Intro to Iron Pumping

When my friend Caitlin (who just ran her first marathon!) consulted me to help her with a weight-lifting plan, I was stoked to help out.

Caitlin after her first marathon (Source)

Weight-Training vs Cardio

Like many women out there, she is a cardio machine but doesn’t have a regular weight training routine. I always tell my clients that healthy eating and cardio is what helps to “shrink” you, but weight training is what’s going to “tone” you and give your body an entirely different look. 

I devised the following workout plan to be done on 3 non-consecutive days each week, and utilizes a synergistic muscle split. Synergist muscles assist other muscles in performing the same movement –for example, when you do a “row”, you’re mainly working your back, but the biceps are assisting in the movement and makes them synergistic muscles. By splitting the muscle groups up this way, it helps to ensure that muscles aren’t overworked and have adequate time to rest and repair (when they repair, they grow back stronger and leaner).


Tips for This Workout Plan

-Combine with cardio (5 days per week, alternating intensities) for a complete routine

-Perform weight exercises on non-consecutive days in addition to a shorter cardio workout on that day (maybe 20 minutes of higher-intensity cardio)

Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps for each workout with 30 seconds of rest in between each set –just take a short rest in between sets and you’ll know when you’re ready to start the next one

-Choose weights that are challenging but that you can fully complete at least 10 reps at that weight for each set- you’ll need to push yourself to finish the last two reps of each set. If you can easily do 15 or more reps of that exercise with the current weight, you’ll know it’s time to increase the weight

-Begin each weight session with a 5-minute cardio warm-up and remember to stretch and cool down when you’re finished

-Follow each workout session with a high-quality protein source 30-60 minutes following the workout sesh (like cheese and an apple, a small protein smoothie, or almonds)

-Remember that healthy eating has so much to do with fitness and weight loss improvement—what we look like is 80% nutrition, 10% working out, and 10% genetics. Pair every fitness routine with clean and healthy eats 😀

-As always, honor your injuries and needs. If you’re injured or feel pain (as opposed to a “burn”), don’t do it! Double-check with a trainer for proper form on exercises and with a doc if you’re beginning a new fitness program

-Have fun! 😀

So here it is….

Intro to Iron Pumping Workout

Day 1: Shoulders, Chest and Triceps

Warm Up: 5 minutes of cardio

Overhead press


Stability Ball Push Ups


Lateral Raise

Cable Tricep Extension

Stability Ball Leg lifts


Day 2: Legs

Lunge and Lift

Stability Ball Hamstring Curl

Leg Extension

Stability Ball Calf Raises

Step Ups

Straight leg pullover crunch


Day 3: Back and Biceps

Seated Row

Lat pulldown

Stability Ball Ys and Ts (alternate between “Y” and “T” with light weights- 3 sets of 10 of each)

21s (can use dumbbells or barbells)

Stability Ball Back extension

Frog crunches

Hammer curls

Oblique V-up

© 2010 The Fitnessista


Please feel free to join Caitlin in her new weight training routine and I’ll also be starting a Winter Shape Up on January 18 😀

See ya for lunch <3

Happy training!


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  1. Lindsay on January 13, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    I just did the arms with 5 pound weights and a stability ball and WOW. I have been looking for a weight routine – thanks for doing the work to put this together – now I have no excuse for slacking!

    • Fitnessista on January 13, 2010 at 9:36 pm

      whoo hoo! i’m so glad you liked it 🙂

  2. Lee on January 13, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Cool! Thanks for posting these.

  3. Michelle on January 13, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Maybe this is a silly question but I am very new to iron pumping. Do you do each exercise once through and then do the next set after? In other words do you do 10-13 reps of each 1-8 exercise then start over again or do you do 3 sets of the first exercise then move to the next and so on?

    • Fitnessista on January 13, 2010 at 9:32 pm

      sorry i didn’t explain that part very well!
      do 3 sets of one exercise before moving on to the next 🙂

      • Michelle on January 13, 2010 at 9:53 pm

        Thanks G! You’re the best. I have been reading your blog for a while but never posted. One last question – when you say 5 minutes of cardio – how intense should this be? Example?

        Also – I, as many women I am sure, have really tight calf muscles and have read that this issue can cause many other issues. I am trying to add a nice cool down stretch to my work outs but I feel a bit lost. Do you have a good standard stretch routine (one that might especially focus on calfs but still well rounded) that one can add to their workout plan daily?

        • Fitnessista on January 13, 2010 at 9:59 pm

          hey michelle,
          easy cardio for the warm-up.. this is just to get your body moving a little
          a great calf stretch is to stand about a foot away from a wall and put one foot, toe up, against the wall, so your heel is still on the ground and the toes are against the wall. bend your front knee slightly and bring your body closer to the wall, repeat on the other side. remember to hold stretches for 15-25 seconds 🙂

  4. Theorist on January 13, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    this is fantastic! thanks! can’t wait to learn more about the winter shape up!

  5. Erika on January 13, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    WIsh you were here local to help me whip my arse into shape…great workout – can’t wait to give it a go 🙂 Thank you

  6. Emma on January 14, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Hi G,

    I love your blog!! And I just wanted to say THANK YOU. I was feeling so lost with my weights workouts and feeling like I was getting NOTHING out of it (my personal trainer has injured himself so is off work for a while), so this plan looks fantastic for me.

    Just a question… You say to do it on non-consective days… but my work schedule changes week to week. So would it be okay to do Day 1 and then Day 2 the day after and then have a day’s break and do Day 3? And should the days be done in that order or can they be mixed up ie Day 3 first, then Day 2, then Day 1?

    Thanks so much again! You’re a lifesaver and an inspiration.

  7. Karin on January 14, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Such a great post, thanks! I’m excited to try these workouts as I’m hoping to improve my strenght as well.

  8. Brenda M. on January 14, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Gina – thanks so much. Went to the gym for the first time last night and did your workout. A trainer was helping me and was reviewing the plan – when he saw the list of your exercises, he commented on what a great work out it was, and asked where I got it! 🙂 My goal is to lose 75 pounds this year (lost 65 last year), and your blog has been a wonderful help!

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 12:45 pm

      that’s awesome! it always makes me happy when a fellow trainer give compliments 😀
      best of luck to you with your fitness and weight loss endeavors- you can do it!

  9. Lindsay on January 14, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    This is great! I’m a loyal reader of Caitlin’s and also am at a complete loss when it comes to weight training. I’m training for my second half marathon and I know I should integrate more weight training while I prepare. Thanks for the tips!

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 12:44 pm

      you’re very welcome!
      thanks for stopping by the little blog.. hope to see you around here more often! 😀

  10. LindsayRuns on January 14, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    I love getting new move ideas from you, looks great!

  11. Allison on January 14, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Do you suggest skipping a day between any weight training or just skipping days between muscle groups? For example, should I do shoulders one day, legs the next, back a third then start over? I only train with weights 3-4 times a week, and I feel like training a muscle group only once a week might not produce results – or am I totally wrong? Thanks!

  12. Leah on January 14, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    Hi Gina,

    I did the first set of exercises (chest, arms and back) this morning and it was great! I’ve just started back on weights – I’ve really let it slide in the last year and I think that’s why I kept getting injured running. I’m now committed to doing your plan and hopefully I’ll see some results before too long!
    Keep up the great work!

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 8:59 pm

      i’m so glad you liked it so far 🙂

  13. Shayna on January 15, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    This routine came at the perfect time! I used to be really dedicated to my workout plan (working out 5-6 days a week), and then my lifestyle completely changed (got married, quit work, and started university). I struggled to find that balance again, this workout plan seems to be the perfect motivation to get me back into it! Thanks for providing this. I did the shoulders, chest and triceps yesterday… just breathing deeply hurts! I do have one question. On the days were I’m not doing weights, how long should my cardio sessions be?

  14. Tia on January 16, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Hey Gina. I really want to try this plan but I have one problem – no gym membership! All of the exercises you mentioned I can do at home (like regular rows for the seated cable row, etc…) except for the lat pulldown. What would you recommend to replace that?

    • Fitnessista on January 16, 2010 at 6:14 pm

      hey tia,
      do you have resistance bands??

      • Tia on January 18, 2010 at 9:15 am

        I have a pilates band.

        • Fitnessista on January 18, 2010 at 9:47 am

          i’d take the pilates band and wrap it around a railing, door way or stair well, then use the resistance bands to do the same movment

  15. Lindsay on January 20, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Thanks, this is just what I needed! I recently joined a gym and mostly use the classes or cardio machines, but get really intimidated by all the workout equipment. I’ve never gone in with a plan of what to do and I think that I where I have been lacking. I want to incorporate this into my routine and hope to see great results. I want to lose about 30 pounds. How often should I change a weightlifting routine? I’m also training for a half marathon in March

  16. Astrid on January 26, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Hello! I have started this program and just finished up the leg portion today. I like it and I’m super excited about having a nice strengthiening routine. I do yoga and cardio, but I’ve never consistently strength trained. Thank you for giving some guidance. I felt pretty awesome doing lunge lifts and step ups in the gym in front of the guys lifting their weights!
    Thank you for being so awesome.

    • Fitnessista on January 26, 2010 at 9:48 am

      hey astrid,
      that is so freaking cool! so glad you’re liking the program and that i could give a little help to get started 😀
      keep me updated!

  17. Sara on February 18, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Hi! I’m going to be using your plan as one of my goals for Lent. I hope you don’t mind that I included a link to your site on my web page. If it’s a problem, please feel free to let me know. Thanks. 🙂

    • Fitnessista on February 18, 2010 at 8:49 pm

      of course i don’t mind- enjoy!!!

  18. Chris on April 24, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    This is exactly what I have been looking for! I am a cardio person and have been in need of some weight training for a long time, but hesitant because I didn’t know where to begin. This plan is perfect.

    • Fitnessista on April 24, 2010 at 7:55 pm

      wonderful! please let me know what you think!

  19. I completed the 12 weeks and extended it to 16, which I will complete next week! LOVED IT, thank you! =)

    • Fitnessista on April 29, 2010 at 12:40 pm

      that’s so awesome!!!

  20. Lissi @livelearnrun on September 21, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    This looks great! A quick question, I was wondering if you have any alternatives for the exercises involving a stability ball? I don’t have room for one in my tiny dorm room at the moment, so I was curious. Thanks for the routine 🙂


  21. Emma on January 23, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    Thanks so much for posting these. I have been needing a more structured strength plan and this gives me something balanced and do-able. Just started it today:)

    • Fitnessista on January 23, 2011 at 8:32 pm

      so cool- let me know how it goes!

  22. Carol Graham on June 24, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    I just finished my first week using this training regimen, and I think it is great! I am still fairly new to this blog and am excited to read your past and future posts. -Carol

    • Fitnessista on June 24, 2011 at 3:07 pm

      thanks carol! so glad you’re enjoying it so far 🙂

  23. Sam on August 2, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Gina – You may have already done a post on this, but would you mind doing a post on beginner weight training someone could do at home? I was looking at the exercises above and it looks like some of those require a gym. Actually it looks like you answered that in the comments about using a pilates band. Well, if you have any changes to the above list, feel free to share. Love your blog! – S

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