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
12 weeks
45-60 minutes
Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, EZ Bar, Machines
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.

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.

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

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!

340 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Fri, 04/02/2021 - 09:35

Is there a different set of 12 week workouts to try after these? Or an intermediate? I also have a general idea of how I want my body to "look like" just not really how to get there.

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Posted Tue, 04/06/2021 - 09:38

Hey Naomi - what're your goals?

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Posted Tue, 04/06/2021 - 09:43

I'd like to lose fat in my upper body and abs while building strength and tone up my lower but keep size.

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Posted Tue, 04/06/2021 - 09:46
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Posted Tue, 04/06/2021 - 09:50

Thank you so much. I look forward to starting this on Monday and the end results.

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Posted Sun, 03/28/2021 - 00:11
Olivia I.

Hello, this workout looks like a good start for me. If I want to add “bulk” just to the glutes area, but tone down in other areas, should I consume extra calories on leg/ glute day? I don’t want my glutes smaller after starting the exercise.

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Posted Mon, 03/29/2021 - 09:54

Hey Olivia - I'd recommend eating at your maintenance calories for 4-6 weeks. From there, you can re-evaluate your progress and make any adjustments that are necessary.

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Posted Fri, 03/26/2021 - 11:39

I cannot get the BMI calculator to work for me any help here?

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Posted Thu, 03/11/2021 - 08:43
Heather T.

Good morning,

Is it okay to do the cardio part of the workout first and then the exercises? A friend and I just started your program 2 weeks ago and love to start out on the treadmill or stationary bike to warm up. Is this okay?

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Posted Thu, 03/11/2021 - 09:20

Hey Heather - you can do 5 minutes or so on the treadmill or stationary bike to warm up. This should be a light warm up. It's best to do your full cardio session after weights.

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Posted Thu, 02/18/2021 - 15:15
Danielle Schattner

I am trying to calculate my BMR and am doing this program. What is this program activity level considered? I chase a toddler around all day so I’m pretty active at home too. Also, any tips for fatigue? Since starting this week I’m sooooo sleepy during the day. I do this workout at 4:30 in the morning, so it literally feels like it sucks the life out of me. I was running 5k in the mornings before beginning this program and didn’t feel like that, but I def think it’s because of more strain on my body. Will I adjust to it? I am trying to stay hydrated too. Your help is appreciated. Great program.

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Posted Fri, 02/19/2021 - 10:45

Hey Danielle - This program would be considered 'moderately active'. Strength training workouts tax the body in different ways than running. It's normal to feel a bit worn out when starting a new program, especially if it's something you're not used to. Sleep, nutrition, and hydration are important factors that affect recovery. If you follow the macros from the BMR calculator for a few weeks and you still feel worn out, you may have to increase your calories slightly and/or switch up your routine.

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Posted Wed, 03/24/2021 - 10:08

Perhaps she needs more glycogen onboard in the morning before starting...?

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Posted Sat, 02/13/2021 - 15:22

Is there an app that we can follow this program and track it on our phone?

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Posted Tue, 02/16/2021 - 09:42

Hey Amanda - we currently don't have an app.

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Posted Sat, 01/30/2021 - 17:40

I am motivated to begin this workout at the age of 61! I used to be a health and exercise buff but stopped after some health issues about 10 years ago. I've put on so much weight and am not consistent with any type of exercise program. I am excited and looking forward to beginning my new journey!

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Posted Sun, 01/24/2021 - 10:10
Anna C Bivona

I do have a question, I may have missed it but how much weight should I start out at?

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Posted Mon, 01/25/2021 - 10:00

Hey Anna - weight will vary from person to person. Choose a weight that is challenging and you can move safely with proper form for the given number of reps.

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Posted Sat, 01/23/2021 - 11:08

would this help with a "skinny fat" pyschique, im nervous to build muscle UNDER my fat. My goal is to lose fat and get toned up, ultimately look more slim and "tightened". Would you reccommend this? I am 18 years old, 5"1 and 113 pounds with alot of excess fat on my arms.

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Posted Mon, 01/25/2021 - 10:04

Hey Sadiba - this workout is a great place to start! You do not need to worry about getting "bulky".

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Posted Sun, 01/17/2021 - 14:13

Thank you for this wonderful organized program.
I have a question, do i have to complete all exercise’s sets before moving to the next exercise?

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Posted Mon, 01/18/2021 - 10:47

Hey Dee - yes, you'll complete all sets of one exercise before moving on to the next.

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Posted Tue, 12/22/2020 - 17:01

Is this good to build muscle and at the same time gain weight? I struggle a lot to gain weight because of my metabolism and i would like to "bulk" up my arms, chest, shoulders, legs and glutes.
Thank you

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Posted Wed, 12/23/2020 - 09:15

Hey Alba - if gaining weight is your goal, you have to eat in a caloric surplus. A quality diet paired with a workout like this one will help you achieve that goal.

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Posted Thu, 11/12/2020 - 07:59

Hello! I Just started doing this workout plan and I find it great. My question is, is it necessary to follow the order of the exercises in day or can I choose in which order I do them? Thank you.

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Posted Thu, 11/12/2020 - 10:49

Hey Maria - it's important to follow the exercises in their written order.

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Posted Tue, 11/10/2020 - 23:18

Can you give me a meal plan that would pair well with this workout? I'm looking to lose weight and tone. I'm 5'10 and weigh 235. I have an apple/hourglass shape.

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Posted Wed, 11/11/2020 - 09:15

Hey Shay - use our BMR calculator ( to determine your daily caloric needs. Then take a look at this article ( to help figure out your daily macro breakdown.

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Posted Mon, 11/09/2020 - 15:27

Hi! I just wanted to say that I just completed the first week of this workout program, and THANK YOU!!! First, I love the layout/schedule of this routine, second- as someone who has always struggled with wanting to work out but having no idea what to do at the gym, this program/site has been so so very useful in helping me be confident with what I’m doing instead of walking around lost. I can’t wait to see results in the next 12 weeks. Thanks again!

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Posted Tue, 11/10/2020 - 09:11

Hey Amanda - I'm so glad you love the routine!! Keep us updated on your progress :)

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Posted Mon, 11/02/2020 - 21:52
Amelia Blackmon

Hello! I am in the military. I currently weight 215 and want to loose weight as well as body fat? I am currently 5,2 and 41% body fat. Will this workout work for me? I would like to tone but really need to reduce body fat first. Where should I start? Is this workout it? Thanks in advance for your response! Love the content

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Posted Tue, 11/03/2020 - 10:09

Hey Amelia - diet plays the biggest part in weight loss. Use our BMR calculator ( to determine your daily caloric need. Reduce that number by 250-500 to lose weight.

For workouts, I'd suggest a full-body routine. Do you have a current workout routine?

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Posted Thu, 11/05/2020 - 09:07

No problem! How many days are you wanting to work out?

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Posted Thu, 11/05/2020 - 09:11
Amelia Blackmon

Ummm at least 4-5. Because I want to save the other couple days for cardio unless the plan already takes that into consideration. I’m with being in the military I have to continue to be good at running and weight loss as well.

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Posted Thu, 11/05/2020 - 10:21

Check out this one:

It is a 3 day per week workout. You can add in running 2 days per week on your off days depending on your recovery.

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Posted Fri, 11/06/2020 - 09:07
Amelia Blackmon

Good morning! I tried it this morning and it’s so complicated! Is there another one that u can provide me even if it’s more days? Thank you so much! I’m not trying to be difficult but I’m not a lifter so I am confused on the ramped part

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Posted Fri, 11/06/2020 - 09:19

Amelia - can you explain a bit about why you're confused? I can help clarify.

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Posted Fri, 11/06/2020 - 09:47
Amelia Blackmon

Like the ramped portion of the workout. I don’t understand what that means. Like increasing and all that. . Thank you so much again for the help!

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Posted Fri, 11/06/2020 - 09:52
Amelia Blackmon

what does ramped mean in the total body workout that you suggested?

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Posted Mon, 11/09/2020 - 09:20

Your first two sets of the exercise are warm up sets where you'll use a percentage of your working weight.

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Posted Tue, 11/03/2020 - 11:38
Amelia Blackmon

No I don’t!? I have been on here looking trying to find something. Is there a full body routine that u suggest? Thank you so much for responding.

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Posted Mon, 10/26/2020 - 17:57

Hi Josh,
I am looking to tone and tighten my lower body without adding bulk. I have strong legs as it is and want to tone them as much as possible (long muscle) without adding bulk. Are all of the lungs and squats going to help me achieve my desired results? I do a lot of walking and some running. I am adding weight training to my mix to incorporate more core and overall strength. Thank you for sharing your program!

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Posted Tue, 10/27/2020 - 09:22

Hey JoJo - women getting super bulky is a big misconception about women lifting weights. It takes years of training at an intense level for a woman to get "bulky". Resistance training is a great way to achieve a "toned" look. This program is perfect for your goals.

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Posted Sun, 10/18/2020 - 05:40

Why are there so many leg exercises in this program?

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Posted Mon, 10/19/2020 - 09:40

Hey Alicia - a lot of women looking for workouts want something that will help their lower body grow while not adding a whole lot of mass to the upper body. This workout is designed for those goals.

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Posted Mon, 10/19/2020 - 17:12

Ah ok, that makes sense. Thanks for the info!

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Posted Mon, 10/12/2020 - 15:24

Will be trying this out-thank you!
My question to you is if ab workouts should be done daily? I hear several different opinions on this. What is your advice?

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Posted Tue, 10/13/2020 - 09:09

Hey Scar - abs can be trained 2-3 times per week.

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Posted Sun, 09/06/2020 - 15:02
Kelsey Murdock

Is there a meal plan that I use with this program?

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Posted Thu, 09/24/2020 - 16:09

Hey Kelsey - Check out our BMR calculator to learn more about your caloric needs: The specific meal plan/diet will depend on your goals.