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

Josh England
Written By: Josh England
June 7th, 2017
Updated: May 26th, 2021
3.5M 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

Weekends:

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

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.

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!

499 Comments
Rena Groot
Posted on: Tue, 09/06/2022 - 19:44

I just looked at the first exercise.... This is a beginner course? Oh my...

Shaima
Posted on: Mon, 08/29/2022 - 09:10

Is this program good for me? I am thin I need to gain weight and muscles !

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 08/30/2022 - 09:17

Hi, Shaima. The workout will work for you, but I advise you follow the nutrition info on this guide since you want to gain weight.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/complete-guide-how-to-increas...

Christie
Posted on: Wed, 08/24/2022 - 05:43

Starting this workout and have a question. I had a total knee replacement in Nov. 2021. I have been told by my dr. to avoid lunges. I also cannot squat as deeply as I could before my surgery, but can still feel the effects of doing the exercise. Can I substitute another flute exercise for lunges and should I keep the squats? They don’t bother my knee but I was concerned I would not see the benefits since my squat is not as deep.

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 08/25/2022 - 10:54

Hi, Christie. If you can do hip thrusts, then those would hit the glutes. If you're going at least halfway down and you don't feel knee issues, you could see benefits. I suggest talking to the doctor to be safe, though.

Ayesha
Posted on: Tue, 08/09/2022 - 16:16

Going to start my workout from tomorrow. I am skinny fat. I really hope this workout works. I don't go to the gym as it doesn't fit in my schedule. But want a toned body.

Shaima
Posted on: Mon, 08/29/2022 - 09:11

Same situation here. How is it so far ?

Ayesha
Posted on: Sat, 09/10/2022 - 10:53

It's going pretty well. Will update after 3 month exact.

Jess
Posted on: Sun, 07/31/2022 - 21:56

Thank you for the workout! Question: is there a way to substitute this for 3 or 4 days per week? With my work schedule I wouldn't be able to do 5, but this is exactly the type of plan I was looking for. Thank you!

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 08/11/2022 - 08:06

Cut out the Friday workout, Jess. That may be the easiest way to do it.

Alexander Acevedo
Posted on: Sat, 07/23/2022 - 18:25

Great workouts! I just wanted to know is there a good app to use to build custom workouts?

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 07/30/2022 - 09:25

I'm old school and use a notebook and pen, Alexander. So, I don't personally know of any. I have heard good things about Fitbod and FitNotes, though. If anyone else wants to mention one, they are welcome to do so. Just please don't post direct links.

Jennifer
Posted on: Thu, 08/11/2022 - 21:44

I use Progression as it lets you enter entirely custom workouts/exercises/reps/etc, and even added this Program in there. Only problem is it’s $2.99/month, but I find it totally worth it. It’s nice to have a log without having to take more things with me to the gym!

Katie
Posted on: Wed, 07/13/2022 - 14:35

Im loving this 12 weeks routine so far!What excersise routine should I go to to focus on my belly? I hold weight in my midsection and I'd like to focus on that section since it's the part I'm most self conscious of.

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 07/22/2022 - 14:58

Diet and cardio is going to help you most with that, Katie. However, I got a great ab workout for you to go along with that. Run with this for a couple months.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/core-destroyer-8-week-home-ab...

Thanks for visiting M&S. Greatly appreciated!

Anne
Posted on: Tue, 07/12/2022 - 10:02

Hello! I was wondering if there is a substitute exercise/machine for the Glute Cable Kickback exercise listed under Monday - Legs & Glutes. The machine that is featured in the video is not available at my gym. Thank you!

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 07/22/2022 - 14:51

Thanks for the question, Anne. Check out the exercises at this link, and pick one that you can do in your gym. Any of these should be a suitable replacement.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/glutes

Jess
Posted on: Sat, 07/09/2022 - 08:54

Why does one say 4A 4B 5A 5B?

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 07/18/2022 - 08:26

When you see numbers with letters beside them, those are for a superset. Do those exercises back-to-back without rest. That rule applies to all workouts you see here on M&S.

Leah
Posted on: Thu, 07/07/2022 - 19:39

Hello!
I had a question about the main lift for day 3. I was wondering why it is a squat instead of some type of dead lift, since it seems this day is more focused on the posterior chain rather than the anterior? I’m a fairly new cpt, so seeing other workouts and understanding why they are programmed is really helpful… thank you for your time, and for creating these programs!

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 07/18/2022 - 08:11

The goal of the workout was to have some balance, Leah. That is why the squat is first. You will have the most energy, and you can execute it to the best of your ability. After the quads are pre-exhausted, the posterior chain will have to work harder for the rest of the workout. Hope this answers your question.

Falon
Posted on: Tue, 06/28/2022 - 01:23

Hey :) is there an app for muscleandstrength with the work-outs for easier tracking?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 06/28/2022 - 09:59

Hi, Falon. Not at this time, maybe down the road. In the meantime, you can download the workouts on PDF.

Hannah
Posted on: Thu, 06/23/2022 - 15:06

I was just curious, approximately how many calories are you burning with these workouts everyday before the cardio portion?

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 06/27/2022 - 08:39

That depends on the person doing the workout and how hard you're going. No realistic way to gauge calories burned besides wearing a smart watch or calorie tracker.

Donna
Posted on: Sun, 06/19/2022 - 18:29

Does it really matter what type of cardio we do? I have a peloton treadmill and do a class everyday.

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 06/24/2022 - 09:57

Those will wok well, Donna. Go with them!

Hannah McKinney
Posted on: Wed, 06/15/2022 - 17:44

When it says 12-15 reps for a lot of these exercises, is that 12-15 reps total or per leg/arm?

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 06/16/2022 - 08:09

That is correct, Hannah.

Nicole
Posted on: Mon, 06/20/2022 - 14:53

Is it per arm/leg? Or, is it total? Thanks!

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 06/24/2022 - 09:57

Sorry. Per arm/leg.

Falon
Posted on: Tue, 05/31/2022 - 00:24

Hey, thanks for the program I just started and looking forward to seeing results. I have done running and P90X in the past, to shed some pounds after giving birth. But I am relatively new to gym terms. For the cardio, HITT, low intensity, and moderate, are there heart rate zones we are looking to maintain for these? If so, can you list what they are for each? I used the stair master program to do a moderate end it had me at a 120 Heart rate but those stairs were moving so slowly, it just didn't feel right. Thanks

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 05/31/2022 - 10:48

Hi, Falon. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. It means you will alternate bouts of high effort with bouts of low to no effort.

The low and moderate references are for your effort given. It's not determined by heart rate. However, to answer the heart rate question. Take 220 and subtract your age. If you're 30, that would be 190. Then, shoot for 60-75% of that number for the heart rate you should try to achieve, depending on the effort you're putting in.

60% - 114 beats per minute
70% - 133 beats per minute
75% - 142 beats per minute

If you go high effort, then you don't want that heart rate to stay so high for too long. Give yourself time to come back down before putting that effort in again. Hope this helps!

Falon
Posted on: Tue, 05/31/2022 - 14:17

Thanks Roger for the reply and great rate info. How would you do HIIT on stationary bike? Basically just go hard for the duration?
And Cardio - 30 min low intensity on treadmill at a 10-15% incline, I'm figuring this to be fast walking or like a slight job, correct?

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 06/03/2022 - 16:11

HIIT on the bike could be 30 seconds hard and 30 seconds easy. Repeat that 10-15 times and you got a good one in.

10% on the treadmill for low intensity would actually be good. Fast walking would suffice. Jogging would still be a little too intense on that kind of incline for too long.

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

Josh,

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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Roger
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.

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

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

mana
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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Roger
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

Good

Marwa
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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Roger
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.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/expert-guides/fat-loss

Leiann
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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Roger
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. https://www.muscleandstrength.com/expert-guides/fat-loss

Janet
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!

Kelly
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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Roger
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?