The Smolov Squat Program – By Coach Matt
The Smolov Squat Program
This blog post will be an insight into my 13-week Smolov experience, and will tie in well with coach Andy’s blog from 2 weeks ago. If you want a quick refresher, read ‘So you want to do a squat cycle’ in Andy’s blog.
13 weeks ago, I began the microcycle of the Smolov squat program that included 3 days in a row of squatting, each finishing with a heavy single, followed by 3 days of stretching and recovery work. I started this program with 3 of the lads from City Centre, all of whom had the same goal as me, upping the squat 1-RM. After the microcycle, we began the base mesocycle that had us squatting 4 days a week, with days including 4×9, 5×7, 7×5 & 10×3 (sets x reps), with the weights increasing each week.
Here is my first teaching point. If you’re interested in doing Smolov (or a program like it), you need to set the time aside to do it. We all have a million reasons to not do something and days where we just don’t feel like it. That’s life; however, being a CFD member, you already know that and whether it’s wanting to get stronger, lose weight, or feel healthier, you need to focus on that for the days that have you feeling off.
Before starting every lift, I would walk myself through the same progression in my head. Get my shoulders back. Keep my chest up. Get the bar in a comfortable spot. Send my hips back. Drive my knees out. Squat down. Hit depth. Look up. Push my knees out. Drive through my heels. After 6 weeks of the 4×9, 5×7, 7×5 & 10×3 cycles, I was ready to test my new 1-RM. During the final 2 weeks, I was squatting 3 reps at 10 pounds (~5 kg) lighter than my previous 1-RM of 270 pounds (123 kg), which was a great feeling heading towards the 1-RM test. On a Saturday, myself and one of the lads decided to take on our new 1-RM. Before doing so, coach Andy drew up a wave/cycle to prep us going into our 1-RM attempt.
Here is teaching point 2. Whether you’ve been doing Crossfit for 3 days, or 3 years, we all want to get stronger. I can’t stress enough the importance of properly warming yourself up/getting yourself ready, and ensuring you have proper mechanics before not only tackling a 1-RM attempt, but in every movement you execute.
After completing the wave, I was ready to attempt 300 pounds (136.4 kg). I hit it, with full depth, and felt good about it. After a few minutes of pumping myself up again, I was ready for 305 (138.6), and hit it. I had finally hit a 300 pound squat!
The next 7 weeks
After starting the original cycle with 3 others, it was down to myself and one other. Of the others we began with, 1 was happy with the 6-week cycle, and one suffered an injury (flare up of an existing injury). It wasn’t long into the intense microcyle of Smolov, that I was alone in completing the program. This meant 4 weeks of intense squatting…on my own. This was probably the most difficult part of the program. Don’t get me wrong, the weights were heavy, and tough, but it was the days that I knew I was facing the bar alone that was most difficult.
This brings be to teaching point 3. Don’t be afraid to tell people you need support. I could feel a difference on days that I would lift when someone was there encouraging/yelling at me. There’s a real feeling of motivation and reassurance having someone there (which is why I yell/encourage all of you when you’re in a class that I’m coaching).
After 12 weeks, it finally came to the final day of the cycle. Here I was, aiming for 330 pounds (150 kg), twice my body weight. Again, I used the same wave/cycle of squats that coach Andy had recommended prior to my previous 1-RM. After loading the weight, I walked myself through the same progression. Get my shoulders back. Keep my chest up. Get the bar in a comfortable spot. Send my hips back. Drive my knees out. Squat down. Hit depth. Look up. Push my knees out. Drive through my heels. It was a struggle, but 330 got up. I had hit 2x my body weight. I felt I had more in the tank. I then loaded 335 (152.3). Same progression. I hit depth, and as I started to come up, I hit a stick point and I couldn’t get past it. I dropped the bar off my back and stepped forward.
This is teaching point 4. Don’t sacrifice technique for load. This is one of CFD’s mantras that can’t be overstated. I probably could have made that lift if I had let my chest come down and I finished the rest of the lift with a combination of my back and legs. Don’t be afraid to fail a lift, but do it properly.
I got the weight back on the rack, gave myself a few minutes, and decided to go at it again. Get my shoulders back. Keep my chest up. Get the bar in a comfortable spot. Send my hips back. Drive my knees our and squat down. Hit depth. Look up. Push my knees out. Drive through my heels. Drive through my heels. Drive through my heels…and 335 was up. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading my Smolov journey, and here are my takeaway points.
- If you’re interested in a strength program, you need to set the time aside to do it
- Properly warm yourself up/get yourself ready, and ensure you have proper mechanics
- Don’t be afraid to tell people you need support
- Don’t sacrifice technique for load