vest but you still want to have an equivalent workout session, try adding 20% to each portion of the workout. With no weight vest, complete:
- 1.2-mile run
- 120 pull-ups
- 240 push-ups
- 360 air squats
- 1.2-mile run.
A simple way to accomplish this would be partitioning your reps using a 6 pull-ups / 12 push-ups /18 squats rep scheme for 20 rounds.
8. Choose an easier pull exercise, but double the reps
Not all of us will have access to a pull-up bar on Memorial Day. That’s totally fine. One easy modification is to choose an easier pulling exercise but double the reps. Instead of doing 100 pull-ups, try doing:
- 200 inverted rows on chairs or rings, OR
- 200 seated resistance band rows, OR
- 200 dumbbell rows (per side) using 20-25% of your body weight
By doubling the reps, we keep the challenge similar to the original workout.
9. Substitute running for jumping jacks
If you don’t have access to space to run, or if the weather is too brutal to imagine going outside, jumping jacks are a viable alternative. 8-10 minutes of jumping jacks before and after the calisthenics should suffice to provide a similar enough challenge to running a mile.
10. Substitute running for jump rope
Another alternative for those who don’t have access to space for running would be to jump rope. Similarly to the jumping jacks, 8-10 minutes should suffice to provide a similar enough stimulus to a 1-mile run.
11. Skip the running altogether
Some people hate running so much that they’ll avoid it at all costs. If this describes you, just skip the running, but keep the rest of the workout intact!
This is, of course, not an exhaustive list of modified Murph workout ideas. You are limited by your own creativity here. We’ll continue to update this page as we continue to see new viable modifications.