Category Archives: Squat training articles

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”


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.


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.


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

20 Rep Squat Program

The 20 rep squat program is one of the oldest lifting programs there is. It was introduced by John McCallum in 1968 and was originally coined “Squats and Milk” because old school lifters would drink a gallon of milk a day (GOMAD) while on it. Tom Platz used 20 rep squats as a staple in his routine and had some of the biggest and strongest legs on the planet.

Access the Free Serious Powerlifting Strength Manual Here

For this routine you will be squatting 3 times a week with one set of 20 repetitions each workout. Your goal is to add five pounds to your 20 rep max each training session. This program is only 6 weeks long so you have to go all out every training session. To determine your starting weight, figure out your 5RM(5 rep max) and subtract 5lb from every workout from the 6-week period. If your 5RM is 300lb and you train three times a week for the six weeks, your starting weight would be 210lb. The difference is 90lb, so your goal after 6 weeks will be to squat 20 reps with the 300lb. It sounds made up, but a lot of elite lifters and strength coaches can vouch for it’s authenticity, including Mark Rippetoe.

“Trust me, if you do an honest 20 rep program, at some point Jesus will talk to you. On the last day of the program, he asked if he could work in.”- Mark Rippetoe

This routine is not for the mentally weak individual. It will test your will power and bring you to a threshold that will either make or break you. One of the reasons why this routine works so well is the “breathing squats”. Generally around rep 15 or so you’ll be out of breath, legs burning, telling yourself this was a horrible idea while you stand there with the weight on your back. At this point the reps come few and far between as you muster up the strength to squat out another rep. These last few reps result in the strength and hypertrophy that make this routine legendary.

There are many variations of this routine to choose from, pick one that fits your skill level. Remember you are going to be doing this three times a week. The classic Monday, Wednesday, Friday works good with this, but if you feel you simply cannot recover lower it down to two days a week using something like Tuesday, Friday. Beginners may also want to use the “scaled down” version and start off lifting only twice a week from the get go.


The Original 20 Rep Squat Program

Exercise Sets Reps
Behind-the-Neck Press 3 12
Squat 1 20
Pull-Overs 1 20
Bench Press 3 12
Bent-over Rows 3 15
Stiff-legged Deadlift 1 15

20 Rep Squat Program-Scaled Down

Exercise Sets Reps
Squat 1 20
Pull over 1 20
Overhead press 2 10
Power clean 2 5

20 Rep Squat Power Program

Exercise Sets Reps
Power Cleans 5 3
Squat 1 20
Military Press 2-3 12
Chin-ups 2 do until failure
Dips 2 10
Conventional Deadlifts 1 15

Big 3-20 Rep Squat Program

Exercise Sets Reps
Squat 1 20
Pull-Overs 1 20
Bench Press 2-3 10
Bent-over Rows 2-3 15


You can make your own variation of this routine as long as you leave the squat untouched, the reason being it is the foundation of this program. A good variation should include at least one pushing, pulling, and stretching movement. You should stick with basic movements such as the bench press, pull-ups, military press, pull-overs ect. A good approach if you’re starting out is to do one set of each three times a week. Once the six weeks are up you should switch over to a heavier program such as a basic 5×5 routine. The high rep work will leave your body primed for a low rep program due to the increased muscular endurance and the break away from heavy weights.

Access the Free Serious Powerlifting Strength Manual Here

The Milk


Gomad, or gallon of milk a day, has been a method used by weightlifters for decades. It is a technique used to gain vast amounts weight and strength quickly. It fits with the 20 rep squat program so well because all of the extra protein and calories make it ideal for recovery. If you can manage to do gomad for six weeks you will definitely reap the full benefits of the 20 rep squat program. You are still fully capable of making progress without it as long as you are eating enough and meeting your protein requirements (at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight everyday).

Benefits of milk

-High Protein. You need protein to build muscle & prevent muscle loss. 1 gallon of whole milk contains 120g protein. 80% casein, 20% whey.

-High calories. You can eat as healthy as you want, but if you’re not giving your body the tools it needs to grow stronger then it can’t no matter how much protein you consume. Could you build a house of cards without any cards?

-High Carb. The dextrose in whole milk spikes insulin, a muscle building hormone which tells your body to move the proteins into your muscles.

-Saturated Fat. Increases testosterone levels, which means more muscle & strength. Don’t believe the cholesterol myths: saturated fat is healthy. Contrary to popular belief dietary cholesterol doesn’t effect blood cholesterol.

You can read more about the benefits of milk here.

Common Questions

What happens if I fail to get my set of 20 reps?

Don’t worry about it just rest up and throw on the same weight as last time and go for 20 again.

What happens if I miss it a second time?

You will want to consider only using a 2 day split instead of three at this point.

Is there a variation I can use for circuit training?

Yes there is all you really have to do is fit in your one set of 20 rep squats. You will most likely want to do these first. You can try something like the example below:

-Squat: 1×20
-Pull-Overs: 1×20
-Circuit training:
-3 rounds of bodyweight Chin-ups, Dips, and Sit-ups.
-Everything is taken to failure and 1 min rest is taken between exercises.

Can I go longer than 6 weeks

If you feel you can and are still making progress than yes. The 6 week limit is there because that’s how long most people last both mentally and physically.

How long until I can do this program again?

The rule of thumb is to wait another six weeks.

Can I add in more upperbody work?

If your recovery ability permits you to then by all means add what you want. The squats themselves will also work your upperbody.

Access the Free Serious Powerlifting Strength Manual Here