Your Weekly Fitness Plan If You Want to Lose Weight

SELF
by SELF
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Your Weekly Fitness Plan If You Want to Lose Weight

If you’re trying to lose weight, a weight loss workout plan can be very helpful. Getting regular exercise can help you meet your goals in a healthy, sustainable way—but sometimes, just knowing where to start can be a high hurdle to cross. From how often you sweat to the types of workouts you do, there are endless possibilities when you’re getting into a fitness routine, and it can be a lot to think about.

Well, we’re here to take the thinking out of the equation. Trainer Adam Rosante, C9 Champion brand ambassador and author of The 30-Second Body, developed a weight loss workout plan routine just for SELF readers to get you going. It incorporates the strength training, cardio, and rest days you’ll need to meet your weight-loss goals.

IT’S NOT ENOUGH TO GET OUT THERE AND GET SWEATY: WEIGHT LOSS REQUIRES STRATEGY.

We can’t talk about working out for weight loss without mentioning one other crucial element of meeting your goals: It’s important to keep your diet clean so you’re eating fewer calories than you’re burning, says Rosante.

“Nutrition is primary uno—you can’t out-train a bad diet,” he adds. “Eighty percent nutrition plus 20 percent training equals 100 percent beast!” But there’s no need to completely overhaul your life at once if it feels too overwhelming at first, he says. “If you’re in the habit of working out, that may naturally lead you to start exploring healthier eating options. If you’re not there yet, that’s cool—just start working out and make some tweaks. Start small.”

And when it comes to working out, Rosante says, “Variety is the spice of life.” But that doesn’t mean changing it up willy-nilly. “I am not a fan of randomly programmed workouts where you’re just doing different things every day,” he says. “You want a program that you can progress with, and you have key indicators that you’re making progress.”

That’s exactly what the plan below does. You can use it as a starting point, and tailor it to your needs once you’re comfortable. And if you miss a workout once in a while? No big deal—get back on board with your next one and keep going. It’s a marathon, not a sprint (unless it’s HIIT day—but we’ll get to that).

HERE’S THE BASIC BREAKDOWN OF WHAT YOU’LL BE DOING:

  • Strength training three days a week, one hour per session
  • High-intensity interval training one day a week, 20 minutes per session
  • Steady-state cardio one day a week, 35 to 45 minutes per session
  • Two days of active recovery

Every workout should begin with at least five to 10 minutes of warming up. Rosante likes to start with foam rolling, which helps with mobility. Then move into a dynamic warm-up to get the blood flow going. Here’s a five-minute warm-up to try.

After your workout, make sure you take time to cool down to relax your nervous system, says Rosante. “My favorite thing to do with a client is to lay them down, put their feet up a wall so that their legs are elevated, and just have them breathe into the belly, five seconds to inhale and five seconds to exhale, just to mellow everything out.” After a couple minutes, stretch out your major muscle groups (flexibility is increased when muscles are warm), and hold each stretch for at least three breaths. Here are four cool-down stretches to try.

Now, get ready to lift heavier, move faster, and lose more.

STRENGTH TRAINING — 1 HOUR — 3 DAYS PER WEEK

You may think you have to do cardio, cardio, cardio if you’re trying to lose weight, but strength training is incredibly important because having more muscle mass increases your metabolic rate, which means you’ll burn more calories at rest while your body works to maintain muscle tissue.

You’ll want to do full-body training sessions, says Rosante. Working specific body parts for a full session (like chest and triceps) can be great, but when life happens and you have to miss a workout, your routine (and muscles) will be imbalanced, he says. Hitting it all in one training session is a better bet for most people.

WHAT TO DO:

1. Compound lower-body exercise (e.g. deadlift, squat)

Any compound lower-body move or variation will work for this one, like a goblet squat or a dumbbell deadlift, says Rosante. (A compound movement is one that works multiple muscle groups.) The key here is to lift heavy—”You’re talking about using some of the biggest muscle groups in your body, and in order to get those muscles to respond, you need to challenge them,” he says.

There’s no set amount of reps or sets for this part of the workout—he recommends working up to your five-rep max during every session. This means starting at a weight that’s not challenging and working your way up. Do five reps with a relatively light weight, rest, do five reps with weight that’s five pounds heavier, rest, and keep repeating this pattern, using five more pounds every time. When you hit a weight where you can only do five with good form, you’re done—keep that number in mind and try to beat it over time.

2. Upper-body superset: Upper-body pushing exercise (e.g. dumbbell bench press, push-up) & u____pper-body pulling exercise (e.g. single-arm bent-over row, dumbbell curl)

You’ll be supersetting these moves, which means doing one set of the first exercise followed immediately by a set of the other. Rosante recommends doing three sets of 12 reps of each move. Don’t rest in between the two movements (raising your heart rate incorporates some cardio work), but you can take up to a 60-second break before starting a new set. Alternating between pushing and pulling movements allows you to work opposing muscle groups, says Rosante.

3. Lower-body/core superset: Unilateral lower-body move (e.g. reverse lunge, step-up) & core move (e.g. plank, Russian twists)

A unilateral lower-body move is one where you work one leg at a time (another example is a Bulgarian split squat). By working only one side at a time, you can be sure you’re not relying on one leg more than the other. After you’ve done both sides, you can superset it with an abs movement. Again, do three sets of 12 reps without resting in between the exercises (feel free to take 60 seconds between sets). If you choose a plank for the core move, hold for 30 seconds.

4. Metabolic finisher

This is where you’ll get a boost of cardio in. Rosante has his clients do a metabolic finisher at the end of a strength workout to get the heart rate going for more immediate calorie burn. You could choose an exercise and do it for a certain amount of time (say, three minutes of quickly jumping rope), or decide to do a certain number of a move and finish them as quickly as possible (for example, doing 15 burpees as fast as you can). The time you take and what you do are entirely up to you, says Rosante, so mix it up. If you need a starting point, he suggests doing 10 burpees, 10 mountain climbers, and 10 plank ups for seven minutes, trying to do as many rounds as possible (and aiming to beat yourself next time). Then, cool it down, and you’re done for the day!

HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING — 20 MINUTES — 1 DAY PER WEEK

The first of your two days of cardio should be a high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. Steady-state cardio does have a place in your routine (we’ll get there), but don’t forget that intensity is your friend.

“This is going to incite way more fat loss than just steady-state cardio,” says Rosante. “When you’re working in that high-intensity threshold you’re not only burning a lot of calories during the workout, but you raise your metabolic rate significantly afterwards.” Your body will need to work harder and longer to return to a resting state, burning more calories in the process.

WHAT TO DO:

Choose an activity you like as a template—maybe it’s running, cycling, or bodyweight moves (burpees, anyone?). Whatever it is, push as hard as you possibly can for 30 seconds, then back off for a rest period. How long you rest will depend on your fitness level. If you’re just starting, you may want to try a 2-to-1 rest-to-work ratio, says Rosante (so, 30 seconds of work followed by 60 seconds of rest). Then you can reduce your rest time every week. You could also try Tabata intervals once you get comfortable—that’s 20 seconds of extremely hard work to 10 seconds of rest. Whatever you choose, repeat that work/rest circuit until your 20 minutes are up.

STEADY-STATE CARDIO — 35 TO 45 MINUTES — 1 DAY PER WEEK

And here’s your second day of cardio. This time it’s all about that long, slow burn. “Steady-state cardio raises the heart rate, speeds recovery, and improves your body’s ability to use oxygen properly,” says Rosante. “All movement is great movement!”

WHAT TO DO:

Whatever you want! Running, rowing, swimming, hiking, kayaking…the list goes on. Anything that gets your heart rate up but you can still carry a conversation through, says Rosante.

ACTIVE RECOVERY — 2 DAYS PER WEEK

Two days out of your week will be active recovery days—this is when your body has a chance to rest up and rebuild muscle fibers that you’ve been tearing during your workouts (this is where you really get stronger).

“You want to lay off those heavy workouts in favor of just some gentle movement,” says Rosante. Key words: gentle movement. An active recovery day isn’t a free pass to lie on the couch and do nothing. “Movement helps increase blood flow, driving more oxygen rich blood to your muscles to speed recovery,” he explains. “Faster recovery could equal faster results.”

So as long as you’re moving around a bit, you’re good to go. “If there’s something you really love to do, go do that. If you just want to go for a walk, do that. And if you just want to hang out, do that! Enjoy your life.”

About the Author

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28 responses to “Your Weekly Fitness Plan If You Want to Lose Weight”

  1. Avatar Ava says:

    I agree that strength training is helpful when trying to loose weight. But I strongly disagree with the “totalitarian” tone of this blog post. Working out to loose weight is first and foremost about actually working out in anyway. If you hate strength training in the gym (I do, it bores me to death) you’re not going to be able go keep up the motivation to do it regularly and make it a proper habit in your life. The key to getting in a workout routine in your life is finding a workout that you like so much that it doesn’t feel like something you have to do, instead it feels like something you simply can’t live without.

    • Avatar A Poe says:

      Strength training helps preserve lean mass while dieting down, resulting in a lower overall body fat % at your final goal weight. Of course, it’s great if you enjoy it (and that would definitely help with compliance), but even if you don’t, it’s pretty important and shouldn’t be neglected in my opinion. No one enjoys going to the gas station to fill up their car, but we do it because it’s necessary.

      And if it’s boring, maybe it’s time to up the weight 🙂

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    • Avatar davedave12 says:

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  2. Avatar Janet Esther-Hannah says:

    I’m personally intrigued by this statement “It’s important to keep your diet clean so you’re eating fewer calories than you’re burning, says Rosante.”
    It makes it seem totally impossible for me to ever imagine achieving any form of weight loss. I beg to disagree if I’m to lose weight in a healthy manner and maintaining the motivation to keep working out.

    • Avatar Meechity says:

      The whole “clean eating” thing is elitist nonsense, and doesn’t really have anything to do with the number of calories you’re consuming anyway. I suggest replacing the entire sentence with something like: “Eat fewer calories than you burn; exercising regularly may help you.” 🙂

      • Avatar Anna says:

        no.. actually you are partially correct. Eating clean provides you to perhaps eat more-ie: vegies. But Yes calories in and calories out.
        Yes you can eat too much Bananas.. and yet that is technically eating clean

      • Avatar davedave12 says:

        sorry, eating nutritious food is better than empty calories — it is possible to eat too many carrots, but I got $100 that says it is the junk that makes you fat

      • Avatar Rachael Edwards says:

        I actually lost my weight — 80lbs (in under a year) from changing my eating habits. “Clean eating”… not all the way, I mean, I wasn’t CRAZY about it… but I eliminated all soda, and processed foods. So much of the food we eat today is processed, and isn’t doing your body any good.

    • Avatar Phillydog says:

      I think the statement, “clean eating” is really saying, eat healthy. Eat THE plant, not FROM a plant.

    • Avatar Anna says:

      oh yes i agree with keeping diet clean. I love this app. my fitness pal.. keeps me in check.
      Clean means all natural. Even real sugar…. if necessary in Oatmeal. (lol). Honey is better.. or molasses.

  3. Avatar Meechity says:

    I’d love to see a summary of this workout schedule in chart-form, with lists of appropriate exercises for us to more easily choose from. Is that possible to add for us, MFP?

  4. Avatar Holly says:

    After I read this blog, I feel that it is a good starting point for me. I have been out of the exercise scene for a couple of months now. My question is, can I choose which days to do which type of exercise? For example, must I do strength training in consecutive days or can I spread it out through the week?

    • Avatar Monica Yosaffbridge Fontaine says:

      You should try to put at least one day between strength training days. If I had to outline it, I would do so in the following way:

      Monday: Strength
      Tuesday: Steady state cardio
      Wednesday: Strength
      Thursday: Active Rest
      Friday: Strength
      Saturday: HIIT
      Sunday: Active Rest

      If you wanted, you could switch Monday & Tuesday and Friday & Saturday, so you get a little extra “rest”. It’s really what works for you. I personally like to make sure I always have an active rest day on one weekend day so I can get my meal prep and grocery shopping done.
      I realized you posted this comment a year ago, but I just saw this comment and thought I would answer lol

  5. Avatar Phillydog says:

    Exercise is obviously good but you won’t lose an ounce with it. It will tone you but to lose any significant weight you have to learn to eat well.

    • Avatar Monica Yosaffbridge Fontaine says:

      That comes with exercise. Yes, it is 80% diet. But by exercising, you can more easily create that calorie defecit. Sure, you can create a 500 calorie defecit without exercising, but that is too significant a decrease in calories for many people.

      • Avatar Phillydog says:

        Like you said, it’s 80% diet….you have to exercise really a lot to burn any sort of calories. Most people will give up. And that is why diet is so important. The gym is NOT the answer. The answer is to look at how other cultures live. I travel frequently to China and most people don’t own a car, they have to walk to the subway each morning and evening. They are thin. Same for New York and Paris. Ironically people living in the country are fatter than their city counterparts. If you can live a lifestyle where exercise is built in, you will keep it up. If you are getting in your car to “drive” to the gym….well you get the picture of how absurd that is.

  6. Avatar Anna says:

    I just re-started with weight training again to help with weight loss over all.
    I am a heavy gal but fit. (if that makes sense). Following the above for “me” is a great balance. However, i too get board with weight training. So we will see.

  7. Avatar Cynthia Trowbridge says:

    What exercises can you do with torn rotator cuff right arm? Two docs said only 50/50 chance if that to improve with surgery – so opted for cortisone shot.

  8. Avatar dhquilter says:

    Any recommendations for a strength training DVD? My husband and I are seniors looking for a good moderate / suitable routine we can add to our workouts.

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