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.


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


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.

Posted on: Mon, 09/25/2023 - 12:03

I'm unable to down/load any of your workout

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 09/27/2023 - 13:39

I apologize for this. I only write and answer questions here. I will address this with an editor to see what I can find out. In the meantime, you can screenshot the workouts on your mobile phone to have with you while you're training.

Posted on: Sun, 09/24/2023 - 15:01

I started lifting in 1986; I have bodybuilding and figure trophies. Then I got plantar fasciitis, then menopause came and went. I've been out of the gym and pretty much sedentary for several years.

Recently, I spent a few months in physical therapy rehabbing the feet -- they are doing well now, and I'm walking a 5k a couple times a week.

From March to September, I worked with an online trainer to lose weight and get back in shape. It was very expensive and the progress was super slow, so I decided to go it alone again. Which frankly is how I trained for many years, I never needed a trainer. But I've never been over 50 and overweight before, either. I'm still confused about how to program my workouts for my specific goals.

I know fat loss is all diet, but I do wonder if something with circuits might be a better approach for me than straight sets. I am old-school at heart, and I'd enjoy training just the way that is laid out in this article, but is it the right strategy for a 56-year-old ex-bodybuilder with tricky feet and 20 lbs of fat to lose?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 09/27/2023 - 13:39

Hi, Eva-Marie. Thanks for reading M&S!

I believe this workout could help you, but we do have several options for you to consider here. This link will take you to a page with different programs based on goals and schedules. If you don't find this one serving you well, try one of the others. We will have something that can help you.

Posted on: Wed, 09/27/2023 - 19:38

The information at that link is sweepingly comprehensive and yet easy to navigate. Thank you!

Posted on: Sat, 09/23/2023 - 16:45

Hi Roger,

I’m an intermediate lifter but I’ve gained some weight and looking to lean out. I want to try this. I was wondering if one exercise per body part is sufficient enough to see results? For example, on upper body day, you have one exercise that targets back, one for shoulders, and one for biceps/triceps. I’m used to doing multiple exercises for muscle groups. Can I still see results?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 09/27/2023 - 13:37

Hi, Jamie. If you train with enough intensity and make the most out of your cardio and diet, then you should still see good results from this. The lack of volume is different, but it can still be effective.

Posted on: Wed, 09/20/2023 - 11:28

I have two questions:

I cannot locate my body type in the nutrition plan and what do you recommend for women for nutrition for weight loss.

What workout should be completed after the 8 week beginner plan?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 09/27/2023 - 13:36

For weight loss, check this guide out.

After the eight weeks, this can help you find another program.

Hope this helps!

Posted on: Mon, 09/18/2023 - 00:59

What exercise could you substitute for abducter/adducter machine?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 09/27/2023 - 13:35

Is this because you don't have the machine, or are you dealing with issues that don't allow you to do it?

Derek chatham
Posted on: Thu, 09/14/2023 - 23:05

I’m a guy, and I’m totally following this plan as a beginner

patricia freeman
Posted on: Mon, 09/11/2023 - 13:50

For this workout are reps 3 sets of 1st rep 12, 10, 8. 2nd 12,10,8. 3rd 12, 10, 8. Or is it 1st rep 12. 2nd rep 10 and 3rd rep 8 ?????

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 09/23/2023 - 13:13

Set 1, 12 reps
Set 2, 10 reps
Set 3, 8 reps

patricia freeman
Posted on: Sat, 09/23/2023 - 20:08

Thank you for clarifying. My husband was right. He said “Do you realize that you at doing 9 sets this couldn’t be for beginners, you’re going to hurt yourself”. I was totally wiped out after the workout. My knees are killing me. Lol. Kinda proud of myself. Not bad for a 63 year old. Will gladly start back on Monday with the correct reps. Will now have energy for cardio.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 09/24/2023 - 19:20

Keep us posted on the progress, Patricia. Thanks for reading M&S!

Posted on: Mon, 09/04/2023 - 16:13

I am off the gym for 10 months should I start straight away with this program or should I do something first before this?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 09/23/2023 - 13:14

You can go right into this, Amany.