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.

Editor's Note: Make sure you’re doing all the right things you need to be doing to build lean and tone muscle. For those looking for a more in-depth resource to teach them how to build lean muscle, we’ve created a FREE 5 day Muscle Building Email Course.

The course will teach you how your body builds muscle, how to utilize workout plans on our website to maximize muscle growth, how to eat to build muscle, how to supplement to build muscle and how to track your progress.

Sign up below today to learn and ensure you get the most out of Muscle & Strength’s 12 Week Women’s Workout Program.


Need help building muscle? Take our FREE 5-part email Muscle Building Course!

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 mins 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!

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!

286 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Fri, 06/19/2020 - 09:44
Maria

What does the 4a 4b 5a 5b mean on the Tuesday workout? Do we have to choose one or another?

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Posted Thu, 07/23/2020 - 15:25
Yoshi_M&S

Hey Maria

When you see exercises written out as 'a' and 'b' it is referring to a superset. You will perform one set of 4a and of 4b without resting in between, then rest before you repeat both.

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Posted Thu, 03/26/2020 - 08:22
Asha

Hi
I just want to know, how I reduced my lower body fat?

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Posted Sat, 03/07/2020 - 10:26
Chlorey Campbel...

Hello,

My fitness goal is to gain muscle to look more toned and have abs. This program doesn’t have many exercises for the abs/core. Should I add some to the workout routines? Also, after I’ve completed this program can I do other programs that you guys have?

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Posted Thu, 02/27/2020 - 11:49
Miriam Nader

Hello!! I am looking to start this program next week once i have gathered my workout materials. I am mainly wanting to focus on weight loss. Would this be a good way to start my weight loss journey? Thank you!

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Posted Thu, 02/27/2020 - 16:33
JoshEngland

H Miriam,

I'd recommend starting with something that has a little less volume. Check this one out: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/8-week-beginner-workout-for-w...

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Posted Thu, 02/27/2020 - 16:42
Miriam Nader

Thank you!

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Posted Mon, 02/17/2020 - 22:42
Gela

Hello! I lack tone, 130lbs and not one toned muscle, "skinny fat"??? I've been looking for a simple exercise plan to help me get started. I think this is it! I saw cardio session in the workout. I've heard people like this shouldn't be doing cardio. Should i be doing that part as well?

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Posted Sun, 01/12/2020 - 01:08
Jewelz

Hi Josh! I’m strengthening my knees and I was instructed by the doctor to keep the treadmills flat and stay away from the stair climber. Can I just do more time on the treadmill. I’m not sure if the bike is a good idea either.

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Posted Mon, 01/13/2020 - 10:24
JoshEngland

Hi Jewelz,

Yes, definitely take your doctors recommendations into consideration when performing a workout program. These online workouts are simply templates and may need to be modified for individual needs - if you feel uncomfortable with the programming, it would be wise to elicit the help of a personal trainer to work with you in person and craft an appropriate individualized program based on your doctor's wishes and individual needs.

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Posted Wed, 01/01/2020 - 06:04
Manisha Moktan

I am overweight. I go to the gym. Can i do these workouts to lose around 10 kgs?

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Posted Tue, 12/10/2019 - 13:58
Mansi Arora

I am 1 week into the program , I did all the exercises to max rep and sets suggested, followed by the suggested cardio and the weekend light workout. Its Day 8, so far I haven't lost any weight. I am 39 yrs old, 5 ft 4" , I weigh 120 lbs and have always worked out 3-5 times a week. I do feel my muscles being worked as i am sore in many places:). I am going to follow the program through the end , hoping to see the transformation as suggested .. I will keep you posted

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Posted Thu, 07/23/2020 - 01:43
Samantha Kuan

any update?

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Posted Tue, 11/26/2019 - 14:18
Catherine Cochran

Hi, which exercise are supsetted and which ones are not superset?

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Posted Wed, 11/27/2019 - 16:01
JoshEngland

Hi Catherine,

Exercises with letters represent that they are part of a superset.

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Posted Thu, 11/07/2019 - 08:52
Angela

Hi will this program make me loose fat on lower tummy and tone that area ?
I have been doing cardio for years and am looking to start Making a physique change by toning gaining strength and muscle building I am what you call “skinny fat”

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Posted Thu, 11/07/2019 - 11:09
JoshEngland

Hi Angela,

It can help with that goal. However, it's not possible to spot reduce. Where body fat is lost first is highly dependent on genetics.

With that said, I believe this to be a great program for any woman trying to build a stronger physique.

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Posted Wed, 11/06/2019 - 03:56
Nuria

Hi, I have been doing Crossfit during the summer and training 5 times a week for 2 months completing an abs&butt program. I want to do a program like this but it is too light, I need another one that is harder. Where can I find it? Thanks.

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Posted Wed, 11/06/2019 - 16:07
JoshEngland

Hi Nuria,

You can make this program harder by adding more sets if you deem it necessary. My recommendation would be performing as is and working towards training with heavier weight.

I'm not sure you're going to find many harder programs on our website than this. Most programs from a weight lifting/ body composition perspective are going to be relatively similar. What makes them harder is the increase in intensity you are able to bring to each workout as you get stronger over time.

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Posted Wed, 10/16/2019 - 08:32
B

Hi,

I have lost weight and gained it back about 3x now over the past 4 years. (I have a difficult relationship with food). I now decided to do it one last time before raising the white flag. I started at 82kg (im 5’1) and now at 76-77kg after roughly 5 weeks.

Im doing 1200kcal (a number i cant sustain/commit too) and 16-8 fasting on weekdays. I only do cardio ( jogging) and atleast 2-3 days of dragonboat training.

My goal is to reach 65kg and then pack on muscles (both for strength and to look good). Originally, i wanted to be at 70-72kg before weightlifting but im not sure if it matters.

My question: can i go through this 12 week program, lose weight and gain muscles/be strong at the same time? Or do you recommend i shed off some pounds before doing this?

Thank you and more power!

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Posted Wed, 10/16/2019 - 13:38
JoshEngland

Hi B,

It's never too early to adopt weight training in my opinion and can help you with the goals you've mentioned by increasing your lean body mass (which will increase your bmr or total amount of calories you burn throughout the day).

Improving your relationship with food is definitely a tough hurdle. That's going to take a lot of self-reflection and time to make it manageable. Try to make the changes you do implement into your lifestyle ones that you believe are sustainable. A calorie deficit is necessary to lose weight, but it doesn't have to be drastic. Exercise is necessary to be healthy, but it doesn't have to be demanding.

It might take some experimenting, and it'll definitely take time, but I have no doubt you can find the sustainable changes that'll help you accomplish your goals. Best of luck!

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Posted Thu, 10/17/2019 - 09:50
B

Awesome! Ill start this program next week! Thank you! :)

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Posted Fri, 08/16/2019 - 11:43
Flo

Hello there,
I have been currently going to the gym 5+ times a week but not really focusing on weights just cardio. I have hit a wall and nothing seems to be happening so I feel it’s time to start hitting the weights. I want to lose fat and tone up. Would this be the ideal plan? Thank you

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Posted Fri, 08/16/2019 - 16:28
JoshEngland

Hi Flo,

Adding in resistance training can certainly help. Generally speaking, it's usually easier to progress with weight training - which will lead to better physique related goals down the road.

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Posted Sun, 08/18/2019 - 03:53
Flo

That’s what I thought. Would this plan help me to do this? Or is there another plan you recommend?

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Posted Mon, 08/19/2019 - 10:12
JoshEngland

Hi Flo,

It's a great program. But, it does require you lifting weights 5 days per week, which may be a tough starting point depending on your current fitness levels and experience with weight training. I would suggest checking out this one as a starting program: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/8-week-full-body-womens-worko...

We have a good many women's focused workouts on the website if you want to browse them. When looking for the right one for yourself, simply keep in mind your experience level and the total number of days you personally want to commit to weight training: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/women

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Posted Wed, 08/14/2019 - 15:24
Francis

Hi, I concur with other reviewers that this a great training program. I have been trying to maintain consistency with this program and have already felt and observed results. It is the perfect amount of strength training and recommended cardio and is one of the few programs that is not overwhelming. Thanks again and keep this one posted on your website.

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Posted Tue, 08/13/2019 - 06:12
Morning

Hi, thank you very much for the program. I'm on my second week now and loving it so far. My problem is, I have slow recovery and doms. On first week I got so exhausted on day 4 and skipped day 5. I really don't want to skip deadlift day, so is it ok if I skip day 3 leg day instead? Will it make my progress slower? Thanks!

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Posted Tue, 08/13/2019 - 12:04
JoshEngland

Hi Morning,

You can skip day 3 and utilize this as an upper/lower program until you're comfortable with 5 days per week. It would be a good way to progress your training anyway.

In terms of slowing down progress, sustainable progress is slow coming as it is. It's a marathon, not a sprint. I wouldn't be too concerned about that as any quicker progress that you'd make from an extra day of training would be negligible at best anyway.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Thu, 08/15/2019 - 09:18
Morning

Hello Josh, thank you very much for the reply. Really great to hear that. I skipped day 3 and did the day 4 exercise today, and I cannot wait for leg day tomorrow! This is really a great program, I already observed some results. Thank you again.

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Posted Fri, 08/16/2019 - 16:39
JoshEngland

Hi Morning,

You're welcome! Happy to hear you're already seeing some results from the program!

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Posted Tue, 07/30/2019 - 09:35
Myriam

Hi, this 12 week program looks great but I have lower back issues and my doctor does not recommend deadlifts. Do you have a back friendly workout or alternate moves instead of deadlift? Thank you!

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Posted Sun, 07/28/2019 - 14:56
Lana

Hello.
First of all, thank you for this program. I love it! I recently joined a gym and found that I really love working out. However, I am concerned that my body can't get stronger because I might be overdoing it. As a complete beginner, who isnt very fit, (I havent been doing much other than walking before now) is it ok to do this program and add biking classes post workout on 3-4 days?
And is it fine to put maximum effort into biking class or should I not cycle too hard because I'm training legs 3x weekly with this program?

When I started out about 3weeks ago I could run longer and faster than I can now because my legs are already tired when I start. They never get to the point of not being sore before I work them again.

I want to improve but I don't want to push so hard that it has the opposite effect. Hope you can help me out!

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Posted Mon, 07/29/2019 - 15:34
JoshEngland

Hi Lana,

I'd recommend starting with something like this: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/8-week-full-body-womens-worko...

I don't know that pairing any workout as a beginner with intense cycling would be a good idea.

For beginners, I always recommend finding sustainable changes first. a 3 day a week program such as the one I linked will provide excellent results for quite some time if you perform it consistently.

After you get consistency down, you can start to look for 4 or 5 day programs... eventually adding in cycling if you feel it is conducive to your long-term and short-term goals.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Mon, 07/29/2019 - 16:14
Lana

Thank you for your reply, it definitely helps me out!
I was constantly debating whether or not to add in the extras. I'm having fun working out every day but I'm in a calorie deficit + not used to the abuse and I want my body to be able to keep up. I will follow your advice!
Again, thank you so much for laying out these programs. All the good karma to you!

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Posted Tue, 07/30/2019 - 09:33
JoshEngland

You're welcome! Best of luck with your fitness journey. If you have any questions along the way, we're always here to help!

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Posted Sun, 07/28/2019 - 01:34
Sahar

Hi, I will be out of town for almost a week so I will be unable to go to the gym and do my workouts. Yet, I don’t want to get unmotivated and stop. I wanted to know if there’s any at hole workouts that I could try during my vacation that is almost equivalent to this?

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Posted Mon, 07/29/2019 - 15:45
JoshEngland
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Posted Tue, 07/23/2019 - 12:17
Sahar

Hi,
Does this workout make you bulky? Or does it slim you down? Also, I’m concerned about my butt getting bigger? I don’t want to get bulky since I already have a fairly big body and my butt is already big enough so I don’t want it to get too big.

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Posted Wed, 07/24/2019 - 16:26
JoshEngland

Hi Sahar,

The program can be used for either goal. Your appearance and weight will be highly dependent on your nutrition.

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Posted Sun, 07/14/2019 - 10:31
christina langrudi

Are there different workouts for each week or use the same 5 day program and increase the weights?

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Posted Mon, 07/15/2019 - 12:31
JoshEngland

Hi Christina,

Use the same workouts each week and try to increase the weights used when possible.

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Posted Wed, 07/03/2019 - 19:56
Joanne Rieves

How heavy should the weights we use be? I’m 150 lbs and 5’9” looking to loose weight and gain muscle.

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Posted Fri, 07/05/2019 - 10:49
JoshEngland

Hi Joanne,

Pick a weight you think you can use for the prescribed reps. If too heavy, move down. If too light, move up. You should finish each set feeling as though you have 1-2 reps left in the tank. A good rule of thumb is 75-85% of your working max for the prescribed rep ranges.

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Posted Sun, 06/30/2019 - 19:49
Michelle Serivoski

I am starting a bootcamp program every morning for 5 days a week. I am a female, 17 years and old and petite but want to build muscles (most importantly in my legs) and have been reading online that bootcamp isn't the best option for muscle building. Could I do bootcamp in the morning and do this strength training program after/ at night to effectively build muscle?

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Posted Mon, 07/01/2019 - 14:08
JoshEngland

Hi Michelle,

I'd pick one or the other. For pure muscle growth, bootcamp isn't ideal - but it can still work. Personally though, if your goal is strictly building muscle - I'd recommend something like the program listed with the goal of increasing the weight you're capable of moving each workout over time.

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Posted Tue, 06/25/2019 - 22:11
Sandra

So have been doing bootcamp for the past 5 months and have lost considerable weight. Now i want to incorporate weight training at least 3 days a week ie M,W and F, and leave T and Thur for cardio. So my question is can i use your plan above for my 3 days and just combine some days together to make up for the 3 days or not?

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Posted Wed, 06/26/2019 - 15:19
JoshEngland

Hi Sandra,

I'd recommend this full body program instead: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/8-week-full-body-womens-worko...

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Posted Thu, 06/20/2019 - 21:35
Michelle

Hi,
I started this program at the beginning of the week and loving it so far. My only concern is will it bulk me up? I’m fairly slim already so not too concerned with weight loss (although a little is always nice) but I certainly don’t want to get any bigger. I would like to slim and tone what I have. Is this the right program to do that?
Thanks.

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Posted Mon, 06/24/2019 - 11:16
JoshEngland

Hi Michelle,

Ultimately, it'll depend on your genetics and diet. Generally speaking though, you shouldn't bulky - just develop a leaner/stronger physique with lean muscle.