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

Josh England
Written By: Josh England
June 7th, 2017
Updated: May 26th, 2021
2.8M 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, 09/04/2021 - 04:07

Hello. How can I get this workout plan?

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Posted on: Fri, 09/10/2021 - 19:56

Hi, click the Download Workout button at the top and you will get a PDF of the workout.

Posted on: Sun, 08/29/2021 - 15:01

Hi. This workout looks perfect for me but I do not have funds or access to a gym. I do have a good set of dumbells though! Would it be possibme to recommend substitutes for the barbell and gym machine moves?

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Posted on: Fri, 09/10/2021 - 19:52

Hi, Nina. You can check out the Exercises section to find dumbbell exercises for every muscle group. There is also this program that only requires dumbbells you can use.

Posted on: Sat, 09/11/2021 - 02:10

Thankyou Roger

Posted on: Fri, 07/30/2021 - 22:28

Love these workouts!! Should i be doing all the sets together at one time, or doing one set for each exercise, then going to the next, rotating through exercises?

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Posted on: Wed, 08/04/2021 - 14:48

Lauren -

Glad to hear you're loving these workouts! You will want to complete all sets of a given exercise before moving on to the next exercise. Hope this helps! Let us know if you have any more questions.

Posted on: Thu, 07/29/2021 - 16:35

I’ve been doing this workout for almost 5 weeks now and I am seeing a difference, but I don’t like it. Is it normal for me to get so big? I’ve lost pounds but the circumference around my muscles are getting bigger and I’m worried. Should stop? I read online that my muscles will get bigger before they get smaller bc fat and muscle will be cohabitating the same space and eventually my new muscles will burn the fat off?

Posted on: Sun, 07/25/2021 - 22:18

What is the difference between Romanian dead lift and dumbbell stiff leg deadlift on Wednesday? Are they targeting different muscles?

Posted on: Sun, 08/15/2021 - 13:25

I have been curious about this too!

Posted on: Mon, 07/19/2021 - 20:38

On Tuesday there is a and b for the 4th and 5th workouts. Should I be doing all of them or alternate them weekly?

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Posted on: Wed, 07/21/2021 - 11:19

Hey Jodi - you'll do a and b as supersets.

Posted on: Sun, 06/27/2021 - 07:28

Hi! I have done 2 weeks of this and really like it so far. I have a question about if it is possible to build muscle at the same time as being in caloric deficit?
I calculated my BMR, but since I am overweight (BMI 29,9) and I know my bodyfat % is 41%, so I calculated BMR using bodyfat% my caloric needs are obviously a lot lower than using the Henris Benedict formula (with bodyfat% calculation its around around 1850). I try to eat 1600 kcal, high protein, and combine it with the workout, and so far I feel good, but I just want to make sure that I can actually build muscle this way too.
And how long time does it take more or less to build muscle / loose body fat%? I am in it for the long run, it is more to know when I should start tweaking my diet if it is not changing.

Thank you!!!

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Posted on: Mon, 06/28/2021 - 09:25

Hey Anna - great questions! Is that 1850 number taken into account your activity level?

Posted on: Tue, 06/15/2021 - 13:03

I’m almost finished with this program and have seen some great results! I love the 45ish minute workouts and can commit to going to the gym M-F.
I’m wanting to continue losing body fat and toning up- should I do this for another round or swap to another program?

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Posted on: Wed, 06/16/2021 - 08:38

Hey Lindsay - if you're seeing results with this program, why change what works, right? I'd recommend taking a deload week between finishing the program and starting the program again.

Posted on: Tue, 06/22/2021 - 06:35

Great points, thank you!!

Posted on: Sun, 06/13/2021 - 07:16

Is it possible to make a workout routine combining this workout with the 12 week push, pull, legs and the build your own WOD?

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Posted on: Mon, 06/14/2021 - 10:45

Hey Naomi - you can pick and choose exercises from this program and the PPL workout to create your own workout

Posted on: Tue, 05/18/2021 - 13:01

Starting this plan today! Looks so good! Hoping to see results! In regards to the recommended supplements that are optional what benefit do each of these have? As I'm looking possibly in to purchasing.

Posted on: Mon, 05/10/2021 - 18:13

This plan seems to be a plan requiring the use of gym equipment - and going to the gym to exercise in front of strangers is about the last thing I want to do. Do you have a home workout plan that would give me the same results (losing weight and building strength)?

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Posted on: Tue, 05/11/2021 - 09:29

Hey Alexa - yes, this is a gym workout. Check out our series of women's dumbbell only workouts that can be done at home as well as the gym:

Posted on: Sat, 05/08/2021 - 18:21

Hi I was wondering what is this work out for ? I saw main goal is lose fat and I want to grain weight , plus grow Glutes would this workout for me ?

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Posted on: Mon, 05/10/2021 - 10:08

Hey Lilian - yes, you can use this program to add mass. The biggest factor in gaining muscle is eating in a caloric surplus.

Posted on: Sat, 04/24/2021 - 10:40

Hi I’m looking for an intermediate program similar to this that hits every body part equally. I’m looking to lose body fat while building lean defined muscle. I’ve been weight training for almost a year with a trainer but I’m ready to switch it up.

Posted on: Mon, 04/19/2021 - 22:56

Is this a good start for someone who hasn’t worked out ina few years and has at least 50lbs to lose. Or is there a better program to start with. Currently starting back at the gym and am clueless as to what to do for a weight training routinez

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Posted on: Tue, 04/20/2021 - 13:02

Hey Ashley - this is a great routine to get started with!

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

Hey Naomi - what're your goals?

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

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

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

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 on: 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.

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

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

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

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 on: 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.

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

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 on: 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.

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

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

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

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

Posted on: 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!

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

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

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Posted on: 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.

Posted on: 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 on: 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".

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

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

Posted on: 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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