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.

79 Comments
Andrea
Posted on: Fri, 02/23/2024 - 22:26

Hi Roger, do you recommend any warm up exercises with this plan, or keep cardio for only after all strength training?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 02/25/2024 - 07:09

You can do a few minutes of light cardio and stretching for warming up if you like, Andrea. Serious cardio should always be after strength training. You want the cardio to burn excess calories, not glycogen. This is why intense or serious cardio should always be after weight training. Weights help you deplete the glycogen first.

Ava
Posted on: Thu, 02/22/2024 - 12:36

Does the order of exercise within each workout matter? My gym is designed in a way that sometimes it makes more sense to switch up the order some rather than walking back and forth across the large gym to get the appropriate machine and equipment.
Thanks! Just getting started and loving it!

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 02/25/2024 - 07:08

Glad you love the workout, Ava. Keep the first exercise first, but other than that, do what you need do to so it works best for you. Good luck, and thank you for reading M&S!

Renu
Posted on: Fri, 02/16/2024 - 11:55

Hello Roger - Hope you are doing well.
I looked at other at home workout . There was one - summer shape up home workout , but on the pull days it has pull ups on bar .do you recommend any home workout for fat loss? I can do the cardio post strength.
Thanks a lot for your time
Another option I was wondering if this current one can be modified to show substitute. Like alternative for leg press etc
I have dumbbells/ bench / bands

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 02/21/2024 - 08:49

I shared one on another comment for you, but if you want to do the summer shape up one, you can swap pullovers with a dumbbell in place of pullups. This one can be modified to substitute exercises you can do. Check out our Exercises section to find replacement exercises. If you need help, let me know.

Michelle Woods
Posted on: Tue, 02/13/2024 - 12:38

Hi - Can we incorporate cardio on non-weightlifting days? Either jogging or pelaton?

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 02/16/2024 - 11:26

Hi Michelle, you sure can. As long as you take one complete day off a week, then your recovery should still be optimal.

Sarah
Posted on: Fri, 02/09/2024 - 13:04

Hi! I don’t know what weights I should use. It’s listed as moderate, heavier, and then heaviest / too failure but how do I know what weights fall into those categories for me? Is there some method for figuring that out? I’m afraid of choosing too heavy weights and hurting myself. For context: I’m 148 lbs, 5’1, and 37 years old. I’m quite new to working out. Thanks.

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 02/16/2024 - 11:25

Hi Sarah, as much as I wish there was a simple way to figure this out, the best method is trial and error. Start light and gauge your strength accordingly. It's much safer and easier to start low and work up. If something still feels too light, take a note and make sure to start heavier next time.

Purple
Posted on: Sun, 02/04/2024 - 19:31

Hello Roger, how do I turn this training from fat loss to muscle gain, should I just remove the cardio?

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 02/09/2024 - 13:40

You can reduce it, but don't eliminate it. Cardio is still good for overall health. The nutrition is where you need to focus. As long as you're eating to support that goal, you will be fine.

Nia
Posted on: Sat, 02/03/2024 - 01:00

Hey Roger

First of all thanks a ton for these valuable training programs.

My question is - Can I do cardio every day for 45 minutes (along with the 8-week fat loss program exactly as mentioned in the program) with one day of break ? For example, Monday-Saturday 45 mins of cardio with one day rest, i.e Sunday.

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 02/09/2024 - 13:39

As long as the cardio isn't too intense and your recovery isn't negatively affected, then I think that would be alright, Nia. Please keep me posted on your progress. Thank you for reading M&S!

Kathleen
Posted on: Thu, 02/01/2024 - 11:05

Hi Roger, this is amazing, I have wanted to start strength training and did not know where to start. I will be starting today with the program! Thank you.

Renu
Posted on: Sun, 01/21/2024 - 12:35

Hello Roger! Thank you so much for these programs
I don’t have access to gym , but have adjustable dumbbells and treadmill at home. Is there a program which focuses on Fat Loss but has exercises which can be done at home?
Thanks for your time !

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 01/28/2024 - 12:14

Hello, Renu. I think we have something for you at this link. If you don't find something you think would suit you, let me know and I will do my best to find something.

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

Renu
Posted on: Wed, 02/14/2024 - 21:12

Hello Roger, I checked the link, but almost all of those need gym equipment. But I'll take a look again,

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 02/21/2024 - 08:47
KoKo
Posted on: Wed, 01/17/2024 - 21:26

Hello Roger, This program is amazing and I am starting tomorrow. Quick question - can we do yoga while we follow this program. Thanks!

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 01/28/2024 - 12:13

I appreciate the kind words, KoKo, and you sure can do Yoga. Please let me know how you do on this program, and thank you for reading M&S!

Natalie
Posted on: Sun, 01/14/2024 - 17:13

Hi Roger!
My gym currently doesn't have any hip abductor or adductor machines. I hope they will be adding them sooner than later, but what is a good alternative exercise I can do in the meantime? Thank you on advance!

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 01/15/2024 - 18:37

Hi Natalie, all of the exercises for abductors and adductors are below. Any of these that your gym has access to would work well.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/abductors.html

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/adductors.html

Estee
Posted on: Thu, 01/11/2024 - 07:34

Hi Roger, where the plan states lunges and using the example of the first set of 12 - would it be a set of 12 per side, or a set of 12 in total meaning 6 per side?

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 01/11/2024 - 09:36

That would be 12 per side, Estee. Hope this helps.

Pavlina
Posted on: Wed, 01/10/2024 - 04:49

Hello,
I have been doing this workout for a while and I found it suitable for me. I am 54 and it's been good for my age. But I am having problems with only one exercise,Walking Lunge. I simply can't perform it. I can't even perform a single lunge. I've started skipping it. Can you recommend some other examples of exercise instead?

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 01/11/2024 - 09:36

Hi, Pavlina. Thank you for reading M&S! Is it an injury or health issue that is restricting you from doing it? I just ask because I want to give you the best alternative possible.

Pavlina
Posted on: Fri, 01/12/2024 - 10:43

No injuries. But I suppose it is because of my weak knees. It's extremely painful to my knees when perform squats as well. I need to wear knees brace support.

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 01/15/2024 - 18:36

I would suggest talking to a physician then to see what the best path forward would be. If it's painful to do lunges or squats, then it would be hard for me to offer any other alternatives because many of them involve the knees bending for quadriceps training. You can stick to all machines until you talk to your doctor to see if that can help somewhat.

Triece
Posted on: Tue, 01/09/2024 - 21:15

Starting this tonight. Hope everyone great success in their fitness journey!!

Adrienne
Posted on: Mon, 01/08/2024 - 13:48

Hello!

I have been doing this workout for a few weeks now and I don't want to jump the gun but what is the next program? After 8 weeks, do you just suggest the same routine and increasing sets or reps? Or is there a different 8-week plan for "intermediate" after this?

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 01/08/2024 - 21:43

Hi, Adrienne. If this routine is still working for you after eight weeks, feel free to keep going until progress stalls. If you want to take something else on, we have several choices for you here.

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

Thanks for reading M&S!

Clara
Posted on: Sun, 01/07/2024 - 13:16

For items that use a smith machine - is it ok to switch it out to not use it? My gym only has 1 and it is always being used.

Next question is while doing the weightlifting portion of the program, is that considered ‘traditional strength training” or is it “functional strength training”?

Thank you!

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 01/08/2024 - 21:42

Hi, Clara! You can switch it for a machine that works similar muscles or do a free weight version of the Smith exercise.

I would say it's more traditional strength training than functional, even though every exercise has a purpose.

Maria
Posted on: Sun, 01/07/2024 - 13:03

Does the 20-30 min of zone 2 need to be done right after the strength training? Or will I get similar results doing it on a different day or later in the day from strength? Upper days aren't so bad, but I'm have a hard time maintaining zone 2 immediately after lower body. Thanks!

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 01/08/2024 - 21:41

Feel free to do it either first thing in the morning or later in the day away from the training session.

Mario Pufferstein
Posted on: Wed, 01/03/2024 - 12:53

It seems odd that the calf raises are on both lower body days. Squat and deadlift make sense since to be on both days since they are compound, but calf raises seems like an odd choice. Is that a mistake? I am going to switch it for something else.

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 01/04/2024 - 19:44

Not a mistake. Many lifters need the extra volume to make the calves grow. There are in there because they work.

Carol
Posted on: Wed, 01/03/2024 - 06:45

I workout early morning and typically do not eat before my workout. I was just reading the diet and nutrition article which says to eat before working out. I would have to get up super early to eat before working out. Plus I’m on thyroid medication which I have to take on an empty stomach snd have to wait at least 30 minutes before eating. Also I usually don’t eat before working out cause it makes me nauseous Is not eating before working out a terrible thing fi wanting to burn fat? I’m usually not lacking in energy for my workout and feel good but don’t want my work yo he futile. Any suggestions? Thank you!!

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 01/04/2024 - 19:45

Hi, Carol. Don't eat before training. Not the usual advice I give, but because of the thyroid medication (whether it's for hyper or hypothyroidism, I think it would be best for you to wait. As long as you don't feel hungry when you train, you will be fine.

Bahar Bozorgkhoo
Posted on: Wed, 12/06/2023 - 14:02

Is this workout considered as a Strength training?

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 12/27/2023 - 20:36

One can gain strength from it, but it is primarily for weight loss.

Sandra
Posted on: Mon, 11/27/2023 - 09:46

Hello
I’m wanting to start the 8 week fat loss program and I’ve lifted weights occasionally before but I’m not advanced by no means, but trying to utilize 3 different sets of weights in the gym may be difficult because of availability. Would it be ok to lift all 3 sets at 12 reps using moderate weights and still get results? Please advise. Thanks

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 11/27/2023 - 19:15

Hi, Sandra. You don't need to have all three sets of weights with you at once. You can replace them between sets, or you can stick to the same weight and do reps slower to make them more challenging. Hope this helps!

Lori Young
Posted on: Fri, 11/10/2023 - 09:59

This article says the zone 2 cardio is 70-80%. Another article on zone 2 says 60-70% ????? Just wondering which it is?
Thanks, Lori.

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 11/19/2023 - 19:23

I will pass this one to my editor, Lori. The correct answer is 60-70%. Apologies for the confusion.

Sarah
Posted on: Wed, 10/18/2023 - 00:06

Any suggestions on weight? For a beginner, what would be considered moderate?

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 10/18/2023 - 11:59

As long as you feel challenged but can complete the rep ranges, that would be a good weight. Start lighter and work up to that top set with the heaviest weight for that exercise.

Antoinette
Posted on: Fri, 10/06/2023 - 15:46

Hello roger. I contacted you before i know you receive email from lots of people So you probably don't remember me! I'm the one who's trying to slim down my arms bc big arms runs on both side if my family. This is the fourth w/out i tried from you but its not working no! It hasn't been a full 8 wks yet. I also want to stress that i do hiit everyday along with other cardio including your w/out my total is 65-85 mins 5 days a week. I also went light on the weights as you suggested i guess im done w/lifting weights & just do cardio everyday. Thanks for listening

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 10/18/2023 - 11:58

Hi, Antoinette. Yes, I remember. Sorry nothing has worked so far. I would suggest taking eight weeks with no weights and focusing on bodyweight HIIT and cardio or training lower body alone at this point. I wish I had other options for you. I will leave this up for other folks to chime in if they like.