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: Wed, 05/15/2024 - 09:07


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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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!

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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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!

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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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.

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.

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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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.

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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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.

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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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!

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

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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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?

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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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.

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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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.

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


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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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.

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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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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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.

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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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.

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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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.

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

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

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

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

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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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?

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!

M&S Team Badge
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.

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!

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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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!

Posted on: Tue, 03/12/2024 - 14:22

Hi Roger!
Me again! Still going strong and really enjoying the workout. Thank you again for sharing it. And I also appreciate how responsive you are to all of the questions. I was wondering if you’ve heard from anyone who has completed the full 8 weeks and shared their results. I’m feeling good and that’s been great motivation. But wouldn’t mind some additional motivation from women who have gone the distance already. :) thank you!

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Posted on: Wed, 03/20/2024 - 21:15

I do my best, Ava. Some days are better than others, but I love being able to help the people directly in this way.

I personally have not heard from anyone that has completed this. If they are here, they're welcome and encouraged to share their experience. I agree that the community and tried and tested results can make a difference.

Posted on: Tue, 03/05/2024 - 15:02

I have just started this program and have a question. When doing 12 walking lunges is that 12 each side? I.w.24, 20, then 16?

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Posted on: Sat, 03/09/2024 - 20:03

That is correct, Sarah.

Posted on: Tue, 03/05/2024 - 13:04

These are great workouts!

Whenever I do deadlifts my lower back hurts - I’d have had consistent low back pain during my life. I’m 57 gettin. Back into lifting and working out consistently

Any sub for deadlifts?


M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 03/09/2024 - 20:03

Hyperextensions, Rack pulls, Reverse Hyper, or Superman's would all work for you. If those also bother you, you need to see a doctor because it may be serious.

Thanks for reading M&S, Brenda!

Posted on: Fri, 03/01/2024 - 16:21

Afternoon Roger,

I have a congenital heart defect and take a beta blocker. What do you suggest so I can work on getting my heart rate higher for cardio as well as not yawning during my entire workout? Even the plan above, I'm yawning during the whole thing and can feel my body trying to slow down once that beta kicks in. I only just started back working on me after divorce and fight that blocker every day...oye!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 03/09/2024 - 20:09

Hi, Rebecca. Thank you for reading M&S. I will tell you even though I've been doing this for a while, this one is new to me. So, if your doctor says something different than me, go with your doctor.

However, I would say focus more on the effort you're giving than the heart rate. Just because you can't get the heart rate up over a certain number, that doesn't mean what you're doing isn't working. If you feel like you're doing something productive, then you're on the right track.

The yawning during the workouts is a tough one. I would emphasize doing the weights first before cardio so that is at least out of the way.

I am sure it is a daily fight, but it's a fight worth having, and I'm glad to read you're moving forward after a divorce. All the best, and keep us posted on your progress.

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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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.

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!

M&S Team Badge
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!

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