Okay, so it has been awhile since you’ve been to the gym. Or maybe you’re a newbie who has never lifted weights before, period. (Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone.) Your body isn’t exactly in the shape you’d like it to be, and it’s time to do something about it, quick.

No need to panic – help is on the way. Her name is Mary Elizabeth Lado, and not only is she in phenomenal shape and a certified personal trainer but she’s also one of the world’s top figure competitors. When we asked her to create a workout to help put beginners on the path to a tighter, healthier, more appealing physique, she was more than happy to assist.

The result is the following four-week program designed especially for women who have been inactive but want to get on track. For those who have never lifted before, detailed descriptions and photographs for each exercise are included. For those who have previous experience, consider this a refresher course. Whatever your situation, your starting point to reclaiming your body is right here.


Mary created this workout to be both basic and all-encompassing. It provides a primer to many major weight-training movements (without overdoing it) while working the entire body so no area is overlooked.

“This program targets every aspect of fitness — muscle-building, cardiovascular health and fat loss,” she says.

During the first two weeks, you’ll work out three times a week. Which three days you want to train are entirely up to you, so long as you take rest days between workouts. (This might mean working out Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or whatever works best for your schedule.) You’ll train your entire body in every session with 12 exercises. Train each upper-body muscle group with 1-2 exercises — two for back, two for shoulders and one each for chest, biceps, triceps and abs.

Lower-body training, however, consists of four exercises, for two reasons: 1) The lower body is an area most women prefer to focus on, and 2) there’s simply more muscle below the waist than above it, what with such large muscle groups as the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings. The more muscle you have in a certain area, the more exercises it takes to train that area thoroughly. Perform each workout as a circuit, meaning you do one set of each exercise consecutively with minimal rest between sets, instead of doing all sets for one exercise (resting between each set) before moving on to the next. This gets you through your workout more quickly, and it keeps your heart rate elevated for cardiovascular and fat-burning benefits. During weeks 1 and 2, go through the circuit twice (the second time through, skip leg extensions and leg curls and do just 10 exercises total). Each set consists of 15 reps. (See workout table below for the entire four-week beginner’s program.)

“It’s best to start out with basic exercises to determine which muscles you’re working and to learn safe and proper technique,” Mary explains. “It’s also best to begin with a minimal number of sets, since you may not have been to the gym in some time and your body will feel the effects of it later in the form of muscle soreness. Doing too much too soon can also lead to injury, which is the last thing you want to have happen.”

Weeks 3 and 4 consist of the same exercises done in the same circuit fashion as in weeks 1 and 2, but you’ll go through the circuit three times per workout to increase the volume (total number of sets performed). We also add a day of training, so you’ll go to the gym four days a week total – for instance, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Amid the four weeks of weight training, this program also introduces cardiovascular conditioning to increase overall calorie- and fat-burning. Because you should do your lifting when you’re fresh and fully rested, Mary recommends performing cardio after each weight workout for 20-30 minutes on the machine of your choice.

At the end of four weeks, your body should feel firmer, stronger and healthier, not to mention more attractive. But don’t stop there. Just as this program progresses in both volume and frequency, your workouts need to continually advance to elicit further results. After a month of following the beginner program, Mary suggests splitting up your training so you work different bodyparts each day (for example, upper body one day, lower body the next), perform more sets for each one and substitute some new exercises.

Fortunately, every issue of M&F Hers includes intermediate- and advanced-level programs to elevate your training and help you achieve your long- and short-term goals. This first month will be a productive and rewarding endeavor — but it’s just the beginning. Hers

Mary’s Beginner’s Program
>> Perform this workout 3-4 times a week (three times in weeks 1-2, four times in weeks 3-4).
>> Do the exercises continuously as a circuit with minimal rest in between, repeating the circuit 2-3 times, depending on the week.
>> Begin each workout with a light cardiovascular warm-up of 5-10 minutes before lifting. After each workout, stretch for 5-10 minutes to maintain flexibility.

			                WEEKS 1-2	WEEKS 3-4  EXERCISE				SETS/REPS	SETS/REPS		  Legs  Exercise-Ball Wall Squat		2/15		3/15  Stationary Lunge			2/15		3/15  Leg Extension 				1/15		3/15  Lying Leg Curl			        1/15		3/15    Chest  Machine Chest Press			2/15		3/15    Back  Lat Pulldown				2/15		3/15  Seated Cable Row			2/15		3/15    Shoulders  Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press	        2/15		3/15  Incline-Bench Rear-Delt Raise	        2/15		3/15    Biceps    Barbell Curl				2/15		3/15    Triceps  Dumbbell Kickback			2/15		3/15    Abs  Bent-Leg Crunch 			2/15		3/15  

>> After weight training (weeks 1-4): Perform 20-30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio on the machine of your choice (treadmill, stair-stepper, exercise bike, etc.).