12 Week Female Workout Plan for Toning the Body (Free PDF)

If you’re among the women who desire a firm, toned body with shape that rocks any clothes you wear, and you’re willing to invest in time and effort to build it, then our 12 Week Female Workout Plan is for you!

This workout plan was thoughtfully written, tailor-made for ladies, developed to target and tone areas that many women focus on these days in the gym. I researched the literature and my own experience working out with some truly awesome women to bring you this routine.

The program concentrates on hips, legs, and shoulders, without ignoring the arms and chest muscles.

So….

Get ready to work hard and rock your clothes.

Jump to the workout plan now!

Alternatively, you can download the free PDF using the link below:

12 Week Female Workout Plan In a Nutshell

Program styleResistance training
Program duration12 weeks
Target GenderFemale
Workout duration1-2 hours
Scheduling5 day split
GoalShape and tone muscles
LevelBeginners to advanced

Why Women Should Hit the Gym

1. Increases Metabolism

Hitting the weights will help women build lean muscle mass, which can boost their metabolism and help them burn fat more efficiently.

This means they’ll be able to shed those unwanted pounds and achieve a lean, toned physique that will turn heads at the beach or on the dance floor.

2. Improves Overall Well-Being

Regular exercise can help women lower their risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, as well as improve their bone density and reduce their risk of osteoporosis. They will feel more energized throughout the day.

Exercise also promotes blood flow and oxygen delivery to the body which can help women feel more alert and focused. This can be especially beneficial for women who lead busy lives and need to be productive throughout the day.

3. Increases Self Confidence

Toned arms, a tight butt, and a flat stomach are all things that most women strive for, and hitting the gym regularly can help them achieve those goals.

Plus, a toned body can help women feel more confident and attractive, which can have a positive impact on their personal and professional lives.

4. Better Sleep

Exercise can help women improve their sleep quality. By reducing stress and anxiety, exercise can help women fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer. Additionally, exercise can help regulate the body’s circadian rhythms, which can further improve sleep quality.

What to Expect From This Workout Plan

First off, you can expect to tone up and add appealing shape to your muscles.

Each lady is going to be starting from a different spot. Some will be closer to their goal…maybe that’s you. And some will have a little more work to do in the gym and the kitchen.

And body types differ.

There’s no workout plan on the planet that can take a woman with a long waist and shorter legs into a long-legged lass with an X-shaped upper body profile who could body double as Wonder Woman. Any program that claims to be able to is, well, just a lie.

You will not get jacked like a dude.

For some mysterious reason known only to Gandalf and the Lord God Almighty, the mythology of weight training turning any female body into Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson seems to live on, kinda like that mildew you can’t ever quite kill in the corner of your bathtub.

It’s just stupid, and it’s impossible. Women’s bodies do not produce enough of the hormone necessary to build a ballsy jacked physique.

The one and only way a woman can get jacked like a guy is if she injects or ingests male or growth hormone. And yes, ladies, there are some really big muscular gals out there who swear they don’t, but I’m afraid to tell you they’re liars. Are there some extreme genetic outliers who might be the exception to the rule? Probably, but you don’t know them.

Doesn’t matter. You can achieve the body you want with a little skill, hard work, and a good program (see attached).

If you’ve seen a woman and thought to yourself, “wow, I’d like a bod that looks like hers”–especially glutes these days–chances are that she gets after it in the weight room, and probably spends very little to zero time on the treadmill or exercise bike…and probably not in the group fitness class either, bouncing around like she had a quintuple espresso an hour before.

The enviable female shape today is one whose owner grinds it out on the iron and steel alongside the dudes.

Actually, more dudes need to train like the gals.

Will I Lose Fat Doing This Workout Plan?

Yes.

BUT

… only if you adjust what you eat to match your goals.

A mentor of mine said, “You can’t out-train a bad diet”.

You do need to eat enough to fuel yourself for the workouts enclosed.

Here are a few directional statements you can use to guide what you eat without getting too complicated.

  • “If it was once a plant, or ate a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.” – Scott Abel
    • Fish don’t eat plants; fish is a great source of protein and healthy fats.
  • “Eat [real] food, not too much, mostly plants.” – “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual” by Michael Pollan
  • Get four full helpings of colorful fruits or vegetables daily.
    • Garnishes are not servings.
    • Brown is not a color.
  • Eat off a smaller plate. (There’s evidence that suggests that larger plate size psychologically encourages larger portions or feelings of being underserved.)
  • When grocery shopping, look for fewer ingredients, the fewer ingredients listed the better. Processed foods contain many ingredients, some with chemical names you can’t pronounce. Foods without labels are even better.
    • Example: Apple.
  • Limit (or even eliminate) foods made from pulverized ingredients. This means flour-based products like bread, tortillas, chips, pasta, baked goods.

Related: Try our 7-Day Keto Diet Plan

Female Workout Plan Structure

Here’s the basic structure for the Female Workout Plan:

DaySplit
1Legs, Arms
2Shoulders
3Rest
4Chest
5Back, Glutes, Calves
6Cardio, Abs
7Rest

Leg, Back and Glute day will likely be the most strenuous, so I’ve strategically placed them so your leg and posterior chain muscles have a chance to recover before you turn around and work them again.

Pay special attention to muscle fatigue and soreness. If you need to back off on one day, back off the cardio for a shorter duration, or do one fewer sets. You can also regress your cardio by opting for the treadmill instead of the stairclimber, or setting the treadmill to a lesser angle.

Long walks, while not mentioned in the program, is a terrific way to get LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) cardio. A long walk would be something on the order of 5000 to 10,000 steps at a single stretch. (5000 steps over the course of a day doesn’t really count.)

Knowing “when to say when” takes a lot of experience, as in years. In general, you’re better off under-training a bit than over-training. Just make sure you’re not fooling yourself into doing too little–or too much.

Day 1 – Legs, Arms

Get ready for the toughest workout of the week. Leg-Arm Day drills down on glutes and legs, and tosses in the arm work since it’s overall less taxing. Leg Day hits the quads and hamstrings with a healthy dose of glutes. But stay tuned for Day 4 when we torch the glute muscles.

Hit this day hard. You’ll appreciate the results.

Day 2 – Shoulders (includes traps)

Want to rock the strappy (or strapless) dress, or kill that tight top? Yeah, you know who you are. This is your day.

Get this day right and you’ll see what I mean.

Day 3 – Rest

Day 4 – Back, Glutes, Calves

Peach day!

Glute development is the cornerstone of this 12-week ladies’ routine. Dial up the intensity to get the results you want.

After you finish smoking your booty muscles, you’ll move on to your back. Your back will have already warmed it up with one of the glute exercises, the RDLs.

Some old favorite upper back exercises are included here for strength and shape and add to a balanced upper body look, including that muscular seam that runs top to bottom along your spine.

Quick note here about calf raises. Use a long pause in the bottom part of each rep when the calf is stretched. Try a five to 10 second pause. There’s interesting research performed on the calf muscle specifically that suggests that prolonged stretch can build muscle thickness.

The study did not look into a long stretch during sets of calf raises. However, taken directionally, a longer loaded stretch at the bottom of each rep hypothetically should produce more muscle growth.

Regardless, calf raises should be performed slowly and under control. Bouncing up and down is both pointless and ridiculous.

Day 5 – Chest

Chest Day is short and to-the-point.

These exercises work the fan-shaped pectoralis major from top to bottom, adding tone along your collar bones and mid-chest.

There are only three exercises with a total of 15 sets including the warm-up and prep sets, but if you do these right, they will more than get the job done.

Day 6 – Cardio, Abs

Round out your week with some low impact cardio and mid-section work.

Cardio-Ab day focuses on some general fitness while getting you some of the cosmetic benefits you’re looking for. Specifically, we’ll hit the glutes and calves again with the stairclimber or the treadmill set at a steeper incline, and focus in on the visible muscles of the core.

Leg Raises are absent because leg raises *do not* work the abs dynamically. Yeah, sure; there’s some isometric contraction of the abdominals, but that’s because the abs have to work to stabilize the lumbar spine while your legs do the actual work.

(I always have to explain this.)

Yes, you will “feel” leg raises in your gut. There’s a good reason and here it is.

The muscles that raise the legs lie deep in the abdomen, behind the internal organs. Those deep muscles in your middle will fatigue and develop a lactic acid burn just like any muscle in the body.

The muscles you’ll work in this program and the ones you can see with your top off or when your mid-section is exposed (bikinis, midriff tops, etc).

Day 7 – Rest

Take it easy on Day 7 and rest up for another week of hard, productive toning and shaping.

The 12 Week Female Workout Plan

In summary, this program works on all the major skeletal muscle groups but focuses on the ones that ladies tend to care about most these days:

  • Glutes
  • Legs
  • Shoulders, especially from the back,
  • Upper arms

Rest days are strategically inserted to allow for the recovery needed to see the benefits of the hard work.

Day 1

LEGS / ARMSWarm upSet 1Set 2Set 3Set 4
Air squats30-50    
Heel-elevated DB squats
(Goblet or at side)
2012-1510-1210-128-10
Leg Extensions 2012-1510-1210-12 8-10 
Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
(Hex bar or DB)
 2010-1210-1210-128-10
Leg Curls2010-1210-1210-128-10 
Cable Triceps Extensions2015-2012-1510-128-10
Biceps Curls, single arm2015-2012-1510-128-10 
Hammer Curls 2015-2012-1510-128-10 

Day 2

SHOULDERSWarm upSet 1Set 2Set 3Set 4
Side Lateral Raises
(Cable or DB)
2015-2012-1512-1510-12
Thumbs-Up Front Raises
(Cable or DB)
15-2012-1512-1510-12
Rear Delt Cable or
Seated Reverse DB Flyes
15-2012-1512-1510-12
High incline DB or
Smith Machine Presses
2015-2012-1512-1510-12
Shrugs
(Cable or DB)
2015-2012-1512-1510-12
Scapula “Kelso” Shrugs2015-2012-1510-1210-12
DB “Y” Raises, Plate Raises,
or Lu Raises
2015-2012-1510-1210-12

Day 3 (REST)

Day 4

GLUTES / BACK / CALVESWarm upSet 1Set 2Set 3Set 4
Bulgarian Split Squats2015-2012-1510-1210-12
Romanian Deadlift (RDL)20 15-2012-1510-1210-12
Contra-lateral B-Stance DB RDLs2015-2012-1510-12 10-12
Cable Glute Hip Abductions
(single leg)
2015-2012-1510-12 10-12
Lat Pull-Ins or Pull-downs2015-2012-1510-1210-12
Chest Supported Machine Row15-2012-1510-1210-12
Motorcycle Rows15-2012-1510-1210-12
Single-Leg Calf Raises20-2520-2520-2520-25
Toe raises20-2520-25

Day 5

CHESTWarm upSet 1Set 2Set 3Set 4
Machine Chest Press20-2515-2012-1510-1210-12
Single or Two-arm
High-to-Low Cable Fly
20-2515-2012-1510-1210-12
Single or Two-arm
Low-to-High Cable Fly
20-2515-2012-1510-1210-12

Day 6

CARDIO / ABSWarm upSet 1Set 2Set 3Set 4
Stairclimber or Treadmill on incline.
(Can sub sprints)
30 mins
Crunches20202020
Sit Ups with a Twist2020
Side Bends15-20
per side
15-20
per side

Day 7 (REST)

Application Notes

1. Master the Exercises

This is maybe the most important section in this entire article ladies! If you get nothing else out of this, hold onto this.

Learn the exercises and nag your own self pitilessly about your form. Be your own personal drill sergeant.

You can take the best exercise in the world, do it wrong–even just a teeny bit wrong–and jack it up beyond all repair.

It helps to see people who do the exercises correctly.

There are some excellent online tutors on exercise form. All the exercises in the workout plan attached have been demonstrated by one or more of these people: Joe Bennett, Tom Purvis, Ryan Humiston, Paul Carter, Alexander Cortes, Scott Abel.

There are others out there and I’m sure some of them are good. These are the guys I’ve seen do it best.

2. Warm Up and Stretch!

Woman stretching quads for the female workout plan

Warm up before your workout to prevent injury and practice the movements. Warm-ups are important for anyone and even more crucial for older adults. If you’re a newcomer to the gym but a veteran in another sport, you’ll already understand the value of a good warm-up.

The warm-ups included in this workout program are composed of very light sets of the movements you’ll be doing during the workout, an application of the SAID Principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands).

You should also get in the habit of stretching the target muscles before actually targeting them. This program will target basically every single muscle you have in your body, so getting those muscle loose is crucial.

There’s nothing worse than getting started on a heavy set of bench press and pulling a pectoral muscle, which could have easily been prevented with some simple chest stretches.

3. Apply Progressive Overload

Woman looking in the mirror ready to lift weights

Progressive overload is simple. You move up as you get better.

Once you’re able to do the specified number of reps with the weight you’ve selected for an exercise, you increase either the load or the number of reps.

Simple. Nail the reps, increase the weight.

Rep ranges should remain as-specified. Pick a weight you can do for the number of reps listed and not a single rep more.

Here’s an example using a cable machine set at 15kg:

The program says to do 10 to 12 reps. Week 1, you’re able to do 10 good reps using 15kg. By Week 3, you’re able to do 13 reps with good form and could probably do the 14th. Raise the weight so that you’re back to only being able to do 10 reps with good form.

Progressive overload is a well-established method for shaping and toning muscle, supported by reams of clinical data.

3. Control Level of Intensity

Woman lifting a dumbbell

Your muscles will benefit most from the most challenging reps, when your brain is recruiting more muscle fibers for the task at hand i.e., lifting the weight.

Clinical evidence supports that the most-challenging reps – as gauged by the loss of velocity (distance/speed) – are the ones that produce the greatest muscular fatigue.

So, if you connect the dots and agree that muscular fatigue leads to muscular adaptations (meaning strength and size), you can reasonably conclude, as Mike Mentzer did years ago, that intensity does indeed result in density.

Now, it’s important to distinguish between intentionally slow reps (as proposed by some) where the weight is lifted at a predetermined speed. Some call that “tempo training”.

Tempo training is not what we mean when we mention reduced velocity. In our application, reduced velocity is the result of the muscles being unable to push a weight any faster. You can push like crazy and the weight won’t move fast.

A 2021 study examined assumptions on how many reps a set should have depending on its objectives. In other words, it challenged the notion that low-rep high-load sets led to strength, and low-load high-rep sets produce endurance.

In fact it found that muscular adaptations are possible with a wide range of rep continuums.

Taken together, studies on rep continuum and adaptive muscular fatigue lead to a logical conclusion that the number of reps isn’t as important as how hard they are toward the end of each set.

Interestingly, the study mentions that women may have a greater resistance to [muscular] fatigue and that the ladies may be able to use a wider array of rep ranges than the guys. This very workout plan takes that into account.

All of the above assumes good form.

Bottom line: that tone and shape you want means you’re gonna be moving stuff that feels heavy. If you’re flying through a set and feel like you could do six or seven more reps, raise that weight.

4. Rest!

Recovery is as important to physique development as your actual lifting is.

It is the period when your muscles grow in response to the stimulus. Ratio imbalances between stimulus (training) and recovery leads to overtraining and chronic overuse injuries.

Rest between workouts

Rest days should allow for your muscles to bounce back from your hard work.

Rest days should be days spent completely away from the gym, and not working out at home either. Doesn’t mean you should lie in bed all day; activities of daily living are encouraged.

Your central nervous system (CNS) receives overload during intense training along with your muscles. It’s just as important to let the CNS recover also, since the CNS is what powers your muscles. This is clinically documented.

Rest between sets

How long should you wait before doing your next set, or your next exercise?

Research and latest thought among the true experts (not merely influencers) suggests that longer rest periods between sets is best. Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is one way to determine it.

To apply RPE, gauge your readiness for the next set by asking yourself, “can I do this next set with equal or greater intensity than the one I just completed?”

If you are a clock-watcher, 3 minutes between intense sets is a good rule of thumb.

5. Have Reps In Reserve (RIR)

How many more reps could you actually do with good form at the end of a set? That is RIR, Reps In Reserve.

Honestly ask yourself, how many more reps could I actually do with good form? Don’t underestimate or overestimate yourself.

Follow these guidelines:

  1. Until you master each exercise’s form allow a 1 to 2 RIR.
  2. Never sacrifice form.
  3. Raise your RIR if you’re having a bad day in the gym. Decrease RIR if you’re having a great day and the weights feel like the Earth’s gravitational field took a day off.
  4. See above notes about Intensity.

Download our 12 Week Female Workout Plan PDF using the link below.

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Perry Mykleby, ACE CPT

Perry started lifting weights in 1974. He is an ACE-certified personal trainer and holds the ACE Orthopedic Exercise certification.

He holds a journalism degree from the University of North Texas, where he competed in powerlifting. His final competition was the Texas State Open in December of 1982, but has continued to study and practice muscle strength and hypertrophy. He is a four-decade veteran of the medical device industry.

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