12 Week Cardio and Weight Training Routine

Get Fit or Die Tryin: 12 Week Cardio and Weight Training Program

What if I told you that in just 12 weeks you could improve your physique and conditioning so much that you feel like a completely different person?

I’m going to lay out a 12 week plan that will give you tips on your diet, lay out your cardio, a weight training routine, and tips to run this program effectively.

Program Goals

The goals for this program include:

Weight Loss: This program is going to help you lose that stubborn weight and help you trim down to a smaller size through resistance and conditioning training and diet.

Build Lean Muscle Mass: Whether you want to tone up and look fit or want to become a bodybuilder, this routine is the program for you. This program gives you the tools to increase your lean mass and create a balanced physique.

Improve Conditioning: Simply doing cardio is not going to improve your conditioning. Walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike burns calories, but you are not necessarily improving your conditioning. This program is going to plan out your cardio sessions as well as give you tips on improving your conditioning and getting your body more athletic.

Recommended Supplementation

Check out my product reviews page to see what I’ve used and be sure to check out other people’s reviews before you purchase something. Supplements are just that, a supplementation. Your program does not rely on the use of any supplements, but here are the suggestions I would use.

Healthy Whole Foods: Whole foods are a must if you want this program to work best. Eat a wide variety of fresh foods so you will be able to recover and grow muscle.

Whey Protein: Whey protein is an easy way to get some fast digesting protein into your body. Drinking a shake in the morning or post-workout are both effective times.

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA): BCAAs are nice to have since they are healthy drinks you can have during your workout or throughout your day. This supplement is nice to have and most certainly not needed. Eating a balanced diet with a wide variety of different meats and vegetables will give you all of the amino acids that are found in a BCAA supplement. A bonus to a BCAAs are that most are great tasting and are a healthy alternative to soda.

Fish Oils: Fish oils are a great supplement for joints and overall heart health in your body. This supplement is not needed at all, but if you eat plenty of fish in your diet you will benefit the same as you would if you took the supplement.

Creatine Monohydrate: Creatine monohydrate is a proven, tried, and tested supplement shown to improve strength, endurance, and athletic performance. This is certainly not needed for most people and is just a supplement that is okay to use. Creatine monohydrate works and is cheap, if you are trying to increase strength and performance, this supplement is nice to have.

Fat Burners and Energy Supplements: Stimulants can be addictive and have adverse effects on your health, so please use these wisely. When working on a calorie deficit, you will have less energy. A fat burner or energy supplement will help you get through the days where you have no energy. There are many different supplements that say claim to burn fat, but please read many reviews and understand what you are putting in your body before you buy something. No fat burner will “burn fat” so beware of the supplements that say they will. A good cup of coffee a few times through the day will do just fine if you are low on energy.

Multi-vitamins: Any multi will help, I prefer Opti-Men vitamins.

Diet Tips

Eating whole foods and making the correct food decisions will be the determining factor if this program is a success or failure for you. Anyone can go to the gym to lift weights and do until they think they are dying, but you cannot out exercise poor diet.

Check out the health and nutrition of this site for articles on how to eat healthier and save money doing it. Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to cut out all of your guilty pleasures, but you must be conscious of them and realize how many calories you are eating.

For Women:

  • Cut calories by 200 per day
  • Follow the cardio and conditioning tips

For Men:

  • Cut calories by 300 per day
  • Follow the cardio and conditioning tips

A slow decrease in calories will keep your metabolism from crashing and will also force your body to start burning body fat for energy. You must eat consistently the same calories and the same general types of foods so your weight will not fluctuate. You do not have to eat the same thing every day but if you skimp out on carbs one day and the next day eat a bunch of carbs, you are going to bloat and hold a lot of water.

Always weigh yourself at the same time of day on the same day of the week. Only weigh yourself once a week to track your progress. Don’t get discouraged if you have not lost weight, give it 3 consecutive weeks of consistent diet and exercise before you adjust your diet again.

Diet Plan Guidelines

Losing weight is not complicated; simply lowering your calorie intake will help you lose body fat.


  • Men – Generally 120-200 grams of protein daily. The heavier you are, the closer to 200 you should go.
  • Women – Generally 80-140 grams of protein daily. The heavier you are, the closer to 140 you should go.

Eating enough protein will ensure you retain muscle mass while losing weight. Eat a wide variety of proteins from chicken, pork, beef, beans, whey, and other sources you enjoy.


Fat intake should generally be 20-30% of your daily calories. Fats do not make you fat. Eating heavily processed foods or carbohydrate dense foods with fats is what makes you fat. Some bacon will not make you fat, but a doughnut will. Drizzling some olive oil on your salad or using butter on some vegetables is healthy.

Not getting enough dietary fats in your diet is going to lead to hormone issues, loss of sleep, and more.


The macro nutrient everyone seems to hate. Carbohydrates are a good source of energy and strength athletes make great use of them. Carbs are important to performance; unless you can successfully do a low/no carb diet and eat plenty of dietary fats and protein, do not just cut out carbs.

Once you have determined your daily calories from proteins and fats, fill the rest in with carbohydrates. I suggest nutrient dense things such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and brown rice.

Once You Have Stalled on Your Weight Loss

Women: Cut an additional 200 calories.

Men: Cut an additional 300 calories.


A re-feed is a way to keep your metabolism going while you are cutting calories. Some people might call it a cheat meal or a cheat day. You will want to have a re-feed every other week. Plan a day every other week where you splurge and eat what you want. This will give you something to look forward to and a reason for you to stay on your diet.

When doing your re-feed day, make sure to enjoy the food. Don’t go so far overboard that you feel sick to your stomach from eating too much, but feel free to have the pizza and ice cream you’ve been wanting for the past couple weeks.

If you want this program to give you the best results you can get, eat your extra calories with whole foods or protein shakes. This is going to give you the nutrition and recovery you need. You would be surprised how much chicken you have to eat to equal a value meal at a fast food restaurant.

12 Week Cardio Program

Many people spend too much time on the cardio equipment and it is simply not needed. This program will give you plenty of cardio and will help you lose weight and get more athletic. You might not think the program has enough cardio, but adding more cardio to the program may adversely affect your results.

No need to add longer sessions or extra cardio sessions into this program, but feel free to be active outside playing sports, riding bicycles, etc. The goal is to make your life more enjoyable so don’t limit yourself to only exercising in the gym.

Spin bikes are a great way to get your cardio in, improve your conditioning, and will help with muscle endurance and work output.


For the first 6 weeks leave 1 day of recovery in between each cardio session and do 3 sessions per week. The last 6 weeks do 2 days on and 1 day off with 4 sessions per week.

Start week 1 and do 10 minutes of cardio per session. Add 2 minutes to your cardio sessions per week. On week 12 you will be doing 32 minutes of cardio per session.

Doing cardio post workout or in a fasted state when you first wake up are the two most beneficial times to perform cardio.

Workout Program

Strive for progression and you will make marked progress. I’ve had many clients happy with their results using this method.

A sample workout schedule would look like:

  • Day 1: OFF
  • Day 2: Workout A
  • Day 3: Workout B
  • Day 4: OFF
  • Day 5: Workout C
  • Day 6: Workout D
  • Day 7: OFF
Workout A
Exercise Sets Rep Goal
Incline Bench 5 25
Lat Pull Downs 3 36
DB Shoulder Press 3 36
Pull Ups 3 36
Close Grip Bench Press 3 36


Workout B
Exercise Sets Rep Goal
Squat 5 25
Front Squat 3 36
Leg Curl 3 36
Standing Calf Raise 3 36
Curls 3 36
Planks 5


Workout C
Exercise Sets Rep Goal
Barbell Rows 5 25
Incline DB Chest Flyes 3 36
Side Lateral Raises 3 36
Pull Ups 3 36
Skull Crushers 3 36
Curls 4 48


Workout D
Exercise Sets Rep Goal
Light Squats 3 24
Barbell Lunges 3 36
Leg Press 3 36
Standing Calf Raises 3 36
Cable Crunches 4 48


This program focuses on using compound lifts and exercises that will give your body a balanced and athletic physique. This program works and will give you as good of results as you put into this. Work your ass off and you will the results you want.


As always, leave questions and comments below! Like us on Facebook and be sure to share with your friends so we can make a healthier world.

242 thoughts on “Get Fit or Die Tryin: 12 Week Cardio and Weight Training Program”

  1. Hey there, my friend and I just started this 12 week program and so far we love it. I had a few questions for you. I am taking fish oil pills and whey protein, but I don’t know of an effective fat burner. I am 26, 5’5” and weigh just under 200 lbs. I’m trying to lose 50-60 pounds and get lean and I have a great diet plan and I am following your exercise guidelines, but I feel like I need more, such as a great fat burner. Do you have suggestions?

    1. Eating healthier and less food will be the best for losing body fat. It won’t happen overnight but if you slowly lose 1-3 pounds a week, you are doing well. Fat burners I don’t feel really ‘actually burn fat.’ If I were to offer any type of fat burner it would be a stimulant like caffeine (think black coffee) for the extra energy. It is better to spend the money on healthy foods instead of a supplement.

      I’ve had the OxyElite Pro, the Shred Matrix, all of it and if I wasn’t eating correctly, I didn’t lose any weight and I sweat and felt anxious all of the time. Now I am pretty tolerant to stimulants and I have nothing to show for it.

      Your body will start changing in the next few weeks and you will see that slow and steady is best. Just keep working hard and the weight will come off. Once you get closer to a lower body fat, it will take a bit more control.

      Stay Strong!


  2. Hi, so if the work out says Incline bench 5 sets rep goal is 25, am I doing a total of 125 incline bench presses. Or is the rep goal the weight I;m using and I do it 5x? thanks for clarifying.

    1. It’s a good system to have because a lot of people think “I haven’t been able to add weight to the bar” they aren’t progressing. Well if you can keep adding one rep every time, you are sure to build a big base of strength.

      The rep goal system has been working for me and my clients for a while now and if you have any more questions feel free to ask!


  3. Hi,

    great work out routine. just some questions.
    I have been comparing your plan 4 DAY GYM WORKOUT and 12 WEEK CARDIO AND WEIGHT TRAINING PROGRAM.
    could you recommend me which plan will be right choice for me? I woulld like to loose weight and build muscle.
    should i start 12 week cardio and weight training then change to 4 day gym work out?
    i’m 182cm and 200lbs.

    1. Choose whichever routine you think sounds the funnest. Both are having great results for weight loss and muscle building so pick which one you would like and run with it!

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

  4. Starting an “Operation Spring Break” 17 week fitness program. Doing it alone and while researching stumbled across your site. Impressiveโ€ฆ

    Cardio/Weights/Paleo lifestyle

    I am a male, weigh 250, 54 years old, 6’0″

    1. Glad you found the site, I hope you find some of the information I present helpful.

      If you have any specific questions, feel free to leave them. Be sure to give us some updates on how things are going!


    1. Your biceps are a small muscle group and heal relatively quickly. Doing them twice a week won’t be a problem at all. ๐Ÿ™‚


  5. Hi guys,

    Just a few questions :-

    1 – is there any exercise that you could recommend instead of pull ups? I really struggle to get anywhere near 3/4 out every session but am keen to try your 12 week program.
    2- light squats – I assume that by light squats it’s just something like a warm up set? My 1RM is 190kg so maybe something like 100-120?

    With regards to supplementation –

    1 – I use a protein whey isolate 3-4 times a day – suitable? Or would you recommend something else?
    2- would you recommend having protein based snacks in the diet? Stuff like protein flapjacks etc?

    Cheers guys – starting up tomorrow so wish me luck!!!

    1. Hey,

      If you can’t do pull ups (I can’t get too many either), try to use the assisted pull up machine or if you do not have one of those, lat pull downs will work. Basically it’s the pulling down motion you want so if you don’t have a lat pull down machine, any assisted machine would work too.

      For light squats, using a 60-70% of your 1rm would be a good start. With that much volume, you’ll be surprised how fatigued you get towards the end of your sets.

      For supplementation, you don’t have to worry as much about the usage. As long as you are getting plenty of protein in your diet you are going to do well. If you fight hunger a lot, eat more meat instead of shakes or if you can’t hardly eat enough go ahead and keep with the shakes.

      Protein based snacks are great because they help curb appetite and make you stay fuller longer so I am always happy to not be so hungry.

      Just work hard and do your best, it’s going to make a huge difference.


  6. Should you do the exercises of the workouts in succession or could you do them as a circuit? Thanks and lookign forward to starting these this week.

    1. For this routine, it’s designed to be run in succession. So go all sets of one exercise and move onto the next.

      Good luck!


    1. Pete,

      I’ve noticed that cardio post workout is very beneficial and I would recommend doing them immediately after lifting. Plus it keeps you from having to come to the gym every day.

      Good luck!


  7. Do you have any recommendations for cardio and weights for someone with an ankle injury? I don’t have full mobility so doing some of the exercises is difficult. I have been trying to lose weight off and on for the 2 years since it broke and can’t stick with anything because of the mobility.

    1. I’ve dealt with a messed up ankle surgery for 3.5 years now and I still deal with pain. I haven’t quite conquered the “work around” yet other than work with getting more mobility and strength into it.

      I would suggest looking into some olympic weight lifting shoes, they have a raised heel which saves my ankle on squats and I used to use on other lifts as well. As far as cardio, find what works for you. If you can use something like the elliptical or stationary bike go for it. I know the elliptical puts a strain on my ankle because of mobility and I usually do treadmill or nothing at all, and my conditioning has paid for it.

      If you can do something like jumping rope or jumping jacks or something similar to keep the heart rate up you will benefit from it. Just keep trying and find what works best for you.

      Feel free to ask more questions!


  8. Hi there. I’ve been doing this workout for a week now and I’m enjoying it.

    I’m still a bit confused about rep goal system. I mean for the assisted pull ups should I do 1 set 15 reps, 2 nd set 12 reps and last set 9 reps? I find if I can do 15 reps then on last set I can do 9 easily . If I up the weight then I struggle to do 15 reps?

    Another example would be incline press. 1st set 8 reps, 2nd set 7 reps, 3rd set 5 reps, 4th 3 reps and 5th 2 reps?

    1. Hello,

      I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying it so far!

      The rep ‘goal’ is the number you have to have in mind. For the rep goal itself, don’t worry about how many you are doing per set, worry about how many reps you’ve done for that exercise. For pull ups you need to do 36 reps in 3 sets. If you attempt 3 sets of 12 reps, you might have energy the first set to do 4 extra reps instead of just stopping at 12. The reason I implement the rep goal system is because many people get caught up on missing the last couple reps on their last set. They may have left a lot of energy in the first two sets that if they would have used, they would have had 36 reps.

      A lot of clients will do something like 3 sets with a 36 rep goal. One week their sets will look like 15, 11, 7 which is 33, not their goal. The next week they do 16, 12, 8 reps and hit their 36 reps in 3 sets. Basically you are trying to get to 36 reps before you run out of energy in your last set. If that means you get 22 reps the first set, 8 reps the next, and then 6 the last, you are okay.

      For incline press, if you go until you almost fail each set and those are the reps you get, that’s fine. Don’t worry about what reps you do in what set, just strive to do the goal amount of reps in the sets given.

      Any more questions let me know,


  9. I really like doing deadlifts and stiff legged deadlifts, how can I incorporate those lifts into this workout? Thanks

    1. Replace Light Squats and Barbell Lunges with

      Deadlifts – 3 Sets – 24 Rep Goal
      Stiff Leg DL – 3 Sets – 36 Rep Goal


  10. Hi I am 17yrs old 189lbs and 5’8″ … Can you tell me if this will be good for me… My BMI is 29. I also have limited machines in my gym… Dumbbels , barbell, leg extensions and curls and lat pulldowns … So which of the above can I perform using the above?
    Great favor.

    1. Any workout I write will be good for you, find something you can be consistent with and have enough equipment to do all of the exercises.


  11. So can i do the cardio part on the days off? Or should i do them after the weight training? And how long should i run for during the cardio part?

    1. You can do cardio when it’s convenient. I find doing cardio after training is great for recovery and conditioning, but if you don’t have time to and want to do them on your day off that’s okay as well. As for the running, just try to beat your previous time or distance.


  12. I’m just trying to start and I can only get around weights 3 days a week so is there a good way to split these up or a good 3 day workout you recommend? I really like the rep goal system idea too. Oh, and is there a cardio routine for this that I just didn’t see?

  13. I do crossfit in the evenings around 4 times per week. Is this program ok to follow while also keeping my crossfit days?

    1. Yes, the most important part is listening to your body and getting plenty of time to recover. If you start losing performance in Crossfit or you start feeling overly fatigued you may want to back off this program as much and work on finding a good balance.


  14. Hi. I will be starting to do this workout plan. Just want to ask how about biceps and triceps workout? I cant seem to find it in the plan. Thanks.

    1. For triceps you do many press movements as well as close grip bench and for biceps you do many pull movements with curls. I believe that compound movements with some isolation accessory will build your bicep/tricep better than endless sets of isolation.


  15. Workout plan looks awesome Cutty! I’m starting it tomorrow. I have to travel a lot for work. And unfortunately hotel gyms don’t always have the best equipment. I think I can substitute most of these exercises with dumbbells if I have to. Any substitutes you recommend for Pull Ups, Leg Curl, Seated Calf Raises, or Leg Presses, when I don’t have access to my normal gym?

    1. Thanks JR.

      Check out my minimal equipment workout and draw some ideas for exercises from that. Training while traveling can be hard so definitely learn to utilize what you have for the best. Dumbbell exercise equivalents are great to use in a pinch and you can make great progress with them.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!


  16. I was always taught that you need to give muscles enough time to rest in between workouts. From what I was taught, that was 48 hours. But between workout A and B, pull ups and dumbbell rows work out back and biceps, then we do curls the next day?

    1. The 48 hour “rule” is what’s called bro science. Although I am a huge proponent of getting enough recovery, you have to realize that certain muscles can recover much faster than others. You cannot recover from a hamstring workout as fast as you can a bicep workout.

      The way this program is designed (especially if you run it like I have the sample schedule) of 2 days on, 1 day off, 2 days on, 2 days off will give you plenty of recovery time.

      The 48 hr rule is a good idea to start off because it is implying that you need recovery time… but it is not the end-all-be-all. Learn to read your body and understand how it works.

      I don’t advocate training arms every day because it’s a smaller muscle that can recover faster, that’s won’t do any good.. but hitting back every other day or compound lifts that include the same muscle groups are fine. Try it out for 2 months and tell me how great you feel.


  17. Hi I came across this while looking for a new routing. I am going to try this out but was wondering if you could recommend deadlifts somewhere in the routine. I enjoy doing them now and since I plan to follow this workout I wanted to see if I could add it in somewhere.

  18. Oh nevermind I found the answer in a previous comment

    March 2, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Replace Light Squats and Barbell Lunges with

    Deadlifts โ€“ 3 Sets โ€“ 24 Rep Goal
    Stiff Leg DL โ€“ 3 Sets โ€“ 36 Rep Goal


    1. Glad you found the answer :). I apologize for not getting to you sooner, my other job keeps me from keeping up with everything right now.

      Let me know how it goes if you decide to run it!


  19. Is the Barbell Row the bent over row for your back or the upright row for your shoulders? I’m about to do Session 3 tonight ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Pls tell the weights girl shld choose to lift iam already using 1 kg. I can do 10 reps at. A strech…iam 26..5’5 weigt 154 pounds

  21. Hi Cutty,

    In Workout B and C, you have Curls. Can you be more specific,are they biceps and triceps. If so, why put bicep/tricep in workout B which is mainly Legs? Wouldn’t the C ones be good enough?

    Also, can you suggest me a good alternative for Leg Curls as I don’t have the equipment for that?

    Thanks a bunch

    1. Hello Shizzy,

      Throughout this site curls refer to the bicep movement. If I were to specify a tricep workout I will more than likely call them an extension. Sorry for the confusion there.

      It’s also been shown that doing some arm work on leg day helps build bigger arms, so that’s why I added them in. They are a smaller muscle and can be worked multiple times a week with no problem so there aren’t any issues there. Workout C does a lot of back movements which will pre exhaust your bicep and then you “finish them off” with curls. If you were to want to drop the curls on Workout C, I would not see a problem with it.

      For an alternative to leg curls I would recommend stiff leg deadlifts. They are GREAT for the hamstrings and glutes and is an exercise I personally use.

      Any more questions feel free to ask.


  22. hey there starting this workout for my mid winter/ springtime cut down i was just curious if your rep goal is amount of reps per set we are aiming for? such as in day one workout 36 pullups per set? other wise workout looks great cant wait to crush it will post maxes for each set in a chart from beginning to end when i am finished as well! ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. Using a rep goal is striving to reach (for example) 36 pullups for that workout. Some people look at it as 3 set of 12 but if you have more in the tank in the first set or two, don’t just stop at 12 per set.

      Hope this helps! I look forward to hearing about your progress!


    2. Thanks a bunch for the reply decided to take the extra challenge and like I originally thought do the rep goal as my goal per set. Let me just tell you I used 20 lb dum bells all around as the weight for the reps by military press my arms were destroyed 3 sets of 36 really stretches the limits! Gonna try to keep this pace for the 12 weeks I’m sure the results should be awesome!

  23. Found this website and I love what you have!

    For the cardio portion do you recommend running the whole time or doing a combination of sprints for half and then low intensity for the other half?

    1. Julia,

      I honestly recommend doing something that you enjoy doing. I think that’s the most important part to long-term success is finding something you enjoy. HIIT is more time-effective but low intensity interval training is just as effective if done long enough. If I had to recommend something, I would suggest HIIT.


  24. Thank you so much for quick reply! And I have heard a couple different things… from your opinion, would an example of that be sprints- 30 sec on 30 sec off for about 15 min? And Low intensity would be walking for about 40 min?

    1. Julia,

      No problem :). If you’re new to HIIT, I would say try 30 second sprint and 1 minute rest time for 15 minutes. This is a good place to start. If your conditioning can’t recover in that time, modify it so that you are able to push yourself but not completely dying even after rest. The goal is to get better and more efficient with it and increase your work capacity so don’t get discouraged if you need to follow a different interval. Also depending on conditioning level I would say 20-40 minutes would be good to start with on low intensity.


  25. So am I doing cardio on each day I lift weights or do I do all 4 workouts for weights and then just 3 days of cardio for the first 6 weeks and then do 4 cardios on the weight days the next 6 week?

    1. For the first 6 weeks you could either pick 3 of the 4 days you go to the gym to do cardio or you could do cardio on Monday/Wednesday/Friday. If you don’t want to make another trip up there on your off day, doing cardio 2 days in a row obviously won’t kill you.

      For the last 6 weeks you just do cardio on each day you are there training.


  26. Cutty,

    I’ve been doing 45 min of cardio for 5 days a week on an exercise bike for about 5 years now and am looking at this workout to add some muscle mass as well as shake up my routine. All of my workouts are fasting workouts done at home, first thing in the morning. Given how much cardio I’m already used to, do I need to alter the workout any?

    Also, I am completely new to lifting so I’ll need to pick up weights. Do you have any suggestions for what size weights to start with? I was thinking of getting a 10lb and 20lb dumbell.



    1. Brandon,

      I think with as much cardio as you do, picking up weights to start building muscle will be great. If you’ve been maintaining weight, I would look into eating ~150 calories extra a day to help with the muscle building process. Start checking your progress on the scale and mirror and you’ll start to see a difference in 6-8 weeks. After 12 you should see a significant difference.

      As for weights, if you are wanting to do this at home with dumbbells, I would suggest buying these adjustable dumbbells. If you have the money to buy 2, you can do two different exercises without having to load up the right plates on them. Believe me, I’ve dealt with this firsthand and it is a pain.

      Just get started and if you need to start adding equipment later you can. If you have anymore questions, feel free to ask.


    2. Cutty,

      Thanks for the quick reply. Will definitely check out those weights.

      Should I stick with the cardio plan as laid out here or can I add more given that I’m used to a fair amount? I try and stay active during the day with walks at lunch and in the evening so I still get some movement other than just in the morning.

      Thanks again.


    3. Brandon,

      You’re an already active person so no need to add in anything extra – just do whatever you enjoy to do for activity. Just watch scales and mirror and if you aren’t noticing strength or muscle gains, you need to start eating more because you aren’t giving your body enough fuel to build.


  27. Cutty,

    Looking forward to starting this next week. I bought two sets of the dumbbells you suggested as well as an adjustable bench and a pull up bar. My plan is to do every exercise from this plan that I can with the equipment that I have and then substitute the exercises that require specific equipment with exercises from the 5 Day Minimal workout that work the same muscles/muscle groups.

    The only thing I’m unsure of is how much time rest time should I take between sets? I’m somewhat limited for time so I want to make sure I can get the best mix of efficiency and effectiveness.



    1. Brandon,

      Glad to hear you got yourself a nice setup. In regards to rest time, push yourself and see how quickly in between sets you can – meaning maybe 30-60 seconds in between sets. If you can’t safely complete the sets in that range, space it out until you feel “ready” for the next set. Believe me, once you try this for a couple of weeks you will know what I mean by “ready.” You won’t be looking forward to the set but you’ll be able to do it. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Let me know how things go!


    1. John,

      That would work, add in another set or two per exercise when you do the weight training and make sure you’re eating enough nutritious foods. Mess around with calories to make sure you are not losing too much weight – if you start dropping a lot of weight (and don’t need to lose much body fat) then you need to start eating more or you will start burning muscle.


    1. If you’ve never been to the gym and done these exercises, I recommend spending the first few weeks learning proper form with lighter weights. Once you get to the point where you are confident in your form, up the weights until you start feeling uncomfortable to complete them. This doesn’t mean you need to go to almost failure, but you do need to push yourself.

      Once you have a baseline weight to start with, you can then slowly add weight every time you go to the gym and it will build your strength and muscle up.

      If you have any more questions, feel free to ask.


    1. Tim,

      If you have a hack squat machine, that would be the next best thing. Other than that you can try goblet squats. They are much more forgiving and just about anyone can do them. You won’t be able to get a lot of weight with them but you can add in volume where you lack weight.


    1. It’s total reps.. think of it as a 5×5 but don’t stop at 5 unless you’re about to fail. It’s a complete different feeling and it can be mentally overwhelming sometimes… but it works.


    1. 12 Week Cardio Program

      Many people spend too much time on the cardio equipment and it is simply not needed. This program will give you plenty of cardio and will help you lose weight and get more athletic. You might not think the program has enough cardio, but adding more cardio to the program may adversely affect your results.

      No need to add longer sessions or extra cardio sessions into this program, but feel free to be active outside playing sports, riding bicycles, etc. The goal is to make your life more enjoyable so donโ€™t limit yourself to only exercising in the gym.

      For the first 6 weeks leave 1 day of recovery in between each cardio session and do 3 sessions per week. The last 6 weeks do 2 days on and 1 day off with 4 sessions per week.

      Start week 1 and do 10 minutes of cardio per session. Add 2 minutes to your cardio sessions per week. On week 12 you will be doing 32 minutes of cardio per session.

      Doing cardio post workout or in a fasted state when you first wake up are the two most beneficial times to perform cardio.

  28. How long should the total workout sessions last on average? Mine have been less than an hour. Also, how long should you be resting between exercises?

    1. This has been designed to be about 60-75 minutes depending on your conditioning. There’s not really a specific resting period you are “supposed” to do, but I generally try to keep my rest on accessory lifts at 30-45 seconds and then bigger compound lifts 60 seconds to whatever it takes.. The more you lift and get used to reading your body, the more you will be able to “just know” when it’s time to go. Always push yourself and don’t waste time in the gym, but if you have to take 2 minutes between a lift because you are just not ready, that’s okay.


  29. im a female and cant do pull ups yet and my gym doesnt have an assisted pull up machine what can i do in its place

    1. I’m working on creating resistance bands and I would normally offer to try those and use those for assisted pull ups (these are the type of bands I’m talking about). If that’s a route you don’t want to go down (I don’t blame you) then I would recommend doing lat pull downs.

      I would also invite you to check out my friend’s site TheByrn.com it is a site similar to mine but designed for females. Very knowledgeable and I would recommend that site to anyone.

      Good luck Anna, keep me updated!


  30. Where it notes 25 reps and 5 sets does it mean 25 reps per set or a total of 25 reps in the 5 sets (5 reps per set @ 5 sets = 25 reps total?)

    1. You have 5 sets to get 25 reps total. Think of it as a 5×5 but if you are able to do more than 5 in one set then keep going. Once you hit 25 reps in those 5 sets (even if the last set is 1 rep) then you can go up in weight the next week.

      Hope this helps!


  31. Danny Hernandez

    Hi i have a question regarding the cardio aspect of the workout. You stated to start at 10 min of cardio and add two minutes each week, what kind of cardio would be the best to implement into this workout routine. Also should i be doing the cardio in the beginning of the workout or the end? Thanks.

    1. Danny,

      The type of cardio depends more on your conditioning level. If you are not in good shape then a good walk would be just fine. If you are in better shape, doing some HIIT running or biking would be great. The stair climber, elliptical, anything is going to be beneficial if you can get your heart pumping enough.

      Your cardio can be done in the mornings upon waking up (this has been shown to make your day much more productive overall), or you could do it post-workout. I recommend a 5-10 minute warm up before you workout regardless of when you do it but for me personally I’d rather do what I consider cardio post-workout or in the morning.

  32. Hi Cutty,
    I am a female and wondering if I would get the same results by doing this workout, I am 136 now and looking to lost about 10 lbs and tone up. Thanks so much.

  33. I just found this workout and I’m planning to start it next week. Really looking forward to it, and like that you have specific goals to follow that are realistic.

    Also, just wanted to say that it’s really impressive that you take the time to come in and still respond to comments on a post that (at least from the comments) is over three years old. It would be really easy for you to post something and then just leave it be and let your readers hang, but you don’t. I really appreciate that, and that fact will keep me coming back to your site on a regular basis.

    As a question, and I know this is forward-thinking a little bit, but where do you go after the 12 weeks? Should you just keep going with this plan? Or do you have another workout posted that is a logical next step?

    Thanks for the website, info and workout.

    1. Patrick,

      Thank you for the kind words! Once you complete the routine after 12 weeks, assess your progress, assess your goals, and come up with a plan. If you liked the routine and you feel like you were progressing, I would say to stick with it until progress starts to fizzle out. If you made good progress but want to try something else, that works too. Find something you can consistently do and run it. If your goals stay the same and you progress, run it or change it if you’re tired of the routine – or if your goals change, chase a workout to accomplish that.

      If you have any more questions feel free to put em up!

  34. Hello cutty. Does the Work out plan stay the same every week or does it rotate. In the reps do I use heavy weight, moderate then increaase, or a good light weight . thanks for your time.

  35. Hi..as I’m looking at the work out routine I’m a little confused. So is Day 1 and Day 7 “REST” days? Those would be back to back days is that correct? Like a Friday and Saturday. Or am I looking at this all wrong? Eager to start this workout and start seeing results. Thank you.

    1. Yes, I didn’t put days on there so you could make it work for you.. Something like Sunday OFF, Monday/Tuesday ON, Wed OFF, Thurs/Fri ON, Sat OFF.

      Let me know how things go!

    1. This is designed to be run for 4 days, so Sat/Sun off and a day in the middle of the week. I don’t have any sample meal plans to follow but you should go check out my friend’s female fitness site over at http://www.TheByrn.com they have a lot of nutritional information as well.

  36. We just started this 12 week work out and wanted to see if this is right.

    Warm up 10 mins on Treadmill

    Did workout A as it was listed doing the 5 things with 3 reps of 12 to equal the 36

    Then got on stair master for 10mins

    It doesn’t seem like much. That’s why I’m asking you if what we did was right? We had been doing cardio (walking 5 miles, spinning class, or body pump) for a month straight and seen hardly any results. We are trying to lose weight as well as make this a life change and have a healthier lifestyle. This isn’t temporary for us. Thanks in advance for any advice or suggestions you can occur.


    1. Doing all 5 exercises for their prescribed sets and reps plus the cardio is plenty for the day. You need to start working on your diet if you are trying to lose weight. Doing the work in the gym is the easy part and I suggest you start looking into changing your diet up to reflect the goals you have.

      If the weights portion was easy, you aren’t using enough weight. While this isn’t the hardest workout routine I’ve written, you should still feel somewhat drained after leaving the gym. Increase the weights so that it will challenge you and strive to add 5lbs every week. This way you can increase the weight lifted, which challenges you and will help you get lean.

      Remember, every time someone “treats themselves” for a good workout, you’ve just negated the workout. It’s something myself and many friends have done as well.

      Up the intensity of the cardio – this workout was designed for people who haven’t had much exposure to the gym or cardio. Adjust the cardio to what you are used to and clean up diet to start losing weight.


  37. Hey Cutty. I’ve been on the plan for one week now, and overall enjoy it. I can tell I’m really working out the muscle groups, but don’t feel bored during the workouts or that I am overworking specific muscles.

    I do have a couple of questions about specific exercises:
    – For planks: what’s the goal? You have 5 reps listed, but 5 reps of what? As many seconds as I can hold?
    – Barbell lunges: what is 1 rep? Is it right lunge + left lunge = 1. Or right lunge – 1, left lunge – 2, right lunge – 3, etc.
    – Light squat: what is a light squat? Do you just mean squats with lighter than normal weight?
    – Cardio: is it only about time, or should there be a distance goal as well? If one day I do .8 miles in 10 and then the next session I can only crank out .5, is that okay? Or should I be striving for consistency?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Patrick,

      Glad to hear you like it. I’m glad to hear.
      1.) Plank 5 times as long as possible (I’ll change that to ALAP instead of -)
      2.) 1 rep would be 1 step so 36 rep goal would mean 18 per leg.
      3.) Light squats just means squatting with lighter weight. I would recommend something like 50-60% of 1rm.
      4.) Cardio is to add time, adding distance goal is bonus. Don’t get caught up on the distance too much because different days you’ll recover differently. Just make sure the overall path is longer time/longer distance. Or keep a goal if 10 minutes .8 mile.. 12 minutes .9 miles, etc.. try to come up with a mile per minute and at least hold that goal (if it takes you 15 minutes for a mile then if you do 30 minutes try to go for 2 miles) but the point is to get moving and get some blood flow and the ol heart going.

      Good luck and let me know how it goes!


  38. I just started this program and i love it but i dont really know where i should start how much to lift.

    Do i need to use weights that are very heavy and i can barley complete my reps or do i do the reps with a little lighter weights and finish.

    i am 5’2, female, 26.
    For example bent over row i do with 30 kgs, i kip a little towards the end of my reps. Is this alright

    1. You should choose a weight that you need to work for to get the last final reps. If you choose weights that are too easy, you will not progress as fast as you can.

      A little body english is alright, just make sure to keep a mostly proper form, otherwise I would recommend dropping the weight a little.

  39. Hello Cutty!

    This looks like a great program and gym machines and weights always intimidate and confuse me so i never try them but your schedule looks doable ๐Ÿ™‚

    i’m a female 5’5″ and about 160, i need to lose so badly, I hate all this weight I’ve put on!
    My question is, would you recommend swapping any of these out for a woman? Like the lat pull ups, I’m not looking to really muscle my arms a lot, but I do tend to put on on my upper arms and would like to lose that flab!


    1. I would invite you to check out The Byrn. It is my friend’s site I help with that is designed for women. The workouts there are designed for women but use the same type of exercises that I advocate.

      The amount of work you would have to do to become “bulky” like most women fear would be to train in the gym for 5 years, maintain an immaculate diet, and train harder than most people are willing to put in.. simply put it doesn’t just “come on.” Testosterone helps build muscle and as you know, ladies have much, much less than men. The exercises here are functional and build a balanced physique and performance and I wouldn’t recommend switching them out unless you simply cannot do them.

      There’s a few articles about transitioning from machines to free weights, how much weight to choose when lifting, etc on there so I would definitely invite you to check that website out to. This program would work well for men or women.

  40. Cutty,

    Any recommendations for exercises to add to the workout to target lower belly fat and love handles?

    On week 7 and still going strong! Thanks!

    1. Patrick,

      Glad to hear things are chugging along. You can’t really spot reduce fat but the belly fat and love handles can be worked on.. start cutting 100-200 calories a day. Maybe switch up your cardio – if you’ve done liss try hiit and vice versa.


  41. Hello! I just signed up at a YouFit Gym here in Dallas, I am on a budget and cant afford a PT to design a workout routine so I used google and stumbled upon your site. I love this and it’s almost exactly what I would be paying $90 a month for. I am in need of loosing about 50 pounds, but I am no stranger to a gym, cardio and the equipment (I just got lazy and complacent). Thank you for providing such useful and amazing information!

    I want to start this 12 week program. I see that cardio is best after the resistance training. How long and of what type of cardio for the most benefits? Or do you have another suggestion for intense weight loss/body toning workout routine?

    1. Kirstin, I’m glad to hear you found this helpful! Any cardio will be great for weight loss. Pick an activity or machine that you can do comfortably without hurting yourself. (if your ankles/knees hurt too much to walk 20-30 minutes, try a bike or elliptical).

      The better conditioned and more active you get, the easier it will be to do anything. Ease into the cardio if you need to and just keep chugging along. Good luck!

  42. Awesome! Thank you so much! As you suggested I’ll start with 10 mins fast walk before as a warm up. Then finish with 15 mins. I can walk far and fast easily so I’ll use an elliptical or bike with higher resistance. I will also be biking to the gym because it’s only 3 blocks away.

    Oh is there a stretching routine pre and post workout?

    Again this is amazing!

    1. Sounds good! The majority of people do not need to stretch, actually.. Watching people stretch before workout is only needed for certain performance and corrective stretches. But for a regular gym goer, you do not need to stretch unless your physician has specified.

      Doing mobility work and things like Yoga help, but static stretches are not needed.

      Good luck ๐Ÿ™‚

  43. Cutty,

    You answered earlier for Barbell Lunges – 1 rep would be 1 step so 36 rep goal would mean 18 per leg.

    Does this same apply for DB Curls??

    Thanks for putting this routine up.


    1. For those you would want to do 36 total for each arm. So if you are alternating, count 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, etc.

      The bicep is smaller and can recover much faster than muscles involved with lunges.

      Hope this helps!

  44. Hi there,

    I have to say this is by far the best work out plan I have come across online. Furthermore what’s really good to see is that the effort you go through to answer each and every question and that too for years now. Hats off to you.

    Now to the work out, I’m a regular gym goer but feel I need to change my plan to going so giving this a go soon. I just wanted to ask for Cardio is it ok to do hiit one week and maybe moderate intensity the week after so keep things changing?? Also due to time restraints can I do my Cardio on my days off in the morning. Can do that fasted which you said was also beneficial?

    1. Yes to everything :).

      The point of getting up and doing something is what will help keep progression moving. I would encourage changing up the pace like this so you can always have something different to look forward to. Cardio in a fasted state certainly helps – I usually lift in a fasted state as well but that is more of a personal preference than anything.

      Good luck and let me know how it goes and how you like the workout!


  45. Thanks for the prompt response. Couple more questions, firstly can I replace the front Squats with Deadlift? And secondly is it ok if we exceed our rep goal? I suppose that’s the cue to putting some more weight on the bar I suppose.

    1. Sorry I’ve been sick. I would replace front squats with goblet squats if you wanted to replace it. For the rep goal, go ahead and stop at your goal and then write it down. Definitely up the weight next time.

  46. Sorry to hear about your illness. Hope you are feeling better now. Wanted to ask you another thing, can we increase/decrease the weight in order to make sure we reach our rep goal. So let’s say if I’m struggling to complete my goal and I am in the final set can I take some weight off to ensure I hit my goal. Similarly if before the start of the last set I feel I can hit my goal even if I was to add some weight can I do that?

    Many thanks once again.


    1. Thank you for the kind words. For adjusting the weight – The way I have set up rep goals, you are able to gauge where you are every time you to go the gym. Some days it will be hard, others it may be easy – but they are consistent.

      This has a little auto regulation built in and it helps with recovery. I would advise to stick with the weight throughout and take a failure if you need to or take a win and feel really great that day. If you try your method, let me know how you like it.

      Good luck!

  47. Hello,

    Glad to have found this plan I have been trying to find a system that works for some time! One question, So add the cardio before each workout A, B… etc?

    Thank you sherie

    1. I generally tell someone to add cardio after you lift weights. There are many benefits and you are able to push yourself harder while lifting. Doing cardio before lifting is not bad if that’s what you prefer to do.

    1. Yes, you add 2 minutes each week. So for one whole week you’ll do say 10 minutes, next week 12 minutes, week after that 14, etc. You can use whatever machine/way you like to do cardio.

  48. Hello Pal,

    Just writing to give some feedback. Absolutely loving the programme. Have seen sustainable gains increasing the weight I lift every two weeks. Diet has been reasonably good as well although I do give myself one cheat day a week. Looking forward to completing the programme and hopefully reaching the fitness goals. Just one question, I aim to do my Cardio after the weight session as you advised however a few times I had to skip the Cardio due to time restraints however I walk around 5 to 6 km every day for my work at a good pace. Can that be considered a substitute for the day I do miss out on the Cardio in the gym? Many thanks.

    1. If you have to miss cardio, don’t sweat it so much. The activity you do at work is something your body gets used to so while it’s still healthy to walk that much every day, I don’t know if you would benefit from it as much as a short HIIT cardio session.

      All in all it sounds like everything is going well and I would just do what you have been doing. Don’t sweat the small things and just work on dialing everything in!

      Good luck and keep me updated.

  49. Don”t think i understand the sets and rep goals, so for example. Squat 5 25
    Does this mean i have to do 25 x 5 sets? for a total of 125 squats? Thanks again for this program cant wait to try it once i get the response!

    1. You get 5 sets to get 25 reps. Think of it like a 5×5 but if you have more juice in the tank to do more than 5 that set, do it.

    1. That has been something I had planned on doing. I have been tossing the idea around about an app that you can load up your workout routine and keep track, etc.

      Good luck, let me know if you have any questions!

  50. Hey
    I am going to start the 12 week Cardio and Weight Training Program on Monday. I am intermediate level fit I would say. I want to ask, the way I work out now, after each set of 3 x 12 reps weights, I do a set of 3 x 12 reps core workout ( I do about 30 different ones during the course of the week) and then 12 push ups and 1 set of jump rope (70 per set at the moment).
    My questions is, if I can continue to do the sit ups and jump rope sets after each 3 set per weight workout?
    I am excited! Thank you!

  51. Hi Cutty

    I stumbled across this site looking for a new gym program and I just realized, my previous gym buddy used it for our gym sessions with his own twist!

    I’m an hour glass shape and what I found was, I was toning and gaining strength considerably in my upper body which was great, but for some reason, my lower body is still a struggle.

    My weight picked up over 2016 from bad choices, but I’m back to my responsible eating habits. Though I also have not lost any weight.
    We never included cardio to the mix, could this be the issue?

    Thanks for the program!

    1. That’s pretty awesome that your previous gym buddy used it! Doing cardio/conditioning work would certainly benefit you for obvious health reasons, but I think that the synergistic effect would certainly start pushing you in the right direction. I have had people who eat reasonable and lift, but are sedentary in the rest of their life, without losing weight. They added some easy cardio throughout the week and it started to change their physique. So I would recommend trying cardio out before you try to change other things (eating habits, calories, macro adjustments).

    1. You basically want to pick a weight you have to really work with to get the reps. So if you have a rep goal of 25 reps in 5 sets, you want to pick something that you can do 6 or 7 in 1 set. You could start lower and work your way heavier, but a good rule of thumb is to pick a weight that you can do 1 or 2 more than your set. For example: 36 in 3 sets = 3 sets of 12 so pick something you can do 13-15.

      Starting too heavy will be discouraging and you’ll not like the workout, so lean towards a lighter side and then strive to add weight each week.

  52. Hey Cutty…

    Sometimes it’s tough for me to get to the gym on consecutive days with work and my daughter’s various schedules (the joys of being the dad of a teenager!). Do the workout days need to be consecutive? Or can they be split up differently?

    This seems like the perfect program for me to switch into as I’ve become a bit stale with what I was doing previously. Thanks for posting it! I’m looking forward to starting tonight!

    1. You can train as your schedule permits. Try getting a couple of rest days into your week as well and I think you will do just fine.

  53. Hi,

    Came across this and would like to have a little more information as it would be a huge help.

    I’m 184 Cms and 185 LBS. I am looking to tone my body and lose fat % mainly to reduce my love handles and pointy chest which I have had to go through all the time. Is there an alternative for pull ups as I have never been able to do them. Also do you reckon the workouts you have given along with proper diet will yield results for my transformation journey?

    Your assistance would be highly appreciated.

    1. You will lose weight by cleaning up your diet. I’ve been injured and unable to lift and I’ve cut a lot of weight just by eating right. I try to cook as many meals as I can, and I maintain a “not-so-strict” intermittent fasting protocol. I generally will have a 20 hr fast, 4 hr feeding window. If you’ve never heard of intermittent fasting, I wrote a little article here.

      If you eat correctly and use this program consistently and put in the work, you will have more success than the others who “wing it.” However, reading a lot of articles but not actually putting the information to work will not. Start slow and work your way up if you need to ๐Ÿ™‚

  54. Hey,

    Nice article and full of information. I’m definitely going to start this program soon because I have been plateaued for awhile and needed the changes. I only have one thing to ask which is about meal plans? Is it possible for you to give us meal plans and from there I can work around to my liking? Something of meal plans that suit the program that you have provided.

    Another question is where do I do abs workout when I start seeing the result or do it in the last couple weeks of the program?

    1. I would invite you to use My Fitness Pal and work your favorites into it. I still fight with issues of NEEDING to eat certain foods and I make sure to cook as much as I can of my own food and watch calories. The results for your abs will come once you start dialing in your diet… you make abs in the kitchen.

      I invite you to check out my nutrition articles, while I don’t go into extreme detail (working on that), I give plenty of options and ideas.

  55. Hi i see all the weight training but wheres the cardio. Also should I do cardio after weight training and what cardio can i do while following this plan

    1. There’s a cardio section. Start getting out and enjoying a sport. Thinking outside of the gym can be fun and rewarding.

  56. Hi, I’m 15 and looking to get into working out. I found your 12 week program and I’m interested. I was wondering if this is the right beginner workout or not and to give any tips. I want to lose a little weight and gain a little muscle in it’s place as I am slightly chubby. I am 161cm and 57kg

    1. You will enjoy the changes you see in your body with this routine. Clean up your diet where you can and get more cardio/conditioning work in and you’ll notice results fast.

    1. That really depends on your own conditioning level. I would start off by going until you are feeling pretty tired and use that as a baseline. So if you can go 15 minutes at a certain speed or intensity, start with that and strive to go longer. HIIT training you could get some great work done in 20 minutes or LISS you could stick to a 30-60 minute session. Think outside of the box and figure out ways to incorporate activity and sports into your home life. Go on hikes, walk the park, etc.

    1. Try goblet squats. Hold a dumbbell just under your chin and then do squats. It’s been amazing for increasing my mobility as well as hitting my quads and core.

  57. Hey Cutty,

    Loving the program.

    This is a silly question and hopefully not one many people have to deal with, but my gym is in my apartment complex. Unfortunately, someone recently stole my “go-to” weights – the weights I use for the majority of exercises. So, until they re-appear or my complex replaces them I will have to go up or down in my weight amount. What would be better to do: more reps with less weight, or more weight with less reps?

    1. Try both, the stimulus is different in each type of lifting so switch it up, write down what you did, so next week you can go bigger ๐Ÿ™‚

  58. Hey just a couple questions to clarify, so this may be a dumb question but how do I know how much weight to use and when to raise the weights?

    1. If you’re new to the gym, spend a couple weeks getting used to the movement, using hardly any weight. Try to take a friend or find someone in the gym that can help you. Once you get the form down, you can start slow and work on adding 5 or 10 pounds per week. If you do all of your sets and it was easy, certainly add more. Eventually it will be hard, but you keep going and adding 5 pounds per week until you fail your reps.

      Take a deload or cut the weight down 5 lbs next week, and take another run at it. Learn to read your body and the rest will come easy.

  59. Hi Curry

    I am looking forward to beginning your program. I have one question regarding cardio., the thing is i commute to work on my bike, I am doing 34 miles a day to and from work. Also i would like to do my strength training in the evening when I am back from work. I know you said we should do cardio after strength training, so will my cycling have a negative effect on my training. Thanks, Noman

    1. Your body has probably become acclimated to the riding, so doing your strength training at night shouldn’t be an issue. Keep up the good work, I know people who don’t go to work when they live a mile away and have a car.

    1. The goal is to get 25 reps in 5 sets. If that means you get 6 the first set, 6 the next set, 5 the next set, 4 the next set and 4 on the last set. Get 25 reps within 5 sets. It’s different than 5×5 because you are pushing yourself to your near limit each set instead of stopping at 5.

  60. Hi. Just getting started. Looking for clarification on sets vs. reps in this program.

    If an exercise calls for 5 sets and rep goal of 25 then am assuming that the point is to achieve roughly 5 reps for each set?


    1. Yes. The trick with the rep goal is if you have more in the tank that set, go for it. It pushes you further and eventually makes you use more muscle fibers.

      Let me know how you like it!

    1. Feel free to add in extra ab work in this program. The compound movements will build a strong core, but some prefer to add more volume.

  61. Hi, Ive decided to take on this 12 week plan as it looks exactly what I am looking for, but I’m slightly confused on the weight for each exercise, does that mean that I decide what weight? Thanks for taking the time to look at my message.

    1. Choose a starting weight that you can complete all of the reps and sets. Work your way up from there. I generally advise people to start with something that they can do 12-15 reps with and move up from there.

  62. what is a light squat? I watched the video but it looks the same as a regular squat…. never mind about the previous comment, I didn’t read far enough down the page…

  63. Hi cutty

    Just wanted to say that your program has been amazing for me. Simple, easy to follow and I’m already seeing gains 8 weeks into the 12 week program

    I feel stronger, certainly my core strength has improved.

    At age 51, I’m finding the belly and waist fat difficult to shift. Whilst I’ve lost 2% body fat, the belly is still there lol. I’m not tubby by any imagination, but it would be nice to at least see my belt buckle by week 12 lol. Any suggestions on how to shift the waist fat?

    Again, great program, thank you



  64. Hello, thanks for the advice, I’ll look into what you suggest.

    I do try to load up on protein, difficult sometimes to get the 160g suggested


    1. If you had the extra cash I would recommend some MTS whey. It’s some of the best and purest stuff I’ve had. I personally know Marc Lobliner and I am also a writer for Tiger Fitness. If you don’t hit it every day that’s fine.. try to get enough calories in so that you are building muscle. I would recommend some more fats instead of protein if you’re having troubles hitting it.

  65. Just stumbled on this and I’m going to give it a shot. I’m 55, recently lost 30 lbs by cleaning up my diet, some light cardio and weight training 3-4 days a week. Been doing a 4 day split routine, 3 exercises each body part, 3X15. Have not taken any supliments other than a multi-vitamin and fish oil. Looking to lose another 10-20 while getting a little stronger and most important, not hurting myself. Will post results.

    1. That sounds like a great plan. The more you clean your diet up, the stronger and “cleaner burning” your body will be. I love me some fast food but I know the effect it has on me.

      You’ll certainly lose the fat if you maintain this trend. Keep me posted.

  66. i want to combine calisthenics with weight lifting. Do you have any suggestion? Or at least can you combine this workout plan with calisthenics

    1. You can add it in, just listen to your body and see where exactly “too much” extra calisthenics is and then go from there. The better your conditioning gets, the more you’ll be able to do.

  67. I work as a flight attendant and the gyms sometimes don’t have good equipment. will substituting some of the workouts for something els in those days still work. for example Barbell to dumbbell?

    1. Yes it will. Making use of what you have is part of the game. Make it a challenge when you have minimal equipment to get the best workout you can.

  68. I got injury when I do front squats. Do you have other exercise to replace it? If you can, can you explain difference between squats and back squats

    1. Front squats = mostly quads, back squats = mostly posterior chain.

      Try goblet squats; grab a dumbbell and use both hands to hold it up near your chest. Squat deep and go for it. This is a great one to help with squat mobility, conditioning, and quad development.

  69. I am 58yrs I quit smoking almost 12 months ago and my weight is 265 and had stents put in I want to know if this program is good for me. I’m 5’8″

    1. While I can’t speak about your overall health, this program is great for anyone who wants to get in shape. I would recommend a workout like this for someone like you, but I would consult with your doctor before starting.

      Keep in touch and let me know how you progress!

  70. Hi Cutty,

    I am training for obstacle course races – such as Spartan Race and Tough Mudder. Would this be a good plan to follow to train for those? Or do you have another plan you may recommend? It seems like a lot of the training plans for these events tend to use “crossfit-type” workouts, but I don’t have access to that type of equipment. Any guidance is MUCH appreciated! Thanks!

    1. While I’m not the most athletic person (in fact, I would not be able to make it through one of those type of races), the main focus you need to work on is conditioning.

      Conditioning is what allows you to do a full race without being exhausted. The better conditioning you have, the more work output you can produce. Getting stronger, obtaining better balance, and getting more agility come with time and practice. Look at lifting weights as a tool to improve upon your skills. I guarantee you that if you started squatting and deadlifting more, you will start running faster, jumping higher, and start building a physique you will be impressed with.

      So while this program is designed for anyone to use, it will work. Any of my routines will work for any application, it’s how you apply it to your situation. For you I would recommend getting overall stronger, putting more emphasis on mobility, agility, and conditioning, and then pounding the weights to get stronger.

      I hope this helps, ask any more questions you have!

    1. Think of a 25 rep goal over 5 sets as a 5×5 except don’t stop at 5 in a set if you have more in the tank. It’s a way to push yourself closer to failure while having an easy way to tell if you are progressing.

      If you hit 25 reps, add weight next week. If you don’t hit it, come back next week with the same weight and see if you can get one more rep than you did last time. It doesn’t sound like progress, but getting 1 more rep at the same weight than you did last week is an improvement.

  71. Hi Cutty,

    Thanks for sharing this workout routine. I have been working out in the past (without following a good diet) and ofcourse haven’t seen good results. So now I came across this workout plan and I’m going to give it a shot with a healthy diet and watching my calorie intake. I have a few questions though.

    * These workouts are suitable for women or just men?
    * What form of cardio would you suggest to club with these workout routines? For instance 20 min treadmill running with workout A, something else with workout B and so on.?
    * I find yoga to be a stress reliever. On the days off, would yoga be a good option to keep the body going or am I pressing myself too much?

    I’m a female, 29 years, 5’2″, 65 kilos.

    Many thanks

    1. Pikakshi, our sister site TheByrn.com utilizes mostly the same exercise selection and routines. They are great for male or female, and with a reasonable diet, you’ll notice tremendous changes.

      You can do whatever type of cardio and conditioning you’d like. From a brisk walk outside, swimming in a pool, or busting out a sweat session on a treadmill, anything will work. The main point is to get your heart rate elevated. Try to switch things up and keep things interesting.

      Yoga is a great option. Anything that is active mobility or recovery is great. Yoga eases the body and mind, so please keep doing yoga.

      The more active you get, the easier “being healthy” will be. You’ll not have cravings for bad food, you’ll start seeing how much better your body feels, and your overall quality of life will improve.

      Put in the work and reap the benefits. You can’t out-exercise a poor diet, but simply cutting out liquid calories and swapping a couple meals with nutritious whole foods will make a huge change. No need to only eat salads and yogurt.

      Good luck and keep me posted!

  72. I train in Martial Arts 2 days 45 minute sessions done non stop.
    What is an optimal workout for muscle and some extra strength?

  73. Reading this sounds like a program I’d like to try but I do have a question. Where is the ab work? I only see planks. I currently work abs at least twice a week.

    1. Squats, front squats, barbell rows, barbell lunges, cable crunches, and planks all work your core.

      Doing heavy compound lifts elicit more of a hormonal response than doing endless crunches. Doing endless sit ups and ab work do nothing but make you feel like you’re making progress – they create muscle imbalances and are not as effective as compound lifts for strength or hypertrophy.

      Add in more ab work if you’d like, although you won’t need it if you lift heavy.

  74. When doing these exercises is it that many reps per set and do you start with a weight that you can get these then work up?

    1. No, you basically have so many sets to do that many reps. For example, 5 sets with a rep goal of 25 could be a 5×5. You could also get 25 reps in 5 sets by doing 8 reps, 6 reps, 4 reps, 4 reps, 3 reps. You are striving to squeeze out as many reps per set, with 25 reps being your ending rep.

      I would recommend picking a weight you can do 10 to 12 reps with and then consider that your working weight. You can use lighter weights to warm up, but only count the reps that you use your working weight with.

  75. Vince l
    I am 68 and want to start this workout plan. Iโ€™m in pretty good shape just need to lose some belly fat and put on some muscle. My problem is , l have a torn shoulder tendon so l canโ€™t lift to heavy or do shoulder lifts. What can I do instead?

    1. I would ask your doctor. Shoulders are very complicated and I wouldn’t want to steer you wrong. I would invite you to do more lower body and conditioning work until your shoulder can heal.

  76. Hey, Iโ€™m a male 5โ€™2 182lbs and I want to lose fat and weight and get toned. I really want to drop to 120lbs can this program with good diet really help me reach my goal or should I try a different program

  77. Hey Im a male 29y/o 5 ’10 currently 224 lbs and have a question about the cardio part. In your opinion when is the best time to incorporate the cardio, before or after strength training? And how much water a day should I be consuming with my body weight at this time? Thanks and for the first time since high school and early college years im excited and motivated to complete this program !!

    1. Shane,

      Cardio is best done after you lift. It’s sort of like if you have 100% energy going into the gym, cardio will kill a bit of that off. Then you’re left with whatever energy you can muster up.

      If you do it after, you can go balls out on lifting and then you can do some steady state or a little HIIT cardio after and be fine. If you really want to change your lifestyle, start incorporating more physical activity outside of the gym and start enjoying life.

      For water, you probably don’t drink enough as it is so I would start just drinking water throughout the day. Keep water around so getting drinks are easy. I sometimes go hours without a drink (even if I want one) because I have to go get it or go out to the garage to get it.. The easier and more available it is, the less of a problem it will be to drink more.

      Hope this helps, keep me updated.

  78. I saw a reply to an earlier comment asking about lunges where you said 36 reps equals 18 per leg, so does that also go for all the other exercises listed that have a left and right component? Like for curls, does 36 reps actually mean 18 per arm? I’m slightly confused now, because I’ve always thought that for that type of exercise, doing each side once was considered one “rep.” Have I been doing twice as much as I need to? Thanks.

    1. Lunges are a separate monster. Just like you do 3 sets of 36 for curls, you do 3 sets of 36 curls per arm. So each arm gets the same amount of work.

      Barbell lunges are hard, so a lower volume should be used. Counting to 36 (or 40 if you are able to keep going) means you just did 18 (or 20) reps for that set (for each leg). You’re doing it right, just overthinking it ๐Ÿ™‚

  79. I appreciate the reply, but I possibly might be more confused now, lol. Let me see if have this: for doing curls, I do a total of 36 reps per arm (left curl + right curl = 1 total rep), but for doing lunges I just count each individual lunge (left lunge = 1 total rep, right lunge = another total rep) up to 36, which ends up being 18 for each leg. Is that correct? And lunges are the only exercise here that work that way

    Also, just to clarify from the first part of your reply…I understood the goal of 36 reps to be the goal for total reps across 3 sets. It’s not 36 reps for each set, right (which would be 108 total reps)? Thanks a bunch.

    1. Yes, look at it like “12 reps for 3 sets” but don’t cut yourself short if you have more in the tank after those 12. It’s to push yourself closer to failure and using a rep goal like this helps you see progress – even when it’s just one or two reps.

  80. If i’m doing hack squat instead of squat for workout B, what is an alternative for front squat? Can I do leg press?

    For workout D, what is an alternative to lunges? Can I also light deadlifts?

    1. Both would work. I would recommend trying out some goblet squats. It’s like a front squat, but you’re just holding a dumbbell up near your chest.

      I love doing these and they’ve improved my overall mobility.

  81. Hi! I’ve been looking for a good program that has cardio and weight training that won’t have me in the gym for 3hrs and I think yours will with great. I have just one question. I’ve noticed that the only chest exercises you have is incline barebell bench, and incline db flys. Why only incline and no regular bench press, or decline bench press?

    1. Decline bench is one of those exercises that look cool because you can push some heavier weights, but the return on your energy investment just isn’t there.

      While bench press is a king for developing chest, this workout is designed to build a more even physique and focuses on overall health and physical improvements. This isn’t going to be one that you look at to build mass – this is more of a “I’m new to the gym and want to start seeing results fast” type of workout.

  82. Hi, starting this tonight and wanted to know should the cardio be normal cardio or you can do Hiit?
    Thanks in advance

    1. If your fitness levels are up to par to do HIIT – I would recommend that. If you’re just starting out, you could still do HIIT with a little less intensity and work your way up. Either way is fine – get your heart pumping and keep it elevated.. that’s what mostly matters.

      Let me know how you progress!

  83. Hi there, the one issue I have is a bulging disk at the base of my back that I always have to manage carefully. I try to avoid doing barbell squats as a result as I have hurt my back before doing them. Can you recommend a good alternative leg workout that I could substitute to save from injury? Thanks!

  84. Question, I’m just trying to lose some weight at the moment, and I was always under the impression that doing less reps per set with more weight is more of a muscle building technique, as opposed to doing a lot of reps with little weight. For example, would it be more beneficial for me to do 5 sets of 15 for Inclined Bench, or 5 sets of 5 (with more weight)? I just want to shed about 20-25 pounds, then maybe do an 8 week muscle builder plan afterwards.

    Also, since I’m trying to lose weight, wouldn’t I incorporate more cardio into this plan? Am I just doing cardio on the same days as my workout days and then taking a break on the break-days as well? Or should I be doing cardio every day?


    1. You lose weight in the kitchen, not the gym. Lifting weights will elevate your heart rate, improve metabolism, and of course, build muscle and strength.

      Your rep range doesn’t have that much to do with the ability to burn fat, although higher reps with lighter weight – or a “bodybuilding” approach works. I’ve lost 100 pounds from doing a heavy 5×5 workout for months and I’ve also lost weight on a higher rep workout. Neither were that much different for me since I kept the same nutrition and activity levels.

      Cardio is heart health, you burn more calories lifting than you do cardio unless you do an extraordinary amount of cardio… in which you are burning your muscles to do.

      Think of cardio as physical activity and try to do things outside of the gym. Do a little warm up and post-workout cardio at the gym while you lift and get outside and move outside of the gym.

  85. Hi! I love this program and am seeing great results. I am 28, 5’5″ and 128 lbs. Is there a fitness program(s) of yours you would recommend to start after completing this one?

    1. While there are a lot of articles talking about “shocking your muscles” and trying new routines, I generally invite someone to run the same routine until it starts to not produce the same amount of progress. Switching to a new program generally takes two to three weeks to actually see any results, so every time you switch routines you are essentially slowing your progress.

      Check out the workouts page and see what works best for you. I have different types like a full body routine, three day, four day routines. Find one that sparks your interest.

      I’ve been busy with family emergencies and I’ve unfortunately been able to write much, but that’s changing soon!

  86. Hey Cutty, Iove your site and thanks for this amazing plan! I have been floundering without direction and just doing whatever for awhile now and Im thankful for the blueprint! Due to equipment availability and injuries (I’m 44 a former Marine and 20 year police officer) I may have to do some workarounds, but this is great straightforward information. Thank you!

    1. John, thank you for your kind words. Sorry for such a delayed response, I’ve had a lot of family emergencies keeping me from getting on much. If you have any questions let me know. I promise I’ll be around more.

    1. You can do cardio whenever, but I suggested performing 3 days of cardio per week for the first six weeks and then 4 days of cardio in the last 6 weeks. You can do these post-workout, you can do them in the morning before you go to work. Find a time that is best suited for you. The only suggestion I have is to not perform long bouts of cardio before you lift so your body is fresh and not fatigued.


    1. Total. Basically, it’s a 5×5 set but if you still have reps in the tank you don’t stop. So in theory you could do something like a set of 8, 6, 4, 4, 3 and hit the rep goal.

      Hope this helps!

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