Smolov Jr. is a 3 week training program that comes from the original 13 week Russian squat strengthening program called Smolov.
Since it is shorter, Smolov Jr. is considered not as taxing on your body and CNS (central nervous system) but the potential gains are generally less as well.
The way it works is by adapting your CNS to handling heavier weight by practicing an exercise four times a week through the method known as “grease the groove”.
It is essentially a controlled form of overtraining that takes advantage of supercompensation.
Smolov Jr. is generally recognized as a powerlifting and strength program designed to increase your 1 RM (one rep max weight) on an exercise, but the volume is much higher than traditional low volume strength programs.
By most definitions, that high volume with heavy weights makes it perfect for muscle building and growth (hypertrophy) as well.
Smolov Jr. has a much simpler setup than Smolov and is generally used on other exercises besides the squat, most commonly the bench press.
Personally I use it on any high load compound exercises including overhead press, rows, weighted dips, weighted pullups, squat variations (front squats, etc.) and even deadlift variations (regular, sumo, etc.).
Whichever exercise you choose, you will be using that exercise 4 times per week for a total of 133 reps all above 70% of your max weight!
For most people, that will be a much higher volume than they are used to on just one exercise.
Note: Most people see deadlifting as something that should be done infrequently and for low volume because of the stress it puts on the body.
Overall that’s a good long-term approach, but it’s possible and beneficial to use short-term high volume overloads.
If you tried to use the high volume approach all the time you would easily overtrain and likely injure yourself.
But short term overloads are great for overreaching and then triggering supercompensation if you do it correctly as laid out in Smolov Jr.
The key to success is not going to failure during the sets so you allow your muscles to not become excessively fatigued during one set (in set fatigue) but rather push the boundaries of cumulative fatigue.
This will allow you to complete the higher volumes and continue to overreach.
Important Smolov Jr. Program Notes
- The percentage shown is how much weight you will use during the workout. It is based off of your 1 rep maximum weight so you will need to know that before starting Smolov Jr.
- 80% means you will use .8 multiplied by your 1 rep maximum weight. For example, if you can bench press 300 lbs for 1 rep, then for the 8 sets of 4 reps (8X4) day you will use 240 lbs (.8 times 300).
- All of your sets will be completed using the straight sets method. If the weight is 240 lbs for your 8X4 workout, you will do all 8 sets of 4 reps (32 total reps) with the 240 lbs (no weight changes).
- On weeks 2 and 3 you will still use the percentages shown but with the extra weight listed also added on. For example, on the 8 sets of 4 reps day during week 2 you would now use the 240 lbs + 5-10 lbs added.
Smolov Jr. Tips
- Given the increased frequency and volume, you will probably be training sore at some point. It will be tempting to stop because of it but you should push through at least initially unless the soreness is really severe. During the first week I generally have increased soreness but by week 2 my body usually adjusts with the soreness decreasing. However, by the third week I generally notice the soreness returning. The type of volume you were using before starting Smolov Jr. will be a big factor.
- To experience the full benefits of Smolov Jr., you actually need to reach an overtraining level. When you reach this point after the 3 weeks the key is to trigger supercompensation by drastically reducing the volume. This reduction could be back to what you did previously (if low volume) or even better would be a full week off from the exercise you picked. Another good tactic is to complete the program right before a planned vacation.
- Given the high volume, it’s critical that you use good form on the exercise from the beginning and also be able to maintain it as fatigue sets in during the workouts. The chances for injury will quickly increase if you don’t. Suck up your pride and stop the workout whenever your form gets bad.
- I found the required 2 days of training in a row (Friday and Saturday) to be one of the hardest parts of the program. If your schedule permits, I have had good success modifying the program to an every other day schedule such as Monday (Day 1 week 1) – Wednesday (Day 2) – Friday (Day 3) – Sunday (Day 4) – Tuesday (Day 1 week 2) – Thursday (Day 2) – Saturday (Day 3) – Monday (Day 4) – continue. Most people like to train on the same days each week, but this switch really helped with my recovery and motivation.
- The workouts can become boring since you will be using the same exercise every workout for several weeks so it’s important to stay focused on the goal and realize it’s a short-term situation.
- Strength and fatigue levels generally come in waves during the workout. I find that the weights tend to feel heavy during the first sets and I question if I will be able to finish all the sets. But toward the halfway point the weights generally start to feel lighter from neural adaptations. However, towards the last few sets fatigue sets in and the difficulty quickly returns. The workout can be a mental battle.
- Although rest periods aren’t specified, I believe it is a parameter you should set and be consistent with so that you can better gauge progress between workouts. Since you are trying to force the body to adapt as a result of cumulative fatigue, I think you should rest between sets just enough to recover the majority of the needed energy for the next set.
- I would generally recommend resting about 2 minutes between sets as less than that can severely hamper performance but much more doesn’t yield significant additional benefit (unlike when moving near maximum weights). I think 3 minutes would be the most you would need. Just be consistent with whatever you pick for all workouts.
- I would be a little conservative with your 1 rep max when figuring the weights to use to start Smolov Jr. Most people are not used to the volume required so it’s easy to overtrain and hit a wall (especially mentally) which means no progress. I would rather the first week be a little too easy and then possibly extend the program to a 4th week (see below) rather than stall or fail on week 2 or 3.
- Although not mentioned, I think you can (and should) continue past the 3 weeks if you are still progressing and not seeing a decrease in performance (suddenly missing reps or your form is getting bad). I would extend the program another week or two (or longer if possible). You may quickly reach an overtraining level so use this with caution because of possible injury but I see no reason to stop progress just because you’ve finished the required 3 weeks. Progress happens in spurts so it’s best to keep going when it’s happening.
- How much weight you should add on week 2 and beyond depends on your initial strength levels. For someone that bench presses 200 pounds 10 pounds increases each week may be too much but perfect for someone benching 400 pounds. Smaller increases would be preferred especially as the weeks progress so that you can continue to push the weights and volume as high as possible.
- If you fail to reach the required reps during a set it means you either added too much weight for that workout, are possibly starting to overtrain, or maybe just having a bad workout. If you miss reps again on the next workouts, you either need a smaller weight increase than what you are using or it’s time to end the Smolov Jr. program and rest before starting the program over.
- Recovery will be critical for success which definitely means good sleep and eating enough. Additional recovery methods (foam rolling, blood pump training, etc.) can also be beneficial, especially to help with soreness.
- With such a demand on recovery, it’s best to limit other exercises to just maintenance levels to minimize additional fatigue and allow for the best performance. I don’t recommend doing any exercises for the same bodypart you are using during the cycle. For example, if you pick bench press, that will be all the chest training you would do while using Smolov Jr. Similarly, if you use deadlifts, cut out any other back training.
- Complete any maintenance exercises after you’re finished with the Smolov Jr. workout for the day. Always put your focus on the main goal and exercises you’ve chosen.Truthfully, many times I don’t feel like doing anything but the Smolov Jr. workout and being done. It can be draining by itself, especially in week 3 and beyond.Remember the goal is to overload the chosen exercise and bodypart, not the whole body.
- When you complete the Smolov Jr. program it’s best to wait about a week or so before retesting any maxes or starting another program to allow for the supercompensation to occur.
- Creatine use may be beneficial during Smolov Jr. since you will be relying heavily on ATP for energy during the sets given the reps will be 6 or less. Keeping creatine levels elevated decreases the chances of “hitting the wall” from lack of energy and help keep strength levels optimal.
Using 2 Exercises During the Smolov Jr. Program
Call me stupid (I’ve heard it before), but I have used two exercises simultaneously during the Smolov Jr. program. Your success of course depends on your ability to recover and the exercises you choose.
You should pick two exercises that don’t rely heavily on the same muscle groups such as pullups and overhead press or bench press and rows. You wouldn’t want to pick bench press with overhead press or deadlifts with squats since they both use similar muscles.
You have two options when completing the exercises: complete all sets of one exercise and then all of the next exercise OR alternate between the two exercises. I prefer the second option and use the alternating (jump) set method.
For example, I would do a set of rows, rest 90 seconds then do a set of bench press. Rest 90 seconds again and go back to the rows.
The alternating (jump) set format allows sufficient rest between exercises and I personally choose 90 seconds over 2 minutes because in the end, you’re still getting more than 3 minutes rest between sets of the same exercise. The workout is shorter too.
You can experiment with 1-2 minutes rest, just pay attention to your performance on each exercise and stick with whatever you pick.
My Smolov Jr. Results
I’ve used Smolov Jr. a few times with deadlifts and bench press. In all cases I was able to increase my strength.
In the short period of time (3-6 weeks) the increases weren’t huge but definitely noticeable. The biggest increase was in work capacity (being able to use more weight in the same workout time). Weights that once felt heavy became easier to use.
Each time I complete the Smolov Jr. program I realize I’m capable of more volume than I normally use.
As an example, with 4 workouts in a week I typically hit a deadlift volume of almost 50,000 pounds (405 pounds x 30 reps + 385 x 32 + 365 x 35 + 345 x 36). To say this volume is higher than normal is more than an understatement. My typical deadlift volume in one week might consist of just 25 total reps and 10,000 total pounds!