This 4-day workout plan combines weight training and cardio to help you get leaner! Each day is separated into upper and lower body sessions with core work mixed into both.
Workout Summary

Workout Description

Many members of the M&S community are active and regular gym-goers, or they train hard at home, but there are always people new to fitness joining us to learn more about how to lose weight, improve their wellness, and create a new lifestyle for themselves.

If this sounds like you, then you'll likely enjoy this 8-week program to help you start your fitness journey on the right foot.

Recommended: Need help losing fat? Take our free fat loss course!

This routine will be followed every week on the same schedule. Your job is to get familiar with the movements, challenge yourself to train harder each day, and track your progress along the way. You should also start to develop new habits to support this lifestyle so you enjoy the progress along the way.

Let’s dive in.

Nutrition First

There are so many diet plans and ideas that it can make your head spin.

For these eight weeks, we suggest that you refer to our fat loss expert guide, and follow this as best as you can. Keep it this simple for now, and you’ll find this process to be a lot easier. Trust me, there will be plenty of time to learn more about specific diets and strategies down the road.

Related: How To Build A Fat Loss Meal Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide

Overhead shot of a lean female making a chocolate protein shake.

Supplements

Let’s also talk briefly about supplements. There are a lot of pre-workouts, fat burners, and other weight loss products on the market. You can certainly add them into this program if you want, but make sure you avoid these two mistakes:

  1. Don’t out-supplement a bad diet. Food matters more than supplements. If you have a tight budget and have to make a decision, buy food every single time.
  2. Keep it simple.

There is a theme to this program. We don’t want you to feel overwhelmed.

A multivitamin and protein powder is great to start with. If you feel like you can take on a pre-workout or fat loss supplement as well, that is okay, but they aren’t necessary. Talk to your doctor about any supplement you’re thinking of buying first as well so you know you’re healthy enough to have it.

Related: 5 Fat Loss Supplements Backed by Science

Fit African American woman getting ready to jog outside.

Zone 2 Cardio

Cardiovascular exercise is going to be a big part of this program, specifically Zone 2 Cardio. This is where we’re going to get into the weeds a little bit, but it will be worth it.

Many cardio programs used to be centered around five heart-rate “zones.”  The higher the number, the more intense the exercise is and the higher your heart rate goes. For beginners, doing cardio that would be the equivalent of the second or third heart rate zone (70-80% of your max heart rate).

To determine your max heart rate, take the number 220 and subtract your age. So, if you’re 40 years old, 220-40 would be 180 beats per minute. The 70-80% range would be 70 to 80 percent of that 180.

Zone 2 cardio calls for you to keep your heart rate at the 70% range throughout the entire time you do cardio. So, if we go back to our previous example, 70% of 180 would be 126 beats per minute. You would track this on the machine you’re using for cardio if it has heart rate capability or with a monitor that you can wear.

The key to Zone 2 is that you maintain that consistent pace from start to finish. You can use the elliptical, rower, treadmill, or do any other form of cardio that you like. As long as you’re either tracking the heart rate and it stays in that 70% range, or if you feel like you’re giving a seven out of ten effort, you’re good.

Beginners on this program will do four cardio sessions a week for 20-30 minutes per session at the Zone 2 pace. 20 minutes is the minimum, but if you have time to do 30, then you should. You will perform these sessions after your weight training. So, you will train with weights first, then do cardio after. This approach will help you use your strength with the weights without affecting your cardio performance.

Related: Transform Your Training by Understanding Heart Rate Variability

Lean woman in the gym doing a walking med ball lunge.

Weight Training

This four-day a week program will incorporate upper body and lower body workouts with core exercises mixed into both. You will do the same workouts each week on the same schedule. If you have to make a change based on a work schedule, then that is ok. The only rule is you train no more than three days in a row without at least one day off, and that you do no more than four workouts a week. More is not better for beginners unless you’re talking about more time for recovery.

An example week of training could look something like this: 

  • Monday: Workout 1
  • Tuesday: Workout 2
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Workout 3
  • Friday: Workout 4
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

If you combine the weights with the cardio workouts, then you should be training for around an hour to 75 minutes. These workouts will incorporate more compound, or multiple-joint exercises such as squats, bench presses, etc. 

The goal is to train as many muscle groups effectively without making the session too complicated. There will be plenty of time down for you to learn how to do a single-arm cable concentration curl down the road. The focus for now is to keep the program simple, train hard, and get out so you can recover.

Perform all the sets of one exercise before moving onto the next. The first set will be with moderate weight, the second set should be a challenge with slightly heavier weight, and you should reach failure with the heaviest weight on the third set. The ab exercises will be with bodyweight only. Rest for 90 seconds between all sets and exercises. 

Recommended: Need a warm-up routine? Check out this 15-minute plan!

8 Week Beginner Fat Loss Workout for Women

Workout #1 - Upper Body

Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Dumbbell Press 3 12, 10, 8
Bent-Over Barbell Row 3 12, 10, 8
Smith Machine Shoulder Press 3 12, 10, 8
Alternate Dumbbell Curl 3 12, 10, 8
Lying Triceps Extension 3 12, 10, 8
Lying Leg Raise 3 12, 12, 12
Do 20-30 minutes of Zone 2 cardio

Workout #2 - Lower Body

Exercise Sets Reps
Goblet Squat 3 12, 10, 8
Stiff Leg Deadlift 3 12, 10, 8
Leg Press 3 12, 10, 8
Walking Lunge 3 12, 10, 8
Seated Calf Raise 3 12, 10, 8
Crunches 3 12, 12, 12
Do 20-30 minutes of Zone 2 cardio

Workout #3 - Upper Body

Exercise Sets Reps
Wide Grip Lat Pull Down 3 12, 10, 8
Flat Bench Press 3 12, 10, 8
Lateral Raise 3 12, 10, 8
Hammer Dumbbell Curl 3 12, 10, 8
Straight Bar Tricep Extension 3 12, 10, 8
Abdominal Air Bike 3 12, 12, 12
Do 20-30 minutes of Zone 2 cardio

Workout #4 - Lower Body

Exercise Sets Reps
Squat 3 12, 10, 8
Deadlift 3 12, 10, 8
Dumbbell Step Up 3 12, 10, 8
Abductor Machine 3 12, 10, 8
Adductor Machine 3 12, 10, 8
Seated Calf Raise 3 12, 10, 8
Exercise Ball Crunch 3 12, 12, 12
Do 20-30 minutes of Zone 2 cardio

Conclusion

Even though we want this to be an easy process, we’re well aware that you may have questions along the way. The good news is that there is a comments section at the bottom of this article. Feel free to leave questions there, and we’ll do our best to help you out along the way.

Make sure you share your progress as well. We want to celebrate the wins with you.

139 Comments
Rachael
Posted on: Sun, 07/14/2024 - 00:56

Hi, I'm 45 years old and wanting to improve my pelvic core strength and tone up. I have a low grade bladder prolapse with out symptoms. Would the Fat loss Program for women be suitable for me? What exercises should I change if any.
Thanks

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 07/18/2024 - 10:59

I believe it can help you, Rachael, but I do suggest running it by your doctor to be safe. Your physician's insight with your specific health issues would override my opinion in this case.

Chris
Posted on: Wed, 07/03/2024 - 11:32

The routine is for 3 set of 12,10,8 reps. I understand increasing weights with each rep change, but is a set just 1 set of reps or all 12,10,8 is one set. So in the end you’ve completed 36,30,24 of each weight? The routine says it’s 60-75 minutes. I was able to complete the first day in 25 minutes without the cardio.

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 07/08/2024 - 08:04

Hi Chris, it would be like this.

Set 1, 12 reps, rest
Set 2, 10 reps, rest
Set 3, 8 reps, rest and change exercises

So, you would perform 30 total reps of an exercise before moving on. I hope this helps.

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 07/12/2024 - 08:20

Set 1, 12 reps, rest
Set 2, 10 reps, rest
Set 3, 8 reps, rest and change exercises

So, you would perform 30 total reps of an exercise before moving on. I hope this helps.

V
Posted on: Tue, 07/09/2024 - 07:54

Hi! Sorry I’m a bit confused
3 sets of 12.10.8 or just 12.10.8? And that’s 3?

Paul Inamala
Posted on: Fri, 05/31/2024 - 14:12

Hey i see the reps go from 12,10,8. Are you supposed to increase weight every set by a little so the 8 rep set would be the heaviest? Please let me know

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 06/07/2024 - 13:17

That is correct, Paul. Hope this helps!

Laura
Posted on: Fri, 05/31/2024 - 10:58

Hello Roger. My goal is to lose 15lbs of fat mass, build better overall strength and muscle tone, and build larger glute muscles. Should I follow this plan as designed and then move on to that target area once I reach my weight loss goal, or can this plan be modified slightly to focus more on glutes? I don't want to overdo it unnecessarily while I am in a calorie deficit. Thank you!

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 06/07/2024 - 13:16

Hi Laura, thank you for reading M&S. If you're new to training, then stick to this as is. If you've been training for a while, then add hip thrusts into Workout #4 with similar sets and reps. This should help you focus more on the glutes without affecting your recovery. I hope this helps!

Tina
Posted on: Thu, 05/30/2024 - 11:37

Hi Roger,

I started this program this week, and I already like it. I've been going to the gym for about a year now, but I feel I should still do a beginner program. However, I would like to add two exercises per workout day to target a specific muscle group like chest and back on upper body days. I will stick to the same sets/reps. Is that okay? My main aim is to lose fat, while still toning.

Thanks a lot!

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 05/30/2024 - 19:28

Hi Tina, thank you for reading M&S! I think that would be okay. Just pay attention to how you are recovering after workouts. If something feels off, back off those extra sets.

Maria
Posted on: Wed, 05/15/2024 - 09:07

Hello,

I started the workout about 1 1/2 ago. I just wanted to comment on how amazing I’ve felt in doing week 2 workout 3 today, I have been trying to loose weight since January I went from 296 to 291 and got stuch there. Since starting your workout I lost 1.5 lbs which wqs my goal (lose 1lb a week). I will keep everyone posted. I have found this workout truly enjoyable and thorough. I hope I can keep up. Thank you so much!

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 05/17/2024 - 20:27

This absolutely made my day, Maria! I am so honored that my workout is helping you. Thank you for reading M&S, and please keep us posted on your progress. You are sure to inspire others here!

Feny
Posted on: Mon, 05/13/2024 - 21:58

Hi I haven’t gone to gym or workout in more then 7yr however, I would like loose weight, fat and gain muscle by October! Which workout plan should I follow? I would like to do 5-day workout? I appreciate the help and thank you so much in advance.

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 05/17/2024 - 20:27

Hi Feny, I believe this one would be a great choice to start with, then once you finish this, you could bump up to a five-day program. The good news is you have plenty of time to get in your best shape by October, and we're here to help along the way! Thank you for reading M&S!

Andi
Posted on: Thu, 05/09/2024 - 11:08

How much protein, calories, and fat grams should a 145 lb female aim for each day to lose fat while following the weight lifting program above?

Thank you!

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 05/17/2024 - 20:25

Hi Andi, a lot of factors go into that answer such as activity level outside the gym, health conditions, and what your goals are. This calculator can help you figure the calories out.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator

I will suggest trying to get 145 grams of protein per day regardless of what the calculator says so you can maintain or even build muscle. 20% of your calories can come from fats. Once you figure out the number on that calculator, multiply that number by .2 and that is your fat calories per day.

Patricia
Posted on: Sat, 05/04/2024 - 19:54

I am aiming for fat loss, muscle building, sculpting, and toning. I will be the healthiest me I can be! I seen this workout and have completed day 1, awesome workout! I know that I will have to enhance my workout in time, maybe add something, do you have any suggestions?

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 05/17/2024 - 20:22

Hi Patricia, I hope this program is serving you well. You can either focus on getting stronger by using more weight or doing things like drop sets. Those really add the intensity that can help you build some muscle.

Chantelle
Posted on: Wed, 05/01/2024 - 14:16

Hi Roger. Just wanted clarification on the reps. Our first set should be 12,10,8 reps at light weight and then increase the weight after each set for a total of 90 reps, 30 reps each set? I think read it wrong and killed my arms yesterday when I started!

Thank you!

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Marina
Posted on: Mon, 05/06/2024 - 13:54

Hey Chantelle!

You are doing 3 sets of the exercise. Your first set will be 12 reps. Your next set will be 10 reps. And your last set will be 8 reps. All in all, you will be completing 30 reps of a given exercise.

Jordan
Posted on: Sun, 04/28/2024 - 01:19

My goal is to lose fat and at the end of this program try a 5k. Is this a good program to incorporate hybrid training. So on my off days going for a run. I’m trying to get into the gym and make it a hobby.

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 04/29/2024 - 17:29

I think this would work for you, Jordan. My only suggestion is make sure you take a full day off per week for recovery. Good luck, and thank you for reading M&S!

Mariam
Posted on: Mon, 04/15/2024 - 19:28

Hi!
I'm starting my first day at the gym on the 20th of April, and so excited to follow this program. My goal is to lose 16 kg in 4 months, have a flat stomach, and try to fill my hip dips (not sure if it's possible) anyways, I wonder if I can follow the same plan for the 4 upcoming months? or should I choose another program - I am bit confused and trying to learn more from the article- also I was wondering if I can substitute one leg day with a full body exercise from another article to try and reach my goal as soon as possible!

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 04/16/2024 - 08:27

Hi Miriam, I think you can follow this for four months. Which exercises are you looking to change?

Mariam
Posted on: Wed, 04/17/2024 - 06:10

I was thinking of changing workout 4 with a full body exercise or incorporating some of 2 and 4 together in one day.

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 04/17/2024 - 17:19

Ahh, I thought you meant a single exercise. I understand now. Yes, I think that would be okay.

Tarah
Posted on: Mon, 04/15/2024 - 07:19

Starting this plan today and looking forward to it! I enjoy walks and hikes and wondered if doing this on rest days will affect the effectiveness of the plan.

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 04/15/2024 - 10:17

Hi Tarah, thanks for choosing M&S!

As long as you don't exert yourself too much, you should be fine with a walk or hike.

Cindy
Posted on: Fri, 04/12/2024 - 21:13

Hello,

I usually walk to the gym for 30 minutes. Can I consider this as cardio? If so, is it okay to skip the cardio in the end of the workout?

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 04/13/2024 - 07:52

You can count it as extra cardio, but do the cardio after anyway. The cardio after is actually more beneficial because your body will be more likely to resort to fat calorie storage as energy since you depleted your other energy sources (glycogen) with the weights.

Lucy
Posted on: Thu, 04/11/2024 - 17:23

Hi, I've just completed the first week and have found your programme, comments and all the notes wonderful especially the videos showing what to do. It's really given me the confidence to move to the weight section off the gym. I'm 44 and very overweight so struggle with the crunches/bicycle crunches etc due to my tummy getting in the way. I'm hoping to be able to happily do these one day soon, but for now would you be able to suggest an alternative exercise so I do everything being asked or is it ok to skip that part? Thank you.

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 04/12/2024 - 08:15

Hi Lucy, you can either skip this part or try to do planks instead. Glad you have that confidence and are moving forward. Thank you for choosing M&S!

Christine Saus
Posted on: Thu, 04/11/2024 - 14:08

Hello! I see on Workout 4 that “Abductor machine” is listed twice. Assume that is a typo? Thank you for posting this workout schedule!

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 04/12/2024 - 08:14

If it was, it had been changed since you made this comment because it now says "adductor machine" below "abductor." They may have caught it and fixed it, but thank you for pointing it out.

Rhea
Posted on: Sat, 04/06/2024 - 11:00

Any advice for someone who can only do workouts two times a week?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 04/07/2024 - 08:13

Hi Rhea, we have other programs here on M&S that are set up for training twice a week. This link will have plenty of options for you to consider based on availability and goals.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-to-choose-your-next-train...

Melissa
Posted on: Sun, 03/31/2024 - 12:59

Hi Roger,
Thank you so much for the workout routine, I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m almost done with the eight weeks, is there a program you would recommend I start once I finish?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 03/31/2024 - 20:10

Hi Melissa, I hope you have seen great results with this program. Mind sharing what your goals will be going forward? That will help me make the best recommendation. You could also check this out if you would rather find one for yourself.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-to-choose-your-next-train...

Tenesha
Posted on: Thu, 06/06/2024 - 07:08

Hi! I was wondering if you would be willing to share your results? :)

Rita
Posted on: Sat, 03/30/2024 - 19:41

About to start this workout . Will let you know how it goes.

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 03/31/2024 - 07:48

Much appreciated, Rita. Thanks for reading M&S!

Maria
Posted on: Fri, 03/29/2024 - 14:41

I am about to start this workout tomorrow but can only do 3 days a week at the gym. Will I still get results

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 03/29/2024 - 20:21

I believe you can, Maria. You would just do workout four to start the next week, then go back to workout 1. Make sense?

Vas
Posted on: Wed, 03/27/2024 - 12:46

Hi Roger,

Greetings from England!

I started this programme last week and so far so good, so thank you for sharing.

The only issue I have is fitting the strength training and cardio that follow, into 60 minute sessions (my work lunch), is there anything I can do about o compress it without comprising the results?

Thank you!

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 03/27/2024 - 20:37

Hey Vas, thank you for reading M&S! So, for the last four exercises of each workout, only do two sets instead of 3.

Also, keep the cardio to 20 minutes. This may help!

Cheers, and please let me know how this works for you if you ride it to the end.

Vas
Posted on: Mon, 04/08/2024 - 18:33

Thank you Roger for your reply.
I have taken your advice and managed to reduce the workout to one hour and 15 minutes, which is still a bit too long for a lunch workout. I’ll stick with it for the full 8 weeks though, as I’m starting to see results, I’ll report back!

Michelle
Posted on: Tue, 03/26/2024 - 12:21

Hi, Roger!
Do i use same weights for every reps, or should I do progressive overload?

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 03/27/2024 - 20:35

I am a fan of progressive overload, Michelle, but you can do it either way.

If you take this on, let me know how it goes!