SMOLOV SQUAT PROGRAM REVIEW (2021)

Smolov Squat Program is a 13 week Squat Program that was developed by Sergey Smolov. It was popularized by Pavel Tsatsouline when he published it in a 2001 issue of Powerlifting USA. It is said that by completing this Smolov Squat program you will add up to 45 kilograms to your squat in just 13 weeks. Why and how? Because this program is intense – it’s high frequency, high volume and high intensity, only four of the 13 weeks are manageable and lighter in load.

Program Phases

CycleLength
Introductory microcycle Phase2 weeks
Base Mesocycle Phase4 weeks
Switching Phase2 weeks
Intense mesocycle Phase4 weeks
Taper/Peaking Phase (technically Intense Phase)1 week

Introductory Microcycle Phase

This phase is not intensity focused, its a preparatory block, intensity and volume is manageable, thus allowing the user to acclimatize to the high frequency of this program.

You squat three times per week and this phase lasts two weeks. Week one you will gradually work up to perform a single rep at 90% of you 1RM on day three top set. The majority of training is between 65-85% of your 1RM. Most sets are low volume and low reps. Week one you perform a total of 62 squat reps then finish with three accessory exercises for three sets of eight reps.

Week two volume is low; you perform only 12 squat reps and do not perform any maximal effort reps staying at just 85% of your 1RM for 2×2, 1×3 and 1×5. This training phase should not be too taxing, its preparing you for the next phase which is intense. You might be tempted to skip this phase (thanks to Smolov Jr. program), however, please don’t! Sergey incorporated it for a reason.

Base Mesocycle Phase

This phase last four weeks, your squatting four times per week at higher intensity, high volume and it is ass-kicking!!!! This phase is the Smolov Jr. program bench press routine, which is why it might look familiar if you have watched my video tutorial for Smolov Jr.

You perform a total of 136 reps per week for 4-10 sets of 3-9 reps. This means once you have completed the three weeks you will have performed 408 squat reps in just 12 sessions. Three of the four days are high volume reps per set, for example day one you are performing 4sets of 9 reps totaling 36 reps in one session.

Rep Analysis

Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Total Per
Week
Total
Three Weeks
Set x Reps4×95×77×510×3xx
Total Reps per Session36353530136408

Progressive Overload

After week one you progressively overload by adding 10 kilograms (20 pounds) to your lift whilst performing the same prescribed set/rep scheme. Week three you add 5 kilograms (10 pounds) to each sessions lift for the same prescribed set/rep scheme. For example; if week one day 1 I perform 4 sets of 9 for 110kg then week two I perform 4 sets of nine for 120kg then week three 4 sets of 9 for 125kg.

This progressive overloading without reducing the volume is what makes this Mesocycle so challenging. It’s not undulated, the percentage of reps per set remains the same whilst the intensity increases each week…substantially. This goes against powerlifting logic! Below, I’ve created a table showing the percentages of 1RM for each week to show the difficulty of this cycle.

Percentage Analysis

Week 1%Week 2%Week 3
Day 170%Day 176%Day 178%
Day 275%Day 281%Day 283%
Day 380%Day 385%Day 387%
Day 485%Day 490%Day 492%
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You can see you will be performing 9 reps for 4 sets at 78% of your 1RM by week three! When you compare this against Perilipin’s chart seen below this would be considered overtraining. Week three day two you are performing 7 reps for five sets at 83% of your 1RM for 35 reps. Again compared against Prilepin’s chart this is illogical, it’s 20 reps more than the optimal total number of reps. In addition, its three reps higher the maximum number of reps per set.

Week three day four your technically overtraining again, its one too many reps per set and a whopping 23 reps above the optimal total number of reps suggested by Prilepin.

Prilepin's Chart Explained (HOW TO USE FOR GAINS IN 2019)

The final week involves a strength retest. You are to perform a squat one-rep max test again but this time, you should be capable of lifting an extra 10-20 kg (20-40 lbs).

Switching Phase (Deload)

This next phase serves as a deload week/s. Considering the intensity of the past six weeks of training a deload phase for two weeks makes perfect sense. This phase is actually my favorite and one I rate very highly due to the high degree of variation added to what is normally a very dull and unimaginative phase. Most Deload phases are just 3×5 at 50% with some cardio……boring!

The purpose of deload is to significantly reduce the intensity of the training and allow the body time to fully recover from the previous weeks. In this phase, ‘dynamic effort’ and variation exercises are introduced to ensure a strength adaption is created or at least maintained from the previous phase. THIS IS SMART and avoids detraining! This includes performing lower rep sets for 8 sets of 3 or 12 sets of 2 incorporating negative eccentric squats, power cleans, and box squats.

The focus also shifts from heavy lifting and moves more towards speed work. Although the squat eccentrics still utilize heavy weights – it’s for one rep per week and you perform only the eccentric not the concentric movement. The power cleans and box squats use lighter loads which allows the lifter to focus on using a moderate to high amount of force and be more dynamic when performing reps.

In the second week the percentage used for each exercise is increased by 5% and your negative eccentric squat rep increases by 5 kg (10 lbs), a slight overload. This Deloading Microcycle will prepare the body for the following Mesocycle whereby intensity is increased significantly.

Intense Mesocycle Phase (Hell!)

This phase isn’t called ‘intense’ as a gimmick, it really is hell and incredibly intense from day one onwards. Each session the intensity is ramped up to prepare you for your meet or setting a new ‘Personal Best’ (PB). This phase runs for six weeks and maintains an extremely high intensity throughout.

The purpose of the intense phase is to build on the foundations laid by the base phase and maximize strength improvements. You are performing a total of 308 squat reps during this mesocycle; it’s 100 reps less than the ‘Base Mesocycle’ (408 reps) however, the intensity is much higher! You are working at greater percentages of your one rep max (1RM) than the ‘Base Mesocycle’ which is more of a volume phase. The ‘Intense Mesocycle’ is the Strength and Maximal Effort phase of the program because you are training mostly in the range of 75-95% of your 1RM.

This phase is heavy weight and high intensity, however lower reps per set (1-5 reps), less frequency (three days instead of four) and less volume than the Base Mesocycle. For example; Week one in the base phase you perform 136 squat reps, in the intense phase you perform 75 squat reps.

Intense Mesocycle Total Reps per Week

Week Number
of Reps
Week 175
Week 2 74
Week 370
Week 469
Week 520

You are training from 65-95% of 1RM in this phase, but most of the work is done in the range of 75-95% which is sub-maximal to maximal effort for a total of 5 weeks before week six when you test your new 1RM. 

While the total volume of reps decreases each week the intensity increases week by week and you will be training more in the 85-95% range of your 1RM in week four and five. We can see from the below ‘Tonnage analysis’ that week two (weirdly) and week four has the highest tonnage of weight lifted. However, week four has the lowest volume of reps performed. Which demonstrates that you will be lifting heavier weights each session than any other week. Whereas week two has the second highest number of reps performed per week which indicates greater volume.

Tonnage Example Table (210kg 1RM)

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 
Day 14060Day 13850Day 16070Day 15862.5
Day 23832.5Day 23727.5Day 22520Day 23345
Day 34490Day 35395Day 33817.5Day 33632.5
Total P.W12382.5 12972.5 12407.5 12840

Week five and six are a peaking phase, there’s a reduction in training volume and intensity for week five (just 20 reps) compared to week one to four. Then week six you peak.  Which is why I see this Mesocycle as having two phases split into the intense and peaking phase.

My Advice for Smolov Program

  1. Sleep eight hours every night.
  2. The program comes first – not partying and playing C.O.D, Fifa or Madden.
  3. Wear Knee Sleeves, wrist wraps and a lifting belt.
  4. Don’t attempt this program if you are cutting or on a calorie deficit.
  5. Don’t skip reps or sets, redo the week if you miss sets or reduce your 1RM.
  6. Don’t stress if you fail to add 40kg (80 lbs) to your 1RM!
  7. Don’t skip the Introductory Microcycle or switching phase.
  8. Rest days are just that – don’t do any bodybuilding fluff or accessory exercises.
  9. Don’t be a smart-arse and try adding accessory exercises to your training days! the volume, intensity and frequency of training is enough!!

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