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

Josh England
Written By: Josh England
June 7th, 2017
Updated: May 26th, 2021
4.8M 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: Sat, 11/25/2023 - 17:14

About to start this program and just want to know what the target heartrate is for the low and moderate cardio please?
Thank you for a great program.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 11/29/2023 - 20:55

Hi there. I would suggest 65% of your max for low and 75% for moderate. You can at least start there, and if you find you can go harder, adjust accordingly. Hope this helps!

Posted on: Fri, 12/01/2023 - 03:58

That makes sense. Thank you Roger.

Posted on: Mon, 10/30/2023 - 12:45

I assume that for single leg exercises, such as lunges, when it says 12 reps, that is 12 each leg?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 10/30/2023 - 18:39

That is correct, Emily!

Posted on: Tue, 10/17/2023 - 00:26

Amazing plan, pretty much what I was after!! Just wondering if the exercises can be shuffled around to create a 3 or 4 day split, rather than 5? Or would that be too much in one workout? Thanks :)

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 10/23/2023 - 20:34

Hi, Becca. I think you would be ok doing some slight adjustmenets. Share what you have in mind so other readers can benefit from your experience, if you don't mind.

Posted on: Mon, 09/25/2023 - 14:23

Hi Roger. Great work out plan. I am on week 12. I lost 22.8lbs so far. I lost 4" on my waist and 1.9" on my chest. Looking forward to deloading week where I will swim and run, then back to this program. Just wanted to drop a note of thanks. Also is there an alternative exercise to the good mornings listed on Friday? Thanks again for the excellent work out plan.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 09/30/2023 - 21:25

Hi, ML. Glad you like the plan. A question about the good mornings, why do you need the alternative? The answer will help me make the best recommendation possible for you.

Jeanny Diaz
Posted on: Sat, 08/19/2023 - 09:34

Hello! How would I turn this split into an intermediate/advanced split?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 08/27/2023 - 12:10

Hi, Jeanny. You could pair them up into supersets. Another option is use every final set of an exercise as a drop set. Go to failure, reduce the weight, go to failure again. Hope this helps!

Posted on: Mon, 08/14/2023 - 13:17

I've just started this workout. Probably a stupid question but what do 'a' and 'b' mean? (Day2, back and arms). Supersets?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 08/26/2023 - 21:33

Correct, supersets. That will also apply to anytime you see them on our workouts. Numbers with letters are supersets, trisets, or circuits.

Sara Grahn-Nilsson
Posted on: Tue, 07/18/2023 - 20:58

Is there a QR code or something I can scan to easily put this into a workout tracking app I have?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 07/21/2023 - 20:44

Afraid not, but I will make that suggestion to my editor. Apologies.

Posted on: Fri, 07/14/2023 - 12:23

Hi, Is this program suitable for losing weight? I am a complete beginner to weight training and about 20 kg overweight. Should I begin my fitness journey with this plan or would you recommend some other plan?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 07/21/2023 - 20:46

Hello! I think this would be a good one to start with if you have a local trainer that could help you learn the exercises until you feel more comfortable. If weight loss is your goal, make sure your diet supports that goal. This may help if needed.

Posted on: Mon, 05/22/2023 - 03:49

Hey Roger great workout plan. Can you please give me some positive feedback so I won’t quit. I feel like my body just doesn’t want to lose anything weight. In fact I’ve actually gained weight doing this plan. Which I’m kind of excited and sad at the same time This is my last week and I need motivation. I definitely feel stronger but the scale makes me hate working out. I haven’t tested my body fat but I look the same. Am I just a special case ?absolutely love th plan though- not saying anything bad about the plan. Just need support

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 05/29/2023 - 08:19

Kim, apologies for my delay in responding. Not sure what the diet and recovery was looking like while you were performing this routine, but there are factors beyond the gym that could affect results. Stress is high on that list. I would suggest taking a few days to not think about fitness or training and focus more on mental recovery and doing things that you enjoy. That short mental reset could be a slingshot that propels you to greater results in the future, regardless of what program you follow. You're special, but not a special case in the sense that this didn't work. That is why we have so many programs here on M&S. We just need to find the one that will help you. What won't help get results is not doing anything at all. That is the equivalent of a step backwards. Once you see this, let me know when you're ready to get after this and we can try to come up with new goals beyond the scale alone. Hope this helps you and thanks for being a part of the M&S community.

Posted on: Mon, 06/12/2023 - 13:38

Thank you for your reply Roger. That helps a lot. I am definitely ready to get after this and prepare for these goals.

Posted on: Sun, 05/14/2023 - 14:40

Does this program have to be done in consecutive days? Can I do 2 days and one off? Thanks!!!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 05/29/2023 - 08:14

If that is best for your schedule and you can stay consistent, then go for it, Sophia.

Posted on: Sun, 05/14/2023 - 12:26

Is there a maintenance program after this one to help keep your results? Something less intense hopefully

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 05/29/2023 - 08:07

Hi, Diana. You should be able to find your next program here. Thanks for reading M&S.

Pavlina Bileska
Posted on: Tue, 05/09/2023 - 18:56

I have started practicing this program since the beginning of March but stopped because of shoulder injury. I still skip all the exercises concerning shoulders. Also, I didn't pay attention to my eating habits (sweets especially) that much, so there aren't any visible results.
I am 53 with about 20kg to be cut down.
But I need to point out that this REALLY IS AN EXCELLENT training program. Thank you for sharing it

Posted on: Tue, 05/09/2023 - 15:23

Can this plan be used as a low intensity workout plan?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 05/11/2023 - 06:55

It sure can. Just don't go all out on the sets. You should still feel like you'r working, but train so you can execute all the sets without reaching failure.

Posted on: Sun, 05/07/2023 - 09:54

When you suggest a 6-12 range of reps, is it better to go heavier with the low reps for better muscle tone & defition?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 05/09/2023 - 07:07

Definition is going to be determined by diet. For developing the muscle without trying to make it bigger, I suggest sticking to failure around 12 reps instead of 6.

Posted on: Mon, 04/24/2023 - 21:11

What’s the ideal amount of rest time between each set and exercise?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 05/01/2023 - 13:14

45-60 seconds. Hope this helps!

Posted on: Mon, 04/24/2023 - 12:25

Could you please advise the weight/dumbbells plan? By how mach I can start? My plan is to tone my body, lose fat, and gaining muscles.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 05/01/2023 - 13:14

Weight is based on the user. That is up to you. As long as the weight challenges you, but you can complete all reps with good form, you're good to go. Hope this helps!

Posted on: Sat, 04/22/2023 - 15:09

Do you suggest doing all 3 sets of each exercise before moving on to the next?
Or, Do 1 set of each exercise and then go back and repeat from the beginning?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 05/01/2023 - 13:13

Suggested plan is to do all sets of one exercise before moving on to the next.

Diana alford
Posted on: Thu, 04/20/2023 - 11:40

Approximately how long are the workout sessions? Around an hour or so?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 05/01/2023 - 13:13

Roughly. It may differ based on the way the gym you're training in is set up, but you can bet on an hour, give or take a few minutes.

Samantha Lopes ...
Posted on: Sun, 04/09/2023 - 20:01

Is there a way to fit bulgarian split squats into the leg routine?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 04/24/2023 - 22:15

After the leg extensions. Go for it!

Posted on: Tue, 04/04/2023 - 17:11

Would you suggest doing this program before or after the 12 week fat destroyer? I noticed the fat destroyer is 4 days a week with 30-45 minutes while this is a 5 day with 45-60 minutes. Thanks! xx

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 04/22/2023 - 13:42

I would say after, especially if you're still learning the ropes of training. Getting used to four days will help you prepare to shift to five days. Hope this helps!

Posted on: Tue, 04/04/2023 - 07:10

Starting this 12-week program as well as new nutrition goals today :)
Excited to get back to training after a few months hiatus.

Ana Garcia
Posted on: Sun, 03/26/2023 - 00:10

I just finished this 12-week program and I must say that my legs are shredded and stringer than ever. I had a relapse during the fall due COVID and this routine helped me to get back in shape and get stronger. Totally recommended

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 03/30/2023 - 15:41

Glad you're on the other side of COVID and back where you want to be. Thanks for the recommendation and reading M&S!

Kim Pichler
Posted on: Thu, 03/16/2023 - 08:19

On week 12 of this program and it has been really great! It has been exactly what my body needed and has been very easy to stick with which is super important! I am down almost 20 lbs since january 1, and my bottom is looking so much more toned than it ever has. I am wondering however if you have a next level plan by chance? I wouldn't mind doing this again but would prefer to change it up some if that is an option. Thanks!!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 03/23/2023 - 20:00

Hi, Kim. So glad the program has helped you and you found others. I believe I just read that in another comment. If you still need suggestions, let me know and I will try to find another one for you.

Posted on: Tue, 03/14/2023 - 12:11

I am a 47 female wanting to get back into shape after a long break. I have been cleared by my doctor to start up a workout program. Is this acceptable for women over their 40’s to begin with? Thank you!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 03/23/2023 - 19:58

Sure is! If you run with it, let us know how it goes, Crystal. Good luck!

Posted on: Mon, 03/13/2023 - 02:17

Just finished my first week of this program. I’m 4 months postpartum and my whole body is completely sore. Feels good to be back and I’m excited to see how this routine will change my body. If I had a meal plan I know I would do a lot better bc that seems to be where I have issues. But I will follow this plan and eat well and hopefully see some results soon! Thank you

Kim Pichler
Posted on: Thu, 03/16/2023 - 08:31

I found your other programs and am going to try to work off of those next! Thanks again so much! Your program has literally been the only one ive ever truly stuck to and i am getting great results! Thanks!