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!

160 Comments+ Post Comment

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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!

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Posted Thu, 06/21/2018 - 12:57
Hayley

Hello, I am about to do Day 4 of the workout and I noticed that when I click on "Machine Chest Fly" a video for "Pec Decs" comes up. Are they the same? Thank you!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 06/21/2018 - 13:12
JoshEngland

Hi Hayley,

Yes, the two terms are used interchangeably in this program.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Mon, 06/18/2018 - 14:46
Tracy

Hi there! I really like the structure of this program and the exercises. However, I can only get to the gym 4 times per week. Any suggestions on how to combine one of the days into others in order to make this work? Thanks!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 06/18/2018 - 15:10
JoshEngland

Hi Tracy,

You might find this program more fitting to your schedule:

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

Hope this helps!

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Posted Wed, 06/13/2018 - 09:56
Michi

Hi I'm not sure if this question has been posted before, but wow no rest days except for the weekend? I've read infomation that warns against over-training and taking breaks between workouts, so would your plan still be effective if I had a day's rest between each exercise rather than on the weekend? Thank you.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 06/14/2018 - 15:28
JoshEngland

Hi Michi,

You're more than welcome to alter the template in any way that you feel is necessary to maximize recovery. That being said, overtraining is a truly difficult point for most people to get to. The way this program was designed shouldn't result in overtraining for most healthy and relatively active people.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 06/12/2018 - 21:34
Ariela Solomon

I started on Monday and I really like the program, have not tried the cardio yet just the lifting. The thing is I don't wanna lose the good habit of going to the gym but my legs are Sooo sore from Monday's workout that I am afraid to over train tomorrow (wednesday) for another leg day. How should I go about Wednesdays workout to help with progress, but not hurt my muscles further?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 06/13/2018 - 08:58
JoshEngland

Hi Ariela,

I'd actually recommend skipping one of the leg days until you feel you're able to recover completed between workouts. Maybe for the first 2-4 weeks, only perform 2 of the leg days, then add in the third once you're not experiencing the soreness after 48 hours.

Hope this helps!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 06/13/2018 - 08:58
JoshEngland

You can perform some form of active recovery on Wednesdays instead.

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Posted Tue, 06/12/2018 - 17:21
Rebecca

I am wondering if this program is adequate to run when doing a lean bulk?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 06/13/2018 - 08:56
JoshEngland

Hi Rebecca,

Yes, absolutely! Simply adjust your calories accordingly to put yourself in a slight calorie surplus. You can also manipulate the amount of cardio you perform accordingly.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Mon, 06/11/2018 - 10:45
Ariela

What is a good warm up/cool down for this workout routine? Starting today super excited!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 06/11/2018 - 11:38
JoshEngland

Hi Ariela,

For warm ups, start here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/warming-up-for-dummies

Performing the lower on leg days and upper on the other days should be plenty to get you ready for your workout.

Hope this helps and best of luck!

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Posted Sat, 06/09/2018 - 05:29
Leah

Thanks for the program ! I’m in week 3 and noticing a difference already. I’m curious about the nutrition part to this and using the BMR calculator. The BMR says I should consume 2250 calories to maintain and I read you said minus 250 to lose weight. I’ve never eaten 2000 calories when I’m watching my nutrition- it seems a lot. I normally eat 1500 - 1750 calories. I’m worried that 2000 is too high. I’ve had a lean weight training body in various times in my life but they was 7 Years ago and to be honest I never counted calories then - I just kept to a healthy diet. A lot has probably changed in the last 7 Years so I’m open to taking your advice. I wish I never stopped weight training in the first place - it’s the only exercise that keeps me lean, fit and strong both physically and mentally. I’m so happy I found your program it’s motivated me so much to keep to a routine. Thanks

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 06/11/2018 - 09:02
JoshEngland

Hi Leah,

That is awesome! Thank you for giving the program a try! Happy to hear it's helped already.

The bmr is a guesstimate. That being said, I'd recommend giving the 2000 calories a shot for 4-6 weeks. Track your progress and see what kind of results you get in that time frame. Then, you can manipulate your calorie intake at that point.

Reason being, undereating can be just as counterproductive as overeating. I've found our bmr calculator to be pretty spot on for my needs, so I wouldn't risk the drastic calorie deficit of 1500ish calories right off the bat.

Hope this helps and best of luck!

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Posted Thu, 06/07/2018 - 10:17
Jillian Begeman

Thank you for this program!!! I'm nearing the end of my 11th week and I'm so pleased with my results. I've lost maybe 3lbs, but have gained muscle and lost inches. I'm down 2.5 inches at my hips, 1.5 inches for each thigh, and an inch around my waist. I was not 100% disciplined with the workouts and diet, so I know I can do better, but I'm still so happy. I am deadlifting more than I ever have before, and it feels great to add more weight or more reps.

I am taking the next two weeks for a vacation, then I'm back at this plan. I'm going to try and be more disciplined with the cardio and my diet - I have no doubt another 12 weeks will be incredible!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 06/07/2018 - 11:52
JoshEngland

Hi Jillian,

That's awesome! Congratulations on all of your progress, you earned it!

Hope you enjoy your vacation; keep us posted on how your second time through this program goes!

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Posted Wed, 05/30/2018 - 08:59
Lexie K

I started this program on Monday. I says the exercise should take 45-60mins to complete but i can complete the leg days in 25mins without cardio am i doing something wrong or should i add more in?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 05/30/2018 - 09:27
JoshEngland

Hi Lexie,

Workout duration includes the cardio recommended. Sounds like you're doing it right to me!

Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 05/29/2018 - 07:35
Tara

Hi there! I was wondering if this is suitable for someone whos not a beginner in the gym? I've been weight training for over 3 months now and want to cut more and was thinking of switching to this program?