Hero WODs and Scaling

Question: How can I scale or Rx “Murph” for my preparation and ability level?

Many members have asked over the years whether or not we think they are capable of completing the Hero WOD “Murph.” Our answer is a resounding “Yes!”, but comes with a caveat. But before tackling this particular WOD, let’s talk about Hero WODs as a whole.

Why do we do Hero WODs?

“To the average CrossFitter, Hero workouts are symbolic gestures of respect for our Fallen. CrossFitters from all over the world, regardless of country or allegiance, throw themselves wholeheartedly at these intentionally gut-wrenching workouts that serve as a tribute to our lost protectors.

They serve as a way to immortalize the fallen and remind ourselves that even in their untimely deaths these fellow CrossFitters were committed to the safety and freedom of the rest of us.

For those of us who undertake these physical tests, the psychological effects of performing a Hero workout are tremendous. It’s easy to treat these prescriptions as any workout of the day, but for those who take the time to learn about the heroes they honor, the WODs can become as spiritual and emotionally demanding as they are physically grueling.

When keeping the stories behind the real-life heroes in mind, slowing down during a Hero workout becomes harder to justify. When the pain of pushing harder becomes too great, I am reminded of the sacrifice these men made for my freedom, and my struggle becomes laughable. And when I compare my temporary suffering to the lifelong sorrow felt by the grieving families of these men, dropping the bar becomes an embarrassment to my country.

The Hero workout is more than a test of physical ability. It bridges the gap between the body and the mind, emotion and experience, and gives us the chance to do more than just remember our soldiers. It gives us the chance to sweat, bleed, suffer and grieve for our fallen heroes one rep at a time.”

— Russell Berger, CFJ 2010

Scaling “Murph”

As is evident, Hero WODs are not to be taken lightly. For a seasoned CrossFitter, we know that we’re going to have to dig deep and go to that uncomfortable place to complete it RX, and we realize and understand it’s not just another workout.

If you wish to attempt Murph Rx (as prescribed), you will not be told to scale and there will not be a time cap. Realize attempting a workout like this, above your current fitness level, will more than likely leave you sore for days.

If you have been with us for less than 6 months, we highly suggest you scale Murph this year, and make your goal Rx next year. There are many reasons to scale –- most importantly for your own personal health and safety. There are innumerable ways we can scale and below you will see some of our suggestions based on limitations:

  • If running is your current issue – we can scale the run. We’d suggest dropping the mile to half a mile
  • If push-ups are your issue – we can scale the height. We’d suggest using a box to take some pressure off the chest/shoulders
  • If pull-ups are your issue – we can scale 2 different ways. We’d suggest either ring rows or jumping pull-ups, the latter being more difficult than the former.
  • If air squats are your issue – we can again scale the height. We’d suggest squatting to a target, as in a box, as low as you can tolerate.

Other ways to scale include setting lower rep numbers or even performing the workout with a partner to split the reps.

There is no incorrect way to honor the fallen. We each will tackle the workout in our way and we will suffer as a community. If you have concerns grab a coach and talk it out. Do not be discouraged if you cannot do the workout in its entirety, anyone can complete some version of Murph!

Completing Rx Murph

So you’re ready to RX your first Murph? What does that look like and how does one create a strategy for this impressively difficult feat?

If you don’t know, or haven’t been paying attention, the workout “Murph” is a 1-mile run, followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 air squats, 300 air squats, and is finished up with a second 1-mile run – all while wearing a weight vest!

To truly RX the workout, you perform it unpartitioned wearing a vest, meaning you run the mile, do all 100 pull-ups, before moving onto all 200 push-ups, moving onto all 300 air squats, and finishing it up with that last mile run. This is the most difficult version of the workout, but it’s not the only way to perform it! Some also call this One-Shot Murph. Below we’ll highlight a few versions that we’ve tried and had success with as well.

Partitioned Murph, aka Classic Murph

You will still start and end the workout with a 1-mile run; but you’ll partition the pull-ups, push up, and squats into rounds. You could try Cindy-style, meaning 20 rounds of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats. Or how about 10 rounds of 10 pull-ups, 20 push-ups, and 30 squats? You could even try it CrossFit Games style that was 5 rounds of 20 pull-ups, 40 push-ups, and 60 air squats. These versions of ‘Murph’ tend to be more forgiving, are slightly less daunting, and generally allow you to get through the workout at a bit higher level of intensity. Don’t think this makes it easy though!

Totally partitioned Murph, aka The Murph Chipper

For some people the monotony of Murph is toughest for them mentally, so a way to really change up the workout is turn it into more of a chipper-style workout. If you approach the workout as one total volume of work done and add it up, we break it down essentially to 20 rounds for time. This includes breaking up the run! For some, this will make the workout infinitely more manageable and enjoyable. If you want to give this one a go, it’s 20 rounds of 160m run, 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 air squats.

Other Alternative ways to accomplish “Murph” based on your personal weakness:

  • The Push-Up Saver – 20 rounds of 5 push-ups, 5 pull-ups, 5 push-ups, 15 air squats
  • The Leg Saver – 15 rounds of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 20 air squats, then 5 rounds 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups
  • Mini Sets – break it up small early and often by doing 33 rounds of 3 pull-ups, 6 push-ups, 9 air squats with a final round of 1 pull-up, 2 push-ups,3 air squats
  • Completion – sometimes things don’t go according to plan and you have to toss it out the window, then your only goal is to complete and survive the workout. This format is less of a format and more of a random choice of how to complete the reps as you go. While not our favorite by any stretch, if you can finish the workout, it’s a good day.

No matter what route you take, remember what the intent behind the workout is – to remember those that made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. You’re here to test your fitness and honor the fallen, so take pride in yourself and your reps and give it your best shot.