Preparing for Murph: How to Train With a Vest

Check your ego, be realistic and make a decision about the vest now.

Jenessa Connor, CPT February 27, 2017

We’ll be blunt: You can WOD seven days a week and still not be prepared for “Murph” (100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 air squats sandwiched between two 1-mile runs, all wearing a 20-pound vest) in time for Memorial Day. To survive the Hero WOD of all Hero WODs, you need to incorporate some supplemental training. And if you haven’t started yet, now is the time.

We recently chatted with Chris Hinshaw, Reebok running expert and endurance coach to the CrossFit community, to get his advice on some common concerns among CrossFitters, including how to approach training with a weighted vest. Below are a few things you need to consider before suiting up.

Vest or No Vest? Decide Now

Like all CrossFit workouts, Murph is scalable, and the simplest way to make it more accessible is to forgo the vest. Even Hinshaw himself goes unweighted; he wants to experience each part of the workout (and still complete it).

Consider your goals and current level of fitness. If you’ve done Murph in the past or if you’ve been steadily training for volume, working with a vest may be an appropriate challenge. But if you’re not sure you can get through, say, 100 pull-ups on a good day, adding weight will physically wreck you. And you may not come close to finishing before the standard one-hour cutoff, which can be a demoralizing experience.

Check your ego, be realistic and make a decision about the vest now. Knowing the specific conditions for your Murph will allow you to train more specifically. Bottom line: Scaled or not, Murph is HARD. Yes, ditching the vest will make it easier, but it will be far from easy.

Find the Right Vest

The athletes at the 2016 games wore the 5.11 Tactical Plate Carrier, which is a popular, high-quality option. But weighted vests, like the athletes who wear them, come in all shapes and sizes. It’s worth your time to shop around before investing in one.

For example, if you find the 5.11 to be too bulky, models like the Hyper Vest Pro offer a slimmer fit. If your torso is on the shorter side, a vest like the Mir Short Weighted Vest, which distributes weight across the shoulders, chest and upper back, may be less likely to dig into your hips during squats and running. Try on a few, and if possible, go for a quick jog and do a handful of reps of each movement.

Make Sure the Fit Is Tight

Hinshaw stresses that a tight fit is crucial. “If that vest doesn’t stay in a consistent location, it’s going to be incredibly uncomfortable. It’s going to be a distraction, and it will ultimately cause you frustration that will lead to a bad experience,” he says. In the past, Hinshaw has used athletic tape to literally adhere a shifting vest to an athlete’s body. While it’s not a bad idea to have a roll of Goat Tape on hand at all times, it’s better to pick a vest that feels like a part of you no matter how hard you’re working.

Practice With the Full Weight

You may be tempted to start with a lighter weight and slowly work up to 20 pounds, but Hinshaw recommends a different strategy: Use the full weight but break up the quantity of work with more frequent rest periods at first, then gradually “squeeze out” rest as your training progresses. “You have to prepare for the weight. If you don’t prepare for the weight, your body won’t be able to perform because it will have never experienced it before,” he explains. For example, practice running with the vest by breaking up the distance into quarter-mile runs with a brief break in between. Slowly reduce the duration of your rest periods or the number of breaks until you can run a full mile wearing the vest.


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Jenessa Connor, CPT