If you’ve ever set foot in a gym during the first few weeks of January, you know that you’re far from the only one who’s planning on getting fit in the new year.

With that said, while everyone wants to get in shape and lose weight, very few women know how to go about doing it properly.

So, we’ve decided to make it easy for you- rather than go through the endless list of workout plans out there, we’re going to have you stick with the fundamentals.

Because when it comes right down to it, most workout plans can work…as long as they have these elements nailed down.

So with that said, here are the four things your workout plan needs if you want to be successful.

#1: Heavy Weight Lifting

This is something that women in particular are terrible at.  A lot of women seem to have it in their heads that lifting heavy weights will make them “big and bulky”.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.  The vast majority of women simply lack the bone structure and hormones to get “huge”.  In fact, most MEN find it incredibly difficult to get big and bulky…and they have about 8 times more testosterone.

At the end of the day, this should only be a concern for you if a.) you’re on steroids, or b.) you’re the rare women who has the genetic potential to pack on too much muscle (and if you are that woman, you probably already know it).

Here’s the deal- heavy weight lifting is one of the best things you can do for your body composition.  Not only will you build more muscle, but once you do get lean, that muscle is what will give you the “toned” look that most women are chasing (you’ll also spend less time in the gym, which is an added bonus).

So, what kind of exercises should be included in this list?  Generally speaking, you’ll be stick to what are called “compound exercises”.  These are movements that work a large group of muscles at the same time.  Think squats, deadlifts, bench presses, weighted chin-ups…you know, all that stuff you see guys doing.

No, you don’t have to become a champion powerlifter.  You don’t even have to do train heavy all that often.  Two or three times a week is more than enough.  But you do need to make it a part of your training.

#2: Isolation Exercises Tailored To Your Goals

If compound movements are those that work multiple muscles simultaneously, isolation movements are the opposite- movements that work muscles individually.

Compound movements are, as we discussed, fantastic, and should form the core of your workout.  However, like everything, balance is key, and you are going to want to include some isolation movements as well to balance things out.

Which isolation movements you choose should depend on you and your needs.  The problem with compound movements is, while they’re fantastic for developing strength and working a lot of different muscle groups, most people (men and women) find that certain muscles tend to get “left behind”.

A common example of this is the squat.  Many women find that they’re “quad dominant”, and that the squat puts more emphasis on this muscle at the expense of, say, the glutes (an area most women want to build up).

The way that you fix this is by adding some exercises that are better for isolating the glutes (hip thrusts, lunges, etc.).

The isolation movements you select for your workout will differ from woman to woman, but you should be focusing on a.) muscle groups you want to emphasize for aesthetic reasons, and b.) muscle groups that are “lagging behind”

#3: Proper Diet

Now that we’ve covered the actual workout itself, let’s talk about the component that almost everyone screws up- the diet.

There are literally dozens of effective diets you could choose from, and almost all of them (as long as they’re sensible) will produce results.  But at the end of the day, the ones that do work will have these two factors in common-

a.) Sufficient protein

b.) Appropriate calories

That’s it- the two main things you need to focus on.

Now, obviously when it comes to optimal health, there are a lot of other factors that go into it.  But, purely from a body composition perspective (i.e. your fat to muscle ratio) these are the two things that count.

You need to adjust your calories so that they support your goals.  For most women, this means fat loss, which means eating less calories than your body uses each day.

You also need to be eating enough protein to retain lean muscle mass and ensure that the weight you lose is fat (this helps you avoid that dreaded “skinny fat physique” that plagues so many women).

#4: Consistency

This is the last piece of the puzzle, and by far the most important- consistency.

You could have the best diet and workout in the world, but if you can only stick with it for two weeks…well, you’re not gonna lose very much weight, now are you?

By contrast, even a sub-optimal routine will produce some results if you stick with it for long enough.

Consistency is really what will make or break you.  This means not biting off more than you can chew.  Make sure your new diet and workout is manageable.

A Sample Plan

Monday

Bench Press: 5 sets of 5 reps

Overhead Press: 5 sets of 5 reps

Wide-grip Pushups: 3 sets of 15 reps

Tricep Pushdowns: 4 sets of 12 reps

Wednesday

Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps

Lunges: 4 sets of 12 reps

Barbell Hip Thrusts: 4 sets of 12 reps

Friday

Deadlifts: 5 sets of 5 reps

Chin-ups: 4 sets of 8 reps

Curls: 4 sets of 8 reps