Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify | Listen on YouTube

You may have heard of the Smolov squat program, which is a high-volume, high-frequency specialization routine intended to boost your squat fast. It’s also supremely difficult. So, is it worth the effort, or is it just an exercise in masochism? In this podcast, you’re going to learn what the Smolov program is, whether you should try it, how to do the program correctly if you do want to give it a shot, and more.


0:00 – Find the Perfect Strength Training Program for You:

1:59 – What is the Smolov program?

3:18 – Who shouldn’t do the Smolov program?

5:36 – How does the Smolov program work?

9:06 – What does the Smolov training program look like?

19:08 – Will this help you build muscle?

20:10 – How effective is the Smolov program?

20:39 – What is the Smolov Junior training program?

21:08 – Can you train other body parts while following the Smolov program?

24:19 – How do you do the calculations to follow the program?

Mentioned on the show: 

Find the Perfect Strength Training Program for You in Just 60 Seconds:

What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!


Hi, Aha, and welcome to Muscle For Life. I am Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today to learn about the Smolov  Squat program, which is a high volume, high frequency specialization routine for improving your squat as quickly as possible. It is also extremely difficult. It’s probably one of the most popular, difficult programs that you can follow.

Many hardcore weightlifters considered a rite of passage of sorts. But if you like to squat, Or if you don’t like the squat, but you want to get better at squatting, it is a very effective way of doing a lot of squatting and getting better at squatting. It is not just a vein and masochistic. Way to brag on social media, but it is not for everyone and it is not always warranted.

It depends on your circumstances and your goal. Some people should consider following it and some people should not. And I’m going to be breaking it all down in today’s podcast before we sink our teeth. Have you ever wondered what strength training split you should follow? What rep ranges you should work in, how many sets you should do per workout or per week?

I created a free 62nd training quiz that will answer those questions for you and others, including how frequently you should train each major muscle group, which exercises you should do, what supplements you should consider which ones are at least worth taking and more. To take this quiz and to get your free personalized training plan, go to Muscle For, quiz, answer the questions, and learn exactly what to do in the gym to gain more muscle and strength.

All right, so what is this Smolov Squat program? Why is it called the Smolov  Program? It is a 13 week weightlifting program that is specifically designed to maximally increase your squat strength, and it was named after its creator and the Russian Master of Sport, as he is often referred to Serge ov, who reportedly used.

The principles of this program to train the dominant Russian weightlifters of the mid to late 20th century, and because of their success, Moof became a mainstay in Soviet weightlifting circles, but it didn’t gain international notoriety until 2001 when former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor and leading fitness figure.

Pavel Satlin wrote about it in the now defunct Power Lifting USA Magazine. And since then, small love has become infamous for its brutal high frequency, high intensity approach to squatting that often promises depending on who’s pitching it, but you’ll often see people say that in 13 weeks, just three months, basically you can add up to 100 pounds to your.

One rep Max. Now, I mentioned though that Molo is not for everyone. So before I talk about who it is for, let me be very clear about who it is not for. So do not do this program. If you haven’t been weightlifting for at least three years and you haven’t been doing proper strength training for at least three years, do not do OV if your squat strength is already progress.

Regularly on a different program that you like, just keep going. Do not do small lab. If you can’t train four days per week, don’t do it. If you’re cutting, it is far too intense. If you are also in a calorie deficit, you are not going to be able to fully recover from your training. You are going to run into problems.

Don’t Domo of if your recovery and sleep are already compromised, maybe you work shifts, maybe you are a new parent for whatever reason. If you are not recovering and sleeping well, don’t Domo of and don’t do it. If your goal is to build whole body muscle and strength, if it’s not. Specifically to increase your squat.

If however, you are an intermediate or an advanced weightlifter, and if you’ve made a lot of progress on your squat already, if you are strong and now your progress has stalled, and maybe you have tried to make some modifications to your training to unstick it, maybe. Periodized your training a little bit differently.

You’ve added some volume, still stuck or maybe barely moving, and you know what you’re doing with your diet. You know that you are recovering well. If you are sleeping well, then small of might be worth a shot. Keep in mind though that this program really is grueling. Many people who attempted quit early because of exhaustion or injury.

So it’s really not worth even attempting unless you are psychologically all in, and because of how demanding this program is, most people. Can run it successfully. Don’t do it very often. Maybe once per year, maybe even once every one and a half or two years. It is definitely not a long term lifestyle type of training program.

Okay. Now that the caveats are outta the way, let’s talk about the program itself. How does this program work? I mentioned it is a 13 week program, and in those 13 weeks you are doing five phases. You’re doing what’s called a phase in a base cycle. Switching phase, an intense cycle and a taper week, and the program outlines precisely how much you should lift in every set based on a percentage of either your one rep max, which is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for a single repetition through a full range of motion with proper technique or your training max, which is a percentage of your one rep max.

Normally about 90% or so of your one rep max. Your training, Max is like a conservative one rep max. It’s difficult, but you can definitely do more than one rep. You can probably do three or maybe even four if you really had to. Now traditionally, people would work with their one rep max, which they would often calculate based on some rep max testing.

Put some heavy weight on the bar, Do as many reps as you can. Some are in the range of probably two to six, and then calculate your one rep max from there, or do actual one rep max. Every so often and you will get either way, a fairly accurate one rep max estimate, and if you bring that over to small A, it can cause problems because it makes it even more demanding.

And so that approach has fallen out of favor in recent years. For the training max approach, which I mentioned using your training Max, which again is usually about 90% of your one rep max, and that is what I would advise if you are going to try small off. Because if you do that, it will ensure you can complete all of your sets and your reps.

In the way that you are supposed to, and you’ll be able to do it without wearing yourself to a frazzle and increasing the risk of injury, or at least with minimizing the likelihood of those things happening. So to be clear, if you’re gonna run small off. Use a training max of 90% of your one rep max, which you can calculate again by looking into your workouts and finding some sets that you’ve done maybe in the last month or so on the squat that were heavy and relatively close to failure.

So let’s say you did three 15 for four and you had maybe one or two good reps left and you were tracking that information, you should be tracking that information. And so then you could go to a calculator and say, All right, three 15 for six, I probably could have done six. Where does that land mean in terms of one rep max?

And then take that number, multiply it by 0.9, and that would be your training max. And so then when small law calls for say, 80%, 80% of your training max, not your. One rep Max. Okay, so that first phase of the program phase in, what do you do in the phase in While that is basically meant to get your body ready for the rigors of what you have ahead of you of.

Heavy squats three to four days per week. The workouts are supposed to be relatively easy. They should feel that way. If they do not feel that way, check your numbers. Again. You probably have calculated your training max incorrectly, so check your math and I won’t explain all of the workouts if you want.

The workouts themselves. Head over to legion, search for OV S M O L O V, and you’ll find an article that this podcast is based on. And in that article, you can see all of the workouts of all phases. So for example, I’ll just. Give you a couple just so you can understand. But again, if you want to actually follow the program, check out the article because you will need it for programming your workouts.

But your workout one week, One phase in three sets of eight reps at 65% of your training max. So that’s pretty easy. And then you do one set of five reps at 70%, followed by two sets of two reps at 75, followed by one set of one rep. 80%, and that is your workout. That is workout one. And then workout two is exactly the same.

And then Workout three has a couple of different changes, has an increase in sets, in one case, an increase in weight in another case, and then you go into your second week. Which is very simple. Workout one is one set of five reps at 80%, and then the next workout is just one set of five at 82.5%. And the final workout of the week is one set of five reps at 85%.

And that’s it for the phase in. And again, you don’t have to try to remember any of that or take notes. Just head over to legion, search for OV S M O L O V, and you can see it all laid out. That takes us to the base cycle, and this is the most difficult part of Molo because it combines high frequency with high volume and high intensity.

The trifecta of strength training, doom nightmarishly hard strength training. And so here’s what it looks like During weeks three to six of this base cycle, you are squatting four times per week, and in the final week you are squatting twice. And as you move through all of that, you have opportunities to increase the amount of.

That you are lifting. The program recommends increasing the weight by 20 pounds in the second week of the base cycle. So that’d be week four of the program, and then another 10 pounds during the third week, which would be week five of the program. But those increases aren’t. Cast iron. So for example, if you fail to complete the prescribed sets and reps in the first week of the base cycle, you would not want to increase weight.

You would stay at the same weight in the second week, or if you find it very challenging, but just. About doable. You get it done, but it’s very hard. Then instead of increasing the weight by 20 pounds in week four, you would do a 10 pound increase followed by another 10 pound increase. If that first 10 pound increase is also.

Doable. And the same thing applies to that second increase, that 10 pound increase if you successfully accomplish the 20 pound increase. So if you do that and then move to the 10 pound increase and can’t complete your workouts as prescribed, then you want to go back to. The previous weight, or maybe you could do a five pound increase instead and see how that goes.

So in the final week of this base cycle, I mentioned that you are doing just two workouts and there are no set in rep targets in those workouts. Instead, what you are doing is determining your new squat one rep Max. You’re seeing how much strength you’ve gained so far in the program, and to do that, what you need to do is make sure that you complete a thorough, warm.

And then you load the bar with your current training Max, and then you perform one set of one rep of the squat, and then you rest for three to five minutes and you add 10 to 20 pounds to the bar, or a smaller increase if that first set was very difficult. You’re starting to see why this program is for experienced weightlifters because you need to be able to judge based on the difficulty of that one rep, how much weight you can add to the bar.

Complete another rep. And so you do that and you do another set of one rep and you’re continuing that process of adding weight, performing one rep, resting three to five minutes until you reach your limit. And that is your new squat one rep Max that you will use for further calculations in the program.

And just so you have an idea of what these base cycle workouts look like, week three, workout one is simply four sets of nine reps at 70% of your training max. Workout two is five sets of seven reps at 75%. Workout, three, seven sets of five reps at. 80% in workout for 10 sets of three reps at 85% of training max.

And in the following week, you were supposed to do the same workouts with heavier weights. So again, if you were able to complete that week three successfully, and you feel like you can also complete it successfully with 20 more pounds on the bar, then you do that. If you think 10 pounds is more appropriate, you do that.

Or if you couldn’t successfully complete. Each of those workouts, you would stick with those weights and simply repeat it. And then the next week, again, same workouts, ideally with heavier weights. And then on that sixth week, you have only two workouts. You’re only supposed to train twice that week. And in both of those sessions, you’re building up to your one rep max.

And that then completes the base cycle that’s followed by the switching phase, which is basically a two week deal load that just gives you a rest from all of the work that you did. And the program doesn’t prescribe specific workouts during the switching phase. Instead, it recommends that you use the time to focus on developing speed and power.

So if you want to train during this switching phase, here’s what I recommend. You do two to three workouts per week. You do three to five sets of one lower body exercise. Per workout, you do five reps per set. You use exercises that develop lower body power, such as the power clean or jump squat, and the paused back squat, and you never lift more than 70% of your training max because remember, this is supposed to be a deload phase and you also want to be focusing on speed, power explosion.

Complete each rep as explosively as possible while maintaining good form of. Okay, we are done Deloading. What do we do now? We do the intense cycle, and this is a four week cycle with volume and frequency turned down a little bit to allow for higher training intensity, so the weights are going to get heavy, fewer workouts, fewer sets, fewer reps per week, but heavier loads.

And to calculate your weights for the intense cycle you want to take your new. One rep Max that you determined in the final week of your base cycle. Remember those two workouts that you used to build up to your one rep max? So you take your best performance from those workouts, you multiply that by 0.9 to get your new training max.

You calculate all of your training weights in the intense cycle as a percentage of that training max. So for example, if you are a strong boy and your new one rep max is 450 pounds, your new training max would be 405 pounds. And then when the program calls for you to lift 90%, that’s 90% of 4 0 5, not four 50.

And I won’t waste your time walking you through all of the workouts in the intense cycle. Again, just go over to lesion, search for ov, and you can check them out. But just to give you an idea, here’s week nine of the program. First week of the intense cycle workout one. One set of three reps at 65%, followed by one set of four reps at 75%, folded by three sets of four.

85%. So now we’re getting difficult followed by one set of five reps at 85%. Quite difficult, followed by another set of five reps at 85%. That’s workout one. Workout two is one set of three reps at 60%. One set of four reps at 70, one set of four reps at 80, one set of three reps at. That’s getting difficult.

Two sets of five at 85%. That’s pretty difficult. And the final workout is one set of four at 65, 1 set of four at 65, 1 set of four at 71, set of four at 70, and five sets of four at 80%. And as you work through the next couple of weeks, the weights get progressively heavier. You work up to, for example, ending with four sets of three reps at 95% of your training max.

And that then completes the intense cycle, and that is followed by the taper week, the final week of the program. Just two workouts, pretty low volume. And then you have one more chance to test your one rep Max. To see what all of this has rot. And while these workouts are low volume, they are still heavy loads.

Workout one is one set of three reps at 71 set of three reps at 80, two sets of five at 90, and three sets of four at 95. That’s some heavy weight. That’s difficult. Then you do a second workout that is similar to that little bit lighter weights, followed by your final build up to one rep max workout, where you do four sets, and in each one you build up to a one rep max.

And so that’s it for how the Smolov program works. Again, difficult but effective. If you can do it, if you meet the criteria I shared earlier in this podcast, and if you did not hear that, go back to the beginning of the podcast and listen, because again, this program is not for everyone. I do not recommend.

Someone jump into it simply because they think it sounds fun or they want to show off on social media, or they want to maximize their squat, they might not be ready for it. And I wanna wrap up with a couple of questions that people often ask about the program. One is, If it is going to help you build muscle, or if it is good for building muscle and there’s no question that it can help you build muscle because it encourages you to progressively overload your muscles by lifting heavy weights, and that is the number one driver of muscle growth.

But Small LO is not the best training program for people whose primary goal is to gain muscle in their lower body, especially. If they want to gain muscle elsewhere as well, because as you have gathered by now, you don’t do anything else other than squat. And the squat is a whole body exercise, but you are not going to get a big chest or big shoulders or big arms or a big back.

Squatting. To do those things, you are going to have to follow a balanced program with a better mix of volume, intensity and frequency, and more exercise variety. Now, another question that people will often ask is, how effective is all of that? Really? How much is it going to add to my squat? Bottom line, and.

This is gonna vary a lot based on various circumstances, various factors, but I would say a reasonable range of outcomes. Assuming you are able to follow the program as you are supposed to and complete it, let’s say, anywhere from 40 to a hundred pounds to your one rep max. Now, what about Molo, Jr. You might have heard about that if you have been poking around online.

To learn about Moof? That is a variation of the moof program that is shorter and less demanding, making it more doable. For many people, it’s modeled on the full versions base cycle. So if you are not ready for small A yet, or you just don’t want to do that to yourself, You might find that small love junior is a better fit.

Now what about training some other body parts while doing the small love program? Can you get away with that? The program says don’t do that. Just squat. It’s gonna be hard enough. But can you add some accessory work just to ensure you don’t lose muscle and other areas of your body that aren’t trained by the squat?

Can you do. Some isolation work for your back, maybe some machine rows. Can you do some isolation work for your chest or even some compound work for your chest? Can you do some barbell bench pressing or dumbbell bench pressing, or at least some machine pressing or flies? Train your shoulders a little bit, train your arms a little bit.

And I would say that. If you can do small a, as I have described it, and if you can recover from that amount of training, and if you can progress in the program, add weight to the bar, get stronger, there’s a good chance that you can include some accessory work in the program just to maintain the muscle you have elsewhere on your body.

But you wanna make sure that you are doing as little of that stuff as you need to just to maintain your strength and size. And that is not a lot. That is, let’s just say three to five hard sets per major muscle group per week. Sets taken close to failure. I don’t have to be a failure. That is enough volume to maintain.

Most of your strength and certainly all of your muscle in whatever muscle group you are concerned with. So again, that’s only a few sets for your back, a few sets for your chest, a few sets for your shoulders, a few sets for your arms per week that is necessary. And as far as programming it, I would recommend doing just one accessory exercise.

Workout in the small love training cycles after your small love training. Because no matter how fit or tough you are going to be wiped after many of those workouts and you simply are not going to want to probably do anything other than leave. So just give yourself a few sets of one accessory exercise after small love work and go home, eat some food, maybe take.

As for the exercises that you can do, I would generally recommend focusing on isolation exercises, but I know many people do just fine with adding some bench pressing. For example, just a few sets of maybe four to six reps or six to eight reps taking close to muscular failure. After the small off work and then for the back, maybe something like a barbell row or some sort of machine equivalent of that for the shoulders, maybe an overhead press or a dumbbell overhead press, barbell or dumbbell or some sort of machine equivalent for that.

Pullups are fine. One arm dumbbell row that works well. Chin up totally fine. Lot pull down. Chest dip is another good exercise you can throw in for helping maintain your upper. Strength, you’re pressing strength and size. And so really the point here is you just want to choose exercises that are not very demanding, no deadlifting, for example.

Don’t worry about your deadlift right now. And one last question that is worth answering. Is how to best do all of the calculations that you need to do to follow the program. The easiest way to do it is just use a small love calculator. You can find ’em online. Just search small love calculator and it’ll do all the math for you.

I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes. And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you.

And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you have. Ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share. Shoot me an email, mike muscle for, muscle f o r and let me know what I could do better or just what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future.

I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you.

View Complete Transcript