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!

180 Comments+ Post Comment

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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!

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Posted Sat, 10/13/2018 - 04:34
Aisha magar

I didn't get any emails

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 10/15/2018 - 13:28
JoshEngland

Hi Aisha,

What emails were you hoping to receive and where did you input your information on the site?

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Posted Mon, 10/15/2018 - 13:33
Aisha magar

It said that they will send welcome email but i didn't get any welcome email or something

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 10/15/2018 - 14:07
JoshEngland

Hi Aisha,

Hmm. That is weird. Did you check your promotions tab? I'll look into this on my end. Thank you for bringing it up.

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Posted Fri, 10/05/2018 - 02:00
Amber

First, thank you SO MUCH for posting such amazing information! Second, I’m looking to start this 12 week beginner program and just wondering if the weight should be slightly increased between sets, or just week to week? I have previous lifting experience and we would up the weight in between each set, but haven’t lifted consistently in a few years so just curious what you recommend. Thank you!!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Fri, 10/05/2018 - 11:40
JoshEngland

Hi Amber,

Thanks for checking out our content! I hope you enjoy the workout when you start.

It really depends on your individual preferences and how your body reacts to different forms of progressions.

Ultimately, 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. No need to increase them in between each set, although you can.

Either way works and will help you see great results.

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Posted Mon, 09/03/2018 - 18:32
Grace Price

I am about to start your programme but I was wondering if you have any warm ups that I could do before performing the workout?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 09/06/2018 - 12:48
JoshEngland

Hi Grace,

Give these a shot: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/warming-up-for-dummies

Hope this helps!

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Posted Mon, 09/03/2018 - 11:06
Caroline H

Hi! Thank you so much for this plan, it has helped me so so much. I used to just stick to cardio, but after a year of no weights, I realized that the volume in my body was depleting as my weight dropped. I even started to gain as time went on, so I decided to go to the gym and lift, but I had NO IDEA how to use wights or what to do. Then, I found this program!

I just finished with the 12th week and I feel amazing. For the first time (IN MY LIFE) I feel muscle on my arms and can see my legs getting more defined. I lost around an inch on the narrowest part of my waist and lost 4 pounds! I'm not sure what I gained in muscle.... but either way, I'm pretty happy! It's not a "dramatic result" that lots of people notice, but it's enough to make me proud of myself!

Overall, I'm really happy with my results. That being said, I will say that I didn't follow through with a few things that I think would have benefited from! First, I didn't count calories. I used to do this all the time, but I found, for me, counting calories, was not good for my mental health. I intuitively eat, but I would recommend others try to count calories as much as they can! It probably could have helped me see even more results if I did. Also, I didn't do the abs on the weekends and that was a bad idea. My whole body is getting more toned accept my stomach, which is mostly just annoying.

This is an amazing plan for people who want to lift weights at the gym, but may be too scared to just go in blind. I now feel confident to go into the weights section and kill it. If you have any other plans that would be good to do after this one, please let me know! I will definitely be following another plan of ya'lls soon. Thank you so much!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 09/06/2018 - 12:52
JoshEngland

Hi Caroline,

That is AWESOME! Thank you for sharing your success with the program. I'm happy it was able to help you reach your goals.

You're more than welcome to continue performing this workout if you'd like and are still enjoying it. We also have a lot of other great workouts here (and are adding more regularly): https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/women

Keep up the great work!

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Posted Wed, 08/29/2018 - 14:55
Kate O'Hallaron

Do you have suggested weight to start with for the 12 week program with the exercises that involve using weights? Or do you just start with what is appropriate for you? I am a beginner and did not see suggested weight amount on the videos of the exercises. Thanks!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 08/30/2018 - 09:25
JoshEngland

Hi Kate,

Pick a weight you think you can use for the prescribed reps. If too heavy, move down. If too light, move up. You should finish each set feeling as though you have 1-2 reps left in the tank. A good rule of thumb is 75-85% of your working max for the prescribed rep ranges.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 08/28/2018 - 20:02
reema

Hello, thank you so much for the workouts. I am wondering if you have an app where we can track this progress?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 08/29/2018 - 10:14
JoshEngland

Hi Reema,

We do not have an app currently, but we do have downloadable PDFs you can take with you.

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Posted Sat, 08/25/2018 - 04:52
Sanna

I realt likes the exercises in this program. But i bolt workout 3-4 times a week. Can I still do this program? I have looked info the 8week fullgodt and 6 weeks ones... but not feeling excited about those exercises.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 08/27/2018 - 08:57
JoshEngland

Hi Sanna,

If you workout 3xs per week pick a leg workout and perform the other 2 workouts weekly.

If you workout 4xs per week, pick 2 leg workouts and perform the other 2 workouts weekly.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 08/14/2018 - 20:25
Sepideh

First of all, I want to say thank you so much for your amazing fitness plan. I have done both your beginners women plan, and I am completely satisfy with them.

As I am a PhD student, i do not have enough time to go to the gym 5 times a week. So do you have any suggestion for me in school days? Is there any 3times a week plan for women?

Best regards,

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 08/15/2018 - 08:39
JoshEngland

Hi Sepideh,

That's awesome! Congrats on completing both programs.

We do have this 3 day per week full body workout program you might enjoy during the school year: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/8-week-full-body-womens-worko...

Hope this helps!

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Posted Mon, 08/13/2018 - 15:52
ALex

Excellent programme. I’m on week 3
Have always gone to the gym 4 times a week but this is great to mix up routine. Really good mix of exercises and definitely noticed a difference on my glutes. Do you have any eating plans to go with this as I always find I’m more hungry on the Monday. Big workout after the weekend

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 08/14/2018 - 15:00
JoshEngland

Hi Alex,

We don't have specific diet plans as everyone has such different dietary needs it'd be hard to match generic diets to anyone person.

I'd recommend starting here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator

Then going here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-to-calculate-perfect-macros

And finish up here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-to-create-a-bodybuilding-...

Hope this helps!

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Posted Wed, 08/08/2018 - 16:08
shelby Adams

I this program just repeating the same weekly routine 12 time or am I missing the rest somewhere on this page?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 08/09/2018 - 08:37
JoshEngland

Hi Shelby,

You perform the 5 listed workouts on this page and on the PDF for 12 weeks. While other fitness platforms have popularized the need to change your workouts weekly, this isn't the case. Keeping the workouts similar allows you to better track your workouts so you know when you're capable of progressing in the amount of weight you use.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 07/31/2018 - 09:23
Courtney N.

Question about modification for this workout. I have degenerative discs, and have had back surgery once at L4/L5. I also have a lot of pain in my knees from being heavy for so many years. I have to be careful with impact exercises. Treadmills and stairmill machines cause pain during and especially after when my muscles start to rest. How can I modify these? Or can I do another machine instead for cardio? Elliptical maybe? Thanks for the input.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 07/31/2018 - 11:21
JoshEngland

Hi Courtney,

Those are some tough questions to answer over the internet, and I don't think you're going to like my response. I'd recommend hiring a personal trainer. With these prior injuries your movement patterns have been altered. There's no way for anyone over the internet to know how so.

I'd seek out a professional in your area and pick their brain for a couple of months as you work with them. It'll be well worth the return on investment.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Thu, 07/19/2018 - 19:32
Jenny

I am on week 4 of the program. I haven’t seen much results except that I feel amazing. I am wondering if I should get fat burner, as suggested. I clicked on the link and well there are like 240 to pick from. Can you suggest the top 5 that works best for women. Some reviews were about helping with testosterone and I’m not sure that is what I want, or is it? Any help would be appreciated.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Fri, 07/20/2018 - 08:52
JoshEngland

Hi Jenny,

How are you measuring your results? And are you tracking your nutrition/calories and sleep?

I'd say feeling amazing is solid progress :)

If your goal is fat loss, you'll want to make sure you are in a calorie deficit. Getting 8+ hours of sleep each night can also help with your fat burning efforts. Make sure those two things are locked in prior to considering a fat burner.

If you still feel like you need a fat burner after that - you can try to find one from our top 50 product list here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/store/top-sellers

Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 07/17/2018 - 16:37
jeannine breedlove

With the recommended supplements... what would be some of your recommendations as far as for the protein powder, multi-vitamin and fat burner.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 07/18/2018 - 08:36
JoshEngland

Hi Jeannine,

If you click through to each product recommended, you can sort by rating, most popular product, cost, etc.

It's hard to recommend particular products as everyone has different tastes and supplement preferences. I'd recommend reading through some of the product reviews on the products you're interested in to see what others have to say.

I know it's probably not as straight forward of an answer as you were hoping for, but I hope it helps.

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Posted Sat, 07/14/2018 - 18:17
Jes

Just finished my first week and I’m feeling great! I’m trying to build muscle but also lose some (midsection) fat. Do I need to stick to my maintaining calories or cut some out? I don’t want to hinder the muscle growth.
Thank you

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 07/16/2018 - 09:57
JoshEngland

Hi Jes,

Stick to maintenance for a couple of weeks and track your progress. If you need to, at that point readjust your calorie intake.

Hope this helps! Best of luck with the program!

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Posted Wed, 07/11/2018 - 21:24
Pepper

I have just started this program. I have some fat on my hips and Thighs(outer and inner), compared to my upper body. Will this workout help me reduce fat on my lower body, especially thighs??

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 07/12/2018 - 09:19
JoshEngland

Hi Pepper,

While it's not possible to target fat loss on any specific area - this workout can help you lose body fat overall and obtain a better body composition when paired with an appropriate diet.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Wed, 07/11/2018 - 11:52
Ariela

loving the set up of this workout so far. Currently on week 5! Im wondering if its ok to take a week off at the end? I am going on vacation in the middle of week 12 so I will not be able to complete Thursday-Monday. Will missing this many days of working out set me back? Also when I get back I plan to start working out again that Tuesday. Should I do another 12 weeks of this program and keep increasing weight, or should I choose a new program to switch it up?

Also is it normal to not see results yet? I have been increasing my weights each week and doing each workout (aside from the Wednesday one, and the cardio which I am starting this week) I eat healthy and Ive been going up in weights so I feel stronger in that regard, but my body looks the same and I am still "skinny fat" 126 pound 5'6 and not much muscle.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 07/12/2018 - 09:25
JoshEngland

Hi Ariela,

Yes, you can absolutely take a week off at the end - in fact, I encourage it! It'll help you reset and recover from the past few months.

You can restart this program when you return from vacation if you'd like. We also have other women's programs that you can try out depending on your goals here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/women

I'd like to ask how you are measuring your goals? Have you taken caliper measurements to compare your bodyfat percentages? If you're moving up in weight consistently, I'd say you're having a lot of great success with this program and definitely building muscle. Not to mention, 126lbs for 5'6 is a very healthy weight to be at.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Thu, 07/05/2018 - 09:08
Nicole

Hi! So I am on week 2 day 4 (thursday) and yesterday I did legs. I woke up and was disappointed because I was not sore! I know soreness isn’t an indicator of a good workout, but I’m concerned will I keep making progress? Should I be increasing the weight now? Also will I make noticeable progress with this program even though every week im doing the same thing? Last question, some stomach seems to be looking bigger, should I be incorporating ab workouts with this program? I do love it so far though it has got be back to being active! Thanks!!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 07/05/2018 - 09:26
JoshEngland

Hi Nicole,

Trust the process.

Was the weight easy to move? If so, move up in weight. If not, there's no reason to be concerned about not being sore.

For the remainder of your questions, I'll restate:

Trust the process.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Thu, 07/05/2018 - 07:01
Jules

Should I do the setsin a row or go through each exercise? For example do I do 4 sets of goblet squad then 90 secs rest then 4 sets of RDL?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 07/05/2018 - 08:47
JoshEngland

Hi Jules,

Sort of. You perform the 4 sets of goblet squat prior to moving on to the next exercise. But you should rest in between each set of goblet squats as well.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Mon, 07/02/2018 - 01:08
Sam

Hello!

I might be having a blonde moment, but I only see day 1-5 and the weekends. How do I download all 12 weeks?

Thank you!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 07/02/2018 - 09:12
JoshEngland

Hi Sam,

You perform the 5 listed workouts on this page and on the PDF for 12 weeks. While other fitness platforms have popularized the need to change your workouts weekly, this isn't the case. Keeping the workouts similar allows you to better track your workouts so you know when you're capable of progressing in the amount of weight you use.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Sat, 06/30/2018 - 13:49
Hayley

Hello,

I've noticed that my lower back feels tight/sore after Friday workouts. Is this concerning or expected?

Thank you!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 07/02/2018 - 08:56
JoshEngland

Hi Hayley,

Potentially. Depends on the type of soreness you're feeling.

My guess would be it's coming from performing good mornings, which target the low back indirectly. It's important when performing these that you maintain a neutral spine and focus solely on hinging at the hips to perform the movement.

The majority of the move should be felt in the glutes and hamstrings.

If you're concerned, I'd recommend subbing it out for a deadlift variation or another hamstring exercise.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Thu, 06/28/2018 - 23:28
Terry

Hi,
I really like the look of this program, but I don't have access to a gym or equipment. Is there a no-equipment program similar to this one that you could recommend?

Thanks,
Terry.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Fri, 06/29/2018 - 08:47
JoshEngland

Hi Terry,

We don't have any that are completely comparable to this program at this time. However, that's definitely something we should look to add in the future.

We do have this circuit workout for women that requires very minimal equipment: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/2-at-home-circuit-workouts-fo...

Hope this helps!

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Posted Wed, 06/27/2018 - 00:17
Rebecca Harrison

Hi,
I have LOVED this program, im onto week 8 and im seeing definition and have increased in major lifting weights as well. Im the kinda person that also needs to jazz programs up otherwise i get board and dont see it through- what program would you recommend for after this one just for something different? I can go to gym up to 5 times a week- and i love weights and increasing my strength also after all over toning,
There are just so many good ones on here i feel a bit over whelmed with where to go next.
Thanks
Rebecca

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 06/27/2018 - 09:42
JoshEngland

Hi Rebecca,

That's so awesome to hear! Congratulations on your progress!

We have a couple programs you might enjoy - take a look at these:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/10-week-upper-lower-workout-f...

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/scarlett-johansson-workout-pr...

We're also currently working on a 10 week workout for women that should be published at the end of July. However, that program will be geared towards fat loss, so not sure it will align with your goals.

Hope this helps!