Cover all your bases with cardio, strength, and recovery in just 20 minutes a day.
Advertisement
cardio-strength-4-week-workout-planchallenge

Feeling aimless in your fitness routine? Not sure how to Tetris your cardio and strength workouts together to get the most results? This four-week workout plan for women will be like your personal trainer and accountability buddy in one, offering expert workout guidance and a solid schedule to keep you on track. Best part? Most of the workouts take 20 minutes or less — but be prepared to sweat.

"To really see results, you need to intensify your workouts," says Alwyn Cosgrove, owner of Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. (It's true; science confirms it.) That's why these quick workouts don't go easy on you. But stay consistent, and you're sure to see results from this workout plan even without logging crazy hours at the gym. Ready?

Your 4-Week Workout Plan

How it works: Follow the workout program calendar, doing each strength or cardio workout on the day indicated. If you have time, add a warm-up and cool-down to the beginning and end of your workout. (Don't forget to take rest days — your body needs them!)

Strength training workouts: The strength workouts included in this four-week workout plan for women are short (only four exercises each) but intense. By alternating upper- and lower-body moves in supersets, which are alternating sets of two different exercises with no rest in between, you'll keep your heart rate elevated and maximize calorie burn while working every muscle in your body. For each workout: Do 12 to 15 reps of the first two exercises back-to-back, then rest for 60 to 90 seconds; repeat for 2 to 3 sets. Repeat with the second two exercises. Remember to use a weight that is challenging enough to fatigue your muscles by the end of the set. (Don't skip strength days; you'll score all these benefits from lifting weights.)

Cardio workouts: This workout plan breaks cardio into two parts: Steady-state cardio and intervals. On weekends, you'll do a longer, moderately paced workout (walking, swimming, cycling, etc.) to stay active and improve endurance and during the week, you'll take on two interval workouts. Below, you'll find all four weeks' worth of interval running workouts for the treadmill (though you can technically use any cardio equipment, be it a rower, bike, or elliptical). You'll use your rate of perceived exertion (RPE), or how difficult the exercise feels on a scale of one to 10 (10 being the hardest). If the workout feels too easy, try adding the suggested challenge.

You'll Need: 5- to 8-pound dumbbells, stability ball, workout bench (or sturdy chair), body bar or barbell (optional), ankle and hand weights (optional), treadmill or other form of cardio equipment (optional)

woman-doing-strength-training-workout-4-week-workout-plan
Credit: Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/Getty Images

Strength Workout 1

Dumbbell Press Squat

Targets: quads, glutes, hamstrings, shoulders

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding the 5- to 8-pound dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height, palms facing forward (not shown).

B. Squat down, extending arms above head.

C. Stand up and lower arms to starting position

D. Repeat.

Keep it easy: Hold weights at sides.​

Challenge yourself: Hold weights above head throughout the exercise.

Ball Push-Up

Targets: triceps, chest, abs, shoulders

A. Get into a push-up position, with hands shoulder-width apart on the stability ball, keeping back straight and abs pulled in.

B. Lower chest toward ball, pointing elbows out, keeping abs tight and head aligned with hips.

C. Push back to starting position and repeat.

Keep it easy: Do the move on the floor without the ball.​

Challenge yourself: Raise a leg while doing the move.

Bulgarian Split Squat

Targets: hamstrings, quads, glutes

A. Stand with back 2 to 3 feet away from the bench or sturdy chair. Place top of right foot on seat.

B. Bend left knee 90 degrees, keeping knee aligned with ankle. Hold 2 counts, straighten leg in 4 counts and repeat.

C. Switch sides after 1 set; repeat.

Keep it easy: Do alternating lunges without the bench.​

Challenge yourself: Hold the dumbbells at sides while keeping back leg on bench.

Dumbbell Clean and Press

Targets: shoulders, hamstrings, glutes, quads

A. Stand with the weights in front of thighs, palms facing in.

B. Squat down, dropping the weights just above knees.

C. Draw the weights up to chest, as close to torso as possible (not shown).

D. Stand straight, rotating palms to face forward, and press the weights above head (not shown).

E. Lower to starting position; repeat.

Keep it easy: Don't squat down; draw elbows up only toward shoulders.​

Challenge yourself: Make the movement explosive as you pull the weights toward your chest and above your head.

Strength Workout 2

Dynamic Lunge

Targets: hamstrings, quads, glutes

A. Stand with feet parallel and shoulder-distance apart, holding the pair of dumbbells at sides.

B. Lunge forward with right leg, bending right knee 90 degrees and bringing left knee close to ground.

C. From this position, explosively push off right foot and return to starting position.

D. Switch legs; repeat.

Keep it easy: Don't use any weights; make the movement less explosive.​

Challenge yourself: Hold a body bar or barbell across your shoulders.

Opposite Arm/Leg Lift

Targets: back, abs, glutes

A. Lie facedown on the stability ball with hands and toes touching the floor.

B. Tighten abs and glutes, and simultaneously raise left arm and right leg.

C. Switch legs and arms; repeat.

Keep it easy: Do the exercise on the floor on all fours without the ball.​

Challenge yourself: Add ankle and hand weights.

Step-up

Targets: quads, glutes

A. Place right foot on the bench or step (if possible, find a bench or step that's slightly above knee height).

B. Pushing through right heel, straighten leg, bringing left leg toward right (don't let left foot touch the step).

C. Lower left foot toward floor without touching, then straighten right leg again.

D. Do 1 set; switch sides.

Keep it easy: Touch the top of the step and the floor with each rep.​

Challenge yourself: Hold the dumbbells with arms at sides.

Prone Jackknife

Targets: abs

A. Get into a push-up position with hands on the floor aligned under shoulders.

B. Place feet on the stability ball with legs extended, abs pulled in toward spine for balance.

C. Slowly draw knees in toward chest without twisting spine or shifting hips.

D. Roll ball back to starting position with feet; repeat.

Keep it easy: Lie with back on top of the ball and do crunches.​

Challenge yourself: Lift hips toward ceiling in an inverted "V."

woman-running-treadmill-intevals-part-of-4-week-workout-plan
Credit: spyderskidoo/Getty Images

Strength Workout 1

Follow the instructions below for the number of seconds or minutes indicated. (If you want to level-up your workout plan, add another round of sprints!)

Week 1

0:00-5:00: Walk at 3.5-3.8 mph (RPE 4)

5:00-5:20: Sprint at 6.5-8.0 mph (RPE 9)

5:20-6:50: Recover by walking at 3.0-3.5 mph (RPE 3)

6:50-10:30: Repeat sprint series 2 more times, alternating 20-second sprints with 90 seconds of recovery.

10:30-15:00: Walk at 3.5-3.8 mph (RPE 4)

Week 2

0:00-5:00: Walk at 3.5-3.8 mph (RPE 4)

5:00-5:20: Sprint at 6.5-8.0 mph (RPE 9)

5:20-6:20: Recover by walking at 3.0-3.5 mph (RPE 3)

6:20-10:30: Repeat sprint series 2 more times, alternating 20-second sprints with 60 seconds of recovery.

11:40-20:00: Walk at 3.5-3.8 mph (RPE 4)

Week 3

0:00-5:00: Walk at 3.5-3.8 mph (RPE 4)

5:00-5:30: Sprint at 6.5-8.0 mph (RPE 9)

5:30-6:30: Recover by walking at 3.0-3.5 mph (RPE 3)

6:30-12:30: Repeat sprint series 4 more times, alternating 30-second sprints with 60 seconds of recovery.

12:30-15:00: Walk at 3.5-3.8 mph (RPE 4)

Week 4

0:00-5:00: Walk at 3.5-3.8 mph (RPE 4)

5:00-5:30: Sprint at 6.5-8.0 mph (RPE 9)

5:30-6:00: Recover by walking at 3.0-3.5 mph (RPE 3)

6:00-13:00: Repeat sprint series 7 more times, alternating 30-second sprints with 30 seconds of recovery.

11:40-20:00: Walk at 3.5-3.8 mph (RPE 4)