12 weeks is enough time to transform your body, but only if you’re willing to go the extra mile. To build muscle and truly tone your body, you’ll have to have a well-structured workout routine along with a calorie deficit. You also need to understand the psychology behind weight loss – your mind matters just as much as the workout routine and diet you choose. Whether you’re brand new to fitness and looking to start on the right foot, or perhaps you fell off track and are looking to recommit, this 12-week body transformation plan is for you.
The 12-Week Body Transformation Workout Plan
The goal of this program is threefold:
- Burn fat
- Increase fitness
- Build muscle
- Boost overall health
It’s an intermediate level workout plan that targets both men and women. The duration of each workout is 35-40 minutes, and it involves both machine and bodyweight exercises.
- Day 1: Upper Body
- Day 2: Lower Body
- Day 3: Rest
- Day 4: Upper Body
- Day 5: Lower Body
- Saturday: Rest
- Sunday: Rest
Upper Body Transformation Workout
- Overhead press (Reps 8-10, sets 3, 1-2 minutes rest between sets)
- Lat pull-downs (Reps 8-10, sets 3, 1-2 minutes rest between sets)
- Incline dumbbell press (Reps 8-10, sets 3, 1-2 minutes rest between sets)
- Lying tricep extensions (Reps 10-12, sets 3, 1-2 minutes rest between sets)
- Reverse curls with bar (Reps 12-15, set 3, 1 minute rest between sets)
- Incline dumbbell overhead extensions (Reps 8-10, sets 3-4, 1-2 minutes rest between sets)
- Chest supported row (Reps 8-10, sets 3-4, 1-2 minutes rest between sets)
Lower Body Transformation Workout
- Dumbbell walking lunges (Reps 12-15, sets 3, 1-2 minutes rest between sets)
- Bulgarian split squat (Reps 8-10, sets 2, 2 minutes rest between sets)
- Dumbbell shoulder squat (Reps 8-10, sets 2, 1 minute rest between sets)
- Standing calf raises (Reps 12-15, sets 3, 1-2 minutes rest between sets)
- Banded lateral walk (Reps 10-12 per side, sets 3, 2 minutes rest between sets)
- Sumo deadlift (Reps 8-10, sets 2, 1-2 minutes rest between sets)
- Stability ball hip thrust (Reps 8-10, sets 3-4, 1 minute rest between sets)
Strength Training Circuits To Burn Fat
Several years back, hitting the treadmill or elliptical for hours on end was regarded as the best approach to shed pounds or trim fat. Today, fat loss programs are centred on strength training workouts. There’s a good reason for this. When you combine cardio exercises with resistance training, you’re able to lose more fat and build lean muscle at the same time (3).
Strength training workouts work because they break down your muscles and then encourage them to rebuild stronger than before. This process is called hypertrophy (meaning “increased body composition”). When you lift weights, you tear down your muscle fibres through a high-intensity workout. Then, as your body recovers from this stress, it adapts by building those muscle fibres back up bigger and stronger than before (8).
Muscle tissue is metabolically active – the more of it you have, the higher your metabolism will be. With the right exercises, you can turn your body into a fat-burning machine.
Changing Diet To Create A Calorie Deficit
One factor that affects how quickly or slowly you can lose weight is the number of calories that your body uses on a daily basis – referred to as total energy expenditure or TEE (2). When you calculate how many calories it takes your body to perform basic functions, such as breathing and digesting, you get a number known as the basal metabolic rate (BMR).
Your BMR accounts for roughly 60% of your total energy expenditure (7). Many experts use this formula to determine how much energy an individual uses on average in one day:
- 70 x weight (kg)
- + 5 x height (cm)
- – 20 x age (years)
This equation is only an estimate. As soon as you start moving around throughout the day, these numbers become less accurate – but it’s still useful for general guidance.
If you want to create a calorie deficit, you need to consume fewer calories than the total amount of energy your body expends on a daily basis. This can be affected by how much exercise you do – if you burn 600 calories during a workout, that’s an extra 400 calories from food that must be accounted for. This is where it becomes important to know your macros.
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Tracking Your Macros
In order for this 12-week body transformation workout plan to work, you’ll need to track your macronutrients (carbs, protein and fat) as well as caloric intake. Understanding these concepts will help ensure that you reach your goals without going hungry or going overboard with unhealthy foods.
If you’re currently eating around 2,100-2,200 calories a day and you’re sedentary, this plan will require that you reduce your daily intake to 1,900 calories. To do this, simply remove 250-300 calories from your current diet.
The average gram caloric value for different macros is as follows (5):
- Carbohydrates – 4 kcal
- Protein – 4 kcal
- Fat – 9 kcal
Your diet should be made up of around 30% protein, 40% carbohydrates and 30% fat.
Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred energy source, so they’re the main focus in this plan. Since you’ll be cutting out refined sugars from your diet to achieve a calorie deficit, it will be especially important to get enough carbs in order to support increased training intensity and preserve muscle tissue.
Aim for a minimum of 0.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight daily (2 grams per kg) (4). If you do cardio or interval training at high intensities often, increase that number by another 10%. For example:
A 130-pound woman doing intense cardio 4 times a week should eat at least 110 grams of carbs each day.
Some ideal carbohydrate sources that can help you transform your body are:
- Starchy vegetables
- Beans and legumes
This macronutrient has a ton of benefits, including the maintenance of lean muscle mass, aiding in healthy hormone levels and promoting fullness or “satiety” to prevent you from overeating. Aim for 0.5 grams of protein per pound (1 g/kg) daily for weight loss, even if you’re restricting yourself to 1,900 calories (4). For example:
A 130-pound woman doing intense cardio 4 times a week should eat at least 68 grams of protein each day.
Some ideal protein sources to help you transform your body are:
- Lean beef
- Fish and seafood
- Yogurt, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese
- Protein powder
Healthy fats are not your enemy – they actually play many necessary roles in the body and offer essential fatty acids. The main fat sources in this plan will be fish (especially fatty fish, like salmon) and healthy oils. Aim to get roughly 25-30% of your daily calories from fat for the best results (4). For example:
A 130-pound woman doing intense cardio 4 times a week should eat around 55 grams of fat each day.
Some healthy fat sources that can help you transform your body are:
- Olive oil
- Sunflower oil
- Almonds, walnuts and cashews
- Peanut butter
- Avocados, avocado oil and coconut oil
- Flax seeds and flax seed oil
Some other key points to remember include:
Always track your macros “to the gram.” It’s important to know exactly what you’re consuming to achieve the results you want.
It’s best not to consume less than 0.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight daily (2 grams per kg). If that’s too many carbs for your personal macronutrient preferences, increase exercise frequency and/or intensity and consider increasing the number of calories you’re eating each day by 50-100 fewer than what we’ve suggested above.
While it is important to avoid refined sugars and grains, aim for 4-6 grams or less of sugar from fruit sources each day.
Cutting out all processed foods (which usually contain unhealthy added sugars) will help you prevent excess calorie consumption.
Avoid trans fats, which can be found in baked goods, fried foods and other packaged items.
Try to get at least 1,500 mg of sodium daily.
Drink water throughout the day to help you stay hydrated and feel full.
Aim for eight hours of quality sleep each night to allow your body to repair, recover and prepare itself for another day of intense training (6).
When it comes to weight loss, progress is made by inches, not miles, so it’s much harder to track and a lot easier to give up. BetterMe app is your personal trainer, nutritionist and support system all in one. Start using our app to stay on track and hold yourself accountable!
Tips For Success
If you want this 12-week body transformation workout plan female and male to work for you, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Aim For A Whole Lifestyle Change
Getting fit is a marathon, not a sprint. When you use an extreme approach to create a calorie deficit, it’s very difficult to maintain that weight loss in the long-term (1).
This program will work best if you’re willing to make lifestyle changes and commit to this for just 12 weeks – but with the right dedication and goal setting, those results can last a lifetime.
If you miss just one workout or eat off your meal plan just once, don’t let it derail your efforts completely. Instead of quitting altogether because one bad decision led to another, get back on track immediately. Treat yourself like you would treat an expensive piece of gym equipment – commit yourself 100% to taking care of it to ensure that it performs well for you.
Track Your Macros
The surest way to derail a fat loss plan is by eating too much or not enough of any macronutrient. To avoid this problem, you should track your macronutrients every day for the entire 12 weeks. This will ensure that you consume the right number of calories from carbs, protein and fat to support your goals. If necessary, use an app to make tracking your macros simple.
Don’t Be A Perfectionist
You can’t expect to be in top physical shape because of 12-week body transformation workout plan. You have to give the plan time to work – and your body time to change. If you push yourself too hard, too fast, you’ll burn out quickly and stop seeing results altogether.
Take Progress Pictures
Taking progress pictures might seem silly at first, but it can be a great source of motivation during the next 12 weeks. When you start to see noticeable changes in your body, it boosts your confidence and helps keep you focused.
It’s also a good idea to take pictures at the beginning of the program as well as after week 12 because seeing how much your body changes can help provide insight into what actions led to those results.
The Bottom Line
The 12-week body transformation workout plan is a great way to see major changes in your physique. This program can work for men and women, but you have to be willing to put in the hard work day after day, week after week. If you follow through with as much commitment as possible, those results will start to show within just a few weeks.
Check out this 20-min Full Body Workout at Home.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 7 Things Never to Do to Lose Weight (2014, webmd.com)
- Calories: Total Macronutrient Intake, Energy Expenditure, and Net Energy Stores (n.d., nih.gov)
- Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults (2012, nih.gov)
- Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation (2014, nih.gov)
- How many calories are in one gram of fat, carbohydrate, or protein? (n.d., usda.gov)
- How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? (2021, sleepfoundation.org)
- Metabolism (2020, vic.gov.au)
- Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength in Trained Men (2019, nih.gov)