Cycle Syncing to Burn Fat and Build Muscle – Off Topic – COMMUNITY

Coauthor: Curtis Stevens

The Ultimate Workout Split for Women

If you’re a woman, you shouldn’t be lifting the same way all month long. Here’s the most effective cycle syncing strategy for a leaner, harder body.

There’s an idea spreading quickly right now among women and fitness professionals: cycle-synced workouts. What does that even mean? Well, it’s the idea that women need to train in specific ways based on what phase they’re in within every 28-day cycle. And there are four phases within that period of time: menstrual, follicular, ovulatory, and luteal phase.

Not a bad idea, right? After all, the differences in our hormonal production from phase to phase vary dramatically. And the female hormone cycle can indeed hold the power to unlock insane fat-burning, muscle growth, and strength gains. You CAN improve your hormonal health and production through strategic exercise.

So, it makes sense to do it in a way that’d take advantage of those biological changes. Only problem? The most common cycle-syncing recommendations are geared toward those who have no intention of building muscle or strength. Their recommendations are also extremely oversimplified and misleading.

Trendy Cycle-Syncing Recommendations

Look closely at these phases and see if anything jumps out at you. Here’s how you “should” work out according to the people pushing cycle-syncing:

  • Follicular Phase: Moderate-intensity cardio like spin class or hiking
  • Ovulatory Phase: High-intensity (HIIT) workouts and interval training
  • Luteal Phase: Resistance training and Pilates
  • Menstrual Phase: Restorative movement like yoga or stretching

That looks like a whole lot of conditioning and stretching, right? They say it’s organized this way to avoid overburdening your body and to burn more fat. But, of course, you will not “overburden” your body by implementing sound weight training principles and recovering between sessions. And their recommendations are not based on any actual proven training principles.

They fail to account for the progressive overload necessary that’ll lead to actual changes in body composition. Think about it. The luteal phase lasts 12-14 days. And that’s the only time their weird, cycle-syncing schedule recommends lifting. So good luck making any progress.

Let’s Fix It

Cycle-synced strength training is the most effective way for women to burn fat and build lean mass without overtraining. Period.

Understanding how your hormones fluctuate throughout your cycle and pairing them with time-tested training modalities and progressive overload ensures you get long-lasting results. And you get them much faster than the weak, cardio-bunny recommendations above.

The Female Hormone Cycle

First, we have to go over some basic physiology. Each month, women move through four hormonal phases. During these phases, their key sex hormones fluctuate. These directly impact metabolic rate, energy levels, strength capacity, and muscle recovery rates (1).

There are a handful of key hormones, but let’s just briefly cover the big three:

  1. Estrogen: It’s the primary female hormone and a potent anabolic hormone that helps protect against exercise-induced muscle damage while also reducing inflammatory responses (2).

  2. Progesterone: Your “pro-gestion hormone” supports healthy conception. It’s only produced after ovulation and increases protein synthesis rate by 50%. Progesterone also decreases insulin response (3) and allows the body to metabolize fat for energy (4).

  3. Testosterone: It peaks during ovulation to trigger the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) to release the egg for ovulation. Testosterone increases endurance capacity, strength capacity, and lean mass development (5). It also increases glucose consumption, especially in high-intensity and anaerobic exercise (6).

To get the most out of these hormones, you’ll need very specific training methods and progressive overload that align with their fluctuations. This means you won’t follow the traditional “split” recommendations of following week-by-week progressions. Your splits and training variations are going to change when your hormones call for it.

This strategy aligns with your natural energy levels. Have you ever felt abnormally weak while doing high-intensity training? It likely didn’t align with your hormones. Or, more commonly, have you ever felt super unmotivated during your period? Yep, that, too, is because of your hormones.

Not only will this unlock improved results, but you’ll feel better in your workouts and get more out of them, making it easier to stay consistent.

How to Cycle-Sync Your Strength Workouts

Menstrual Phase (Days 1-5)

This is when your hormones are at their lowest, and your body is shedding excess uterine lining. Due to those low hormone levels, it’s natural to feel tired, want more rest, and experience a lower strength potential.

Your body is demanding a natural deload, so this is the time. If you need more rest, take it. If you feel like working out, keep your intensity low. At first, focus on light walking, mobilizing, and stretching. Then, as your energy starts to climb, focus on extremely low-intensity lifting.

Think higher rep sets with a low RPE (rate of perceived exertion) and focus on quality contraction. This ensures you get the most from your workout without burning out.

For example, you could complete a bodybuilding-style workout with rep ranges of 15-20 and an RPE of no more than 5. – meaning that you’re selecting weights that you could easily move for 15-20-plus reps.

Cardo-wise, keep it low intensity. Focus on walking or gentle yoga.

Follicular Phase (Days 6-10)

Your body is now preparing an egg for ovulation, so your estrogen begins to rise and will reach its highest right at ovulation.

Estrogen is your energy hormone. It increases energy, improves metabolic rate, increases anabolic response to exercise, and robustly improves response to endurance exercise (7, 8). As estrogen rises, your body can use more glycogen, which improves your ability to handle endurance training. Capitalize on this by focusing on hypertrophy and endurance-type lifting. Keep reps moderately high with a moderate RPE range.

As you get near the end of your follicular phase, when estrogen is close to peaking, focus on pushing higher strength capacities. Prioritize heavy weights (about 70-75% max) and medium reps with minimal rest periods. This type of training capitalizes on the naturally quicker recovery time benefits of estrogen.

For example, you could do 4 sets of 8 reps of compound exercises (bench press, deadlift, shoulder press, squat) with 75 seconds of rest between sets.

Cardio-wise, high-intensity interval training is ideal for improving cardiorespiratory fitness during the late follicular phase.

Ovulatory Phase (Days 11-15)

Estrogen continues to rise and testosterone peaks to help your body release the egg for ovulation. Due to this spike, your energy and strength capacity is through the roof.

Due to the rise in testosterone, your body is also more willing to burn fat as a fuel source (4) and it can store and use carbohydrates as energy (9,10).

High-intensity exercise and anaerobic exercise (think strength training, intervals, HIIT) can only be fueled by carbs. So, this is the time to push your intensity. Prioritize max weight (85-100% capacity) and reps for strength.

Think lower reps and minimal rest periods. This leverages the benefits of both testosterone and estrogen.

For example, you could perform 5-10 sets of 1-3 reps for compound exercises (squats, pull-ups, deadlifts) with 30 seconds of rest between sets.

Cardio-wise, high-intensity interval training is ideal during the ovulatory phase.

Early Luteal Phase (Days 16-19)

After ovulation, estrogen and testosterone drop and progesterone starts to increase. Progesterone helps increase protein synthesis rate and support recovery (11). To ensure your body has enough for potential conception, metabolic demand increases during this time, and insulin reactivity decreases. Estrogen will rise steadily again in this phase, contributing to supported anabolic response to resistance training.

In this phase, you still have the capacity to train heavier (85-100% capacity) with low-medium reps and medium rest periods. Longer recovery times and increased metabolic rate mean that recovery from these workouts is key. This is an ideal time to go for a PR (personal record) because you have the strength capacity and the time to recover between sets.

For example, you could complete 3 sets of 2-6 reps of compound exercises and 6-10 reps for accessory movements (lateral raise, rear delts, biceps, etc.) with one minute of rest between sets.

Cardio-wise, use a moderate intensity while estrogen is still high. Think Stairmaster, incline walking, or biking.

Late Luteal Phase (Days 20-28)

If conception doesn’t occur, progesterone levels will start to decline along with estrogen levels, with levels getting their lowest right before the start of flow.

Due to this decline, your body’s ability to handle intensity diminishes, and there’s an increased stress response associated with intense exercise during this phase. Metabolic demand is higher during this time, and the body is less willing to utilize fat as fuel.

As your hormones start to decline, so does your strength capacity and your body’s ability to handle intensity. Fat storage is higher here, so increased cortisol spikes due to overtraining can lead to diminished results. Focus on lower strength capacity (55-70%) and higher reps with longer recovery periods.

For example, complete sets of 8-12 reps of both compound exercises and 10-15-plus for accessory movements with one minute of rest between sets.

Cycle-Synced Strength Training for Untapped Gains

Here are the big takeaways:

  • You are not crazy or unmotivated when it comes to your workouts; your body is going through major shifts across each cycle phase. Rather than trying to force your body into submission and risk overtraining, adapt your intensities and diet to match these needs.

  • You should not have the same workout goals or even calorie-burn goals for every single workout. Setting those standards sets you up for failure.

  • You can use specific splits and performance training techniques to match your hormonal capacities at each phase. This means each week you will need a new rep range, intensity goal, and RPE goal to tap into this potential. Heck, it might change from one workout to the next, depending on when your cycle phases fall in that week!

  • Your progressive overloads should align with your natural hormonal capacities to unlock better results without compromising your hormone health.



  1. McNulty KL, Elliott-Sale KJ, Dolan E, Swinton PA, Ansdell P, Goodall S, Thomas K, Hicks KM. The Effects of Menstrual Cycle Phase on Exercise Performance in Eumenorrheic Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2020

  2. “Does The Menstrual Cycle Affect Exercise Performance?” Well Life Family Medicine, 4 May 2022. Accessed 27 November 2023.

  3. Nindl BC, Kraemer WJ, Gotshalk LA, Marx JO, Volek JS, Bush FA, Häkkinen K, Newton RU, Fleck SJ. Testosterone responses after resistance exercise in women: influence of regional fat distribution. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2001 Dec;11(4):451-65. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.11.4.451. PMID: 11915780.

  4. Hansen, M. (2018). Female hormones: Do they influence muscle and tendon protein metabolism? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 77(1), 32-41. doi:10.1017/S0029665117001951

  5. Kalkhoff RK. Metabolic effects of progesterone. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1982 Mar 15;142(6 Pt 2):735-8. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9378(16)32480-2. PMID: 7039319.

  6. Yeung EH, Zhang C, Mumford SL, Ye A, Trevisan M, Chen L, Browne RW, Wactawski-Wende J, Schisterman EF. Longitudinal study of insulin resistance and sex hormones over the menstrual cycle: the BioCycle Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Dec;95(12):5435-42. doi: 10.1210/jc.2010-0702. Epub 2010 Sep 15. PMID: 20843950; PMCID: PMC2999972.

  7. “Does The Menstrual Cycle Affect Exercise Performance?” Well Life Family Medicine, 4 May 2022. Accessed 27 November 2023.Oct;50(10):1813-1827. doi: 10.1007/s40279-020-01319-3. PMID: 32661839; PMCID: PMC7497427

  8. Troncoso MF, Pavez M, Wilson C, Lagos D, Duran J, Ramos S, Barrientos G, Silva P, Llanos P, Basualto-Alarcón C, Westenbrink BD, Lavandero S, Estrada M. Testosterone activates glucose metabolism through AMPK and androgen signaling in cardiomyocyte hypertrophy. Biol Res. 2021 Feb 5;54(1):3. doi: 10.1186/s40659-021-00328-4. PMID: 33546773; PMCID: PMC7863443.

  9. Hirschberg AL, Elings Knutsson J, Helge T, et alEffects of moderately increased testosterone concentration on physical performance in young women: a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled studyBritish Journal of Sports Medicine 2020;54:599-604.

  10. Devries, M. C., Hamadeh, M. J., Phillips, S. M., & Tarnopolsky, M. A. (2006). Menstrual cycle phase and sex influence muscle glycogen utilization and glucose turnover during moderate-intensity endurance exercise. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 291(4), R1120-R1128.

Source link

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply
Shopping cart