Smolov is a Russian Squat routine that will boost your Squat by up to 100lb in only 13 weeks, even if you’re a drug-free lifter like me. Smolov was designed by the Russian Master of Sports Sergey Smolov, but it is Pavel Tsatsouline who popularized this Squat routine by publishing it first in Powerlifting USA (2001) and later in his book “Power to the People Professional“ (page 63).
WARNING: Smolov is NOT a routine for the faint hearted. I must say that from all the training programs that I’ve done since I started lifting weights in 1999, none have been more challenging than Smolov. You will NOT enjoy the Squatting, you will not EVEN look forward to it, and you WILL want to skip workouts.
That’s why Smolov is not for guys who have been training for less than a year. It’s also NOT for guys who can’t Squat at least 300lb. And it’s definitely NOT for guys who haven’t mastered proper Squat technique yet. Build a foundation with StrongLifts 5×5 and Madcow 5×5 before you give Smolov a try.
Smolov is for the guys who know there’s no something for nothing, and who are ready to do what it takes to gain up to 100lb on their Squat in only 13 weeks.
Expected Gains with Smolov
How much strength you’ll gain on your Squat depends on your body-weight. As a rule of thumb, a bigger guy weighing 250lb will increase his Squat more than a smaller guy weighing 165lb like me.
- Big guys: 55 to 110lb Squat gains after 13 weeks of Smolov.
- Small guys: 44 to 61lb Squat gains after 13 weeks of Smolov.
Less than what you’d gain with StrongLifts 5×5 but your past “beginner gains” at this stage. If you compare Smolov with intermediate programs, it’s clear you can increase your Squat by more than the 10lb/month with Madcow 5×5 or the 25lb in 9 weeks of SL5x5 Advanced. The downside is that you’ll have to train much, much, much harder on Smolov to accomplish these kind of Squat gains.
Expect also to lose fat while gaining muscle with Smolov. Most guys doing this program end up eating tons of foods, not always the cleanest ones, yet their ab muscles start showing more. This is because of the high frequency of heavy Squatting that you’ll be doing on Smolov. Note that your Squat technique will most likely further improve as a result of all the Squatting you’ll do.
How Smolov Works
The Russian Smolov Squat routine is split into 3 phases for a total of 13 weeks. As always, start with a weight you’re 100% sure you can Squat instead of starting too heavy and hitting plateaus. The 4 Smolov cycles…
- Weeks 1-2 – introduction cycle to prepare your legs. Week 1 you Squat 3 day in a row working up towards heavy singles, rest of the week is stretching to speed up leg recovery. Week 2 you Squat every other day.
- Week 3-6 – the base cycle where you’ll Squat 4x/week for 3 weeks. 4 sets of 9 reps Monday, 5×7 Wednesday, 7×5 Friday, and 10×3 reps Saturday. The weight increases each workout, each week. Week 4 is a rest week where you’ll only Squat once and attempt to break your PR.
- Week 7-8 – the switching cycle is a 2 week deload to give you a well deserved physical and mental break before the next cycle.
- Week 9-13 – the intensity cycle where you’ll only Squat 3x/week, but 44% of the time it will be using weights between 81 and 90% of your maximum… and for 4 weeks on. Most guys agree this is the hardest part of Smolov. Week 5 you attempt to break your previous Squat PR.
Do NOT Deadlift with Smolov. One, it would mess with your Squats. Two, Squats work similar muscles as Deadlifts, so it will almost always increase anyway. Just do some Bench Press, Pull-ups, band pull-aparts and lots of stretching – done. Frankly, many guys call it a day after they’ve finished their Squats on Smolov.
Download the Smolov excel file, enter your best Squat you lifted during the past month, and the spreadsheet will tell you exactly how much you should Squat each workout during the next 13 weeks of Smolov.
- Click here to download Smolov Spreadsheet
Go to the Introductory Microcycle tab, choose pounds or kilograms, and enter your 1RM for the Squat. Best is to start with 10% less than your true max, so you begin Smolov with a weight you’re certain you can Squat on any given day.
Smolov Success Stories
Dr. David Bracken, winner of the IPF Masters Worlds, used the Smolov routine to Squat 606lb at 165lb body-weight. He first thought only guys on steroids could manage so much heavy Squatting week after week. Yet he gave Smolov a try and to his surprise, it does work for drug-free lifters. Since then, David has completed multiple Smolov cycles to skyrocket his Squat.
Examples from StrongLifts Members I have – SL Member Will (23y, USA) boosted his Squat from 440lb to 475lb with the base cycle of Smolov. This means a 35lb gain in only 21 days. Will weighs 200lb and has since then Squatted 500lb. His Deadlift also increased from 460lb to 485lb even though he only Squatted.
StrongLifts Member Sam M. (21y, UK) increased his Squat from 140kg to 160kg with the Smolov base cycle. That’s a 44lb strength gain in only 21 days. Sam’s body-weight went from 170lb to 178lb during that time, and according to him all of it was packed in his legs, upper-back and arms.
I did Smolov for Front Squats in 2007 and increased my Front Squat by 27lb during the 21 day base cycle (weighed 155lb at 5’8″, I’m 170lb today). I actually did the full 13 weeks of Smolov, but gained nothing from the 2nd cycle because I made a mistake that I’ll explain below. Looking back I should have done Smolov for Squats, doing it for Front Squats is quite frankly pure torture.
Tips for Maximum Results on Smolov
During the intensity cycle (week 9 to 13), you must take 2 days after the 2nd workout of each week because it is the most challenging one. This means you can NOT do that cycle on Mo/We/Fr like I ignorantly did otherwise you’ll start missing reps all over the place on Friday’s workout. Do the last phase of Smolov on Mo/We/SA. Few more tips…
- Eat – lack of food kills recovery so eat at least 4000kcal/day. Most guys end up doing the “see food” diet on Smolov, eating everything they see yet still dropping body fat from all the Squatting.
- Sleep – sleep is vital for optimal recovery from your workouts, and lack of sleep kills motivation. Although you should be getting some of your best sleep ever on Smolov, doublecheck you sleep at least 8h/night.
- Stretch – one, stretching between workouts will speed up your recovery by flushing blood into your muscles. Two, stretching prevents injuries (think lower back). Three, it boosts strength. Stretch your hips daily.
- Foam roll – same reasons as for the stretching: foam rolling will speed up recovery and prevent injuries. Get a foam roller and work your quads, hamstrings, groin, glutes, and calves daily during your time on Smolov.
- Get a Training Partner – having someone behind your back when you’re Squatting, yelling at you to get your reps on each set, especially when you’ve having a hard time, is an invaluable tool on Smolov. Find one.
The first week of the Smolov base cycle is the hardest. Especially the 7×5 day is rough. Expect your legs and lower back to be sore. By week 2 your body will be used to all the Squatting and then it’s really a matter of mental fortitude.
I recommend you to plan the 13 weeks of Smolov ahead of time so you’re fully focussed on this program. If you don’t have 13 weeks, do the Smolov base cycle only and then go back to Madcow 5×5 or StrongLifts 5×5 Advanced.
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