Justin Tadlock

Smolov squat routine introduction

After announcing my plan to start the Smolov squat routine, I wanted to share this workout plan with all of my readers. Plus, I want to start allowing everyone get a better idea of what type of things I’m doing to continue with my fitness goals as I inch closer to my complete transformation.

Another thing I want to document is the full Smolov squat routine. I’ve searched for weeks and couldn’t find a well-written guide on the program. Some are good, but it takes a bit of deciphering to figure it all out. Therefore, my hope is that other weight lifters will find this information useful as they search the Web.

In this post, I will introduce you to the Smolov squat routine and cover the 2-week intro microcycle in detail. If anyone is crazy enough to join me, good luck. Email me if you need emotional support.

What is Smolov?

Smolov is this insane squat routine designed by S. Y. Smolov. Basically, I call him the crazy Russian guy.

The Smolov squat routine is meant to boost your squat max up to 100 lbs. (45.36 kg) in 13 weeks of training. It’s an intense workout plan in which you squat a lot. Then, you squat some more. And, you squat some more.

The program is split into 4 cycles:

  • Intro microcycle
  • Base mesocycle
  • Switching phase
  • Intense mesocycle

Squats are the king of all lifts in the gym. If you’re not squatting, you’re not lifting. You might as well go home, grab a bag of potato chips, and tune into your favorite television program if you’re not squatting when you’re in the gym.

While squatting is for everyone, Smolov isn’t. This isn’t something I’d recommend to anyone who doesn’t have a couple of years of serious weight training under their belt and who can at least squat 350+ lbs. (158.76+ kg). Honestly, I’d say you’d need to squat at least two times your own bodyweight before embarking on this plan.

No, I haven’t been back into lifting for that long. I’ve only been squatting for about the last six months. However, my workout partner and I both have an extensive background in powerlifting, so we’re well aware of both the physical and mental aspects required for such an undertaking. Even with that in mind, we know it’s a possibility that we won’t finish the program.

Basically, you need to be serious about lifting and know what you’re doing before taking on Smolov. Having balls of steel wouldn’t hurt either. You’ll need them.

What tools do you need?

Well, this is pretty simple. You need the basics:

  • Squat rack
  • Barbell
  • Weights
  • Weight belt (optional)

This program was designed before lifting equipment was really used. Plus, I’m not a huge fan of lifting equipment. I’ve always been more of a fan raw powerlifting. But, if you use lifting equipment, save that for the end of the program when you get your new max.

You might also want to invest in a decent foam roller to help with those aches and pains.

Other tips

There are two important things you must do in order for your body to recuperate from a program like Smolov. Otherwise, your body will just shut down on you.

  • Eat. Then, eat some more. Seriously, don’t starve yourself on this program.
  • Sleep. I’m taking a vacation for week #1 just so I can sleep a little extra as my body adjusts. You need a minimum of 8 hours every night.

You’ll also need to skip any other work on your lower back and legs. Especially skip lower back work. It will go through hell with the squats alone. Doing things like deadlifts and rows while on this program will likely cause you an injury. Just don’t do them until the 13 weeks are over. You are free to work your arms and upper back all you want, assuming you have the energy to do so.

The intro microcycle

The introductory microcycle is a two-week cycle to allow your body to adjust to the volume and intensity of the program. If you’re used to squatting heavy (70%+ of your max for 5+ sets) three or four days a week, you can skip this part of the program. However, I recommend it just so you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Just because it’s an intro, doesn’t mean it ain’t tough, so let’s get right to it.

Sets are based off your 1 rep max. So, if you can squat 400 lbs. (181.44 kg) and the percentage is 50%. You’d squat 200 lbs. (90.72 kg). If this is your first time running Smolov, you might consider cutting 20 lbs. (9.07 kg) or so off your max.

Round percentages to the nearest whole number and weight you have available. If you’re supposed to do 401.5 lbs. for a lift, round it down to 400. If you’re supposed to do 403.5 lbs., round it up to 405.

All sets listed below are also work sets. This does not include warmups. I recommend getting extremely warm with light weights and stretching before beginning. Getting some overhead squats with the bar is a good place to start.

Week #1

The below table does not have typos. Yes, you will be squatting on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I’ll repeat: that is three days in a row of squatting. Don’t worry though. This is the only days in the entire program where you’ll do three days in a row of squatting. I recommend clearing your schedule for eating and sleeping during these days.

Day Sets Reps Percentage (1RM)
Day Sets Reps Percentage
Monday 3 8 65%
1 5 70%
2 2 75%
1 1 80%
Tuesday 3 8 65%
1 5 70%
2 2 75%
1 1 80%
Wednesday 4 5 70%
1 3 75%
2 2 80%
1 1 90%

For the remainder of the week, do light lunges to stretch your legs out. Don’t do any more squats.

Week #2

There is no written-in-stone plan for week #2. The only rules are to hit your work set on each training day. I recommend ramping up the weights until you hit that set.

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

As you can see, the volume is dialed down to almost nothing compare to week #1, but the intensity is high for your work sets. I recommend continuing with lunges throughout the week to keep your legs stretched out.

Who wants to join me?

What I’ve shown above is just the intro microcycle. The intensity and volume gets much tougher.

If you want to try it out, let me know in the comments. Feel free to ask any questions. Or, if you just want to see if I can last 13 weeks in Hell, well, that should be pretty fun too.