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Kickoff's certified personal trainers and registered dietitians share detailed analysis, discussion, and how-tos about the questions we get most often

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What Does an Effective Weight Loss Workout Plan Look Like?

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to weight loss and fitness. And if you’ve been around the block a few times, you’ve probably seen plenty of workout plans on the Internet that claim to help you shed body fat. 

But how can you know whether a weight loss program will be effective?

If you want to know how to find (and follow) the right weight loss program successfully, the Kickoff team has your back. In this guide, we’ll talk about what a solid weight loss workout plan looks like, how nutrition factors in, and how to have a positive workout experience. 

What Does a Weight Loss Workout Plan Focus On?

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Weight loss workout plans come in all shapes and sizes, including total-body cardio workouts, weightlifting regimens, and everything in between.

There are countless workout programs for weight loss that you can purchase online for immediate download. However, some of these options only get you so far. For example, some poor-quality weight loss programs are overly rigid and focus on one type of exercise, which can hinder your progress and lead you to give up altogether. Poor plans may also disregard nutrition, which is a crucial part of weight loss. 

In any case, credentialed, experienced personal trainers can offer you high-quality workout plans that help you lose weight in a sustainable way. Using information about your fitness level and preferences, they can design a custom program that helps you build consistency. And, they can help you learn to create healthy habits. Plus, they can do your fitness journey with you, acting as a resource when workouts are confusing, a source of motivation when you get burned out, and help you see the positive progress you’re making.

What Should the Plan Include?

Some workout plans will be more detailed than others, but they all have the same general goals: Get your heart rate up, burn calories, and improve your general well-being. Working out doesn’t just improve your physical strength and endurance — it can boost your mood and your confidence.A workout plan should include cardio to help you burn calories and strength workouts to build lean muscle mass. Lean muscle mass can boost your metabolic rate, which is how quickly your body burns calories. A good weight loss program should also offer meal plan tips that support the work you do in the gym. Plus, it’ll help you be flexible with your workouts. That way, if you come home exhausted at the end of the day, you can do a shorter version of a workout (or even just add more play time with your fur baby!).

Typically, a good workout plan will include exercises that target every part of your body, from your glutes and hamstrings to your biceps and shoulders. This isn’t to try to reduce fat, but instead to improve your body’s overall health. 

The Importance of Nutrition

Nutrition is also crucial in a weight loss workout plan — because to lose weight, you’ll need to burn more calories than you’re taking in. 

However, good nutrition doesn’t mean crash dieting or undereating. Instead, it means tackling your diet through sustainable lifestyle changes. For example, could you exchange your chips for veggies and hummus most of the time? Could you cut out soda 90% of the time and reach for seltzer instead? 

As you learn more about nutrition, you’ll discover the importance of lean proteins, how eating more fruits and vegetables relates to volume eating (focusing on foods that are less calorie-dense and more nutritious), and why a higher water intake can help you with your weight loss goals. 

Small changes like these can be invaluable on the journey to reach your weight loss goals.

Here’s What a Sample Weight Loss Workout Plan Might Look Like

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Your plan can include any equipment or exercises that you like, but you also don’t need any equipment to lose weight. Depending on your workout preferences, you might include a mixture of high-intensity interval training (or HIIT workouts), steady-state cardio (cardio that keeps a steady, moderate pace), hiking, walking, strength training, etc. With each of your workouts, you could use equipment ranging from dumbbells to simply your own body weight. 

With all that in mind, here are some signs of a sustainable weight loss program:

  • It includes a mixture of exercise and rest days, along with detailed workouts on your exercise days.

  • It comes with some sort of meal plan guidance for weight loss.

  • It offers flexibility and suggestions for ways to get moving (beyond just hitting the gym).

Below is an example of what a basic weekly weight loss workout plan might look like. However, there are many ways to organize a workout schedule. You can use this sample to learn how to divide the days into cardio, strength building, and recovery, and see what sort of exercises would fit for each one:

Monday (Bodyweight Cardio)

  • Burpees: 30 seconds

  • Bodyweight lunges: 30 seconds

  • Elbow plank: 30 seconds

  • Flutter kicks: 30 seconds 

  • Rest: 1-minute rest

  • Repeat 4-5 times

Tuesday (Strength Building)

  • Warm-up: Cardio on a machine of your choice for 5-10 minutes

  • Barbell squats: 3 sets of 8-10 reps 

  • Romanian deadlifts: 3 sets of 8-10 reps 

  • Pull-ups: 3 sets of 3-6 

  • Push-ups: 3 sets of 10-15

Wednesday (Active Recovery)

Rest day. Take some time to stretch and walk for a healthy, active recovery.

Thursday (Strength Building)

  • Warm-up stretching: 5 minutes 

  • Sumo barbell squats: 3 sets of 8-10 reps 

  • Deadlifts: 3 sets of 6 reps 

  • Bench press: 3 sets of 5-10 reps 

  • Weighted Russian twists: 3 sets of 8-16 reps 

Friday (Low-Impact Cardio)

  • Medium-pace cycling, hiking, or cardio on the elliptical machine: 20 minutes 

  • Slower-paced walking as a cool-down; 10 minutes

Saturday (Rest and Relax)

  • Allow yourself to do whatever you want on this day. Get moving if you can, but you don’t have to.

Sunday (Active Recovery)

  • A half-hour walk outside and some light stretching 

Tips for Weight Loss Success

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Here’s the thing about starting a weight loss workout plan: There might be times when you need extra motivation to keep going. 

When you first start, it’s common to feel a burst of energy and run an extra mile during your cardio only to find yourself struggling to lace your tennis shoes for the next workout. 

A few weeks in, you might rather watch Netflix at the end of a long day than exercise. And after your first week of exercising, what if you feel totally burned out? 

Despite the struggles of making exercise a sustainable habit, certain things can help you along the way. Here are some tips and mindset shifts to help you find success on your weight loss journey:

1. Find an Accountability Partner

When it comes to staying consistent, accountability partners provide unmatched benefits. This person might be a friend or loved one that doubles as your workout partner. They could also be a coach or personal trainer who regularly checks in on your progress. In any case, the idea is that having someone who knows about your goals will encourage you to stay on track. 

2. Celebrate Progress, Not Just the End Goal 

You can (and should) view every workout you complete as a success. You don’t have to wait until you lose those 20 pounds before you celebrate your progress. Give yourself a high five, play the Rocky theme song, or have your own 1-minute dance party in your living room. You might feel silly, but you’ll also feel happier about the work you’ve done!

3. Consistency Is Everything

Consistency is everything when it comes to weight loss. To start, find 2-3 days a week when your schedule allows for working out. Then, stick to that pattern for four weeks straight. A Kickoff coach can help by sending you gentle, encouraging “nudges” through the app and creating a workout plan that works for you.

And as challenging as starting a workout routine or changing your diet can be, there are ways to make it easier. For example, small, quick habits — like parking farther away from your destination or drinking more water — can help you build consistency without overwhelming yourself.

4. Set SMART Goals

One of the best ways to achieve fitness goals is using the SMART formula. In other words, choose something specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

For example, imagine that your goal is to lose belly fat. What if you rephrase that as wanting to lose 10 pounds in two months? 

Notice how simple reframing can help you change the way you feel about your goal? Suddenly, it becomes easier to visualize and feels more attainable. 

You might also find it helpful to break these SMART goals into smaller chunks. Your big milestone might be losing 10 pounds, but that goal can feel overwhelming. However, setting the goal of completing a full-body workout three times per week makes your exercise more of a habit so you can make gradual progress. This tactic makes it easier to turn your wellness vision into small habits, and these small habits are what build results. 

5. Be Mindful of Your Nutrition

Nutrition is vital, whether your goal is weight loss, gaining muscle, or toning up. 

Proper nutrition means that your body will have the building blocks it needs to repair muscle after each workout. Beyond that, being mindful of your eating can ensure that you’re burning more calories than you’re taking in (which is key for weight loss success). 

Being mindful of your nutrition means looking out for signs that you may need to switch things up. For example, if you’ve been sticking to your workout routine but aren’t making any progress, it may be a sign to adjust your diet.

Fortunately, improving your diet doesn’t have to be anything crazy — sometimes, it just means making small, healthy modifications. For example, you could add a larger portion of fruit to each meal. Or, you could swap out sugary drinks for water with low-calorie flavoring instead.

6. Manage Your Stress and Sleep

Stress and sleep can impact nearly every aspect of your body, including your hormones, muscle recovery, and weight. This means that stress management and sleeping habits can make a difference in your weight loss results — so try and stay aware of them along your journey.

7. Find Small Ways to Stay Active 

Small, healthy habits can help you get moving, even when you can’t make it through a full workout some days. For example, you could take the stairs instead of the elevator, spend more time with your dog, play with your toddler, or start a daily habit of taking a 10-minute walk after work.

8. Make It Sustainable

Finally, remember to make things sustainable. Having huge, ambitious goals sounds enticing at first — but sometimes, these goals can lead you to burn out or give up quickly. 

With that in mind, here are some tips to help you make your health and fitness routine last:

  • Do workouts that you enjoy — even if they’re a bit unconventional. You don’t have to become a gym rat to lose weight. You can do whatever you like, just as long as it gets you moving — whether that means swimming, pilates, yoga, or something else.

  • Be practical about your diet changes. You don’t want to feel like you’re depriving yourself, or it could lead you to cave in and go straight back to bad habits. So, be practical and start small. Learn which healthy foods you like and build from there.

A Personal Trainer Can Help You Crush Your Weight Loss Goals 

Everyone can tackle weight loss on their own, but it can be a massive challenge. Why not team up with a personal trainer who’s gone on this journey with so many other people and can design a weight loss workout plan just for you?

A personal trainer can also help you:

  • Figure out exactly how and where to start. 

  • Discover types of exercises that you actually like and teach you how to do them.

  • Make the most out of your time in the gym.

  • Craft a custom plan to maximize your results, so you don’t have to spend hours building your own.

  • Stay motivated–even when you don’t feel like it.

Finding the Best Personal Trainer for Weight-Loss Planning

You can pair up with a trainer at your local gym, but that can get expensive fast. Not to mention the fact that scheduling can be complete chaos, with unexpected COVID cases, work, and other obligations.

Instead, you can reap all these benefits at a fraction of the cost by working with an online personal trainer. Platforms like Kickoff can connect you with a trainer who provides daily support for as little as $3 a day. This is much lower than the $50-$200 per session you might otherwise pay!

Best of all, you won’t need to find time to meet in person to get results. 

They’ll give you every resource you’ll need to execute your workout plan on your own time — including demo videos and detailed instructions. And in case you need some extra help, they’re only a text away.

Ready to Achieve Your Weight Loss Goals?

So, now you know what a weight loss workout plan entails. Each plan might look a little different, but a good plan includes a range of exercises to help you build muscle mass and burn calories. Beyond that, it should focus on nutrition and offer flexibility to help you stay active outside the gym.

Anyone can put a workout plan together, but a professional trainer can craft one that makes sense for your body and your fitness journey. They can also help you target all your muscle groups in a balanced way and cheer you on as you make progress.

If you aren’t fitness-savvy or have had trouble sticking to a plan in the past, platforms like Kickoff can help. Kickoff works with thousands of expert-level personal trainers to help people just like you crush their fitness goals. 

All you do is answer a few simple questions, and we’ll work to find someone who is best-suited to help you succeed.

Learn more about how it works or get started today.