The Murph Challenge is a tough workout with lots of possibilities. Right now it’s popular in the fitness community, but it’s not something for the faint of heart. Performing this series of exercises requires strength, endurance, and determination to accomplish it. It might be beyond your client’s abilities, but there are ways to modify the challenge so clients can do it based on their fitness level.

The Challenge was created in memory of a Navy Seal named Michael Murphy. Lieutenant Murphy risked and lost his own life to save others while in combat in Afghanistan in 2005. Two years later his bravery was recognized with a Medal of Honor.

Challenges are an effective way to see measurable goals. This can be a big motivator for clients.

The Murph Challenge includes:

  • a timed 1-mile run
  • 100 pull-ups
  • 200 push-ups
  • 300 squats
  • another 1-mile run

This is oftentimes done while wearing a 20-pound weighted vest. There are fundraisers, contests, and records associated with this popular CrossFit Challenge, but it can be done as part of training sessions with adjustments to suit less advanced levels.

Afterall, a challenge is a challenge.


Training for the Challenge

Begin training for the Challenge in your sessions with clients. Break it down as needed so your client can safely build up the necessary strength and stamina. Write a plan for clients to continue training in between training sessions. Have them record their progress so they can visibly see results in the making.

Time Adjustments

Instead of doing the whole workout at once, break it down into segments. It can be done over a day, a few days, a week or longer. Monday and Friday could be the run days. Tuesday for pull-ups, Wednesday for pushups and Thursday for squats.

Forget timing it and let your client do each part at their own pace.

Slow it Down

Slowing the pace down might make it more feasible. Instead of a run, make it a walk. Or a run/walk. Break the distance into segments, like a half-mile run or walk four times during the day rather than all at once.

Modify the Exercises

Forget the weighted vest.

Use a band to help with pull-ups. Try a seated pull-up bar or arrange a racked barbell at chest height to use as a pull-up bar; the feet can stay on the floor to offer moderate assistance.

Pull-ups aren’t for everyone, especially those with shoulder contraindications. For these clients, consider switching the pull-ups to shoulder presses, lat pulldowns, or bench presses. For all other clients, be sure to assess for shoulder mobility restrictions and apply corrective exercise and regressions as needed.

Just like pull-ups, standard push-ups aren’t for every client. Modified push-ups are still push-ups. The push-ups can be done kneeling, against a wall, incline, or with a stability ball to make them more doable. If that is still too difficult, try timed forearm or straight arm plank in lieu of pushups.

If squats are too tough for your client, use the wall for assistance. Or time a wall-sit as a substitute exercise.

Substitute leg presses or glute bridges for squats.

Museum Opening and More

A museum has been built as a tribute to the memory of Murphy. The Lt. Michael P. Murphy Navy Seal Museum had a scheduled opening of July 20, 2022, in West Sayville, NY (near Long Island). Tours and events are posted on the website.

Clients who succeed in the full or modified Murph Challenge might want bragging rights. Check out the clothing and gear available at the online museum store:


Kim Becknell Williams
Kim Becknell Williams

Kim Becknell Williams is a freelance writer with more than ten years of personal training experience. Certified through NFPT, she is a Functional Training Specialist and holds a Master Trainer level certificate for resistance, endurance and sports nutrition. Kim has written two books including Gym Etiquette 101. She enjoys writing a variety of lifestyle articles and fitness blogs.