Military Fitness: Memorial Day Murph with an Obstacle Course

Airmen perform push-ups during the Memorial Day Murph Challenge at Aviano Air Base, Italy. (Airman 1st Class Cary Smith/U.S. Air Force photo)
Airmen perform push-ups during the Memorial Day “Murph” challenge at Aviano Air Base, Italy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cary Smith/Released)

Each year, people honor fallen military members on Memorial Day. Some challenge themselves physically in the name of an individual who sacrificed for our country. The Memorial Day Murph Workout is such a workout, which honors Medal of Honor Recipient Navy SEAL Lt. Michael Murphy. The Murph has been growing in popularity since his death in 2005. The challenge is fun and serves a great cause. Are you up for it?

The Murph Challenge includes the following list of exercises:

  • One-mile run
  • 100 pull-ups
  • 200 push-ups
  • 300 squats
  • One-mile run

It can be broken up in many different ways to complete the repetitions.

Many advanced athletes will do this with a weight vest of 20-25 pounds and strive to get these reps done in as few sets as possible. Regardless of how you do it, it is obviously not a workout someone who has not exercised in a while should attempt.

If you are a beginner, do not get too wrapped up in the repetitions; do not hurt yourself with a workout that is out of your current fitness level. Do the best you can.

Below are some ideas and fun ways to break up the repetitions if you want to pace yourself:

The Super Sets method:

Run one mile before and after each of the following cycles:

  • 10 pull-ups. Consider using assistance bands or TRX rows in place, if needed.
  • 20 push-ups. Consider using knee push-ups if 200 push-ups is beyond your current limit.
  • 30 Squats

Repeat 10 times

The PT Pyramid method:

Run one mile before and after the below pyramid:

Exercise pyramid 10 steps

The pyramid consists of 10 levels. You go up and down the pyramid by doing the following:

  • Level one is one pull-up, two push-ups, three squats.
  • Level two is two pull-ups, four push-ups, six squats.
  • Level three is three pull-ups, six push-ups, nine squats.

Continue the pattern until you hit level 10 (10 pull-ups, 20 push-ups, 30 squats), at which point you repeat in reverse order. (You do not need to repeat set 10 twice.) This 19-set workout will yield 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 squats.

The Extra Credit method

One of the favorite ways to break up the Murph is to add in an event like a USMC obstacle course each time you complete 100 reps.

After your one-mile run, you start doing the Murph, accumulating repetitions between the three exercises. We usually do this on the first obstacle of the USMC O-Course.

Every time you get 100 reps, you do an obstacle course. This means you will run the USMC O-Course six times while doing the 100, 200, and 300 reps of the workout. Top it off with a one-mile run.

Regardless how you spend Memorial Day, remember it is a holiday to acknowledge the fallen. Take a moment and be thankful for your life and the day you have to spend with friends and family.

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Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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