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How to Do a Murph Workout on Tonal

Experts share how to modify the annual WOD so you can complete it on Tonal this Memorial Day.

Murph workout on Tonal

A “Murph” workout sounds intimidating: A one-mile run, followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 bodyweight squats, ending with another mile run—all done while wearing a 20-pound weight vest or military-issue body armor. And in truth, the workout should intimidate you a bit, because it is meant to be difficult. The higher purpose of the Murph workout is to take on a challenge in order to honor those who gave their lives in defense of their country.

Should you choose to accept the challenge, bear in mind that only the fittest should complete the workout as prescribed. If you opt to complete a modified Murph workout (an option accepted in many communities), remember that your tribute is no less significant. What matters is that the workout is a challenge that nudges you to reflect. Here’s everything you need to know about the workout and how to make it work for you. 

What is the Murph Workout? 

Murph is a CrossFit “hero workout” created to honor the late Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, a Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient. After serving three tours, Murphy was killed in Afghanistan in 2005 when he stepped out into the open to radio for support for his unit, which was pinned against cliffs by enemy fire. 

Murphy actually created the workout himself back in 2000 when he joined the Navy as a way to train for his time with the SEALs. It required no equipment other than a bar, crossbeam, or tree branch for pull-ups so it could be done at bases in remote locations. It incorporated running, pushing, pulling, and lifting, all of which were pre-requisites for his job as a SEAL. Because Murphy did the workout in his 16.4-pound military-issued vest, he called the workout “Body Armor.” 

When Murphy died, his workout spread from base to base, and then to CrossFit, which was in its infancy at the time. On August 17, 2005, “Murph” was posted for the first time on the CrossFit website, introducing Murphy, his workout, and his sacrifice to the masses.

How to Do a Murph Workout with Tonal

While the original Murph workout required a bar and a weight vest, you can create modified Murph workouts that incorporate your Tonal or shift to bodyweight-only exercises. There are many different variations you can choose from, so the steps below are meant to guide you. 

Run for Murph workout on Tonal

First, Decide to Run or Not to Run

If running outside or on a treadmill is not possible, 11-year Army veteran and certified strength and conditioning specialist Chris Judy has options. “Choose five off-Tonal cardio moves such as jumping jacks, burpees, high knees, butt kicks, and mountain climbers, and complete two minutes of each, or two rounds of one minute each,” he says. “Ten minutes is an appropriate length of time because 10 minutes is the average mile time for many people doing Murph.” 

If you opt to run, remember your second mile will be considerably slower than your first, and take care when you begin that second mile, as it’s easy to stumble. “The trick is to take short, fast steps until the blood in your quads is circulating again,” Judy says.

Then, Strategize Your Sets 

The two most common ways to do Murph are to complete the 600 total reps in order—100 pull-ups, followed by 200 push-ups, followed by 300 bodyweight squats—or to break each up into 20 rounds of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 squats. The former will push you to failure time and time again, forcing you to take many breaks. The latter gives each muscle group a chance to recover so you can keep moving and complete the workout in a more timely manner. For perspective, Murphy himself, like other elite athletes, completed the workout straight-through in 32 to 35 minutes. Mere mortals should consider breaking up the sets and aiming to break an hour. 

Finally, Adjust Your Weight

Because Murph is a much higher-volume workout than anything else in the Tonal library, you should use less weight than you typically would for any exercise to make it through. You can start with the Recovery Weight option, which reduces the weight to around 50 to 60 percent of your one-rep max, but Tonal Performance Manager Christian Hartford points out that if your strength score is high, Recovery Weight may not be enough of a deload for Murph’s high number of reps. He suggests using 75 percent of the weight Tonal suggests for a 20-rep set of each movement. For that, take the suggested weight number and multiply it by 0.75. 

Once you’ve landed on an overall strategy, here are some modified Murph workout options. 

The Simplest Way to Do Murph on Tonal

Simple way to do the murph workout on Tonal

There is no easy way to do a Murph, but the least-complicated way on Tonal, according to Judy, is to simply substitute 100 lat pull-downs for the pull-ups and complete the rest of the workout as prescribed. That means:

  • 1-mile run or equivalent
  • 100 x lat pull-down on Tonal 
  • 200 x push-up
  • 300 x bodyweight squat 
  • 1-mile run or equivalent

The All-In Way to Do Murph On-Tonal

All-in way to do the murph workout on Tonal

If you want to do Murph with all on-Tonal movements, stick with substituting lat pull-downs for the pull-ups, then substitute a horizontal pushing movement— a bench press variation or standing chest press work best—for the push-ups and a squat variation for the bodyweight squats. 

When you choose this route, you should commit to using the either barbell or the handles to avoid too many accessory swaps between moves. If you’re more comfortable with barbell movements and choose to do barbell seated lat pull-downs, barbell bench press, and barbell front squats, the best way to complete Murph is straight through (100-200-300 reps) rather than partitioned (20 sets of 5-10-15 reps), to avoid the annoyance of having to move the bench out of the way 20 times to do your squats. Also, Tonal only allows you to program 100 reps at a time, so you will have to program one set of 100 pull-downs, two sets of 100 bench presses, and three sets of 100 front squats.

  • 1-mile run or equivalent 
  • 100 x barbell seated lat pull-down
  • 200 x barbell bench press
  • 300 x barbell front squat
  • 1-mile run or equivalent 

If you prefer to work out with Tonal’s handles, the smoothest way to proceed, especially if you are partitioning the workout, is to do seated lat pull-downs, then lie down for the bench press, then step to the side of the bench for goblet squats using one Tonal handle. You can also opt for bodyweight squats here to simplify the flow. Because of set limits, a partitioned Murph cannot be programmed in the Tonal app and must instead be programmed on the trainer by creating a three-movement block of 5, 10 and 15 reps and repeating it 20 times.

  • 1-mile run or equivalent
    • 5 x seated lat pull-down
    • 10 x bench press
    • 15 x goblet squat
    • Repeat x 20 
  • 1-mile run or equivalent 

When it comes to modifying the Murph or working in your Tonal, the options are many. (For proof, just check out how Tonal members have experimented with the workout.)  The most important part is figuring out what works best for you and challenging yourself safely without risking injury.

This article is editorial and educational in nature. Tonal is not affiliated with CrossFit.

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