Strength Sports

Elite 13 Week Dreaded Smolov Squat Program Routine Explained

smolov squat program

If you’re looking to add some serious gains to your back squat, have you considered the smolov squat program?  

The smolov squat routine is a very challenging and high intensity squatting program specifically designed to increase squat strength. 

Created by Sergey Smolov, the Russian Master of Sports, the program was made popular by Pavel Tsatsouline.  

Pavel is a popular fitness coach who referenced the smolov squat program in Powerlifting USA Magazine back in the early 2000’s.  

smolov squat program

The Smolov Squat Program

The Smolov squat routine is a program that consists of several phases and typically spans over a 13 week period.  

It shouldn’t be confused with the Smolov Jr. program which is only a 3 week program that can be attributed to several exercises including the bench press.  

The main focus of the program is to prioritize squatting frequency and volume which may help to stimulate significant strength gains and push up those squat numbers. 

russian lifter

As you’ll be squatting often, and sometimes with heavy loads, you’ll want to cut back on other big compound lifts and maybe just add in some accessory work here and there.   

Let’s take a look at the different phases in more detail.  

Introductory Microcycle

This introductory phase typically comprises of two weeks, the first being more reps with the second week edging up the weight load but training at lower volume.  

The first week helps to prepare your body for the high volume of training during the next cycles, and the important thing is, don’t skip it.  

You won’t be undertaking any heavy squatting during this week and weights will usually be light to moderate for these training sessions. 

Prior to squatting, make sure to properly warm up the muscles.  

introductory microcycle squat

Week 1 :

Day 1 :

  1. 3 sets of 8 repetitions at 65% of your one rep max (1RM).
  2. 1 set of 5 repetitions at 70% of your 1RM.
  3. 2 sets of 2 repetitions at 75% of your 1RM.
  4. 1 repetition at 80% of your 1RM. 

Day 2 :

  1. 3 sets of 8 repetitions at 65% of your one-rep max (1RM).
  2. 1 set of 5 repetitions at 70% of your 1RM.
  3. 2 sets of 2 repetitions at 75% of your 1RM.
  4. 1 repetition at 80% of your 1RM. 

Day 3 :

  • 4 sets of 5 repetitions at 70% of your one-rep max (1RM).
  • 1 set of 3 repetitions at 75% of your 1RM.
  • 2 sets of 2 repetitions at 80% of your 1RM.
  • 1 repetition at 90% of your 1RM.

On all other remaining days make sure to factor in this time to rest so that your muscles and nervous system can recover properly.

You’ll likely notice fatigue kicking in on day 5, especially as you’ve increased your weight loads.  

Now is the time to allow your muscles to recuperate ready for week 2.  

Rest days should be included so that they fall in between your training days.  

high intensity

Week 2

Week 2 is much lower volume with slightly heavier weights and looks like this:

Day 1 :

1 set of 5 repetitions at 80% of your 1RM

Day 2 :

1 set of 5 repetitions at 82.5% of your 1RM

Day 3 :

1 set of 5 repetitions at 85% of your 1RM

Stick to resting for the remaining days giving you chance to rest before moving on to the four-week base cycle.  

Base Mesocycle​

This is the most intense cycle and is divided into four weeks.

During the base phase, squatting frequency is increased to four times a week, with high volume and intensity.  

As with the first phase, the weight you squat will be based on a percentage of your one-rep maximum (1RM).

dynamic-effort-squat

While the base phase suggests increasing the weight load by around 10lbs to 20lbs when you get to week 4, only do this if you were completing your sets and with good form.  

You’ll see that the number of sets increases whilst the number of reps decreases throughout the week.  

As this is the most intense phase, remember to alternate each training day with a day for resting, this will ensure you get the most out of the program.  

Week 3

Day 1 :

4 sets of 9 repetitions at 70% of your 1RM

Day 2 :

5 sets of 7 repetitions at 75% of your 1RM

Day 3 :

7 sets of 5 repetitions at 80% of your 1RM

Day 4 :

10 sets of 3 repetitions at 85% of your 1RM

Week 4

second-week-squat-program

Week 4 follows the same set and rep scheme as week 3.  

Week 3 should be challenging but it should also leave some fuel in the tank for week 4.  

If you found it to be just right, then start gradually increasing the weight load.  Always make sure that your form is on point to prevent injury.  

If you were failing squats during week 3, then stick to the same weight loads throughout week 4.  

Day 1 :

4 sets of 9 repetitions at 70% of your 1RM (additional 10 to 20lbs of weight added to the bar)

Day 2 :

5 sets of 7 repetitions at 75% of your 1RM (additional 10 to 20lbs of weight added to the bar)

Day 3 :

7 sets of 5 repetitions at 80% of your 1RM (additional 10 to 20lbs of weight added to the bar)

Day 4 :

10 sets of 3 repetitions at 85% of your 1RM (additional 10 to 20lbs of weight added to the bar)

Week 5

If you added additional weight to week 4 and found it challenging but kept great squat form and completed all reps and sets, then perform the same program again for week 5 and increase the weight load again.  

squat strength

By now your body will start to acclimatize to the high volume training but remember to listen to your body.  Squatting is a very technical exercise and maintaining form is crucial to get the most of the program.  

Day 1 :

4 sets of 9 repetitions at 70% of your 1RM (additional 20 to 30lbs of weight added to the bar)

Day 2 :

5 sets of 7 repetitions at 75% of your 1RM (additional 20 to 30lbs of weight added to the bar)

Day 3 :

7 sets of 5 repetitions at 80% of your 1RM (additional 20 to 30lbs of weight added to the bar)

Day 4 :

10 sets of 3 repetitions at 85% of your 1RM (additional 20 to 30lbs of weight added to the bar)

Week 6

For the first few days you should rest or perform some plyometrics and light stretching if you’d prefer.  

For two days out of week 6, you want to focus on building to your new 1RM.  

Allow a couple of days rest before moving on to the next training cycle. 

Switching Mesocycle

Week 7 & 8

The switching phase is quite short and lasts for just two weeks and acts as a kind of recovery period, although not completely.  

The frequency is reduced, and the intensity is decreased to allow for some rest and recovery with more dynamic effort.  

During the switching phase, the focus shifts from heavy, high-volume squats to lighter, lower-intensity work.  

squat sessions

The purpose of this phase is to allow your body to recover, rebuild, and prepare for the intense cycle that follows.  

There’s no set program for this phase and you can pretty much do what you enjoy, just keep sets and reps on the lower side and train for 3 days out of 7 on both weeks.  

People often include the following exercises for a different type of stimuli on the muscles.  When it comes to weight load, keep it at around 50 to 60% of your new 1RM that you hopefully achieved during week 6.  

  • Box Squats – 3 sets of 5 reps.
  • Back squats – 4 sets of 5 reps.
  • ​Pull-ups – 3 sets of 10 reps. 
  • Leg Raises – 3 sets of 10 reps. 
  • Face Pulls – 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps. 
  • Sprints – 5 sets of 30 to 50m
  • Wide grip press – 3 sets of 10 reps.  

Above are just some examples of what you can undertake during weeks 7 and 8.  You can mix them up and add in many others.  

Aim to try and complete around 4 different exercises on each training day.  

​Intense Mesocycle 

This final phase lasts for three weeks and is characterized by heavy squatting sessions.  During this phase you’ll train for 3 days out of 7 and the percentage of weight load should be taken from your new 1RM.  

Week 9

Day 1 :

  1. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 65% of your one rep max (1RM).
  2. 1 set of 4 repetitions at 75% of your 1RM.
  3. 3 sets of 4 repetitions at 85% of your 1RM.
  4. 1 set of 5 repetitions at 85% of your 1RM. 

Day 2 :

  1. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 60% of your one-rep max (1RM).
  2. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 70% of your 1RM.
  3. 1 set of 4 repetitions at 80% of your 1RM.
  4. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 90% of your 1RM.
  5. 2 sets of 5 repetitions at 85% of your 1RM.

Day 3 :

  • 1 set of 4 repetitions at 65% of your one-rep max (1RM).
  • 1 set of 4 repetitions at 70% of your 1RM.
  • 5 sets of 4 repetitions at 80% of your 1RM.

Week 10

Day 1 :

  1. 1 set of 4 repetitions at 60% of your one rep max (1RM).
  2. 1 set of 4 repetitions at 70% of your 1RM.
  3. 1 set of 4 repetitions at 80% of your 1RM.
  4. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 90% of your 1RM. 
  5. 2 sets of 4 repetitions at 90% of your 1RM.

Day 2 :

  1. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 65% of your one-rep max (1RM).
  2. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 75% of your 1RM.
  3. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 85% of your 1RM.
  4. 3 sets of 3 repetitions at 90% of your 1RM.
  5. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 95% of your 1RM.

Day 3 :

  • 1 set of 3 repetitions at 65% of your one-rep max (1RM).
  • 1 set of 3 repetitions at 75% of your 1RM.
  • 1 set of 4 repetitions at 85% of your 1RM.
  • 4 sets of 5 repetitions at 90% of your 1RM

Week 11

Day 1 :

  1. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 60% of your one rep max (1RM).
  2. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 70% of your 1RM.
  3. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 80% of your 1RM.
  4. 5 set of 5 repetitions at 90% of your 1RM. 

Day 2 :

  1. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 60% of your one-rep max (1RM).
  2. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 70% of your 1RM.
  3. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 80% of your 1RM.
  4. 2 sets of 3 repetitions at 95% of your 1RM.

Day 3 :

  • 1 set of 3 repetitions at 65% of your one-rep max (1RM).
  • 1 set of 3 repetitions at 75% of your 1RM.
  • 1 set of 3 repetitions at 85% of your 1RM.
  • 4 sets of 3 repetitions at 95% of your 1RM.

Week 12

Day 1 :

  1. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 70% of your one rep max (1RM).
  2. 1 set of 4 repetitions at 80% of your 1RM.
  3. 5 set of 5 repetitions at 90% of your 1RM. 

Day 2 :

  1. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 70% of your 1RM.
  2. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 80% of your 1RM.
  3. 4 sets of 3 repetitions at 95% of your 1RM.

Day 3 :

  • 1 set of 3 repetitions at 75% of your 1RM.
  • 1 set of 4 repetitions at 90% of your 1RM.
  • 3 sets of 4 repetitions at 95% of your 1RM.

Taper Week

Week 13

During this final week you should allow your body to recover. This recovery period will prevent you from overtraining should allow you to to peak for optimal performance. 

The taper week will usually involves reducing the number of training sessions and decreasing the weight used.  At the end of the week, you’ll attempt a new 1RM.  

Day 1 :

  1. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 70% of your one rep max (1RM).
  2. 1 set of 3 repetitions at 80% of your 1RM.
  3. 2 sets of 5 repetitions at 90% of your 1RM. 
  4. 3 sets of 4 repetitions at 95% of your 1RM. 

Day 2 :

  1. 1 set of 4 repetitions at 75% of your 1RM.
  2. 4 sets of 4 repetitions at 85% of your 1RM.

Day 3 :

  • Build up to your new 1RM!

Final Thoughts

squat strength training

The Smolov squat program is known for being extremely brutal and it can put significant stress on your body.  

It’s primarily designed for experienced lifters who are already very proficient at performing a back squat and who have a solid foundation of strength training. 

If you’re new to squatting do not attempt to undertake this program.  

It’s important that your body adapts to squatting patterns and the most important thing to begin with is concentrating on correct form.  

Due to the intensity, it’s a good idea to speak with a qualified strength and conditioning coach before attempting this program.

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