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

Josh England
Written By: Josh England
June 7th, 2017
Updated: May 26th, 2021
3.9M 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!

541 Comments
Mariana
Posted on: Sat, 01/28/2023 - 12:26

Hi I’m really excited and am in week 1 of exercises. I haven’t been able to completed all the exercises listed. I’m doing these exercises from home and only use dumb bells/free weights. I do not have weight machines or go to the gym. Is there a way of getting the alternative exercise for those exercises with weight machines?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 01/29/2023 - 12:03

Check out our Exercises section to find substitute exercises based on the equipment you do have access to. Hope this helps!

Lois
Posted on: Tue, 01/24/2023 - 12:33

Hiya could you do
Say Monday and Tuesday in one session etc as I try to go to the gym 4 days a week but walk most nights

Thanks

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 01/27/2023 - 13:34

Hi, Lois. That is a lot of volume for one day, but if you think you can do it, give it a try. If you find it to be too much, cut back on a couple of movements from the Tuesday workout.

Thanks for reading M&S!

Alicia
Posted on: Mon, 01/23/2023 - 20:12

Hi, I am 3 weeks in on this workout and loving it. Just curious - on Tuesday it has 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b - should I be doing all four exercises or just one of the options? Also, what’s the benefit of doing all 3 sets at once rather than in a routine?

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 01/26/2023 - 20:20

Hi, Alicia. Those are supersets. You do them in the pairs that they are numbered with.

4a with 4b
5a with 5b

The supersets are for adding intensity to the program and keeping the heart rate up. It also challenges the muscles differently than doing each set on its own.

Sakoea
Posted on: Sat, 01/21/2023 - 06:17

Hi. Iv always struggled with losing weight found this n thought I'd try. On week 4 now, love the work out,I'm healthy eating, no alcohol,but iv gained 2lbs! Why? I'm gutted,I'm overweight n getting bigger, please tell me what I'm doing wrong. Thanks.

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 01/25/2023 - 08:44

Have you done a body composition test? You may have built muscle, which isn't a bad thing. Also, are you doing measurements? Those could also be more telling. Also, how many calories are you eating? It could be that you need to make adjustments. This may help.

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

Soph
Posted on: Wed, 01/18/2023 - 20:01

How heavy should my weights start off at, and how much should I try to increase by on a weekly basis or so? I’m 157cm and 70kg, i was moderately fit but have taken 1-2y off from regular consistent exercise and now only work out sporadically, which has led to rapid weight gain.

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 01/24/2023 - 07:17

Start with moderate weight so you feel challenged, but can still keep form. When you can do more than two reps over the rep range, it's time to go heavier.

Mel
Posted on: Wed, 01/18/2023 - 05:58

Hi thought id share my excitement on this forum. I am on day 3 of this workout and love the jelly leg feeling, tells me I have worked hard, although I feel like a heavily pregnant women trying to sit anywhere. No pain, no gain as they say. My mindset towards diet and exercise has been rather shocking and almost non existent. After doing sooo much research, i came across the Muscle & Strength website, which has really got me going. I feel great, ready and optimistic about this programme, especially after reading all these positive posts. Cant wait to see my progress in 12 weeks. I have 33 weeks until my beach holiday and going to be working hard and sticking to this programme. After a deload week, I will be doing this programme for another 12 weeks and the last 7 weeks before my holiday I will have a look on this site for something to get me through. Thank you Muscle & Strength for all the free workouts and information available to help those like me who had no clue until now. I feel so much more educated.

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 01/18/2023 - 21:36

Love this! Thank you so much, and please keep us posted on your transformation as you progress.

Anel
Posted on: Tue, 01/17/2023 - 09:32

Great program, thank you! My question is, how to determine the starting weights used and how to increase (and how often) the weight.

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 01/18/2023 - 21:37

Trial and error when determining the weights. You should feel challenged within the last two reps of a set. If you can do at least two more than what the workout says without sacrificing form, it's time to go up. If you stop with at least 2 to go, it's time to go lighter. Hope this helps!

Saira Asif
Posted on: Sun, 01/15/2023 - 09:16

I completed this programme back in November and it helped me immensely. I was able to increase my deadlift PR by 40kg,I can now deadlift 100kg+.I even developed some great biceps, which was not my goal! I went onto the 8 week total package workout and it's my second week tomorrow. I am excited and so grateful to have found this excellent resource. I highly recommend beginners to try this workout. Thank you Muscle and Strength!

Cíntia
Posted on: Fri, 01/13/2023 - 09:45

Should I do 3 sets of each exercise in a row or 1 set of each exercise and repeat that 3 times?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 01/15/2023 - 10:52

Perform all sets of each exercise before moving on to the next. Hope this helps.

Cíntia
Posted on: Wed, 01/11/2023 - 04:44

Hi! I’m so excited to start this 12 weeks program. I’ve never trained on my own before so it has been challenging to figure everything out and I had a question about the workout. Am I supposed to do, for example, 3 sets of squats, then 3 sets of dumbbell lunges, then 3 sets of dumbbell step ups or 1 set of each and repeat that 3 times (this workout structure is what I’m most familiar with since I used to do CrossFit)?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 01/15/2023 - 10:55

Perform all sets of one exercise before moving on to the next. So, do all three sets of squats, then all three of lunges, etc.

Olivia
Posted on: Tue, 01/10/2023 - 23:35

I'd like to do this routine but drop the 5th day and replace it with a cardio workout instead. I love doing Body Combat classes (high intensity mixed kartial arts coreography) and I know I can't commit to 6 days a week. Thoughts?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 01/15/2023 - 10:54

I would at least keep the arms part of that workout, but if you wanted to drop legs for the Body Combat, that could be good.

Tori
Posted on: Fri, 01/06/2023 - 19:34

Hi, thank you for this program, I've been doing it for 4 weeks now. I always have had trouble building muscle I'm 145 5'8 skinny fat and I was athletic when I was younger but I have thin arms/bones. I'm eating right and having protein shakes. My question is can or should I do the shoulder chest / back bi work out twice a week instead? I haven't seen much improvement at all with back or chest. I'm 30 and when I was 25 I could row 50 lbs without having been to the gym in months but I did play sports a few times a week. I'm still not at that point yet!

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 01/15/2023 - 10:53

I would suggest sticking to once a week for the rest of the time you do this program. After a few more weeks, if you don't notice any progress, then consider training them again twice a week. In the meantime, make sure you you focus on long negatives and harder contractions of the pecs and lats. This may help you out.

Mar Petit
Posted on: Mon, 12/26/2022 - 18:16

Excited to start this program! Overall, what kind of diet do you guys recommend? I am omnivorous, and I live in a town where I can find a lot of great meat/chicken, eggs, and fresh vegetables.

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 12/28/2022 - 18:02

What are your goals, Mar? Let us know and we will try to provide some insight for you.

Mar Petit
Posted on: Wed, 12/28/2022 - 18:10

Oh, sorry for not offering further details! And, thank you in advance for replying. I think I hit a brick wall at losing some fat, especially belly fat and inner thighs. I am around 145 lbs, 5'6". Overall, of athletic build. I want to round my glutes a bit more and finish shaping my legs. I like to look strong and toned, but not too much.

Thank you, Roger. Happy Holidays! :)

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 01/08/2023 - 12:51

WHen it comes to losing the fat, this will help you. https://www.muscleandstrength.com/expert-guides/fat-loss

When it comes to choosing those food sources, the food you mentioned are all solid options. If you can get straight meat with no or minimal processing, that will work. Wild caught fish is great as well.

April
Posted on: Wed, 12/21/2022 - 22:03

I understand how you can increase difficulty by changing number of sets, number of reps, or weight, but that's true of any exercise, so this program seems very nonspecific. Can you refer me to a similar program that's a little more clear on exactly how to progess each week? I'm more interested in seeing progress on the program than I am on how my body looks. Thanks!

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 12/28/2022 - 18:04

Hi, April. So, you're looking to see progress in terms of strength instead of physique? Am I correct? Please confirm, and I will see what we have that we can offer for you.

Kayleigh Sulima
Posted on: Wed, 12/21/2022 - 12:06

I really love this program and am looking for a one-year version. Does this exist anywhere?

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 12/28/2022 - 18:01

It doesn't, but that isn't a bad idea, Kayleigh. I will pass the suggestion on to my editors. In the meantime, feel free to keep going with this one. Thanks for reading M&S!

Bridget
Posted on: Fri, 12/09/2022 - 07:11

I am wrapping up my second week of the program and I feel better than I’ve felt in a really long time. In addition to the workout program I’m doing a keto type diet. Before making these changes, I would feel sluggish and foggy while requiring a nap daily. In two weeks I haven’t needed a nap. I’ve lost 10 lbs and have noticed muscle definition in my abs and arms. My mental has has improved quite significantly as well.
Thank you!

Kay
Posted on: Sat, 11/19/2022 - 18:01

I’ve literally never commented on any online forum before but I felt so strongly about this program that I wanted to share! I used to work out a lot but in recent years have gotten more out of shape since pandemic working from home. I had the main goals of creating more visible muscle definition, giving me the strength to support my yoga practice, and having an outlet for my mental well-being.

When I started the program a few months ago, I took my measurements. I just checked in a couple weeks ago to update them and I’ve lost two inches all around while also maintaining a similar weight! It’s so nice to know that I was able to channel all that into muscle.

I can’t recommend this program enough. I love the video tutorials, and most of the moves (with some substitutions here and there) feel so good in my body. It definitely helps to do this with a buddy for motivation. I go about 3-5 times a week with my buddy and even not following the strict day to day schedule still got my some great results. Thank you to Josh and the website for this awesome program!

Carly T
Posted on: Fri, 11/18/2022 - 21:47

Great structured and comprehensive workout plan thanks Rodger! Started today look forward to completing the 12 weeks :)

Mary Taylor
Posted on: Thu, 11/17/2022 - 15:50

I started this program 4 weeks ago and already see some results. I’ve lost weight, increased my stamina, I’m lifting heavier, and am definitely stronger. Cant wait to see what results I have at 8 and 12 weeks.

Mary Taylor
Posted on: Wed, 01/25/2023 - 09:40

Completed the 12 week program last week! I’ve noticed a lot of changes with my muscle tone, was progressively lifting heavier every week, lost inches everywhere and a total of 34 lbs. The workouts got easier every week and having such a structured routine helped me get more comfortable in the gym. Thank you!

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 01/26/2023 - 20:09

So glad to read this, Mary. I appreciate the feedback and you reading M&S. Congrats on your progress!

Tiffany Brown
Posted on: Sun, 10/09/2022 - 18:16

Started today.. looking forward to the next 12 weeks :)

Aly
Posted on: Thu, 10/06/2022 - 21:46

Hello, I'm planning on starting this 12 weeks program but would like to know if there's a nutritional plan that I can follow to go with the program. I'm aiming to lose weight at least 20+ pounds by the end of this program. I've done the math and my daily caloric intake should be approx. 1700cals (weight: 192lbs, height: 5' 2") However, need some guidance on how I should breakdown my macros and would be even better if I can just follow a meal prep plan. Thanks in advance for the guidance!

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 10/09/2022 - 15:48

We don't have many specific meal plans, but this guide should help you be able to come up with one of your own.

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

Tim
Posted on: Sun, 10/02/2022 - 09:17

Hi, I want to lose fat, how much weight should I lift

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 10/05/2022 - 20:28

The same as you would if you wanted to build muscle. Push yourself to train heavy, especially on the final sets of each exercise. You should approach failure, but still be able to maintain form. As long as your nutrition is solid, you will see results.

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.