Become a Pushup-Pullup Machine With the Murph Prep Challenge

Become a Pushup-Pullup Machine With the Murph Prep Challenge

We call this the Murph Prep Challenge because it will lead up to the classic Memorial Day test of strength and fitness called Murph.

For those unfamiliar with the workout, it’s in honor of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who was killed in action and later awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery.  

It’s a simple challenge done for time:


1 mile Run

100 Pull-ups

200 Push-ups

300 Squats

1 mile Run

You start and finish with a mile run and partition the pull-ups, push-ups, and squats as needed.  And if you’ve got a twenty-pound vest or body armor, you should wear it because that’s how Michael liked to do it.

To show up and do it is an awesome tribute.  Even more significant is the dedication to training and overcoming obstacles to do it well.  

Even without plans for Murph this year, master these basic bodyweight movements for huge strength improvements and to get you closer to the beach body you’re looking for this summer.

Not to mention it’s a small time investment, requires minimal equipment, and can be done anywhere.  

I can’t find a good reason not to follow this 25-day challenge program!  

You’ll be pushing and pulling your bodyweight with ease and making improvements to your strength and physic.

The Murph Prep Challenge

This 1-Month Program has a daily rep and set scheme to add to your training.  There’s nothing super complex or time-consuming. Just get the reps in as part of your regular workouts, or knock it out as a mini-session added into your day.

The ultimate goal is to improve your ability to do push-ups and pull-ups, which is the crux of Murph for most.  

You can dig down, move forward on squats, and trudge slowly on the run, but when muscular fatigue sets in on the pull-ups and push-ups, the workout stops dead in its tracks.

There will be times within the plan you’ll hit failure, the stimulus will almost always be well under the point of fatigue.  The goal here isn’t a focus on building the actual muscle fibers but a focus on improving the neurological pathways that contract them.

It’s a training strategy popularized by former Soviet Special Forces instructor Pavel Tsatsouline, which he called “Grease the Groove.”   

Through practice and repetition of a movement daily, you will generate quick gains in strength related to those specific movements in very little time.  And because you are working well under the point of fatigue, it’s easy to add alongside any strength plan.

The Pull-Up Plan

You will incrementally build your pull-ups every day.

Starting with 15 measly pull-ups competed in 5 sets, then progressively built to a combined total of 35 effortless pull-ups at the end.

Here is the rep scheme:



Some will see this and laugh because the “challenge” is too easy.  First, let’s make sure we’re clear on this, we are working STRICT pull-ups here.  

Also, remember, these reps aren’t supposed to be life-changing.  You should be able to smoothly pull through each set, maintaining a smooth tempo up and down, without form falling apart.  We are focusing on training the nervous system, not trying to blast your muscles.

Still, some may be able to complete this with ease.  In that case, scale up the movements by:

  1. Touching your chest to the bar on every pull-up.
  2. Add a vest or weight for your reps.


If this challenge looked too hard at this point, there are ways to make it possible.

One of the best ways to build pull-ups is to add a resistance band to help give you a boost or use a low bar with your feet on the ground to provide some assistance, as demonstrated here:

Whatever option you choose, you can switch it up for every set.  So if completing a set of 5 is hard, then use a modification, and then drop the assistance on the sets of 1 or 2 reps if you’re able to.

The Push-Up Plan

The push-up plan will look a bit different in its approach.  

Every week you will complete a test for max reps.  Imagine each rep will be judged based on push-up perfection.  If you’re unsure about the perfect push-up technique or struggle with shoulder pain, be sure to read: Don’t Let Push-Ups Wreck Your Shoulders

Based on your max test, you will work at a percentage of those reps each day, completing at least five total sets spread throughout the day, but squeeze in more sets if you can.

Here is the weekly layout:


Again, work on perfect push-ups and get away from the idea that you’ve got to work to failure for this to work.

Don’t worry if you only have a few push-ups; they will improve throughout the weeks.  Or, if you don’t have a great push-up yet, elevate your hands to a bench or table.  Aim to scale for around ten reps on your max test.

Go Crush-It

Commit to following the Murph Prep Challenge— you won’t regret it.  Mastering these basic bodyweight exercises will fast-track your fitness in just a little bit of time.  

It will set up anyone competing against themselves or others at Murph this year.  Just make sure you’re getting your conditioning in to run those miles!

And if you’re thinking about completing Murph be sure to register at  Your registration helps to support a great cause!

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