weight Loss

12-Week Weight Loss Exercise Program

Looking for an exercise program that's perfect for a beginning exerciser? Need a step-by-step guide to help you lose weight? This 12-week plan gives you all the tools you need.

You'll get:

Cardio, strength training and flexibility workoutsWeekly calendars to organize your workoutsQuick tips to help you stay on track

This program is simple, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Just like any 12-week weight loss program, you'll have ups and downs. It's important to expect those fluctuations in advance. Some weeks you'll do great, and others you won't. That's normal. 

Be sure to listen to your own body and do what's right for you. Every workout listed is a suggestion. Substitute similar workouts if you like. You can always walk, go for a bike ride, hike with a friend, or take your kids to the park for a game of tag or Frisbee to get some activity too.

If you've never exercised before, review the basics of cardio and strength training first. If you have some experience, you can substitute harder workouts to get faster weight loss results.

Before You Start a Weight Loss Program
There are a few smart things to take care of before you start this or any 12-week weight loss program.

Check with your doctor if you have any injuries or illnesses, or if you're on medication.Set goals, write them out, and post them in a place where you can see them.Find or purchase shoes, clothes, or equipment that you will need.Take your measurements and make a note of them. Re-take them every four weeks to track your progress. You may also want to track your weight loss.Decide when you will work out (in the morning, at lunch, or after work) and write it down in your calendar or fitness journal.Plan and prepare your meals for the week beforehand.

Weeks 1 to 4
The following calendar includes all the cardio, strength, core, and flexibility workouts to get you started during your first four weeks of weight loss. Most weeks include two or three basic cardio workouts, three core workouts, and two days of strength training. Each week, your workouts will change slightly so that you gradually build strength and endurance.

If you feel tired or sore, take extra rest days. If you have other cardio workouts you like, you can also substitute those anytime.

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

MondayChoose 1-Beginner Intervals-Beginner Elliptical-Or choose your own cardioPlus: Lower Body Stretches
MondayChoose 1-25-Minute Intervals-Or choose your ownPlus: Total Body Stretches
MondayChoose 1-25-Minute Intervals-Or choose your ownPlus: Total body stretches
MondayChoose 1-25-Minute Intervals-Or choose your ownPlus: Total body stretches

TuesdayTotal Body Strength: 1 setBeginner Abs
TuesdayTotal Body Strength: 2 setsBeginner Abs
TuesdayTotal Body Strength: 2 setsCore Strength and Stretch
TuesdayTotal Body Strength: 2 setsCore Strength and Stretch

Wednesday  Choose 1-20-Minute Cardio-Or choose your own cardioPlus: Lower Body Stretches
Wednesday Choose 1-Beginner Intervals-Or choose your ownPlus: Total Body Stretches
Wednesday Choose 1-30-Minute Cardio, 3 Ways-Or choose your ownPlus: Lower Body Stretches
Wednesday Choose 1-30-Minute Cardio, 3 Ways-Or choose your ownPlus: Total Body Stretches

ThursdayTotal Body Strength: 1 setBeginner Abs
ThursdayActive rest (such as an easy walk) 
ThursdayActive rest
ThursdayTotal Body Strength: 2 sets

FridayChoose 1-Beginner Intervals-Beginner Elliptical-Or choose your own cardioPlus: Lower Body Stretches
FridayChoose 1-20-Minute Cardio-Or choose your own cardioPlus: Lower Body Stretches
FridayChoose 1-10-Minute Blast: 2.5 reps-25-Minute Intervals-Or choose your ownPlus: Total Body Stretches
FridayChoose 1-Beginner Intervals-Beginner Elliptical-Or choose your own cardioPlus: Lower Body Stretches

SaturdayBeginner Abs
SaturdayTotal Body Strength: 1 set
SaturdayTotal Body Strength: 2 sets
SaturdayIntermediate Abs and Core Workout

SundayRest
SundayRest
Sunday10-minute walk
Sunday15-minute walk

Weeks 5 to 8
Ramp things up by increasing your cardio time and trying some new strength, cardio, core, and flexibility workouts. As always, take extra rest days as needed, and feel free to substitute your own workouts if any of these don't work for you.

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

MondayChoose 1-Beginner Intervals, Level 3-Or choose your own cardioPlus: 7 Total Body Stretches
MondayChoose 1-Beginner Intervals, Level 3-Or choose your ownPlus: 7 Total Body Stretches
MondayChoose 1-10-Min Cardio: 2 to 3 sets-Or choose your ownPlus: 7 Total Body Stretches
MondayChoose 1-30-Minute Cardio, 3 Ways-Or choose your ownPlus: Lower Body Stretches

Tuesday-Total Body Strength and Balance: 1 set-Core Strength and Stretch
Tuesday-Total Body Strength and Balance: 1 set-Core Strength and Stretch
Tuesday-Total Body Strength and Balance: 2 sets-Intermediate Abs and Core Workout
Tuesday-Total Body Strength and Balance: 2 sets-Intermediate Abs and Core Workout

WednesdayChoose 1-25-Minute Cardio-Or choose your own cardioPlus: Lower Body Stretches
Wednesday Choose 1-10-Min Cardio: 2-3 sets-Or choose your ownPlus: 7 Total Body Stretches
Wednesday Choose 1-30-Minute Cardio, 3 Ways-Or choose your ownPlus: Lower Body Stretches
Wednesday Choose 1-10-Min Cardio: 2-3 sets-Or choose your ownPlus: 7 Total Body Stretches

Thursday-Total Body Strength and Balance: 1 set-Core Strength and Stretch
ThursdayActive rest
ThursdayActive rest
Thursday-Total Body Strength and Balance: 2 sets-Total Core Workout

FridayChoose 1-Beginner Intervals, Level 3-Or choose your own cardioPlus: 7 Total Body Stretches
FridayChoose 1-25-Minute Cardio-Or choose your ownPlus: Lower Body Stretches
FridayCardio and Strength Circuit
FridayActive rest

SaturdayTotal Core Workout
Saturday-Total Body Strength and Balance: 1 set
SaturdayTotal Core Workout
SaturdayCardio and Strength Circuit

SundayRest
SundayRest
Sunday10-minute walk
Sunday15-minute walk

Weeks 9 to 12
Now, take things to a higher level with new, longer cardio workouts, new total-body strength workouts, and, at the end of the program, new upper- and lower-body workouts to challenge more muscle groups and help you build lean muscle tissue. You'll also notice new circuit training workouts, which are great for saving time while helping you burn more calories.

Tips to Keep Your 12-Week Program on Track
Remember, before you even lace up your workout shoes, your first step is to commit to your program every day. No matter what else is going on in your life, remind yourself of your goals and give your workout the priority it deserves.

Treat it like any other appointment you wouldn't miss. Write it in your datebook and protect the time that you set aside for it. But if you do find yourself falling off the fitness wagon, don't worry. Simply start up again where you left off. Look forward, not back.

You may find it helpful to keep a workout journal to track your progress. It also helps to use every resource you have to motivate you, including your friends, family, and co-workers. And reward yourself at the end of each week for all your accomplishments, even if you didn't get in every single workout you planned.

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