Maximal strength is defined as the peak force the muscles can produce in a single, maximal voluntary contraction, irrespective of a time frame. Some of you might notice a 5-10% increase in maximal strength over the course of a year. Yes this is relative to your previous strength and lifting experience, so it’s very subjective, but your head may have been holding your strength gains back more than anything meaning some people may even realise a 100% increase in strength for a particular lift! For any lifter, improving maximal strength is a complex process that requires a balance of training, rest, and sensible eating. The process of increasing a lifting load exposes a person to overreaching and overtraining if not conducted appropriately.
Ever noticed how it’s difficult to see your own gains initially, and yet a friend you haven’t seen for a few weeks will be surprised at the amount of size you’ve gained?! This is because gains in muscle and indeed strength is a gradual process, even if you get everything 100% right, 100% of the time, you can only really expect to gain around 1lb of muscle a week according to industry experts. In order to develop you need an adequate stimulus, the stimulus may be a dumbbell or a loaded barbell, whatever it may be this stimulus has to get progressively harder! The key with this is knowing when to increase the load and when to slow it up a bit, otherwise injuries and the dreaded overtraining syndrome beckons for you!
This is where Smolov training comes in!
Smolov is a 13 week squat program developed by Sergey Smolov. The training program is strictly NOT for beginners, nor is it for the feint of heart. Despite this, Smolov provides experienced lifters with a periodised plan, it gives structure and routine to a persons lifting that expertly balances periods of heavy lifting, with periods of lighter taper cycles and active recovery periods.
What you can hope to achieve with Smolov
The Smolov program boasts average strength gains of between 40-100lbs depending on your baseline level of fitness and strength. If you’re at a stage of lifting where your gains are so rapid that you find yourself adding weight to the bar every session, then a more linear progression training model may be better suited to you. Smolov training pushes you to your limits both physically and mentally, but if you can tolerate both elements then you can expect to see a 30- 60lbs strength increase in the first 6 weeks (by the end of the Base mesocycle.
The Smolov program…
The Smolov program is known as a ‘super cycle’ – a long training cycle broken down into shorter, yet varied, training cycles – consisting of approx 5 cycles:
- Introductory microcycle – Lasts 2 weeks
- Base mesocycle – Lasts 4 weeks
- Switching – Lasts 2 weeks
- Intense mesocycle – Lasts 4 weeks
- Taper – Lasts 1 week
The Introductory microcycle is designed to progressively bring you up to 90% of your current best squat, in turn conditioning you for the impending program. The Base mesocycle is the stage of the program that delivers the majority of the strength gains, one can expect to gain around 30-60lbs of strength during this time (possibly a little less for smaller lifters). The Switching cycle aims to stimulate your nervous system with a different form of stimuli giving the hormones a chance to regulate, thus readying the body for another cycle of slow and heavy training. This is also designed to enable you to recover and recuperate both physically and emotionally, ready for the Intense cycle. This cycle lives up to its name, this is another 4 week loading block similar to the Base mesocycle which aims to increase strength by another 20-40lbs on your squat. Finally you come to the Taper period, affectionately known as the 'active rest period' preparing you for your 1 rep max lift!
Seriouspowerlifting.com, (2012). Smolov Squat Routine. Retrieved 19th June, 2014, from http://www.seriouspowerlifting.com/3615/articles/smolov-squat-routine