Siobhan Byrne: How to thrive and improve your fitness
While strength and stamina are core requirements of any fitness routine, mobility and flexibility matter more than you think. Over the next four weeks our fitness expert Siobhan Byrne will help put you on the right track
One of the biggest issues I see new clients face time and time again is a lack of mobility. So over the next four weeks I will show you how to improve your mobility and flexibility and also explain the difference between them. Mobility is something that can be left on the side lines, but is so important, not just as you get older, but even if you consistently train - whether that be running, playing tennis or golf or strength training.
People often ask me what is the best thing to help improve fitness, stamina and reduce body fat while increasing muscle. My answer is always the same - whether you are young or old - developing a strength-training routine that you can stick to long-term will give you the best body shape with strength, better posture and balance. However, it's crucial that you do the exercises correctly with good posture and that you are able to do them correctly through good mobility and flexibility.
So what is mobility? It is simply the ability to reach a specific position. The squat is a classic example of an exercise that people can do wrong due to lack of mobility and where you really notice this is in movements like the Y-squat (see right) where you hold your arms outstretched overhead.
You may notice heels lift or the back can lean forward too much or sometimes people struggle to keep their back and arms straight throughout this exercise. What is important to note at this point is that it's never a good idea to continually do something that you are being restricted on as it could lead to injury.
Now you can easily confuse flexibility with mobility, flexibility being the ability of the muscle to stretch. However, mobility is more to do with joint structure, core strength and all the other factors in the body that can restrict actual movement. Hip infringement or lack of mobility and also thoracic restriction in the middle back are two of the main ones I see consistently - and these can very much affect a lot of movements.
There are a lot of things that can help with improving your mobility including stretching, massage, myofascial release, i.e., foam rolling and mobility drills or movements which we will look at here. There are great ways of developing these mobility movements into drills if you are more advanced but whether you are advanced or not, coming back to basics and looking at your mobility and helping to improve it will benefit any type of training that you do.
Even on a day-to-day basis having better mobility can truly stand to you. Mobility, by definition, means the ability to move freely without restriction. If you can do this, range of movement becomes better which helps the body use the right muscles during an exercise and so you get the best from your workouts.
Start by looking at these six mobility and movement exercises and add them into your daily routine. You don't need to spend a very long time, just a few minutes each day, to help develop better mobility.
Complete each movement gently and in a controlled way - approximately 10 times - allowing the body to feel the stretch and release. You may notice some crossover between core and stretching as well as mobility but I want you to focus on holding the position briefly in each movement.
How to thrive Part 1: Move
Ankle mobiliser →
Start with your hands on the wall in front of you with one foot a couple of inches from the wall in front and the other leg split behind. While keeping both heels on the ground, drive the front knee towards the wall with the knee going beyond the front toe but still maintain both heels on the ground. Gently push forward, holding briefly, then returning back to start and repeating the movement.
Lie face down on floor with legs straight and arms straight out the side.
Raise your upper body along with arms and legs off the floor holding briefly before returning to resting position.
Y squat →
Stand upright with your feet flat, shoulder width apart and your arms extended over your head. Then simply lower your body toward the floor pushing your hips back and down into squat position. Keep your heels on the ground while returning to top position. Keep your back straight and arms overhead throughout the movement.
Front Bridge Hip Drop →
Lie face down in bridge position with elbows tucked into your side. Lower one side of your hip towards the ground twisting the torso. Return to start position and repeat on the other side.
Arm Circles →
Start by lying flat on your back with knees bent and feet flat on floor, arms straight overhead with palms facing up.
Rotate the arms out to your side and down then continue over your midsection until your palms now face down over your quads. Repeat in opposite direction.
Squat and Thoracic reach →
Start in squat position with hands on the ground and elbows wedged against each knee.
Reach one hand towards the ceiling and follow with your eyes and head.
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