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Smolov for advanced lifters [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Nov 19, 2017 3:00:00 PM

 

Smolov for advanced lifters

Smolov for advanced lifters

 
This an overview of Smolov and discussion for advanced lifters. You will first look at whether you meet the criteria of being an advanced lifter and from there the pros and cons of Smolov will be discussed in a non-empirical manner. If you want more detail on the structure of the program please read my Smolov review.
 

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Strength development

 
Whenever you are looking for a program there are two basic principles which they should obey. These are consistency and overload. Very simple concepts which as an advanced lifter should not be new to you. At this stage in your career, the consistency part is not the limiting factor anymore. You most likely are already in the gym four or more times a week. You optimized your time and tried several different beginner programs. The challenge becomes to accumulate enough workload to create a stimulus that still makes you stronger. Eddie Hall or Brian Shaw have to move a lot of weight before they can get any gains from this. If you do not know the theory behind this yet I recommend a basic physics refresher looking at Newton laws and reading Practical Programming Programming for Strength by Mark Rippetoe.
 

Smolov

 
Smolov breaks down into three main phases with one small switching phase in between. The basic principle is to put you into a three-month cycle of squats only. The first phase is to accumulate work. The second phase is to prepare you for the realization phase with extreme overloads. If you have been through the adaptation of beginner and intermediate programs it is closer to the wavy progressions of intermediate programs, but ... on steroids. If you want all of the nitty gritty and results please refer to my detailed Smolov review on this blog. As a general comment, I should have done the program later in my development. 
 

Advanced level lifters

 
If you deem yourself an advanced lifter according to strengthlevel.com you should bring the following statistics to the table for the squat:
 
60kg = 126kg Squat
65kg = 136kg
70kg = 146kg
75kg = 155kg
80kg = 164kg
85kg = 173kg
90kg = 181kg
95kg = 189kg
100kg = 197kg
105kg = 205kg
110kg = 212kg
115kg = 219kg
120kg = 226kg
125kg = 233kg
130kg = 240kg
135kg = 246kg
140kg = 253kg 
 
So you should be able to squat about two times your own bodyweight to be considered advanced. This is also the time when Smolov will become a feasible option for your progression. Before that, you can make gains without exposing yourself to such high a load. 
 
The main points to think about for advanced lifters are two when approaching Smolov:
 
Do I want to commit to a program that only focuses on one lift?
Do I want to commit to that single-minded approach for three months? (You can run Smolov Jr to shorten to one month)
 
The likelihood is the more advanced you are and the more professional you are the less likely it is you will travel down this road unless you want to set a new squat world record in one of your meets. Three months out of an entire season is a big commitment and there are other programs that your coach can write to you specifically which will have more impact on your total as a weightlifter or powerlifter
 
If your squat is lagging behind your other lifts as it was for me, Smolov will most likely only fix this temporarily. If you have obtained the power to deadlift 230kg and only squat 180kg instead of 200kg my advice would be to look at your power leaks in the squat first before deciding to only focus on the lift. Your abs might be weak, you have not been squatting below parallel, you could refresh on "wrapping the bar around you like a horseshoe" or cycle in front squats in your regular program to replace the classic back squat to get better out of the hole. All options which are less aggressive and more suited to get platform results rather than injuring yourself with a short-sighted program.
 
In defense of the Smolov program, I think it has its place. Guys like Chris Duffin or Eddie hall might be able to run it beside their normal programs just to get in enough workload. I mean Chris Duffin throws around 725 pounds on the deadlift for 5+ reps on a regular basis, why not mix in a Smolov cycle (Chris if you read this please comment on why or why not you would consider this :)))), huge fan ). I also think if a serious lifter decides to take a season of off competing to be able to peak differently or amp up the load considerably in the following year after a bicep tear/lower back injury Smolov can be a great program to kick off a crazy year. When I hurt my lower back and my deadlift plummeted from 190kg to be barely even able to lift 140kg off the ground, I did Smolov and had fun with it. 
 

General opinions

 
Smolov is being scrutinized quite a bit and the critique of the program can be sometimes fairly harsh. If you want to read good analyses from a "weak guy" point of view you can read the review on Scott Hobb's blog. One of the most methodical reviews is available on Powerliftingtowin which is also hard but fair based on the viewpoint taken.
 
Even Pavel Tsatsoulin who made the routine more popular in the west would generally recommend a 5 across set and rep scheme as the backbone of any good program in recent podcasts instead of doing Smolov.
 

Conclusion

 
Smolov is stupid if you look at it logically. In all fairness so is powerlifting or running a marathon which puts you unnecessarily in harms way. Same about owning a business. Once you have done it, people will acknowledge it just because it is not the safe road to travel.
 
I am biased as I did it myself and still think you should at least have done it once to be allowed to have an opinion. Most bloggers/fitness experts who express their views about it have not even attempted it or failed to complete it.
 
Advanced lifters have the necessary experience to do the Smolov Squat Routine in a way that minimizes risk. Calculating with 90% of your one repetition maximum ala Jim Wendler 531 is good advice for all lifting programs and especially for Smolov if you want to stay injury free.
 

Further reading

 
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Topics: Lift stronger, Smolov, Squat