Muscle & Strength’s 12 Week Women’s Workout Program

This 12 week women's specific training program is perfect for any healthy woman who is looking to transform her body through a good weight lifting program.

Workout Summary

Lose Fat
Split
Beginner
12 weeks
5
45-60 minutes
Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, EZ Bar, Machines
Female
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Workout Description

For women, starting a new weight training program can be a daunting and frustrating process.

With all of the incorrect information out there, it’s tough to find something that actually works.

For years the wrong workout recommendations have been given to women.

You know what I’m talking about.

All those magazine articles that promote those highly restrictive diet plans and hours of monotonous treadmill based cardio. The same one’s that go on to describe the “toning” process as picking a light set of dumbbells and performing sets of 20-30 repetitions on any given exercise.

Knowing all we know about female specific training today, we can put some of that in the past.

Muscle & Strength’s Women's Trainer Workout

This 12 week program is perfect for any healthy woman who is looking to transform her body through a good weight lifting program.

The goal is to help you develop lean and functional muscle tone through foundational lifts. The workout itself targets your lower body three times a week with a strong focus on your glutes, and your upper body twice a week with a focus on sculpting the muscles of the arms.

To increase the total number of calories burned each day, we’ve also added some recommended cardio sessions that you can do either in the morning or after that day’s workout. However, if you are limited on time, they are not required to see progress with this workout.

Rest periods for this program should be kept to 30-90 seconds in between sets and exercises.

Day 1
Monday - Legs & Glutes
Legs
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Squat 3-4 6-12
2. Dumbbell Lunge 2-3 12-15
3. Dumbbell Step Up 2-3 12-15
Glutes
Exercise Sets Reps
4. Barbell Hip Thrust 3 6-12
5. Glute Cable Kickback 2-3 12-15
Cardio
15 min of HIIT on Stationary Bike
Day 2
Tuesday - Back & Arms
Back
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Pull Downs 3-4 6-12
2. One Arm Dumbbell Row 2-3 12-15
3. Seated Cable Row 2-3 12-15
Arms
Exercise Sets Reps
4a. Dumbbell Curl 3 12
4b. Tricep Overhead Extension 3 12
5a. Cable Curl 3 15
5b. Cable Pressdown 3 15
Cardio
30 min of moderate intensity on Stairmill
Day 3
Wednesday - Legs & Glutes
Legs
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Goblet Squat 3-4 6-12
2. Romanian Deadlift 2-3 12-15
3. Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift 2-3 12-15
Glutes
Exercise Sets Reps
4. Smith Machine Sumo Squats (Glute Focus) 3 6-12
5. Glute Kick Back 3 15
Cardio
30 min low intensity on treadmill at a 10-15% incline
Day 4
Thursday - Chest & Shoulders
Chest
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Dumbbell Bench Press 3-4 6-12
2. Incline Dumbbell Press 2-3 12-15
3. Machine Chest Fly 2-3 12-15
Shoulders
Exercise Sets Reps
4. Seated Dumbbell Press 3-4 6-12
5. Lateral Raise 2-3 12-15
Cardio
15 min of HIIT on rower or stationary bike
Day 5
Friday - Legs & Arms
Legs
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Deadlifts 3-4 6-12
2. Good Mornings 2-3 12-15
3. Leg Extensions 2-3 12-15
Arms
Exercise Sets Reps
4. Incline Dumbbell Curl 3 12
5. Incline Skullcrusher 3 12
Cardio
30 min of moderate intensity on a Stairmill
Weekends:

Light activity – recovery walks and optional ab workout

Weekends - Optional Abs
Abs
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Plank 3 20 sec holds
2. Lying Floor Leg Raise 3 10
3. Crunches 3 20
4. Side Crunches 2 15 each side

Quick Note on Nutrition

It is important to note that your success with any workout program depends greatly on your nutrition and sleep habits. Make sure you get 7-9 hours of sleep each night and eat enough calories to help you get the results you desire.

Our BMR calculator will help you know how many calories you need to maintain your current body weight.

If your goal is to lose weight, subtract ~250 calories from this number. If you are underweight, try to add ~250 calories to this number. And if you are already at your ideal weight, make sure to eat the proper amount of calories to maintain.

Quick Note on Tracking Progress

It is important to track your results to show you’ve made progress with this program. At the beginning of the 12 weeks you should plan to take your preferred form of measurements.

Editor’s Note: Be sure to share your progress with us! We’d love to help out, keep you motivated, and even feature your success. Tag us in your transformation posts on social media!

These measurements can include progress pictures, scale weighing, tape measurements, and skinfold caliper measurements. I recommend starting with what you are most comfortable with first and adding more as you feel comfortable.

The more data you have on yourself, the better you can tinker with variables such as increasing reps, sets, or weight used during your workouts, increasing the hours you sleep each night, increasing the amount of cardio you do each week, and/or increasing or decreasing the amount of calories you eat each day.

How frequently you measure your progress is completely up to you, but I’d recommend doing so once a month or 6 weeks to make sure you are progressing towards your goals.

M&S Female Athlete Smiling after a tough workout

Quick Note on Progressing with This Workout

You should strive to increase some variable within your workout each week. Whether that means increasing the weight you use or the amount of rep and sets you perform is going to be based on your individual preference.

One way you could go about it is to start off with the low end on all of the set and rep counts. Then each week add a single set on one exercise each day of each week. Once you’re doing all the maximum amount of recommended sets for each exercise, you could then add in 1-2 reps to each set of each exercise for the remaining weeks.

Another way you could progress is to keep your reps and sets the same throughout the whole 12 weeks. But each week you should aim to slightly increase the weight you use for each exercise.

Either way works and will help you see great results.

What Should I Do After the 12 weeks?

After you’ve completed the 12 weeks of this women’s trainer, you should take a week to deload.

If after you deload, you decide you’d like to try another 12 weeks of this program, then you should come back refreshed and ready to make more progress.

If you have any questions or would like to leave a review for this program, please feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below!

26 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Thu, 12/14/2017 - 20:33
Kenisha Kirkendall

I started this workout plan, I’m finishing up my 3rd week. I love the plan and it’s going great so far but I had a question. Do you recommend those doing this plan start including protein powder/shakes in their diet? I’ve started eating a healthier diet of mostly meat and veggies, drinking a gallon of water/day but not sure about protein powders. Thank you.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Fri, 12/15/2017 - 09:22
JoshEngland

Hi Kenisha!

That is awesome! I'm glad you are enjoying the plan thus far!

It sounds like you are doing all of the right things. You can include a protein powder into your diet plan, but depending on your current protein consumption, it might not be necessary. People should drink protein shakes if they have difficulty meeting their protein needs. Once those needs have been met, they essentially become additional calories and might not be beneficial depending on your goals.

How much protein should you eat each day? The recommended range is quite wide, so it might take a while to determine what the best amount for yourself is. The general recommended starting point is 1g per lb of bodyweight, however I typically go with ~0.72g per lb of bodyweight. That range is perfect to help you recover from your workouts.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Sat, 12/02/2017 - 21:53
Bec

Hello, I am keen to start this program but I just have one question about cardio. If I do weights in the morning then cardio in the arvo, would that hinder my results?
ps: I’ve just come across your site! It’s great and I’ll be passing it to my friends so thank u!!!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 12/04/2017 - 08:54
JoshEngland

Hi Bec,

Welcome to M&S!

To answer your question, no it won't hinder your results. One thing I would suggest is making sure you've properly warmed up prior to beginning your workout if you are weight training in the morning. Other than that, you should see some great results with this program!

Thank you for your kind words and for sharing! Best of luck and keep us posted on your progress!

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Posted Tue, 11/21/2017 - 18:15
Paola

What do you recommend for warm up and cool down?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 11/22/2017 - 09:05
JoshEngland

Hi Paola,

For warming up, start here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/warming-up-for-dummies

Simply perform one of those 3 flows before the appropriate workout day.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Sun, 11/19/2017 - 00:23
Tashika Dinwiddie

Hi I’m only seeing 5 days worth of workouts do I repeat these same 5 workouts for 12 weeks?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 11/20/2017 - 08:44
JoshEngland

Hi Tashika,

Yes, that is correct. Changing your workouts up weekly is kind of an unnecessary practice that has been popularized by other fitness platforms. Having consistent workouts for phases (8-12 weeks at a time) allows you to track your workouts better to ensure you progress during the program by either moving up in weight used, sets performed, or reps performed.

Hope this helps! If you have any other questions, please let us know!!

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Posted Wed, 11/01/2017 - 17:43
Brian Cho

HI,
Im joining the gym with my girlfriend and would like to start a program with her. The mens workouts on this sight tended to focus a lot more on upper body than lower, so i think this workout program is great for her.
That being said, how about for me? I would like to get a good definition (of course with consistency of sticking with the program) for my upper body. Would this be a good program to do along side with her?
Mind you i have not been to the gym in 2 years and have become pretty out of shape, since then.

thank you in advance

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 11/02/2017 - 08:34
JoshEngland

Hi Brian,

Yes, of course! You're more than welcome to perform this program along side your girlfriend. There is plenty of upper body work to see muscle growth and assist both of you in accomplishing your goals.

Hope this helps! Let us know how you both like the program when you've tried it out!

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Posted Sun, 09/24/2017 - 12:44
Marianna

Hi,
What supplements (for weight loss and tone up) would you suggest to take during this programme and when, please?
Also is there a diet on this website which I can follow with this plan?
Thanks

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 09/26/2017 - 12:08
JoshEngland

Hi Marianna,

We've got some diet plans coming in the very near future, so stay tuned. Until then, I'd recommend finding your bmr using our bmr calculator below:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator

Then, depending on whether your goal is to gain muscle or lose weight, add/subtract ~250 calories from that number and aim to eat that many calories daily from whole food sources.

Supplementation can be tricky, as needs will vary from person to person. Here are some basic recommendation anyone lifting weights can benefit from:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/absolute-beginner-guide-bodyb...

A supplement guide for women is a great topic we should cover in the future and I will plan to put a writer on it. I'll keep you posted!

Hope this helps!

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Posted Sun, 08/06/2017 - 16:39
Michaela

Hi,

Once I start this programme how heavy should the weights be? I weight 78kg so I assume 60% of my weight? Or is it incorrect?
Thanks

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 08/07/2017 - 10:12
JoshEngland

Hi Michaela,

Thank you for reading and for your question. The weight you should use for this rep range will be 75-85% of the maximum weight you could do for the exercise. Ideally, the weight will be just heavy enough to challenge you to perform all the reps listed, but light enough to where you feel as though you still could do another rep at the end.

It's difficult to know what that weight would be for all exercises. My recommendation would be to experiment with the weight you use. Pick a weight you know you can get for the reps prescribed. If it is too light, increase the weight slightly for the next set. If it is too heavy, lighten the weight slightly for the next set.

Don't worry if it takes a couple sessions to find the ideal weight for you to use.

Hope this helps!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 09/26/2017 - 12:07
JoshEngland

Hi Michaela!

You are welcome! We've got some diet plans coming in the very near future, so stay tuned. Until then, I'd recommend finding your bmr using our bmr calculator below:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator

Then, depending on whether your goal is to gain muscle or lose weight, add/subtract ~250 calories from that number and aim to eat that many calories daily from whole food sources.

Supplementation can be tricky, as needs will vary from person to person. Here are some basic recommendation anyone lifting weights can benefit from:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/absolute-beginner-guide-bodyb...

A supplement guide for women is a great topic we should cover in the future and I will plan to put a writer on it. I'll keep you posted!

Hope this helps!

No Profile Pic
Posted Sun, 09/24/2017 - 12:00
Michaela

Hi, thanks for your reply.
What supplements and when should I take during this 12 week programme?
Also is there any diet (on this website) that I can follow with this plan, please?

Thanks

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 07/19/2017 - 14:28
Jena

Hello! I'm interested in fat loss through a lifting program. Is that possible? Would this be a good program to use? I've run into a lot of conflicting information online and it makes things a bit confusing. I've always done all cardio in the past, but I've heard that I should add weights to be more successful.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 07/19/2017 - 16:58
JoshEngland

Hi Jena,

Weight lifting can certainly aid in fat loss and this program is an excellent weight training program to help out with that goal.

One huge benefit weight training has over cardio is the ability to promote lean muscle growth. Cardio can help promote muscle growth, but not always as effectively as weight lifting can. And increasing your muscle tone will help in burning way more calories in the long run.

A lot of women are conflicted when starting a weight training program. It's different than the norm. But more and more women are seeing phenomenal results by incorporating weight training into their lives.

Achieving fat loss, regardless if you perform this program or not, is going to be more about your nutrition and your daily calorie intake. Check out your daily calories here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator

Once you have your calories, you'll want to create a slight calorie deficit. Start small by subtracting ~250 calories. Track your results and readjust accordingly to your short term and long term goals.

If you decide to give this program a try, let us know what you think! And don't hesitate to reach out to us if you have any other questions along the way.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Wed, 07/12/2017 - 12:38
Eleanor

Hi, I have a couple of questions that I hope you can answer. I want to make a start on this program but I am concerened that my daily activities will hinder my goals as I currently work part time in a warehouse for 4 hours solid every day. My job involves a lot of lifting, pushing, pulling, bending down to lift boxes and put on high shelves etc. Some of which are very heavy and it is generally a lot of physical work. I want to try to limit the potential for damage to joints etc through some strength training to improve muscle strength and endurance, lose a bit of body fat and improve my all round fitness. My question is, would this program be suitable in order to achieve this, bearing in mind that I only get 8 hours sleep on 2-3 nights per week and the rest of the week only 5-6 hours, and if not would you be able to advise me on the best way forward without overloading or overstraining my body? I hope this makes sense and you can advise to help me to achieve my goals!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 07/13/2017 - 16:10
JoshEngland

Hi Eleanor,

It's tough to say. It is awesome that you realize sleep plays a very important part in your weight training goals. Not a lot of people (some who've been training for years) actually understand that. Recovery is where you achieve all of your goals. And you recover through sleep and nutrition.

You could experiment with this program for a couple of weeks. You should be able to tell fairly quickly if you're recovering properly between workouts (i.e do you ache, feel sore, or feel tired all the time?). If you feel fine, then you should see great results from the program. If you're tired, it may be worth experimenting with a program that has less workout days and volume.

To do that, you could turn this into a 3 day split (as explained in the comment under yours) or with 2-3 full body workouts a week.

Hope this helps and best of luck!

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Posted Fri, 07/14/2017 - 03:57
Eleanor

Hi Josh, Thanks so much for the fast reply ! That is really hopeful advice thank you, because I was worried about the potential for injury. I'm also currently doing a level 3 diploma in fitness and personal training so it's important that I get as fit as realistically possible ready for when i qualify , keeping in mind all my daily responsibilities as I don't get much down time these days. I came across this program on a Google search and it looks pretty similar to training I used to do years ago after having my first child and I found it really effective! Really pleased I found it and I'm excited to start! Thanks so much :)

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Fri, 07/14/2017 - 10:38
JoshEngland

Hi Eleanor,

That's awesome! Welcome to the M&S community. I hope you see similarly great results with this program. Let us know how it goes and as mentioned, don't be afraid to tinker with it to better fit your busy schedule.

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Posted Mon, 07/10/2017 - 16:54
Krista

I'm a marathon runner trying to get off the treadmill a little bit and tone up all over. But I still want to maintain my base running fitness by logging 20 miles a week. Could I only lift 3x a week and rotate these workouts and still get results? I'd most likely be doing them on my cross train or shorter run days.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 07/11/2017 - 10:02
JoshEngland

Hi Krista,

In short, yes. You can absolutely structure your workouts in that fashion. And by adding weight training into your overall workout program, you may even see some positive carry over into your average running time (you should get slightly faster).

If you plan to only lift 3x's a week, I'd strongly recommend trying to do the back and arms day, the shoulders and chest day. and one of the leg days per week. You could alternate the leg day workout between the three provided in the program each week if you'd like. This should have all of your body parts covered in your training.

Alternatively, you could test out a full body workout program. People who are limited in the amount of days they can workout tend to see better results with full body programs. Check out the 2 I've provided below.

Experiment with this workout and the other 2 and see which one you enjoy the most, and works best for your overall lifestyle and goals. At the end of the day, if you're enjoying the workout and giving it good effort, you should see the results you're hoping for.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/dumbbell-only-home-or-gym-ful...

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/3-day-full-body-dumbbell-workout

Hope this helps and best of luck!

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Posted Thu, 06/08/2017 - 10:23
Maureen

This is a great all around beginner workout! However, I see one omission. Why no push ups? Push ups are one of the greatest all body exercises and I'd never skip them.
Otherwise, thanks for a great program!
Maureen

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 06/08/2017 - 11:00
JoshEngland

Hi Maureen!

Thank you for your comment and feedback on the program!

I agree, the pushup is a staple exercise (along with the pullup which this program doesnt have either). Both could easily be incorporated into the plan if one wishes to add them. I could see them being added in on their respected body part days for the 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps (or whatever one is capable of doing as they can be challenging in their own right).

One could also add them in on the lighter optional core workout days. While both target a specific muscle group, the involvement of the core in each movement could easily justify the addition to this day.

Thank you again for your comment! I hope you enjoy the program if you decide to test it out!