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

Josh England
Written By: Josh England
June 7th, 2017
Updated: May 26th, 2021
3.4M Reads
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

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.

Recommended: Need help building muscle? Take our Free Muscle Building Course

Muscle & Strength’s Women's 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.

Workout Schedule

  • Monday - Legs & Glutes, Cardio (optional)
  • Tuesday - Back & Arms, Cardio (optional)
  • Wednesday - Legs & Glutes, Cardio (optional)
  • Thursday - Chest & Shoulders, Cardio (optional)
  • Friday - Legs & Arms, Cardio (optional)
  • Saturday - Abs/Rest
  • Sunday - AbsRest

Monday - Legs & Glutes

Exercise Sets Reps
1. Squat 3-4 6-12
2. Dumbbell Lunge 2-3 12-15
3. Dumbbell Step Up 2-3 12-15
4. Barbell Hip Thrust 3 6-12
5. Glute Cable Kickback 2-3 12-15

Cardio - 15 min of HIIT on Stationary Bike

Tuesday - Back & Arms

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
4a. Dumbbell Curl 3 12
4b. Tricep Overhead Extension 3 12
5a. Cable Curl 3 15
5b. Cable Pressdown 3 15

Cardio - 30 mins of moderate intensity on Stairmill

Wednesday - Legs & Glutes

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
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

Thursday - Chest & Shoulders

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
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

Friday - Legs & Arms

Exercise Sets Reps
1. Deadlifts 3-4 6-12
2. Good Mornings 2-3 12-15
3. Leg Extensions 2-3 12-15
4. Incline Dumbbell Curl 3 12
5. Incline Skullcrusher 3 12

Cardio - 30 min of moderate intensity on a Stairmill


Light activity – recovery walks and optional ab workout

Ab Workout (Optional)

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


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.

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.

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

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!

Posted on: Thu, 05/19/2022 - 21:25


Thank you for this program! I am finishing the program this week and have gained strength and muscle. I learned so much! I aim to continue working out and losing fat after this. Which program do you recommend? Or, should i repeat this program ? I was a beginner when i started. Main focus is burning fat and building more muscle.

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Posted on: Tue, 05/24/2022 - 21:17

Hi, Jackie, How many days a week can you train? Want to pick one that can work with your schedule.

Posted on: Tue, 05/17/2022 - 18:11

For supersets, do you do one set of the A then B right after, or do alk the sets in A with short rest periods and then do the B exercise?

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Posted on: Tue, 05/24/2022 - 21:15

Hi, Kelly. Do A, then B without rest. Rest after you finish B. Hope this helps.

Posted on: Fri, 05/13/2022 - 14:08

I am just wondering- if we follow the same workouts for 12 weeks wouldn't our body get used to the workouts and stop showing results? I read somewhere to switch up your workouts every month. Let me know please.

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Posted on: Tue, 05/24/2022 - 21:15

Hi, Mana. That may be true in some cases, but more often than not, people can do the same workout for three months. There are ways to make it more challenging such as add weight, decrease rest time, etc.

Jhonathon Doe
Posted on: Fri, 05/13/2022 - 09:08


Posted on: Fri, 05/06/2022 - 17:27

Hello. I've been doing workout that are simple and basic for a while. And running 4 days a week. Im 20 years old 156cm 43kg.
I just don't know how to gain abs im afraid to gain weight and gain belly fat but want to increase my muscles. Any Advice?

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Posted on: Tue, 05/24/2022 - 21:14

Hi, Marwa. I don't know how you're eating, but if you want to see abs, then fat loss is the goal. In that case, read this before doing anything else.

Posted on: Sat, 04/16/2022 - 14:29

Hi! I don’t see where I can download the entire 12 week workout - the download button only gives the first 7 days. Can you point me in the right direction for the entire workout for the 12 weeks? Also im curious which diet you with macros you recommend. Thanks.

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Posted on: Thu, 04/21/2022 - 20:58

Hi, Leiann. I believe you repeat the same workouts every week for all 12 weeks.

Re: macros. Check this out, and you should get the guidance you need for nutrition.

Posted on: Sun, 04/10/2022 - 19:31

I just wanted to thank you for this workout. I’m on week 5 now and I’m noticing a difference - I’m stronger, I feel better, my clothes are loser.

I’ve always done classses at the gym and this has helped me gain the confidence to enter the weight room as a female - finally!

Posted on: Tue, 03/22/2022 - 08:46

I am 4 weeks away from finishing this 12 weeks womens program. After i deload, what program on this site do you recommend? I wanna stay at 5 days a week and keep it at about 45 minutes.

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Posted on: Mon, 03/28/2022 - 21:06

Depends on what the next goal is, Kelly. What goal do you have in mind? I want to make the best recommendation possible.

Tinamarie Panzera
Posted on: Mon, 03/14/2022 - 21:10

I’ve been on the 12 week woman program for 2 months and 2 weeks. I now downloaded bikini workout and others and I’m working out Monday through Friday. I’m increasing my weights and I follow the 12 week program that has legs three days a week. Now whatever day I’m on I’m doing my regular program and adding exercises from bikini workout as long as it’s working same muscle groups. Two days a week I do full body workout, then my program. I have gained a lot more endurance and am doing more cardio as well but my weight is not changing. I feel more strong or my workouts are 90 minutes now instead of 45 minutes. But I still feel stuck. What do I do?

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Posted on: Sun, 03/20/2022 - 20:41

Hi, Tinamarie. Look at your nutrition and see what adjustments you can make.

Posted on: Mon, 04/04/2022 - 18:47

Hey do you have a link for the bikini ready workout? I’m going to do this one first but would like to try that one next. Thanks.

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Posted on: Thu, 04/21/2022 - 20:57
Posted on: Mon, 03/14/2022 - 06:01

Where's calves?

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Posted on: Wed, 03/16/2022 - 21:18

Hi there. Hmm. There are no calves exercises, huh? Give this a go.

Posted on: Thu, 03/10/2022 - 20:37

I do not go to the gym and some of the exercises require machines. Do you have information on substitution exercises?

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Posted on: Tue, 03/15/2022 - 18:03

Hi, Jenn. If you click on the Exercises link at the top of the M&S page, it will take you to a section where you can pick the muscle group you want to focus on. There are many to choose from that you can do based on the equipment/options you have. Hope this helps!

Posted on: Thu, 03/10/2022 - 10:45

Hey, I found this program online and I was wondering if this will help me gain muscle and become more toned. I am a 16 year old female and I’m looking for a workout plan that will help me with that.

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Posted on: Tue, 03/15/2022 - 17:55

It would be a great choice for you, Emily. If you take it for a run, let us know how it goes for you. Thanks for checking out M&S!

Posted on: Wed, 03/09/2022 - 07:23

Hey coach

First of all thank you for this workout plan, but i have a quick question please..
You said this plan is for 12 week, and 12-15 reps and 3-4 sets
Ok now do you mean to do first 6 weeks with 3 sets and 15/13/11 reps? ( for endurance)
And the other 6 weeks is at 4 sets with 12/10/8/6 reps? ( for Hypertrophy)
Do you mean this? Or how it is if it is not like what i said

Thank you again

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 03/14/2022 - 19:57

You can do it that way, Yamen. Normally, rep ranges mean that you start with lighter weights and add weight each set so you train heavier, but stay in the rep range. However, there is no issue with your way, either. Go for it!

Posted on: Sun, 03/06/2022 - 11:36

Hey, I noticed that during the week there are no (direct) ab exercises. I was curious if this is because the core is already being worked during the other exercises? If not, would it be too much to add some ab workouts during the week? I know there is an optional ab day on weekends but I typically rest on both days. Lastly, is this a good plan to help with shed the last few pounds or more geared towards toning.

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Posted on: Sun, 03/13/2022 - 19:46

Hi, Samantha. The core is working hard to stabilize your body while performing many of the other movements. You can do the optional ab day during one of the other days if you like. As long as your nutrition is on point, you can lose a few extra pounds while doing this workout.

Posted on: Sun, 03/06/2022 - 06:15

So I have recently began doing squats with weights, and added 2.5 kg each week. I had slight discomfort in lower back after each weeks session, but a few days ago when I added 2.5 again, the next day I had severe lower back pain, and now (3 days later) I find it painful to walk and straighten my back completely upright. I have warmed up and cooled down well, possibly I have increased weights too soon. And my back muscles are probably weak as I never trained back. Also maybe my form wasn’t perfect although I did watch lots of videos and tried to keep all the points in mind. What should I do now, like exercise stretch to help the lower back heal,and when I can I return to fitness?

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Posted on: Sun, 03/13/2022 - 19:45

Hi, Ver. First thing's first - go see a doctor for the pain to make sure you can still train. If you're not, then anything else that I share here would be irrelevant. Once you're good to go, find a local trainer or partner that has a lot of experience to help you learn proper form and train your lower back. Reverse hypers and low back extensions are great movements to start with. I do suggest again, though, see someone about the pain first.

Posted on: Sat, 03/05/2022 - 20:53

Hey coash, what you mean by 3-4 sets and 6-12 reps?
Is that mean than first 6 weeks of the 12 weeks workout plan is 4 sets and 12-10-8-6 reps? And the othe 6 months of the eorkout plan is 3 sets with also 12-10-8-6 reps? Am i right?
Thank you so much am studying fitness and i like to leard all your programs

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Posted on: Sun, 03/13/2022 - 19:40

Hi, Yamen! Start out by doing three sets. Once you feel capable, add the fourth. That could be a few months or a few weeks. That is up to you.

Yes, you add weight and decrease reps each set. Hope this helps!

Posted on: Thu, 03/03/2022 - 23:42

Awww I'm so excited I found this page
I started this week and I'm so happy about that thank you o much ❤

Posted on: Mon, 02/28/2022 - 13:00

Hi, I’ve been trying to decide which routine would be better for me considering this split routine and another program on here posted in 2019 that was for beginners but full body. Is there any particular reason one may be better for me than the other aside from the scheduling and workout style preference? Hope this makes sense, thanks!

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Posted on: Wed, 03/02/2022 - 20:31

Hello, Elysia. The question makes sense, but I don't know which workout you're referring to. Mind posting a link so I can compare them head-to-head?

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Posted on: Fri, 03/11/2022 - 21:39

Thanks for the link. I think either would be beneficial for you. It's just a matter of whether you want to train each muscle with more volume or if you like training everything in the same session. The choice is yours.

Posted on: Sun, 02/27/2022 - 19:57

So excited to have started this program this week! It's hard finding programs with a lower body focus that incorporate cardio! My question is, is it fine if I do 30 minutes of cardio on one of my rest days and eliminate it from one of my leg days if I'm short on time? Thanks!

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Posted on: Sun, 02/27/2022 - 20:16

Hi, Colleen. Glad you're excited for starting. I hope you keep us posted on how you progress.

Yes, swapping the cardio on a rest day would be acceptable.

Posted on: Mon, 02/21/2022 - 13:30

What’s a good starting weight for lifting with these exercises? Also should you increase the weight per round or per week?

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Posted on: Thu, 02/24/2022 - 20:21

Hey Kris, you'll have to find out which weights work best for you. Trial and error is what it takes. Grab something that feels light, and go up until you find one that you reach failure within the rep range.

Change weights per week if you're a beginner.

Posted on: Sun, 02/20/2022 - 17:45

I did the first workout today in this program. It was great but it took me less than 30 minutes (not counting cardio) to do it even with doing the higher number of reps in each exercise. Is that normal? How long should the workout take? Should I add more exercises.

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Posted on: Wed, 02/23/2022 - 20:14

Hi, Elaine. How much time did you give yourself to rest? Looks like you're focused when you train! If you kept the rest to a bare minimum, then this makes sense. No need to add more exercises.

Posted on: Sun, 02/13/2022 - 03:34

Hello I’m 58.3 kilo & 160 in height I want to lose weight but also tone up, my problem area is love handles and stomach. How many cardio minutes is recommended and at what speed? Also on leg days I can’t find myself able to do cardio is that ok?

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Posted on: Thu, 02/17/2022 - 18:48

Hi, Lubna. Yes, it's understandable that doing legs and cardio is tough. If you need to reduce the cardio to a slower pace, that's ok. You could also consider upper body options such as boxing with a heavy bag or a hand bike.

As for time limits, 30 minute sessions 4-5 times a week would be great. The love handles and stomach is always the last place people lose fat. So, don't be surprised if it takes a while. Consistency will get you there, though.

Sue R
Posted on: Thu, 02/10/2022 - 14:56

Thanks for sharing this great program!

Posted on: Tue, 02/01/2022 - 07:24

Do you do these same 5 workouts all 12 weeks??

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Posted on: Wed, 02/02/2022 - 18:55

Yes, Erin. Same workout for all 12 weeks. Track the workouts so you can gauge your progress if you're getting stronger or able to do all the sets with less rest time.

Christiana Davidson
Posted on: Sun, 01/30/2022 - 05:11

Josh I just want to say thank you for sharing this workout programme...I'm starting tomorrow! I've always been a gym class person but want to now start working out in a different way. I'm very grateful to be able to follow your programme and wanted to say thank you on advance.

Posted on: Wed, 01/26/2022 - 14:55

Awesome workout! Thanks for posting it! :) I tend to bulk up (esp. doing squats/quad work). Would you recommend more cardio (than stated) to expedite weight loss and balance out the bulk? Never spent so much time lifting and so little time doing cardio. Makes me nervous. haha. Thank you!!