Friday 13 December 2019

The only five exercises you’ll ever need

Sometimes knowing what kind of workouts to do is the hard part. if you want to keep it simple, stick to these tried and tested favourites, writes personal trainer Siobhan Byrne

Fitness expert Siobhan Byrne. Photo: Marc O'Sullivan
Fitness expert Siobhan Byrne. Photo: Marc O'Sullivan

In association with the Health Service Executive

For me, exercise is a really important part of my day for many reasons. As an experienced trainer, I see clients on a daily basis who have neglected their health over the years, whether to concentrate on family or work life, but what people fail to understand is that a small amount of exercise can make a huge difference to your health and how you feel. I'm often asked what are the best exercises to do. My answer always depends on ability - so if you have neglected your fitness and want to get started to build a new healthier and fitter you, my top exercises would be as follows...


This is one of my ultimate exercises, which has so many benefits - from working legs to back and core, all simultaneously. The thing I love about this exercise is that, as you develop your fitness, the squats can be varied and made more difficult by adding weight or incorporating a plyometric jumping movement to shock the muscle.

1/ Stand upright with your feet shoulder width apart
2/ Lower your body towards the floor, sending your hips back and down, and bending your knees. Push through your heels to return to the start position, keeping your back flat throughout


The perfect exercise to work the upper body, from your chest and shoulders to even your triceps. If you are a beginner, you may find a standard press-up hard to do, especially if you are a woman, as we naturally have less upper-body strength ability than men. But remember, strength and ability can be developed and I've never had a client who in time cannot complete a press-up. However, one of the reasons this exercise makes my top five is that you can do so many variations of it, depending on your ability. The more parallel your body is to the ground, the harder this exercise will be, so an easier variation is to be on your knees with your back and bottom flat and tummy tucked in. Or, if you find this too difficult, look at a further inclined variation of the press-up where your hands are inclined on a bench/stairs; again, the more of an incline, the easier this exercise will be, so you can vary it as your fitness and strength develop.

1/ Start on your knees or toes, with hands under the chest and back flat in a plank position
2/ Lower yourself to the ground and then back to the start position. Keep the back flat throughout.


This is another one of my all-time favourite exercises and, again, can be changed and varied as you get fitter and stronger by adding weights. The basic lunge helps to work the legs and even some of the core by working calves, quads and glutes.

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1/ Stand upright with your arms by your sides.
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2/ Take a step forward, dropping your back knee to the floor and leaning your torso slightly forward with your weight on your front leg. Then push off your front foot through the heel to return to the start position.

Mountain climber

I, of course, can't leave the core out, and the reason I choose the mountain climber is that, unlike a static plank, this adds in movement - which gives you more bang for your buck. The mountain climber will use many muscles, including core and upper body, such as chest, shoulders and triceps, while the movement forces you to work harder, thus burning extra calories.

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1/ Start with your feet on the floor and two hands on the ground. Make sure your back is flat with your core engaged
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2/ Slowly bring one knee up to the chest. Return to the start position and repeat with the opposite leg. This is one repetition

Abdominal crunches

Finally, the crunch is a perfect option for an abs exercise. You may wonder why I would choose this particular one over most other well-known abs exercises, such as sit-ups. Well, for many reasons, I have seen so many clients complete sit-ups wrong over the years, allowing other muscle groups to kick in and not effectively hitting the abs area. The crunch controls this a lot more, making it more effective - and maybe not quite foolproof but as close to it as you can get. Also, because there is not as much movement in it, you will be less likely to pull at your neck, causing injury.

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1/ Start by lying on your back, with your knees bent, feet flat and your hands at the side of your temples.
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2/ Lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Keep your feet flat throughout. Then lower your head and shoulders, and repeat this movement.

So, there you have it - with just 30 minutes of exercise a day, you can easily increase your fitness levels, develop a stronger body and create more energy.

Irish Independent

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