The fitness world has had its fair share of discoveries. We’ve seen training programs like the FST7, GVT, DTP, PH3, and whatnot but the Smolov Jr. program is unlike anything you might have tried. Supersets and drop sets are cute, but even a gym bro wouldn’t voluntarily want to go through the brutality of the Smolov programs.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name ‘Smolov Jr.’? Yes, it sounds similar to Molotov from the Molotov cocktail but what else? Right, you end up wondering – if this is the Jr. program, is there a senior program, as well? Turns out, there is, and both of these Smolotov cocktails will set your muscles on fire.
Smolov Program – Introduction
Before we dive into the Smolov Jr. Program, let’s talk about the OG Smolov program. Sergey Smolov (nicknamed the “Russian Master of Sports”) created an unforgiving 13-week training program to boost the back squat by 100lbs.
To give you an idea of the brutality of the program, a quick search about the Smolov program on some of the powerlifting forums will lead you to questions like “are steroids essential to surviving this program?” or “can a natty follow the Smolov program?”
If you think long and hard about what I just said, maybe all these questions on these hardcore powerlifting sites are not out of place. It would take some grit and a little insanity to embark on a training program that’s designed to add 100lbs to your squat in just three months. I routinely see jacked dudes struggling with a 100lb squat, and this program is devised to add the equivalent weight to your squat in just 13 weeks.
Enter The Smolov Jr. Program
The Smolov squat program did what it promised. People started seeing results and started wondering if this approach could be applied to other muscle groups. The answer was a yes and a no. The Smolov program could be applied to other muscle groups but not in the same shape.
Legs are half of your body, they can take 13 weeks of beating and still won’t call 911, but the same cannot be said for the smaller muscle groups like the chest. The shorter yet equally intense version of the Smolov program is called the Smolov Jr.
Smolov Jr. Bench Press Program
The Smolov Jr. program is designed specifically to bring up your bench press. The program requires you to bench press four times a week. Most broscientists will have their hands up by now and wouldn’t hesitate to call this overtraining. It is also the reason why most of these gym bros will never bench more than two plates.
The Smolov Jr. program prioritizes frequency over concentrated volume for building muscle. The program is a combination of heavy weights and high volume. While the workouts might look short on paper, they are long and exhausting – both mentally and physically.
Pre-Requisites for the Smolov Jr. Program
While some people will ask you to jump right into the program and not overthink it, we would suggest otherwise. The Smolov Jr. is not an ordinary training routine. It will demand more than what you might expect, and not starting the program will be way better than dropping halfway through.
1. You Are An Advanced Lifter
The Smolov Jr. program is not for beginners. You’d be better off following training routines that focus on progressive overloading. At the rookie stage, you shouldn’t be focusing on lifting big weights. Instead, focus on your form and milk the age-old, tried, and tested training programs.
Once you develop muscle memory and your body adjusts to the compound lifts, you should only then consider trying your hands at fancy training principles. Learning how to perform the bench press correctly and following the Smolov Jr. program at the same time don’t go hand-in-hand. Also, you should avoid this program if you’re recovering from an injury or are facing joint or tendon issues.
2. Serious About The Bench Press
No matter who you are, where you come from, or what you do, you should only attempt the Smolov Jr. program if you’re serious about your bench press gains. Only people who value their bench strength more than anything else are destined to succeed at this program.
The Smolov Jr. bench press program is strictly for the lifters who want to see people get knocked off their feet when they answer the classic “How much do ya bench?” question. You need to have an iron will for when the going gets tough because it is going to get tough with every single workout.
3. Forget Everything You’ve Been Taught About Lifting Weights
“Overtraining” is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the fitness industry. Bros throw around the word like it’s no one’s business. Heck, chances are, a bro might call you out for overtraining if you do a fourth set of dumbbell curls. If you don’t want to offend the brofessors by training your pecs four times a week, this program is not for you.
The Smolov Jr. program focuses on frequency over concentrated volumes that you expose your muscles to when you train them once a week. The logic here is simple – exposing the body to a stimulus more often will result in faster adaptation, leading to you getting bigger and stronger.
Read also: Overtraining: How Much Exercise Is Too Much?
4. Know Your 1RM
The Smolov programs are all about gaining strength and size, and you can’t do that without knowing your 1RM (one rep max). Finding your 1RM is no child’s play either. Don’t make the mistake of stroking your ego by claiming to have benched 495lbs “back in the day”. A miscalculation here can lead to an injury.
There are two ways of determining your 1RM – you could either use a one-rep max calculator that uses the number of reps you can perform at higher rep ranges to predict your 1RM or you could go the old school way and lift the goddamn weights to prove your mettle.
The second method is usually more accurate, obviously. Since you need to follow a progressive overload method to nail in your 1RM, you should only try it with a spotter. Finding your 1RM can take a few attempts, so be patient with it. Once you have your 1RM, log in your numbers in this neat calculator provided on the Smolov Jr. website to know exactly how much weight you should be lifting in every set.
The Smolov Jr. Program
Smolov Jr. is a four-day-per-week program that extends over a period of three weeks. Here are the set and rep schemes for each day of the week:
|Day 1 (Monday)||6/6|
|Day 2 (Wednesday)||7/5|
|Day 3 (Friday)||8/4|
|Day 4 (Saturday)||10/3|
The program is equally spaced out and has a rest day in between so that your muscles get enough time to recover from the carnage you’ll be putting them through. Also, you wouldn’t want to act smart here and start the week with the toughest session (10X3) because in that case, you’ll be going from lifting the lightest weight to the heaviest when the second week starts.
And, if you thought you’ll be cruising through the three weeks following the same rep ranges and lifting the same weights, you’re mistaken. The weights you’ll be lifting in each workout will vary. Follow the three-week workout program given below to a T:
|Week||Day 1 - 6 x 6||Day 2 - 7 x 5||Day 3 - 8 x 4||Day 4 - 10 x 3|
|2||70% + 5 to 10lbs||75% + 5 to 10lbs||80% + 5 to 10lbs||85% + 5 to 10lbs|
|3||70% + 10 to 20lbs||75% + 10 to 20lbs||80% + 10 to 20lbs||85% + 10 to 20lbs|
If you’re having second thoughts thinking about all the hardships you’ll be going through, read pre-requisite #4 and go cry to your mama. This workout program is not meant for you. It never was.
If you’re giving the workouts all you have, you’ll be sore and exhausted in the first week itself. Instead of lifting heavier weights in the next training session, lift the same weights you used in the previous workout. But remember, only reserve this luxury for days when you’re having a hard time getting out of bed.
On the other hand, if the workouts feel light and easy, feel free to add appropriate resistance to the bar. Getting the weights right even after you’ve got your 1RM can take a couple of training sessions. Even in this situation, you mustn’t let your ego get the better of you. You shouldn’t add more than 10 lbs in week 1 and another 10lbs in week 2. It might feel easy now, but you’ll be crawling out of the gym by the third week.
The creators of the Smolov Jr. program recommend skipping accessory work during the three weeks of the bench press training routine. What is accessory work to them, you ask? Anything other than bench press and squats fall in the “accessory” category. Brutal. We know.
On the days that you’ll not be bench pressing, you can perform variations of the squats and do no more than three sets of one exercise for the accessory work. Remember: the days between the bench presses are meant for recovery, and you shouldn’t be exhausting your secondary muscles.
Summing It Up
While following the Smolov Jr. bench and squat programs, people forget about the two main aspects of fitness routines – rest and diet. When you’re following a brutal plan like the Smolov Jr., you need to make sure your recovery and diet are on point, or else, all your efforts will be for nothing.
You should be taking at least three minutes of rest between sets to make sure your ATP reserves are replenished, and your muscles are ready for the extra pounding. Eat a protein-rich diet and sleep for a minimum of eight hours every day for optimal muscle recuperation.
The Smolov Jr. program reinforces a lesson we often forget. At the end of the day, lifting weights is a skill, and the more you practice it, the better you’re going to get. The more you practice a lift, the more your body learns to recruit a higher percentage of muscle fibers. More muscle fiber engagement means you can lift heavier, and lifting heavier provides the mechanical means to get bigger as well as stronger.
In the underbelly of the powerlifting world, it is not unheard of for someone to group two Smolov Jr. cycles. People on powerlifting forums claim a 30 to 60+ lbs increase in their bench press after following the program. We wish the same for you. Good luck.