Smolov Squat Routine

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 it’s 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”

smolov

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, than stick with a program that follows a linear progression model such as starting strength. Smolov is intended for intermediate to advanced lifters, as the volume and overreaching will most likely cause overtraining in less adequate lifters.

overreaching model

 

Smolov Layout

Smolov is a super cycle (a long training cycle composed of shorter, but different styles, of training cycles) with approximately five cycles.

Cycle Length
Introductory microcycle 2 weeks
Base mesocycle 4 weeks
Switching 2 weeks
Intense mesocycle 4 weeks
Taper 1 week

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. To maximize your strength gains, check out the free Serious Powerlifting Strength Manual.

Introductory Microcycle

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.

Note:(Sets and reps in this article are the reverse of the way they are written in the U.S. In Russia, the number of reps is given first, followed by the number of sets. Thus “8×3″ in this article indicates that the trainee would perform 3 sets of 8 reps each.)
Day Workout
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.

Day Sets Reps Percentage
Monday 1 5 80%
Wednesday 1 5 82.5%
Friday 1 5 85%

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 to hard on the knees) that should be done after squatting.

Base Mesocycle

Note:(When you add weight onto your percentage, it’s just the same weight you used last week plus the amount it says to add. Do not add on another 30 pounds the third week, instead add ten for a total of 30.)
Week Monday Wednesday Friday Saturday
1 70%x9x4 75%x7x5 80%x5x7 85%x3x10
2 (70%+20lbs)x9x4 (75%+20lbs)x7x5 (80%+20lbs)x5x7 (85%+20lbs)x3x10
3 (70%+30lbs)x9x4 (75%+30lbs)x7x5 (80%+30lbs)x5x7 (85%+30lbs)x3x10
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.

Switching

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.

Intense Mesocycle

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 to much for them.

Week Day
1 Monday 65%x3 75%x4 85%x4x3 85%x5
Wednesday 60%x3 70%x3 80%x4 90%x3, 85%x5x2
Saturday 65%x4 70%x4 80%x4x5
2 Monday 60%x4 70%x4 80%x4 90%x3, 90%x4x2
Wednesday 65%x3 75%x3 85%x3 90%x3x3, 95%x3
Saturday 65%x3 75%x3 85%x4 90%x5x4
3 Monday 60%x3 70%x3 80%x3 90%x5x5
Wednesday 60%x3 70%x3 80%x3 95%x3x2
Saturday 65%x3 75%x3 85%x3 95%x3x4
4 Monday 70%x3 80%x4 90%x5x5
Wednesday 70%x3 80%x3 95%x3x4
Saturday 75%x3 90%x4 80%x4x3

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.

Taper

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 in the beginning of the week.

Day Workout
Monday 70%x3, 80%x3, 90%x5x2, 95%x4x3
Tuesday Rest
Wednesday 75%x4, 85%x4x4
Thursday Rest
Friday Rest
Saturday Rest
Sunday Max

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.

Day Workout
Monday Rest
Tuesday Rest
Wednesday 75%x4, 85%x5
Thursday Rest
Friday Rest
Saturday Rest
Sunday Max

 

peak with smolov

You can download this Smolov spreadsheet to make it easier to plugin your percentages and keep track of your workout schedule. This program is a bit overwhelming in terms of the layout so if you still need help understanding you can view the video below. Feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments.

Smolov Explanation

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48 thoughts on “Smolov Squat Routine”

    1. Yes, it can be used for box sqauting, but i have found that to much box sqauting can weaken your stopping power in the hole. That is alright if you are a multy-ply lifter who’s gear provides enough stopping power, but for us raw and single ply lifters out there I would not recomend it.

      1. I have gone anywhere from 6 months to a year straight of just box squatting on a few occasions. Each time when i re-tested my squat it had gone up just as much as my box squat had during that time.

        If you’re doing box squats properly it’s not going to weaken your stopping power in the hole at all, in fact it’s the opposite. Box squats build incredible explosion out of the hole when done properly (google “Louie Simmons on Wide Stance Squatting” for a very helpful video if unsure whether you’re box squatting properly).

        Never tried Smolov for box squats personally, but if done with front squats I’d imagine box squats could be fine too. Body tends to recover from a box squat more quickly so that may make running smolov a tiny bit less brutal? But it will also be hitting your posterior chain much harder, so get ready for a world of pain and tightness in the glutes and hamstrings most mornings. Do tons and tons of foam rolling and hip-mobility work — check out DeFranco’s agile 8 for a good example there.

    2. I made 45lb gain in my raw squat by boxing squatting my entire Smolov cycle. Just make sure your boxing squatting correctly, and that your box allows you to break 90 degrees. No touch and go bull shit, really sit deep into and explode through the entire lift. Also takeing 3 ice baths a week, a gallon of organic chocolate milk and high caloric clean diet are crucial to your survival.

  1. For the intro mesocycle, when it says the first three days, are those supposed to be done in consecutive days i.e. Mon Tues Weds? Thanks

  2. What follow-up program should you partake in to maintain the bulk of the strength you put on? I realize it’s natural to lose a bit after a program this intense…

    1. I took 5 days off, then just moved my squatting and deadlifting to twice a week on the same day, and did the same for my upper body movements. I just did 7×3 for all my core lifts including OHP at 65-75% and did 4×10 for assistant work. Also i keep the calories clean and high, and i added strength. Foam roll with PVC, sleep, eat and stay strong mental and you will succeed and continue to progress. You could also go to an intermediate – advance 3 day a week program and maintain your strength.

  3. Week 4, Saturdag says 80%x4x3. Shouldn’t this be 95%? Considering Tsatsouline’s quote you top off with 3 sets of 4 reps @95%?

    1. It’s the end of the program, you’re 1 rep max has gone up significantly. That’s the point of the system. It’s a percentage of your previous max, and isn’t supposed to be a true 95%

  4. During the switching phase it mentions doing squat negatives. What would a good percentage be on those? I was going to go 125%, and 135%, but I wasn’t sure if they’re supposed to be ultra heavy, or it they’re supposed to moderate intensity.. Any thoughts on this?

    1. I’m not a pro lifter, but I really doubt you could even attempt this with dead lifts. The reason being that dead lifts wreck your legs and your central nervous system far more than squats each workout. From my knowledge, most advanced lifters do dead lifts only once a week, and fill the void with supplementary exercises on other days.

      1. I’m trying it out on deadlifts.

        I’m going Monday, Wednesday, and alternating Saturday and Sundays throughout the course.

        I did a training set yesterday and it’s going to hurt big time – I’m starting the program on Monday. If it works out decently (I want 200kg this year) I’ll do the same for bench and go from there.

        On the in between days, I’m following the SAS fitness regime so,at the end of it, I’ll either be olympian fit or dead.

        Bring on the pain!!!

        1. I’ve completed the first 6 week of Smolov deadlift.

          Today is the first day of week 7.

          I’m feeling pretty confident but, I didn’t really impress myself with a 5kg gain in my 1RM. That said, the next 1RM attempt in 6 weeks time might be where the gains become more obvious.

          A good recovery for the aching muscles seemed to be a swim for an hour followed by sauna and a steam room.

          We shall see if I blast it. Stay tuned.

          1. Well, I finished the deadlifts.

            In terms of the workload it actually got easier as the course progressed. The weight is more but, there are less reps to do so, recovery was faster.

            My deadlift wasn’t that great to start with but, I added 16.25kg (35.825lbs) to it so, now I can deadlift 400lbs.

            I would imagine that anyone with a 1RM of 200kg or more probably wouldn’t get too much of a benefit from but, that remains to be seen.

            I’m now starting the same routine with bench press.

            Train hard, train heavy ;)

    2. I did a smolov Jr cycle with deads 6 months after i did the entire smolov for squats routine. It was brutal, and i did it on a 8 day a week cycle. I added 15lbs to my dead lifts, but it killed me, and i was way to over trained and really didn’t accomplish much as far as long term strength growth.

    3. I’m into my third week on Smolov for deadlifts.

      It’s hard work but, things are feeling a little easier on the weights that I’m programmed for.

      I will say that, at least for myself, I feel on the edge of what I can physically do on some days. If I end up with a new PB out of it, then it can only be a good thing.

  5. In the end of the program when I shall atempt my 1rpm shall I use the same max I had in the begining or calculate a new one. Shall squat be the only leg exersice?

  6. so after the base mesocycle and you max out. do you use that new max to calculate your percentages for the intense mesocyle. or do you use the same max you used for the original max you used for the base mesocycle

  7. during the base cycle, what is the recommended rest between sets? Is this complete or incomplete rest? Thanks!!

  8. On the intense mesocycle are the sets and reps reversed as well? it says that “you top off with 3 sets of 4 reps at 95%” and that’s how it’s written, but in the first part of the article it says it should be flipped. Thanks.

  9. I’m gonna run the program with a 120 kg max(real max around 125-130).Should I increase the weight 10kg at the second week or 5kg is better for such a low max

  10. Hello
    I have run a power lifting program where i was dead lifting twice a week, squatting twice a week and benching twice a week and each time i was working up to 80 – 90 % of my max except the dead-lift.
    would it be a good idea to run the ed coan deadlift program plus smolov jr bench and squat program since i am familiar with the volume and intensity ?

    1. I’m doing the same thing, but i modified it to an 8 day a week train cycle. I love it, but im spending at least 20 minutes a day rolling out my chest, back and legs.

  11. Hello this program is just what looking for
    I’ve been lifting for around 3 years consistently and I’ve recently started crossfit.
    I squat on all my weightlifting sessions tbh I squat a lot ….
    My MR is 50kg
    Is it safe to say this program is for me . I’m focused and dedicated !!! But u feel I’m just equating endlessly
    Cheers
    Love2lift

  12. Great write up, getting ready to try Smolov for the first time. I’d love to hear from others out there that have gone through all 13 weeks. Any tips to assist with recovery? Seems like squatting that much each week is definitely going to take its toll!

    Wish me luck!

    1. Myofascial release to all areas of your body is crucial. I ate a clean 4500-5000 cals a day, and i still ended up 3lbs lighter then when i started. Also ice baths are a must; You have to reduce inflammation in your body or you’re going to drain your nervous system.

  13. I was contemplating attempting this progression but I was wondering what assistance exercises do you include with the squatting? Or are you just supposed to hit the desired weight and reps and then stop to avoid overtraining? I also was wondering how I would include this progression into my training while still performing the bench and deadlift. Has anyone else been successful in incorporating the other two lifts into this training cycle, or is it just pure squatting for 13 weeks?

  14. Hello! I was wondering that could i run this training cycle through without steroids? So im trying to ask that is the Smolov designed for lifters who don’t use roids? Thanks

    1. I know a dozen or so people who have done smolov cycles and see huge gains. most just do smolov jr, but it does take a toll on your body. it’s meant to be really hard. no one i know takes steroids though.

    1. Yes , you are supposed to use your new max you should look into downloading the smolov spreadsheet it simplify s it for you and takes pretty much all guessing out

  15. Adapted this to bench press and was pretty happy with the results, went from a 152.5 kg pause press to 160kg over the entire program. Considering that bench press is using significantly smaller muscle groups i was stoked with this magnitude of gains. Just a note though, anyone attempting this for bench should really look after your shoulders and elbows because they get put under a lot of stress. Can’t wait to try it on squats after my hip injury fully recovers. Happy lifting!

  16. I am a football coach that had 2 players finish the 13 week program and followed it to a tee. My 260 lb lineman went from 415 to 560, and 115 lb receiver went from 235 to 315. It was incredible to watch the gains, and their 40 times dropped,also.

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