The Smolov Junior program is the little brother of the much longer program called Smolov. It’s been used for both the squat and bench press.
The principles behind Smolov are based on volume overload, with progressively increasing intensity. It effectively constitutes a “shock cycle.” In more scientific terms, the extreme volume leads to supercompensation and thereby induces a peak in performance.
The layout of the program is:
- Day 1 (Monday): 6 sets of 6 reps
- Day 2 (Wednesday): 7 sets of 5 reps
- Day 3 (Friday): 8 sets of 4
- Day 4 (Saturday): 10 sets of 3
- Day 1: 70% of 1 rep max
- Day 2: 75%
- Day 3: 80%
- Day 4: 85%
The second week, the lifter adds 5-10lbs for each session. The third week, they add 10-20lbs for each session. The amount increased per week is based upon a combination of factors. These include the lifter’s ability to recover from previous sessions, their work capacity, accuracy of 1 rep max used in calculation of percentages and minor aches/pains.
Alternatively, some lifters choose to simply do the base mesocycle of Smolov. It is also 3 weeks but the workload is a bit higher. Day 1 would be 4 sets of 9, day 2 would be 7 sets of 5 and day 3 would be 7 sets of 5. Day 4 is the same with 10 sets of 3.
Following the 3 weeks of Smolov Jr cycle, the lifter would take at least 3 full days off. Some would benefit from up to one full week off but others may be at risk of detraining if no stimulus occurs following the supercompensation period.
Ideally, anywhere from 3-5 days off will work for most lifters. Following this, their 1 rep max should have increased significantly.
Other Major Lifts
It’s generally recommended to focus on the major lift being performed during Smolov Jr. If it is the squat, most recommendations are to stop deadlifts and continue bench pressing on maintenance volume. If the lift is the bench press, then the other 2 lifts are to be done with maintenance loads.
However, this is very much dependent on the individual. Some lifters will continue deadlifts on very light loads. If you’re doing smolov jr for the bench press, some will train the other 2 lifts with appropriate volume and intensity. Again, this is a personal decision.
If training the bench press, it would be reasonable to perform low volume accessory work for the upper back muscles. Any other accessory work, especially for the pressing muscles, is entirely unnecessary.
If training the squat, there is no need to perform any lower body accessory work. In fact, it should be strictly avoided.
Smolov Jr. is a high volume training cycle at relatively high intensities. The recovery time between sessions is minimal. This makes it a recipe for potential injuries. At the same time, it creates challenges for the lifter to recover between sessions. It becomes far more important to hit ideal caloric quantities, eat healthy, sleep an optimal amount, stretch both post workout and on off days, do contrast showers etc. to improve recovery.
Both the central nervous system and muscular system are under significant stress. It truly takes a strict lifestyle to survive the 3 weeks and get great results.
Since Smolov Jr is a peaking program, some may look to do it before a meet. That’s simply a high risk and high reward decision. While the program certainly works, it also carries a risk of injury. As well, not every lifter will maintain (let alone increase) their deadlift during the 3 weeks off from deadlifts. This may lead to a poor outcome during a meet.
Smolov is undoubtedly an effective program. It works, no question. But it’s a high risk routine and requires time commitment. This makes it a questionable choice for many, especially those who don’t have several hours in a day to dedicate to training. Or, simply to those who are injury prone.
However, if one is able to commit 3 weeks to lifting, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to perform it once annually. With that said, it would not be smart to do this before a meet (especially for squats). The risk of injury is too high and maintaining one’s deadlift without any pulling is very risky.
Dr Khash Farzam is a medical doctor and powerlifter. The content written by him is only for general educational purposes.