Smolov is a 13 week Squat Program that was developed by Sergey Smolov, the Russian Master of Sports. It was popularized by Pavel Tsatsouline when he published it in a 2001 issue of Powerlifting USA.
Projected gains from Smolov range from 40-100 pounds depending on how advanced you are. It’s fair to say the progress you make from Smolov is only surpassed by its intensity and brutality.
“In case you got all starry eyed and bushy tailed having read the title beware that you cannot get something for nothing. Either of the two four week loading blocks of the thirteen week Russian cycle pack more work than most American squatters do in a year, no joke. You shall gain but you shall pay with sweat, blood, and vomit, Comrade.” –Pavel Tsatsouline
This is by no stretch of the imagination a beginners program. If you haven’t been lifting for more than a year do not even attempt Smolov.
If you can add weight to the bar every week, then stick with a program that follows a linear progression model such as starting strength or try the less intense Smolov Jr Program.
Smolov is intended for intermediate to advanced lifters, as the volume and overreaching will most likely cause overtraining in less adequate lifters.
Smolov is a super cycle (a long training cycle composed of shorter, but different styles, of training cycles) with approximately five cycles.
|Introductory microcycle||2 weeks|
|Base mesocycle||4 weeks|
|Intense mesocycle||4 weeks|
The introductory microcycle will bring you up to 90% of your best squat in one week and prep you for the rest of the program. The base mesocycle is going to deliver a 30-60 pound strength increase, maybe a little less for smaller lifters.
The switching cycle is used to stimulate your nervous system with a different type of stimuli and thus make it more responsive to another cycle of slow and heavy training. It will also allow your body a chance to recuperate as you move into the intense cycle. The intense cycle is another four-week loading block that is good for a 20-40 pound squat increase.
Finally, the taper is a one week active rest period before you max out. Keep in mind Smolov can also be used to peak for a competition.
Like every other program that works off percentages, you have to plugin your one rep max in order to find the weight you should be using. Use your best raw squat or a projected max using this calculator. Whatever your max is you should subtract 10-15 pounds just to be on the safe side. Below are the first three days of the first week of Smolov.
|1||65%x8x3, 70%x5, 75%x2x2, 80%x1|
|2||65%x8x3, 70%x5, 75%x2x2, 80%x1|
|3||70%x5x4, 75%x3, 80%x2x2, 90%x1|
After you complete these three days the next three will be spent doing lunges focusing on maximal stretching of the thighs. The second week you will be squatting every other day (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) with 80-85% of your max.
At the end of week, you must work up to one set of five with 80-85%. Although there has never been a set plan written out for week two, you may want to do something like this.
As you can see the volume is nothing compared to week one, but the intensity of the work sets will get the job done. Again this is just a suggestion and you can format week two however you please as long as you hit that set of five with 80-85%.
Smolov also wants us to include explosive drills for the introductory cycle consisting of jumps and Plyos (nothing too hard on the knees) that should be done after squatting.
|4||Rest||Rest||work up to a near max single||work up to a near max single|
As you can see, you’ll be squatting four times a week working up to ten sets of a triple using 85% of your 1RM (one rep max). Smolov will give you a little break on week four to prepare you for working up to a new max, which you’ll use for the intense mesocycle. If you start failing sets all over the place during the second, or third week you may want to drop the weight at least five pounds.
The switching cycle is used in Smolov to give both your mind and body some well-needed recovery. All lifts during this cycle are done with maximum explosion focusing on speed.
All workouts are DE (dynamic effort) and you should never use more than 60% of your max. Like week two there is no set program for the switching cycle, but there are guidelines and recommended exercises laid out for us.
Smolov insists we do box squats or regular squats from our sticking point, again focusing on speed and being explosive. We also have negative squats, deep squat jumps, and box jumps to do during these two weeks.
This four-week loading block was originally designed by I. M. Feduleyev who was a powerlifting and weightlifting coach from Moscow. If you can handle the intense cycle you will reap the benefits of throwing another 20-40 pounds onto your squat. Some people just use the base mesocycle which is what Smolov Jr. is based on, because this cycle is too much for them.
You’ll only be squatting three times a week, but 44% of the time you’ll be using weights between 81 and 90% of your 1RM. This cycle is formatted for lifters used to high volume/high intensity and you must be sure you are recovering between workouts.
If at any point you feel you can not keep up reduce the weight by 5-7% in all sets without cutting back on the sets or repetitions. Pavel Tsatsouline described this cycle perfectly:
“You are going to top off with three sets of four reps at 95% of your current -not projected -max, and these numbers mean two things. First, you are going to get unbelievably strong, and second, there will be many moments when you shall wish you had stuck to your stamp collecting.”
The taper is the last week before you max and is spent resting to let your body recover. There are a few different layouts for this last week of Smolov. One is designed for a veteran lifter used to the high volume and intensity, the other is for one unaccustomed to Russian style training. This one is for more hardened lifters and uses a high load at the beginning of the week.
|Monday||70%x3, 80%x3, 90%x5x2, 95%x4x3|
This is for lifters who can’t handle that type of workload before maxing out. You may want to add in a light workout on Monday to keep your form flowing nicely.
You can download this Smolov spreadsheet to make it easier to plugin your percentages and keep track of your workout schedule.