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
download pdfDownload Workout

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!

Post your post-workout swolfies in M&S gear on IG and tag @muscleandstrength, #muscleandstrength, or DM them to us to get a shoutout on Muscle & Strength stories!

226 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Mon, 04/22/2019 - 11:15
Anika

Is it going to make a difference if I switch the Friday split with Saturday or Sunday? Thanks in advance! I am looking forward to trying this out.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 04/22/2019 - 11:34
JoshEngland

Hi Anika,

No difference at all. Enjoy!

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Posted Sun, 04/21/2019 - 17:23
Chidera Ukairo

Are we supposed to repeat these 5-day exercises for 12 weeks or am I missing the other weeks?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 04/22/2019 - 11:40
JoshEngland

Hi Chidera,

Yes and be sure to track your workouts in the process - increasing the weight used when able.

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Posted Thu, 04/04/2019 - 09:08
Denise Booman

just done arms today, love how clear everything is with the videos, well explained. Thank you! Hoping for good results. DOn't want to loose weight, but get lean, strong and having a nice bum. :P

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Posted Thu, 03/28/2019 - 11:06
Sonja

Can I follow this program with 4 days a week? I would be skipping the Friday workout.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Fri, 03/29/2019 - 09:34
JoshEngland

Hi Sonja,

Yes, that should still be a fine way to approach this program.

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Posted Tue, 03/26/2019 - 18:00
Yahaira

Hi,
Is it possible to gain muscle and burn fat? I'm a skinny fat body type and the minute I start losing weight, my lower body gets real skinny and I don't like how I look. Can I gain lower body, while still maintaining the weight in my upper body?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 03/27/2019 - 16:55
JoshEngland

Hi Yahaira,

It's possible for beginners, yes. It's also possible to preserve muscle mass while losing fat. However, gaining muscle and fat loss require different stimuli to achieve.

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Posted Mon, 03/04/2019 - 03:17
Shelby

Hello!
My biggest goal is to tone my abs. Will one ab workout a week be enough for that? Thanks!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 03/04/2019 - 10:47
JoshEngland

Hi Shelby,

It should help you with that goal, yes. However, if you feel it is necessary, you can always add in additional abdominal work as needed.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Sun, 02/17/2019 - 08:38
Lauren

Hi!
Just checking that for the full twelve weeks I’d be doing these exact same exercises every day 1,2,3...? Wouldn’t my body hit a plateau? I’ve been doing that same type of schedule with my current workouts and haven’t seen any progress in the last month or so :/

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 02/18/2019 - 10:08
JoshEngland

Hi Lauren,

Plateaus aren't typical but they do happen. Make sure you are keeping a workout journal and ensuring you are increasing the difficulty (upping the weight used) over time.

If you do hit a plateau, evaluate your nutrition, sleep, and stress levels first before looking to change your program.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 01/29/2019 - 09:06
Jessica Filcaske

When executing these exercises do you perform 1 exercise with all reps and then move on to the next one or do you do one set of each exercise and repeat until all sets are completed?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 02/05/2019 - 15:01
JoshEngland

Hi Jessica,

Perform all of the sets for an exercise prior to moving onto the next exercise in the list.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Mon, 01/28/2019 - 23:38
Samantha Joseph

Hi there I’m 46 years old and a mother. I’m looking to really transform my body. I’m looking to really tone and tighten my body.. My abs are my main concern. Will these work out do the job

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 02/05/2019 - 15:01
JoshEngland

Hi Samantha,

Yes, this workout program is a great option for someone with those goals.

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Posted Fri, 01/25/2019 - 12:27
Laila

Are these workouts okay if you are 13?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 01/28/2019 - 10:04
JoshEngland

Hi Laila,

It's completely ok to start weight training at age 13. I wouldn't recommend starting with this particular workout though.

I'd suggest starting off with full body workouts in which your main focus is mastering the exercise movements themselves with limited weight.

You may want to consider talking with your parents about trying to find a personal trainer in your area to help you learn and master these fundamental lifts - or maybe seek out programs in your school that teach the basics on weight training.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Mon, 01/21/2019 - 16:33
Sarah

Hey, are there any diet plans , videos to go with the the 12 week exercise schedule I can seek to see them ?
Thanks

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Fri, 01/25/2019 - 09:51
JoshEngland
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Posted Mon, 01/07/2019 - 00:37
Maha

hey i was wondering how suitable this would be to get rid of belly fat?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 01/07/2019 - 12:50
JoshEngland

Hi Maha,

It can help - however, you cannot specifically target fat loss. Fat loss occurs throughout the body when the body is in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time.

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Posted Mon, 12/31/2018 - 10:01
Claudia

Hi, this program looks like a great intro to weightlifting! I do have a few questions though. I'm trying to get back into strength training after a 3+ month break. My main goals revolve around building muscle rather than losing fat. I definitely wouldn't mind shedding excess fat but I mainly want to focus on creating a more hourglass illusion with a more defined upper body and bigger, rounder glutes - would this be a good program to get started on? If so, is it better to start off eating at maintenance or a surplus? And if I want to build muscle, should I skip the optional cardio? Thanks!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 01/02/2019 - 12:10
JoshEngland

Hi Claudia,

This program would be an excellent choice with those goals in mind. In terms of calories, I'd recommend maintenance for the first month, +200 the second, and + 200 the third. Lastly, you can skip some of the optional cardio if you wish or you can adjust your calorie intake to account for the calories burned if you'd like to obtain the cardiovascular benefits.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Sat, 12/29/2018 - 11:16
Cindy

I just stumbled onto the Muscle and Strength website, and I'm really pleased with all of the information. I am 54 years old and frustrated with the 10-15 lbs gained since my full hysterectomy 4 years ago. I have always been active, have lifted weights for over 30 years, and have been an aerobic instructor for in past years. I am well educated in weight loss and weight lifting but can't seem to get back into shape after my hysterectomy. My doctor says that I should focus on programs that emphasize muscle growth as more muscle will burn more calories. In your opinion, would this program be the best fit for me? Thanks for your help!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 01/02/2019 - 12:24
JoshEngland

Hi Cindy,

I think this program would be beneficial for someone with those goals. That being said, I'd suggest working with a trainer in person to begin with. Given your medical history, it may be beneficial to have someone whose brain you can pick while performing a workout catered specifically for you.

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Posted Thu, 12/20/2018 - 04:31
Anneke

Hi,

I am on week 5 of this program and it feels like I am beckming bulky. I can see my body is more toned but I feel and look bigger.

I want to lose fat and be lean and skinny.

What am I doing wrong?

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Posted Fri, 11/30/2018 - 22:09
Erin

Hello, I made comments before about your program and how I really enjoyed it. Long story short, I recently found out that I have a leaky valve in my heart at 46 :( possibly from a car accident several years ago. I’m in good shape otherwise, and have been weight training for 10 yrs. I am in shock and upset that I was told not to lift heavy weight anymore. I refuse to not lift anymore, and I was wondering if you had any suggestions. Low weight, more reps? Perhaps continue this workout with less weight which is what I am doing, but I don’t feel I will get results without lifting heavier, thanks...

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 12/03/2018 - 12:38
JoshEngland

Hi Erin,

I'm terribly sorry to hear that. I'd recommend adhering to your doctors advice and seeking out professionals in your area to help with workout design.

I know it's probably not the answer you were hoping for, but it's the best I can provide.

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Posted Mon, 12/03/2018 - 14:16
Erin

I totally understand, and I appreciate the reply. I am getting a second opinion and I am doing less weight. No more 200 pound hip thursts or deadlifts I guess. :) thanks again!

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Posted Mon, 11/19/2018 - 05:56
Sonja

I would like to start this program but 5 days a week isn't realistic for my schedule. How would you recommend doing this workout in 4 days?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 11/19/2018 - 10:33
JoshEngland

Hi Sonja,

Give this one a try instead: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/10-week-upper-lower-workout-f...

Hope this helps!

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Posted Fri, 12/07/2018 - 07:37
Sonja

I just finished the 10 week of that program and would like to stay another one :)

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 12/10/2018 - 10:23
JoshEngland

Hi Sonja,

Awesome! Congrats on finishing up that program. You might like this one as well - it says it's a fat loss routine, but it can be used for whatever your current goal is so long as you're eating accordingly to that goal: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/muscle-and-strength-womens-fa...

Hope this helps!

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Posted Sat, 11/17/2018 - 14:27
Kayla

If my goal is to gain the most amount of weight in a month and a half, should i use this program or this 8 week full body routine: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/8-week-full-body-womens-worko...

Thank you!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 11/19/2018 - 10:34
JoshEngland

Hi Kayla,

I'd recommend the full body program. Make sure you are eating in a calorie surplus as well!

Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 11/06/2018 - 10:42
Prerna Kaushik

Is there any diet plan that I need to follow with this program

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 11/06/2018 - 16:59
JoshEngland

Hi Prerna,

There isn't a specific diet plan per-say, becuase diets can be so individualized based on personal preference, income, geographic location, and individual dietary needs.

I'd recommend checking out the following:

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

Go Here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-to-calculate-perfect-macros

Finish Up Here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-to-create-a-bodybuilding-...

Hope this helps!

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Posted Wed, 10/31/2018 - 14:20
Gatorsmom

Great plan, although I’m a marathon runner and have a general understanding of fitness, Regardless of how much I run, the only way for me to get slim and in great shape is with weight training. Being bored with my current routine I’m going to start the plan you shared as a way to break the monotony and recharge my motivation. Thanks!!

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Posted Tue, 10/30/2018 - 23:10
Erin

Hello,
I have been lifting for Over 10 years, and started out with The new rules of lifting. I loved all of the books that followed, female body breakthrough etc. I wanted to change things up, and found this workout. I am really enjoying it. With the other programs, you only workout 3 days, and it’s a whole body workout, no targeting specific parts I guess lol. So I was not used to working out this way, but as I said, I really like it. I wanted to make sure I am doing it right though. I am doing each exercise , 3 or 4’sets and then moving on to the next? I am used to doing supersets, I hope that makes sense :)

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 11/01/2018 - 08:37
JoshEngland

Hi Erin,

Awesome! Glad you liked the program enough to try it!

Yes, that is correct. There are some supersets within this workout and are distinguished by letters next to the number (ex. 1a & 1b).

Hope this helps!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 11/19/2018 - 10:29
JoshEngland

Hi Karen,

Yes. That represents a superset. You perform both exercises one right after another without rest. Then you rest after both exercises have been completed. That equates to one set.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Fri, 11/16/2018 - 20:04
Karen

Hi,
Does it mean I have to do 1 after the other? (1a and 1b?)

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Posted Tue, 10/23/2018 - 20:53
karina

Hi, is there another program similar to this one that is only 4 days a week? I'd like to incorporate 2 hiit workouts as well.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 10/24/2018 - 10:33
JoshEngland
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Posted Wed, 10/17/2018 - 12:35
Ava

Thank you so much for this workout. I have started with this workout this week. Can I combine workout 1&2 and 3&4 and do some cardio on the days in between days so that I have to go to the gym only 3 times a week?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 10/18/2018 - 09:14
JoshEngland

Hi Ava,

I'd actually probably recommend our full body program for women here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/8-week-full-body-womens-worko...

You can add additional accessory work to that program to target any muscles that you feel need additional work. Cardio can be incorporated into that program as well.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Wed, 10/17/2018 - 03:56
Emma

Hiya, I assume with the squats and goblin squats I use a barbell/dumbbell?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 10/17/2018 - 11:30
JoshEngland

Hi Emma,

Yes, that is correct. Barbell for squats, dumbbell for goblets.

Hope this helps!