Smolov Squat Program: Get A Bigger Squat
I have written about the Smolov Squat Program having completed it in its entirety. When doing my research as to what training program I wanted to follow, I wanted a post like this to help make my decision. I hope this helps you.
Had enough of looking like this?
Yeah, me too. My squat was a weakness and that needed to change.
After doing some research I found a squat routine which some claimed to add “huge gains” to their squatting ability and I wanted a piece of that for myself.
The Smolov squat program was structured, intense and exactly what I needed.
Table Of Contents
The routine is developed by Sergey Smolov, the Russian Master of Sports and consists of four cycles that cover a 13-week time frame. (Source)
The program is based on percentages of your one rep max squat so the weights you’ll squat are based on your own ability.
So, the program itself…
1. The first cycle is the Introductory Cycle/Phase In which uses squats and lunges to prepare you for the weeks ahead.
2. The Base Cycle follows on from the introductory cycle and it will have you squatting for four times a week for four weeks. You re-test your 1RM after this cycle; adjust your numbers as necessary.
3. The Switching Cycle comes next using squat negatives, power cleans and box squats.
4. The Intense Mesocycle is last and this is where you earn your strength gains. You’ll squat three times a week, with numbers based on your new 1RM from the Base Cycle. (Source)
Program chosen, now what?
Sort your squat out.
The Perfect Squat
Before I started the program, my squat was TERRIBLE.
I had zero consistency; some days I wore lifters and others I did not, belt or no belt, high bar or low bar.
It was all over the place and I needed to sort it out.
Many of the sporting elite (particularly golfers) have a routine that they follow EXACTLY before every swing, kick, sprint and throw and this was something I incorporated into my squat in the introductory cycle.
I created a squat ritual. As ridiculous as it sounds, the 30 seconds that lead up to me taking the bar from the rack to hitting that first squat were the same, every time. Whether it was an empty bar as I warmed up or a 1RM attempt, it was identical and the consistency worked.
Is this something you could incorporate? Some things I adjusted until completely comfortable:
- Foot positioning
- Hand positioning
- Bar position (high bar or low bar)
- Footwear (flat shoes or lifting shoes)
- Belt Vs No Belt
- Tightness of belt (I was more comfortable under load in a belt)
Once you’re as comfortable as possible, you need an accurate 1 rep max to get the ball rolling.
Important point: Test your squat as close to beginning the cycle and set your numbers from there. Accuracy is key otherwise the program will break you or not challenge you at all.
Now you’ve got that freshly tested 1 rep max, you need to use that to work out what you’ll be lifting.
Make your life easy; do some research (or copy me) and find a tool that will make implementing Smolov into your training cycle very simple.
Enter 1RM, squat the numbers it generates. Not hard.
I used this tool, it even gives specific dates based on your planned start date (see my recommendations as I talk about start dates later on in this post).
Make my life easy!
SEND ME THE SMOLOV SPREADSHEET
You'll notice that there is no mention of rest time which leads me on to...
Smolov Rest Time
From my research, I could not find specific rest times for the program.
This is a parameter personal to you so I suggest you get moving and gauge your rest times, increasing and decreasing as necessary.
I used my iPhone and a free round timer app and consistently worked with 3 minute rounds. This included squatting & recovery time.
I had to adjust rest times for the last 2 weeks of the program at certain points. I DID NOT WANT TO MISS REPS therefore I added another 60 seconds for some of the heaviest sets.
This only happened on a couple of occasions, particularly after working night shifts when I was tired.
This is what worked for me. Squat, monitor and adjust as per your ability.
After all of that, you need to recover!
Intense weight training tears your muscles to pieces and these muscles need to rebuild. When do they do it best? Whilst you sleep!
I found that I needed noticeably more sleep on the days that Smolov came to the gym so make certain you make time for added rest.
My quality of sleep is far better wearing a pair of noise cancelling ear buds (I have noisy housemates) and when on nights I would cover my eyes so I slept soundly.
Adequate food intake is key here. Your legs are a huge muscle group and will require nutrients to repair. Much like additional sleep, my appetite went through the roof.
I added plenty of pasta, rice and potato to my meals to ensure there was surplus calories for my body to use in recovery.
As well as a range of whole foods (check out my muscle food review), I added some supplements to compliment an already solid nutrition plan.
Pre and post squatting I would consume a MyProtein Energel, 25 grams of carbohydrates in one mouthful (for me anyway). I also used their whey protein powder, it’s my preferred powder as its well-priced and is consumable on a daily basis.
On some mornings when work got in the way I had to squat at 6am, no time for food etc. Don’t overthink food consumption, I managed some sessions running on empty, I am sure you can too.
Throughout the duration of Smolov I ensured that I stayed on top of “muscle maintenance” through stretching and rolling.
This specially helped with maintaining full range of motion when squat sessions where only separated by 48 hours.
Smolov Squat Results
So, after months of giving your blood, sweat and tears to a squat rack you’d hope you could squat a bit heavier.
3 months ago, my back squat was 145Kg’s (I wish I had recorded this lift, shocking) and today at testing I made 160Kg's. Whilst I hoped there was more in the tank, I had to test a day early and after a night shift. Ideal conditions? Not really.
Is Smolov worth it? Yes.
Would I have pushed as hard if Sergey and his magic formula hadn’t of told me to do so? No.
Click here to see before & after Smolov pictures
Make this program your focus, stick to upper body if you get an urge and don’t do anything that’ll interfere with squat sessions.
I could not add this in to my normal training, it would have broken me.
Whilst working through Smolov I used it as an opportunity to work on another weakness of mine – pull ups.
As some of the squat sessions lasted around 30 minutes in total, I decided to incorporate 10 minutes of max effort pull ups after.
Choose your start date wisely! Choose a date and then check what days the program prescribes you to squat.
My chosen start date resulted in me squatting on both Saturday and Sunday which socially was not ideal.
Find a date that fits nicely around your commitments.
This post was created as before I started I did a little research and all I could find were laughable reviews about a very promising and well thought out program.
I hope this honest smolov squat review based on my experience helps you make informed decisions about how best to use Sergey’s wisdom in progressing your squat.
To your continued progression,