Building a Better Myrtl

Simple question: If you were to design a routine that strengthened the hip girdle area and lasted five minutes or less, what exercises would you use, how many reps and in what order?

Couple of things to consider:

  •  This comment and this comment correctly highlight that lateral leg raises are targeting the lower back and gluteal muscles.
  • Maybe something that looks like one thing is actually another.  I never thought of the leg swings as an ankle mobility exercise.  Please take the time to read number three on Mike Boyle’s list of Eight Mobility Drills Everyone Should Do. (Note: Gary Gray is person who came up with the Lunge Matrix.)

So here we go – let’s see what we come up with. There are thoughtful people reading this blog and the collective knowledge of the group is many multiples of my individual experience.

I suggest you link to YouTube videos in your comments as our comment service (Disqus) will show a thumbnail of each video you reference.

Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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  • Sam Furie

    This probably isn't the suggestion you are looking for (I'm only in high school), but it could help. Iv noticed after doing this a lot it almost became too easy. It would be cool if there was a more advanced version. 


  • Matthew

    One of the things I like about your blog — you don't act like you know it all. You are always pulling from the best sources and trying to improve your advice.

  • Lee Jephson

    I like to take out speed and momentum in most hip exercises to build static strength, but all your exercises are good. A couple that I like to do as warm up are the 1 leg t-rdl like you see from athletes performance, and an old fashioned side kick like in martial arts. Very challenging for the glutes to get in those positions and have the strength to hold the leg there out to the side as in a kick or behind.

  • Lisa

    Hi Jay,
    I have been enjoying your blog. I just started doing the MYRTL routine as a part of my cooldown a couple of weeks ago. I like all of the exercises in the routine in the order that you have them. By the time I get to the fire hydrants I am really working…

    In an effort to give you some ideas, I put together the below. I wasn't sure if you wanted a focus on strength or mobility.

    Bridge (Moving knees together and apart)
    Leg raises (3 dimensional – front, toes down, toes up)
    Donkey Kicks
    Knee circles (forward and backwards)
    Fire Hydrants
    Slide Lunges
    Side Lunges
    Front step Ups
    Side Step Ups
    Standing hurdle trail leg (forward and backward)
    Standing leg swings


  • Mark Eichenlaub

    Id add the activity where you lay on your back, feet down knees up, and push your hips up and down.

  • Benjamin Raphelson

    Jay – the basic movement i think myrtle lacks is any signifficant internal rotation at the hip. i've had athletes add in “the bottom shell” when doing clams (rotating the top leg for external and bottom leg for internal). What I haven't incorporated (haven't been in one place doing this work for long enough) is a progression to predominantly standing work trying to accomplish the same movements while standing single leg and stabilizing. i think there needs to be that type of intermediate step before progressing to hurdle mobility because too often the movement suffers in an effort to get over the hurdle. hurdle mobility routines are more common. i just haven't had time/cause to put together that intermediate routine.

  • Slee

    Coach Johnson,

    I read the boyle article “Joint by Joint” and he says to NEVER do scorpions or any kind of rotational movements for the lumbar.  What say you?

  • thomas_t

    I can't claim either of these as my own but I will throw them out there anyway. One is Ethyl who is a relation of Myrtl, a cousin or sister or something. Jay, you had it up on flotrack (before you had this site?) but now I can't find it. For lack of a video here is the routine

    20 x Iron Cros
    20 x Scorpion
    20 x Army Crawl
    20 x Mtn Climbers
    2 x 8 x Donkey Whips
    2 x 10 Donkey Kicks
    2 x 10 Fire Hydrants
    2 x 5 Donkey Whips
    2 x 10 Leg Circles
    2 x 10 Knee Circles
    20 x  Bird Dogs
    10 x Cat Back/Sway Back
    Trail legs and Leg Swings
    Hip and Trunk Circles

    The second is a just a couple of things we add on to Myrtl to make it into Super Myrtl. We stole these from a routine Runner's World posted a couple years ago back when Schumacher's group was training in Madison. It had a lot of similarities to Myrtl (leg lifts, clamshells etc). I'll post the link to the video's below. It's not working for me. Don't know if it's out of date or my computer is just slow. But the exercises we added are the balance ones: single leg squats, 7-11's (balancing on one foot, envision you are standing on a clock face–12 straight ahead 6 behind you. Move your other foot back and forth from 11 to 7. This only works if you are on your left foot. If you are standing on your right foot it would be 1 and 5.) And Super Myrtl's (super man squats). These are similar to the single leg scales on Building a Better Runner Vol. 2. Go down into a single leg squat, then extend forward and back so you are almost forming a “T” or look like Superman (or Myrtl) flying through the air (albeit balancing on one foot). You can do these barefoot or on one of those foam pads or just a pillow if you are at home.

    These are more for balance then isolating the hip girdle but I think they do work those muscles in as much as the role they play in helping balance/stabilize us. But then again, I was an English major and not a kinesiologist.


  • Patrick Wales-Dinan


    A great way to work internal rotation at the hip is using resistance bands (…. Have your athletes lie chest down with bands around their ankles. Then have them keep their knees together and open the lags at the ankles. This works the internal rotaters well.

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  • Ryan It’s T-Time Tripicchio

    Hey Jay,

    I recently had the idea after reading Vern Gambetta’s book about adding a little bit of injury prevention in. I know that one of the most common injuries I’ve had are ankle rolls so now I add toe raises to the end of the myrtle. I do 10 neutral (toes pointed straight forward), 10 toes out, and 10 toes in. It seems like its helped.

  • CoachJay

    Nice tweak. We have some similar work in the upcoming Phil Wharton DVDs. For now, check out this Foot Ankle routine –

  • Dara Som

    Hi Coach, how often do you recommend doing this routine every week? Thanks!

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  • CoachJay

    Try the eight week general strength progression as it gets challenging by the last couple of weeks. The leg circuits are challenging for most people.

    Then you can move to Core H, starting with just 20-30 seconds per exercise.–A

  • CoachJay

    At the 1:06 mark she has way too much back extension. Totally my fault.

    What do we do now?

    We kick back straight behind us, as if we’re kicking a wall behind us. Flat back.

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  • CoachJay

    WAY too much flexion. Also, we don’t do Scorpions any more – too hard to keep a neutral spine.

    …so need to build a better Myrtl in 2014.

  • Chris Lee

    What is the point of a scorpion/iron cross anyway? What benefit does it provide the athlete? Serious question. It seems like a lot of twisting of the spine.

  • Jenny Scherer

    I have always found glute bridges/single leg glute bridges to be very effective. Not sure if that’d fully apply in to the hip girdle category, but I think it targets approximately the same area as a donkey kick does? Other than that, honestly, I’ve found the routine to be extremely beneficial and great as-is. Do it after nearly every run– keeping my hips/glutes strong has been the biggest key to staying injury-free, which I have been for 2 straight years now.

  • Brad Patterson

    As a quick cool down and mobility routine, I think the myrtle is perfect as is. I used it for well over a year after all my runs, and the only thing that I found “lacking” with it was that it didn’t challenge me enough from the strength side. I have recently switched back to using more resistance bands and doing harder movements, that really challenge my hip & glute strength. I use Jason Fitzgerald’s “ITB rehab routine” for this function.

    The one “problem” I have with the ITB rehab routine is that it takes me 20-30 mins to complete, so I don’t have time to do it more frequently and only get it in once or twice a week; as compared to the myrtle that is so fast and simple you can do it after every single run.

    I guess in my eyes, it depends on your goal for the myrtle. Is it mainly to be used as a cool down and mobility routine? Or is it intended to be more of a strength building routine?

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  • Charli Clune

    This probably isn’t the recommendation you are looking for (I’m only in great school), but it could help. Iv observed after doing this a lot it almost became too simple. It would be awesome if there was a more innovative edition.

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  • kelly0523

    At the end of the video, you tell us how many reps to do but you don’t tell us how many of each exercise to do per leg, per rep. Can you clarify this for me, please? Thanks for making this video, I suffer from bursitis in both hips and think that this will help tremendously.

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