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12 week fitness plan for women
Fitness

A Fitness Expert’s Guide To The Best 12-Week Fitness Plans for Prime Women

This 12-week fitness plan for women isn’t perfect for just any healthy woman. It’s designed based on research for women in peri to post-menopause. Generic fitness plans are so 1980s. Your fitness plan should be specific to you, not your daughter, your mother, or your spouse, don’t you think?

The truth is your body goes through up to about 7 major hormonal changes in your life. Each requiring a unique exercise prescription. After all, Exercise is Medicine.™ You wouldn’t take someone else’s pills.

You wouldn’t expect the same program that works for your adolescent niece would work for you, right? Of course not. You also shouldn’t expect that a program that works for young athletic men (most frequently featured in studies) is proven to work for you. So, be suspicious of that program that invites men and women of any age because it’s clear that someone is not going to get the workout they need.

You, my dear, are not a mouse, a small man, nor a young woman. So, here is your 12-week fitness plan for women. As various polls estimate 46-59% of gym members decide not to return to gyms when and if they are open, and as of now only 30% have returned to their gym, you need safe, sane, simple solutions.

The entire program can be done from home with minimal equipment.  

12-week fitness plan for women

Hand Weights, Prices Vary

The Shocking Dumbbell Shortage of 2020

Dumbbells and kettlebells are a little harder to come by in 2020 but more and more of my clients and students are finally getting them delivered. Start looking for hand weights now. Even if you return to a gym, the convenient option of exercise at home is one every woman should have for those days she doesn’t have time for the commute. If you need to, you can “make weights.” 

Plan Goals

What do you hope to gain from this 12-step fitness routine? Depending on your specific needs, you may want to: 

  • Maintain or build muscle
  • Maintain or build bone
  • Improve body composition
  • Lose fat
  • Increase strength
  • Decrease belly fat

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Plan Description

The 12-week fitness plan for women outlined here outlines levels of participation. As an exercise psychology coach as well as a hormone balancing fitness expert, I know changing one behavior at a time is best. If you choose to do more than one component of the program, place your emphasis on just one new piece at a time.

For example, start with strength training twice a week. If you’re already strength training but doing so three times a week, switch to twice instead. Make workouts count instead of counting workouts. Recovery is often the most underused component in fitness. It becomes increasingly important after 50. In You Still Got It, Girl! I demonstrated how a schedule with 72 hours between effective weight training is optimal for older adults.

Add the one-to-three interval training sessions (or tweak those existing currently).

Insert mobility and stretching after each workout right away then add additional mobility so you’re doing it most days a week.

Your Fitness Experience Level

I’ll write this program as if you are a beginner. If you’re already following a workout plan, you can simply alter your current plan to optimize bone, muscle, and body composition results. You may find if you’re already exercising regularly your changes week to week are minimal yet reap more rewards.

Word of warning: you’ll resist change if you’re doing more. Even if you’re not getting the results you want and you’re exhausted, you’ve been conditioned for decades that more is better. Trust the science and the proven programs I’ve used to help more than 150,000 women in menopause.

12-Week Workout Plan for Women in Menopause

  • Strength Training: 2 times a week with 72 hours between
  • Interval Training: 1 to 3 times a week for no more than 45 minutes a week total
  • Mobility Training: most days of the week
  • Low-to-Moderate Exercise: as many days a week as you can according to your energy
  • Rest!

It is the most overlooked and undervalued component of exercise. Without it, you’ll be breaking your muscle down faster than you can build it up. If you’re feeling more tired, sore, and seeing few results, increase the number of rest days you have per week from one to two or two to three.

Rest days can include movement. Light movement increases circulation. Those days are called active recovery. During your rest and recovery days, you can go for a low-intensity hike, enjoy Stand Up Paddle Boarding, get a massage, or take an Epsom salt bath. Be an active person with a good exercise plan, just don’t “exercise.”

12 week fitness plan for women

Constant Fatigue/Low Energy?

If you find yourself feeling wiped out, first realize it’s not normal. Yes, it’s common among women in menopause but it’s your hormones messaging you. Something needs to change. Reduce exercise initially until you feel better. Restore before more. Once you’re recharged return to activity with shorter duration more frequent sessions. You might do 10 minutes of interval training in the morning one day, 20 minutes of weight training on another day, and take light walks or yoga for 20 minutes later in the day.

Note on Nutrition

Your successful body composition, bone, and strength changes depend greatly on your nutrition and sleep habits. Without adequate calories, and protein, you won’t have the building blocks of muscle. Muscle loss is an avoidable and reversible fact of aging.

You’ll require high-quality protein especially surrounding your strength and high-intensity interval training workouts when your body is ripe to synthesis protein. Prioritize proper rest between your exercise and that includes sleep.

12 week fitness plan for women

Must-Have Equipment

3 pairs of dumbbells (or substitute water bottles, backpacks with books, etc)

Choose weights you can lift no more than 10 times, 15-20 times, and 25-28 times

Highly Recommended Equipment:

Therapy ball 55cm (5’2” or less) or 65 cm

Optional Equipment:

Lower Body Strength Training Exercises

  • Squat – wide/plie, hip-width, narrow
  • Lunges – side, rear, walking
  • Wall sits
  • Single leg deadlifts
  • Hip bridge from lying (feet on ball)
  • Hamstring curl from lying (feet on ball) 

Upper Body Strength Training Exercises

  • Chest Press
  • Bent-Over Row
  • Bent Arm Pullover
  • Chest Fly
  • Triceps press
  • Biceps curl
  • Shoulder – lateral raise, front raise, reverse fly

Strength Training Days

  • Choose 4-6 upper body exercises and 2-4 lower body exercises.
  • Create a sequence alternating upper and lower body exercises.
  • Perform each set with a weight that brings you to temporary muscular fatigue:
  • 15-20 times if you’re beginning
  • 12-15 if you’re more experienced
  • 10 or fewer repetitions if you’re advanced 12 week fitness plan for women

Interval Training Days

  • Choose an activity you love. Any mode of exercise can be made an interval.
  • Warm-up for 5-10 minutes
  • Alternate 30 seconds of high-intensity interval training to the point of breathlessness with 1:00 of recovery. Repeat this 4-6 times.
  • Cool down another 5-10 minutes.

To truly be supportive of fat-burning, intervals must be “all-out” level. The words “adequate intensity” appear repeatedly in research for women in menopause. If you desire belly fat loss and even reductions in hot flashes, you’ll need to bump yourself into breathlessness.

Fill in the rest of your days of the week with low to moderate movement. You can enjoy a variety of lengths up to about an hour. Overall, decide to be an active person. Gardening, golfing, or exploring for hours are wonderful ways to move more. If your fitness plan leaves you on the couch compensating, you’ve done too much.

This 12-week fitness plan for women outlines the big picture in the name of brevity. A starting point though often provides you with the skeleton you need to make it fit your personal needs. 

Sample 12-Week Fitness Plan for Women (beginners)

  Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat Sun
Weeks

1 & 2

Strength

1 set 20-25 reps

    Strength

1 set 20-25 reps

     
Weeks

3 & 4

Strength

1 set 15-20 reps

Interval

Training

10 mins

  Strength

1 set 15-20 reps

     
Weeks

5 & 6

Strength

2 sets

15-20 reps

Interval

Training

10 mins

  Strength

2 sets

15-20 reps

Interval

Training

10 mins

   
Weeks

7 & 8

Strength

3 sets 15-20 reps

Interval

Training

15 mins

  Strength

3 sets 15-20 reps

Interval

Training

15 mins

   
Weeks

9 & 10

Strength

3 sets 10-12 reps

Interval

Training

20 mins

  Strength

3 sets 10-12 reps

Interval Training

15 mins

   
Weeks 11 & 12 Strength

3 sets <10 reps

 Interval Training

15 mins

  Interval

Training

15 mins

Strength

3 sets <10 reps

 

Interval

Training

15 mins

   

12-Week Fitness Plan Disclaimer:

Unless created specifically for you, this and any workout plan is intended as information only. It should not replace the advice of your medical expert. As with any exercise consult your physician before beginning especially if you have an existing condition or medications that could affect your response to exercise.

For more specific support and done-for-you program, visit Flipping Fifty.

12 Week Fitness Plan for Women

 

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