Outstanding workout with only a pull-up bar

Pullup bars in NYC Central Park.  No matter where you go, you can probably find a playground or public park with some sort of bar.

Pullup bars in NYC Central Park.  No matter where you go, you can probably find a playground or public park with some sort of bar.

Often, a gym will have a pull-up bar or some kind of bar that I can use to do pullups.  I avoid this many times because I may want to run or do some other things that might require me to go in and out of the hotel.  This takes time and then combine that with having to use your key card to get in and out all make me want to just find another place to workout.

Playgrounds, public parks and sometimes even construction sites often have some sort of bar, jungle gym or railing that I can do pullups on.  I will look for one on the property and when I find one, I am happy because I know that my travel workout potential just went through the roof.

With only a pullup bar, I can do one of the best workouts ever created.  Even with a gym full of equipment, we still often just do this super simple workout.  If I am truly relegated to the hotel gym for safety reasons (like in Africa) I can complete this workout with a pullup bar and a treadmill which most gyms have.

Many of you may have seen the movie Lone Survivor or possibly read the book.  It details Marcus Lutrell's amazing story of survival.  Within the book, you are introduced to Michael Murphy, Navy Seal, who was an amazing leader of his men.  In order to have any chance of survival for his men when caught in a bad firefight and severely outnumbered, he walked out into the open to get cell phone reception and call in their position and an air strike.  Murphy knew full well that this act would be the end of his life but acted selflessly in order to give his men any chance of survival.  Lutrell made it, but just barely.

CrossFit creates "Hero" workouts and names them after fallen soldiers to honor their service and sacrifice.  Murph is one of the oldest of these named workouts and is a benchmark for anyone who has been around CrossFit very long.  It is tough, as it should be, to honor a true hero.

The workout looks like this:


Run 1 mile

100 pullups

200 pushups

300 squats

Run 1 mile

Wearing a 20 pound weight vest is suggested.

Many will look at this workout and shake their head because it seems impossible at first.  Depending on your fitness level, this workout can be scaled back to be doable for almost anyone at some degree.

Here are some scaling options:

1. Don't wear a vest

2. Simply cut down on the reps.  Instead of 100/200/300, could you do 25/50/100?  Maybe 50/100/200?  Maybe you need to cut back the running too.  It could look like this:

1/2 Murph

Run .5 mile

50 pullups

100 pushups

200 squats

Run .5 mile

or maybe...

Walk 400 m

25 body rows

50 pushups on your knees

100 squats

Walk .5 miles

3. Partition the reps- The workout can also be partitioned so that you are not doing all of the pullups before you move on to do all of the pushups and then all the squats.  Most people partition the workload to running a mile then doing 5 pullups, 10 pushups and 15 squats for 20 rounds then completing the mile again.

Before I start the workout, I will decide how I will do it that day.  With a vest, non-partitioned is tough and I will do it that way when time allows, but if I only have a short time to work out I may do a 1/2 Murph, partitioned with no vest.

On my birthday as I was getting ready for SealFit Kokoro Camp, my friends and I dreamed up a Triple Murph (6 miles, 300 pushups, 600 pushups, 900 squats) and did it on a Saturday morning.  The first was with a vest, non partitioned, the second was with a vest, partitioned and the third and final was with no vest partitioned.  It was tough and took me 126 minutes and 54 seconds.  It was great training for the camp and I was well prepared.

Most people see no need to go to those extreme levels and I don't really suggest doing it unless you are in preparation for Kokoro or Goruck Selection.  For most, the simple format of Murph is a great travel alternative and a way to get an excellent workout with minimal equipment.

Here is how CrossFit honors Michael Murphy on their site:


For time:
1 mile Run
100 Pull-ups
200 Push-ups
300 Squats
1 mile Run

In memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., who was killed in Afghanistan June 28th, 2005.

This workout was one of Mike's favorites and he'd named it "Body Armor". From here on it will be referred to as "Murph" in honor of the focused warrior and great American who wanted nothing more in life than to serve this great country and the beautiful people who make it what it is.

Partition the pull-ups, push-ups, and squats as needed. Start and finish with a mile run. If you've got a twenty pound vest or body armor, wear it."

Try Murph on your next trip or back at your garage.  Be careful with this one and go at your own pace.  This is alot of volume for the untrained and can hurt you.  Do a level that you are comfortable with.

All the best,

Tom Rowland