Can you really transform your body in 12 weeks? Well, if you’re committed and realistic about your fitness goals, then yes you can!
In order to develop muscle and get your body nice and toned, you will need a well organized workout plan as well as a diet with an optimal calorie deficit.
However, the mind is an important part of our 12-week workout plan too, as knowing the psychology underpinning muscle development and weight loss will make achieving your fitness goals over the next 12 weeks a lot easier.
If you’re just starting your fitness journey and want to know where to begin, or you’ve taken a break from working out and want to kick-start the process, we think this 12-week workout plan will do wonders for you!
Setting Expectations For Beginners
Not everyone has a smooth start to their fitness journey.
Most of us have probably fallen at the first hurdle more times than we would care to admit and truthfully, this may have been because we didn’t know what to expect when we set foot in the gym in the first place.
So if that sounds like you, we’ve got you covered! If you’re returning to the gym after a long absence or this is your first gym membership, here are some realistic expectations you can set yourself.
While some people find body transformation easier than others, it is guaranteed to test your mettle. If not, then you’re probably doing it wrong!
Body transformation is a marathon, not a sprint, so when you sign up for a gym membership be prepared to commit to at least six months of hard work.
Yes, this is a guide on how to transform your body in 12 weeks. However, getting the ripped, buff body of a superhero simply isn’t possible in 12 weeks.
However, you can get significantly trimmer and more toned in 12 weeks than you are right now, and you can keep developing your body by repeating the plan for another 12 weeks.
After six months have passed, you should upgrade to an intermediate training program as you can increase your gains and avoid plateauing.
You Are Not Alone
It’s easy to think that after watching a handful of videos on YouTube that we know more than we actually do, forgetting that body transformation is a complicated subject based purely on the fact that everyone’s body is different.
So what works for a fitness model on Instagram or YouTube might not work for you, and that’s why to get the best out of your gym membership, a personalized transformation program is often the way to go.
If you’re a newcomer to the world of fitness, having a helping hand from a professional who offers reliable nutrition, training, and recovery programs.
This doesn’t come cheap, but if you’re serious about body transformation it is a worthy investment.
Don’t Become Reliant On A Gym Buddy
If you have joined a gym with a friend, you may be surprised to hear that you’re more likely to give up on your fitness journey compared to those who go to the gym alone.
This may seem confusing, after all, don’t we embark on these journeys with our friends for moral support? So they can encourage us not to give up?
But newbies who start their fitness journey with a friend often wind up being codependent.
So for example, if your friend is unable to go to the gym that day due to other commitments, you may be more likely to forgo the gym too, even when there is really no good reason why you couldn’t go. Over time, these missed trips to the gym add up.
So if you’re a newbie, it may be better to find motivation from within yourself and sign up for the gym alone, rather than signing up with a friend.
It’s Not Just About Working Out
We all know that transforming your body involves more than a few sets of curling dumbbells or running 20 minutes on a treadmill. To reach your fitness goals you also need to keep an eye on what you need and stick to a recovery program that works.
Make Use Of Supplements
Because supplements are normally associated with professional or experienced weightlifters, beginners make the common mistake of avoiding supplements for the first few months because they think it’s not for them.
Meanwhile, some people are worried about taking the wrong supplements that may have a negative effect on their bodies.
But bodybuilding supplements from reputable brands are safe, and can make the transformation process a little easier.
There are many supplements out there that can improve the quality of your workouts, help you maintain energy, and speed up your recovery process.
12-Week Workout Plan Summary
This program has three aims. This is to develop muscle, burn fat, boost fitness, and improve your health overall.
This is an intermediate level exercise plan that is suitable for men and women. The workouts take 35-40 minutes to complete, and are made up of body weight and machine exercises.
Upper Body Workout (Day 1 & Day 4)
- Three sets of overhead presses. Do this for 8-10 reps, taking 1-2 minutes rest between sets.
- Three sets of lat pull-downs. Do this for 8-10 reps, taking 1-2 minutes rest between sets.
- Three sets of lying tricep extensions. Do this for 10-12 reps, taking 1-2 minutes rest between sets.
- Three sets of reverse curls with a bar. Do this for 12-15 reps, taking a 1-minute rest between sets.
- Three to four sets of incline dumbbell overhead extensions. Do 8-10 reps, taking a 1-2 minute rest between sets.
Lower Body Workout (Day 2 & Day 5)
- Three sets of dumbbell walking lunges. Do this for 12-15 reps, taking a 1-2 minutes rest between sets.
- Two sets of Bulgarian split squats. Do this for 8-10 reps, taking a 1-minute rest between sets.
- Three sets of standing calf raises. Do this for 12-15 reps, with a 1-2 minutes rest between sets.
- Three sets of banded lateral walk. Do this for 10-12 reps per side, taking 2 minutes rest between sets.
- Two sets of sumo deadlift. Do this for 8-10 reps, taking 1-2 minutes rest between sets.
- Three to four sets of stability ball hip thrust. Do this for 8-10 reps, with a 1-minute rest between sets.
Day 3 is a rest day, as is Saturday and Sunday.
Burn Fat With Strength Building Circuits
It wasn’t that long ago that hitting the elliptical or treadmill for hours was seen as the best way to lose weight or shave off a few pounds.
Today however, weight loss programs instead concentrate on exercises that build strength, and for good reason.
When cardio exercises are combined with resistance training, this makes it easier to trim more fat and build lean muscle simultaneously.
Strength training exercises are effective because they target your muscles and rebuild them back stronger than before. This is known as hypertrophy.
When lifting weights during a high-intensity workout, muscle fibers are torn, but as your body recovers it adapts by developing these muscle fibers stronger and bigger than they were before.
Muscle tissue is metabolically active, meaning the more muscle tissue you have, the higher your metabolism. So when doing the proper workouts, you can enhance your body into a fat-burning machine!
Create A Calorie Deficit In Your Diet
One element that determines the speed of which you lose weight is how many calories your body uses every day. This is known as TEE (Total Energy Expenditure).
When working out how many calories your body needs to carry out basic functions like digesting and breathing, you get a figure called BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate).
Your BMR makes up about 60% of your total TEE. Fitness experts use this calculation to find out how much energy you use on average in one day. This calculation is 70 x weight (kilograms) + 5 x height (centimeters) – 20 x your age.
However, this equation is just an estimate. When you start moving during the day, the accuracy of this calculation wanes. However, it’s still beneficial to give you a rough estimate.
If you would like to create a calorie deficit, you need to eat fewer calories than the total amount of energy your body spends every day. How much exercise you do can affect this.
If you burn 600 calories during a workout, that’s an additional 400 calories from food that you need to take into account. This is why it’s crucial to monitor your macros. Which brings us onto our next point…
How To Track Your Macros
So this 12-week body transformation workout plan is effective, you’ll have to monitor your macronutrients.
These are carbs, fat, and protein, as well as caloric intake. Knowing these concepts will help you hit your targets while making sure you stay away from unhealthy foods and maintaining good nutrition.
If you’re eating about 2,000 calories a day at the moment and you’re not doing any exercise, this plan will need you to lower your daily calorie intake to 1,800 calories. This is possibly by removing 250 calories from your diet.
The average gram caloric value for each macro would be 4 kcal of carbohydrates, 9 kcal of fat, and 4 kcal of protein. Your diet should consist of 40% carbohydrates, 30% fat, and 30% of protein.
Carbohydrates are our body’s favorite type of energy source, so they take front and center in this plan.
Because you’ll be cutting refined sugars out of your diet in order to achieve a calorie deficit, it is crucial to get enough carbs in order to help workout intensity and protect muscle tissue.
You should aim for a minimum of 0.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight every day (2 grams per kg). If you frequently do interval or cardio training at a high intensity, then you should boost this figure by an extra 10%.
So for example, a 130-pound woman doing intense cardio 4 times a week then you should be eating at least 110g of carbs every day.
Some of the best carb sources that can help you in your body transformation are beans and legumes, fruits, oats, potatoes, quinoa, and starchy vegetables.
This macro is packed with plenty of benefits. These include helping to maintain healthy hormone levels, helping to maintain lean muscle mass, and helping you stay full so you don’t overeat.
You should try to eat 0.5 grams of protein per pound every day for losing weight, even when limiting yourself to 1,800 calories.
So for example, a 130-pound woman doing intense cardio exercise 4 times a week should be eating a minimum of 60 grams of protein every day.
Some of the best protein sources for body transformation are chicken, cottage cheese, eggs, fish and seafood, Greek yogurt, lean beef, protein powder, and yogurt.
Contrary to popular belief, healthy fats should not be avoided. In fact, they play an important role in the body, and offer fatty acids that are crucial to a healthy diet.
In this plan, the main fat sources will be fish, particularly fatty fish such as salmon, as well as healthy oils.
You should try to get around 25-30% of your daily calories from fat. So for example, a 130-pound woman doing intense cardio 4 times a week should eat about 55 grams of fat daily.
Some sources of healthy fats that are beneficial in body transformation are avocados/avocado oil, almonds, cashews, coconut oil, flax seeds/flax seed oil, olive oil, peanut butter, sunflower oil, and walnuts.
More Key Points To Keep In Mind
You should always monitor your macros ‘to the gram.’ To reach your desired goals, it’s essential that you know what you’re eating.
It’s recommended not to eat fewer than 0.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight every day (2g per kg).
If that is an excessive amount of carbs for your particular macronutrient preferences, boost how much exercise you do and the intensity of the exercise, and think about boosting how many calories you eat every day by 50-100 fewer than what we’ve recommended.
Although it is important to not eat refined grains and sugars, you should eat under 4-6 grams of sugar by eating fruit every day. Avoiding all processed foods (that often have unhealthy added sugars) will help you avoid eating too many calories.
You should also avoid trans fats that can be found in fried foods and baked goods, while eating at least 1,500 mg of sodium every day.
To help you feel full and stay hydrated, make sure to drink water throughout the day. You should also try to get 8 hours of quality sleep every night to let your body repair itself and get ready for the next day of training.
What Factors Can Have An Impact On Fitness?
There are many things that can boost or slow down your fitness journey. For example, how fit you are when you begin your journey seems like an obvious factor that can affect your progress.
The kind of exercise you do is also significant, and if you’re a beginner or returning to exercise following a period of illness or after recovering from injury is also important.
If you’re not used to exercising, or are cautious about exercising following an injury, the results you get from working out for 90 minutes every day than someone who has experience exercising, particularly experience with high intensity workouts.
However, beginners can also make quicker progress because they are starting at a lower rung on the fitness ladder and need less exercise to challenge their bodies. With proper training, beginners see big leaps in strength each week.
On a hypothetical exertion scale of 1 to 10, if you currently just feel capable of exercising at a level 6, then your results are going to be different to someone who regularly exercises at a level 9.
A Journal Of The American Medical Association conducted a study in 2007, where they placed women who didn’t exercise, or were overweight or obese, into three groups, and asked to exercise at 50%, 100%, or 150% of the advised energy expenditure level.
The women who exercised at the highest intensity level noticed an 8% improvement in their cardio fitness after 6 months. Meanwhile, those who exercised at the lowest intensity level noticed a 4% increase in their fitness.
An 8% increase in fitness may not seem significant, but if you haven’t exercised in a while, that is a huge leap! If you turn the intensity up even more, then you’ll see quicker results.
If you’re a beginner – or at least not used to high-intensity workouts – you may have to build up to this level. If you push yourself too hard, then you risk hurting yourself or feeling demoralized and quitting.
But if you don’t put in the work, then you’re not going to see results. Finding the right balance and figuring out what’s fit and healthy for you is a marathon, not a sprint.
Training Principles For The Best Results
To optimize your training, consider these workout principles:
Concentrate On Your Form
A lot of beginner lifters make the common mistake of pushing themselves to lift heavier weights. At the start of your journey, you should mainly be focused on improving your form.
Once you get the hang of performing the exercises accurately, you’ll then be able to challenge yourself with the weights.
Connecting Your Mind To Your Muscles
If you want to develop muscle mass, lifting weights just for the sake of it is not going to yield results. Weightlifting and bodybuilding are two different disciplines.
For the best muscle fiber stimulation, you should concentrate on contracting your muscles with each rep.
Visualize Your Goal
This technique is mainly associated with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He famously talked about visualizing what he wanted his muscles to look like whenever he visited the gym, and during his rest time, he would pose in the mirror and continue to visualize his ideal physique.
So you don’t hit a plateau, you have to make sure you are progressively overloading your muscles, but at the same time not pushing yourself too hard.
Challenge yourself to lifting a slightly heavier weight each week, or perform a few more reps with the same weight to give your muscles a challenge.
How To Get The Most Out Of This 12-Week Plan
Try To Change Your Lifestyle As A Whole
If you take creating a calorie deficit to the extreme, then it is very hard to keep that up in the long-term. This program works best if you commit to changes in your lifestyle for the long-term, rather than just for 12 weeks.
With practical goals and dedication, then these results can last a lifetime.
If you miss a workout, or stray from your meal plan once, don’t let it throw you off completely. Rather than quitting altogether because of a couple of slip-ups, get back on track straight away.
Give yourself some slack and – as cheesy as it sounds – love and value yourself! Commit to taking care of your body 100% so it can continue performing well for you.
Monitor Your Macros
The easiest way to get a fat loss plan off track is by overeating or undereating a macro. However, you can avoid this by monitoring your macros daily over these 12 weeks.
This will make sure that you eat the proper amount of carbs, fat, and protein in order to hit your goals. You can also make use of an app to make monitoring your macros easier.
Although this 12-week body transformation plan can make positive changes to your body, expecting that you’ll be in peak physical shape by the time the 12 weeks is up is unrealistic.
You need to be patient and allow the plan to work, and also give your body the time it needs to change. If you push yourself too hard then you’ll burn out quicker and won’t see any results at all.
Take Pictures Of Your Progress
Although you may feel silly taking progress pictures initially, it can be a valuable motivation source over the next 12 weeks. Seeing noticeable changes in your physique will boost your confidence, and keep you motivated and focused.
It’s also worth taking pictures before you begin training, and after the 12 weeks is up, so you can gain insight into what exercises have led to certain results, and so you can keep an eye on how your body continues to progress.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Learn How To Do These Exercises?
Doing these exercises accurately is naturally going to help you get more out of these workouts. However, finding examples of them is easy, just head to YouTube and type them in the search bar!
There are plenty of exercise demos available on the web, so learning how to do these exercises should be a piece of cake. If you want more guidance, you can consult a personal trainer or a friend with more exercise experience.
Should You Warm Up Before Workouts?
Absolutely. You can warm up with 5-10 minutes of easy cardio like jogging, jump rope, step-ups, and walking. You can then do a few minutes of dynamic flexibility and mobility exercises for the muscles and joints.
At the end of every workout, spend an extra 5-10 minutes stretching to reduce any pressure and pose-exercise soreness in the muscles.
What Is The 130-Hour Rule?
According to the developer, 130 hours is the amount of time needed to achieve a full-on body transformation. However, this rule has no scientific basis.
So if you’ve heard of the 130-hour rule and you feel pressurized, try not to think about it too much.
Everybody is different, so everyone will see results at different times, and you should take your body transformation one week at a time. The more work you put in, the better results you’ll see.
This 12-week workout plan to transform your body is an excellent way to see significant changes in your body.
It’s suited to both men and women, but you must be willing to put in the effort every day and every week. We’ve said it once but we’ll say it again – transforming your body with exercise is a marathon not a sprint.
But if you’re as committed as possible, you’ll be able to see results within a few weeks.