A 4 Week Workout Plan for Weight Loss, from a Certified Trainer – Healthline

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For many people, losing a little weight and improving health go hand in hand.
Although your health and fitness are measured by far more than your weight, research suggests that the rising rate of obesity correlates with increased rates of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases that can ultimately cause major health problems (1).
Don’t get me wrong, you should not fixate singularly on weight loss. However, if you do want to lose weight, this 4-week workout program for weight loss will rev up your metabolic engine and kick-start your weight loss journey.
My name is Tyler Read. I have a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology, and I’m a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer. I’ve been coaching fitness clients for more than a decade.
In that time, the vast majority of my general fitness clients have wanted to lose weight and be healthier — and they typically have not had much time each day for exercise.
With this in mind, I’ve consistently relied on short, hard-hitting workouts my clients can do on a daily basis, alternating cardio and strength training and performing workouts on their own.
Losing weight requires a calorie deficit, meaning you must burn more calories than you eat in a given time frame, typically broken down into calories per day.
Although effective exercise programs can certainly speed up your weight loss, it’s important to remember that long-term weight management requires sustaining healthy habits over time.
This includes eating a variety of whole foods, drinking enough water, and ensuring you get enough sleep and manage stress.
That said, research shows that exercise plays an important role in weight loss (2).
My 4-week workout plan for weight loss is a great way to kick-start your journey toward better health or add more variety to your workouts if you already consistently exercise.
I build my program around three types of training:
The strength training will help you build muscle and strength that you can apply to your interval training.
Furthermore, the added muscle will increase your metabolism over time, meaning you’ll burn more calories at rest just to sustain yourself, which can contribute to the calorie deficit required for weight loss (3, 4).
Interval training will provide a massive metabolic boost immediately after your workout. Interval training involves brief periods of high intensity exercise followed by relatively short rest periods.
This method keeps your heart rate elevated throughout the workout, giving you aerobic benefits while maintaining sufficient intensity to stoke your metabolic fire.
Finally, low intensity cardio, such as walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling, gives you a slight bump in your daily calorie burn and allows you to exercise while recovering from the more intense strength and interval training.
You can perform an hour or more of cardio, but even just 20 minutes is sufficient.
Each workout should take roughly 20–22 minutes, allowing you to fit the program into a busy schedule.
Over the course of 4 weeks, this workout structure helps target weight loss on all fronts, through both daily calorie burn and increasing your metabolism over time.
Start with a lighter weight and increase the weight each set until you find the point where the final repetition gets really hard.
Day 1: Lower body strength
Equipment: dumbbells or kettlebells, barbell and plates, leg curl and/or leg extension machines
Day 2: Low intensity cardio for at least 20 minutes
Day 3: Upper body strength
Equipment: pullup bar or lat pulldown machine, dumbbells
Day 4: Low intensity cardio for at least 20 minutes
Day 5: Interval conditioning
Equipment: plyometric box, slam ball
Perform the following exercises for 15 seconds at a hard pace, then rest for 15 seconds and move to the next exercise. I’ve included two options you can choose between, depending on your current level.
Exercises focus on lower body movements performed at a moderate to high pace.
The large muscle groups in this area help get your heart pumping much more effectively than exercises using smaller muscle groups.
For Week 1, perform 3 rounds of the following as discussed above:
Week 2 involves the same exercises as Week 1. However, you should be performing 1 warmup set and then switching to the weight you finished with last week and, if possible, increasing the weight each set.
Bump up the intensity or duration of your cardio sessions by 5–10%. Be sure to keep it light enough that you can perform the minimum 20 minutes without stopping.
For the conditioning, perform 4 total rounds instead of 3.
Day 1: Lower body strength
Equipment: dumbbells or kettlebells, barbell and plates, leg curl/extension machines
Perform 1 warmup set with body weight or light weight before starting the 3 working sets.
Day 2: Low intensity cardio for at least 20 minutes
Day 3: Upper body strength
Equipment: pullup bar or lat pulldown, dumbbells
Perform 1 warmup set with body weight or light weight before starting the 3 working sets.
Day 4: Low intensity cardio for at least 20 minutes
Day 5: Conditioning
Equipment: plyometric box, slam ball
Perform the following exercises for 15 seconds at a hard pace, then rest for 15 seconds and move to the next exercise.
For Week 2, perform 4 rounds of the following as discussed above:
In Week 3, I reduce the repetitions on the resistance training to 8 per set, which should allow you to increase the weight relative to your 12-rep sets.
If you can, begin performing barbell movements instead of using dumbbells, but either one is OK.
This takes the muscular endurance and movement proficiency from Weeks 1 and 2 and triggers more strength and muscle growth.
Bump up your cardio another 5–10% and perform 5 total cycles of your interval training.
Day 1: Lower body strength
Equipment: dumbbells or kettlebells, barbell and plates, leg curl/extension machines
Perform 1 warmup set with body weight or light weight before starting the 3 working sets.
Day 2: Low intensity cardio for at least 20 minutes
Day 3: Upper body strength
Equipment: pullup bar or lat pulldown, dumbbells
Perform 1 warmup set with body weight or light weight before starting the 3 working sets.
Day 4: Low intensity cardio for at least 20 minutes
Day 5: Interval training/conditioning
Equipment: plyometric box, slam ball
Perform the following exercises for 15 seconds at a hard pace, then rest for 15 seconds and move to the next exercise.
For Week 3, perform 5 rounds of the following:
There is nothing particularly special about Week 4.
You will continue increasing the weight on the strength exercises, bumping up your aerobic intensity, and performing a full 6 rounds of conditioning. If this is too intense, you can dial back as needed.
Day 1: Lower body strength
Equipment: dumbbells or kettlebells, barbell and plates, leg curl/extension machines
Perform 1 warmup set with body weight or light weight before starting the 3 working sets.
Day 2: Low intensity cardio for at least 20 minutes
Day 3: Upper body strength
Equipment: pullup bar or lat pulldown, dumbbells
Perform 1 warmup set with body weight or light weight before starting the 3 working sets.
Day 4: Low intensity cardio for at least 20 minutes
Day 5: Interval training/conditioning
Equipment: plyometric box, slam ball
Perform the following exercises for 15 seconds at a hard pace, then rest for 15 seconds and move to the next exercise.
For Week 4, perform 6 rounds of the following:
The typical weight loss recommendation is to lose 1 pound of body fat per week, which is achieved through a 500-calorie deficit per day (5).
With the above program, you may be able to further lose weight by hitting more than a 500-calorie deficit, but this is difficult for most people.
I should mention that losing a pound of fat per week typically results in more than a pound of scale weight lost due to lost water weight.
While a pound of fat per week might not sound like much, if you are currently overweight, losing even small amounts of weight can result in drastic improvements to your health (6).
Given that weight maintenance is a long-term process, think of my 4-week program as a way to kick-start your journey as opposed to a one-stop shop for weight loss.
While I structured this program into 4 weeks, you can extend it much longer than that if you want to. For example, you could perform the 12-rep sets for a full 8–12 weeks before switching to the 8-rep sets, which would give you a 16-week program instead of a 4-week program.
Furthermore, as you perform this program, you will learn which types of exercise or specific movements you prefer and explore those in more depth down the line.
If you enjoy strength training more than cardio, you can consider finding a more comprehensive strength program or hiring a personal trainer.
If conditioning is your thing, you can perform 2 or 3 conditioning workouts per week instead of 1 and consider joining a group fitness class.
Finally, if the long, slow cardio is your thing, you can build up to massive endurance levels over time through running, swimming, or your preferred aerobic training method.
The most important thing is that you stick to exercising for the long haul.
So, focusing on the types of exercise you like is more important than intently trying to optimize a program you are unlikely to perform long term.
There is no magic formula for weight loss other than burning more calories than you consume. Still, there are better and worse ways of approaching this goal.
Combining frequent exercise with a healthy lifestyle is ultimately the most reliable method to improve your health.
My 4-week program is a great way to kick-start your weight loss exercise training, explore the fundamentals of fitness, and hopefully get fired up about exercising long term.
Always remember that, ideally, fitness should be fun.
Nobody has the final answer on the best way to stay active, but it all starts with your first workout.
Cheers to an active lifestyle!
Last medically reviewed on February 25, 2022
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Current Version
Feb 25, 2022
By
Tyler Read, BSc, CPT
Edited By
Saralyn Ward
Medically Reviewed By
Danielle Hildreth, RN, CPT
Copy Edited By
Jill Campbell
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