12 Week Weight Training Program for Women

Author: Lee Bell

January 6th 2018

There’s been a shift in female fitness over the last few years.

No longer is it about ‘cardio bunny fitness’ and low impact aerobics, it’s about grabbing some dumbbells or getting under a bar and giving it your all.

Strong is sexy!

If you’re new to weight lifting it can be a daunting prospect to take the first steps and get started. With so much equipment and so much information out there, it can be hard to know where to start.

But that’s where this guide comes in.

In this program for women we take you through every step and leave no stone unturned when it comes to weight training – from a detailed sample plan to answering some of the most common questions you might have.

This 12-week weight training program is perfect for any woman who wants to feel stronger, look leaner and feel more confident.

Looking for the best program to get you started?

You’re in the right place.

What does this program cover?

Goal:Fat loss, tone muscle, increase fitness
Aimed at:Beginner/intermediate level women
Program duration:12 weeks
Workout duration:45-60 minutes
Equipment needed:Barbell, dumbbell, resistance machines, body weight, kettlebell

Women’s Weightlifting Workout Program

The goal of this program is to take you from your current starting point, to a leaner, stronger, and curvier woman who is both confident and healthy.

This guide dispels the myth that you have to do endless hours of cardio to achieve a slimmer body. So many women feel insecure about the way they look because of bad advice, where crash diets and endless spinning classes leave you exhausted and feeling hopeless.

Instead, we’re going to embrace the fact that you want to build something to be proud of using weights, and a healthy, long term approach to health and fitness.

The main goals of this program are:

  • Get rid of unwanted fat
  • Add shape and tone to your muscles
  • Feel better and boost confidence
  • Gain strength and fitness without bulky weight gain

Why weight lifting?

When it comes to changing the way your body looks and feels, strength training is a ‘firm and toned’ number one.

Yes, there are some benefits to cardio which make it a great way to keep fit and healthy. But there isn’t one benefit you’ll get from cardio that you won’t get from lifting weights.

And guess what? There are a huge amount of strength training benefits that cardio just can’t give you.

Here are the main ones.

  • Muscle adds shape and curves – you can’t choose where you burn fat but you can choose where you add shape and curves. Strength training is a one-stop cure for a flat butt, thin legs and weak looking arms.
  • Muscle has an energy cost and burns calories – when you build muscle, your body must divert energy to it, to help it maintain its size and shape. This results in a higher daily calorie burn.
  • Lifting weights boosts your health – from a decrease in cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk, to an increase in cognitive and mental health; strength training helps to add life to your years, and years to your life.
  • You can incorporate cardio into weight lifting – if you follow a well-planned weight lifting program, that uses the right type of exercises, and structured rest times, you’ll get all of the benefits of cardio. These include elevated heart rate and calorie burn, to extra energy expenditure. Which means you’ll find it easier to build muscle and lose weight at the same time.

Why is the programme 12 weeks long?

With the right training and nutrition plan in place, it’s possible to make some great changes to your body within a couple of weeks. Your clothes will feel just that little bit looser and you’ll notice the weights you were lifting on day 1 are feeling much lighter.

But, 12 weeks is long enough for not only you, but others around you to really notice the difference. We’re positive you’ll hear comments like…

“Wow, you’ve been working out haven’t you?”

 “Hey, you look amazing!”

In as little as 90 days you’ll completely transform your body. You’ll not only be shaping your legs and arms, along with toning your abs, but you’ll also be giving yourself long enough to burn a noticeable amount of fat too.

Young, athletic female performing push-ups on kettlebells in the gym

Outline – how does this weight lifting program work?

The way we’ve structured this program is into 3 blocks of 4 weeks. They are like mini programs inside of one much larger journey.

By structuring your program like this, you’ll be able to plan a strategy that covers all bases.

Each week has 3 sessions for you to complete. We could have added more in, but in today’s hectic world we wanted to make sure you could hit the gym less frequently, but still reach your goals – that way you have more time to do other things you enjoy.

The sessions are around 45-60 minutes long. They’re short, sharp and productive.

#Phase 1

In weeks 1-4 you’ll be focusing on a reconditioning phase. This has an emphasis on higher rep ranges and exercises, that cover as many different muscle groups as possible for a full-body stimulus.

It’s the easiest of the three phases, but still a tough start to your transformation.

#Phase 2

Weeks 5-8 are a targeting phase where you will begin to shift focus on developing key muscle groups such as your butt, legs and abs.

There’s still some upper body exercises in there to help you maintain tone and strength, but not as much. And hey, we’ve kept the abs work in there too.

#Phase 3

Finally, in weeks 9-12 you’ll be hitting your body with an all-out tuning phase where you’re ramping up the integrated cardio element to strip down any remaining fat, while focusing on discovering those beautiful curves you’ve been working hard on in the previous phases.

The big difference in this 4-week block is that you’ll not only be shredding body fat, but your rest times too. You’ll be moving from one exercise to the next with minimal rest, only taking a breather once you’ve finished each mini circuit.

It’s a tough, intense way of training – but it’s guaranteed to push the boundaries of your body.

With all of these phases, the idea is to alternate between session 1 and session 2. So for example on week 1 you’ll do session 1,2,1 and then in week 2 you’ll do 2,1,2.

Won’t strength training make me bulky?

The simple and short answer to this question is no, it won’t.

It would take years and years of daily (probably twice daily in all honesty) training, along with many drugs and supplements to get anywhere near overly muscular.

That’s because as a woman, your body isn’t set up to let you pack on slabs of muscle like a man can.

The most important reason is that you just don’t have enough of the anabolic hormone testosterone flowing through your blood to support muscle growth (there’s a reason why female bodybuilders aren’t just muscular but have square jaws and deep voices).

Curve appeal

You will add muscle – after all, you can’t shape and curve a muscle without adding some small amount of volume to your frame.

But even if you were to lift super strong during this Greatest Physiques Workout Program, we guarantee that you’ll achieve nothing but athleticism, shape, tone and strength….

It’s ‘curve appeal’ we’re after here, without the muscle bulk.

The Program

Weeks 1-4: Reconditioning phase

Building up your fitness and starting to lay down foundation muscle

Session 1

1Lat pulldown15-2032 minutes
2Goblet squat15-2032 minutes
3Leg curl15-2032 minutes
4Chest press15-2032 minutes
5Leg press15-2032 minutes
6Glute bridge15-2032 minutes
7Ab curl15-2032 minutes
8Plank20-30 second hold32 minutes

Session 2

NumberExerciseRepsSetsRest time
1Shoulder press15-2032 minutes
2Wide stance kettlebell squat15-2032 minutes
3Static lunges15-2032 minutes
4Bent over dumbbell row15-2032 minutes
5Leg extension15-2032 minutes
6Triceps extension15-2032 minutes
7Dumbbell hammer curl15-2032 minutes
8Side plank20-30 second hold31 minute

Weeks 5-8: Targeting phase

Zoning in on key areas and building some lean muscle

Session 1

NumberExerciseRepsSetsRest time
1Dumbbell chest press12-1531-2 minutes
2Romanian deadlift8-1231-2 minutes
3Leg press8-1231-2 minutes
4Close grip pulldown12-1531-2 minutes
5Dumbbell step ups8-1231-2 minutes
6Leg slides8-1231-2 minutes
7Mountain climbers2031-2 minutes
8Back extensions12-1531-2 minutes

Session 2

NumberExerciseRepsSetsRest time
1Dumbbell lateral raise12-1531-2 minutes
2Leg curl8-1231-2 minutes
3Box squat with ketlebell8-1231-2 minutes
4Seated row12-1531-2 minutes
5Alternate back lunges8-1231-2 minutes
6Leg press8-1231-2 minutes
7Dynamic side plank12-15 per side31-2 minutes
8Cycle crunch12-15 per side31-2 minutes

Weeks 9-12: Tuning phase

Dropping body fat and showing off your lean and athletic figure

The purpose of these circuit-style workouts is to complete all exercises back-to-back with minimal rest times. Once you’ve got to the end of the circuit you can rest for 3 minutes before starting again.

Session 1

NumberExerciseRepsSetsRest time
1Kettlebell Romanian deadlift204N/A
2Push-ups (modified position if necessary)204N/A
3Dumbbell goblet squat204N/A
4Dumbbell bent over row204N/A
5Alternate back lunges204N/A

Session 2

NumberExerciseRepsSetsRest time
1Dumbbell step-ups204N/A
2Mountain climbers204N/A
3Dumbbell lateral raise204N/A
4Dumbbell lateral lunges204N/A
5Dumbbell bicep curl204N/A

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