The Hardcore Smolov Squat Program

If you can make it to the other side of this program, you’ll get bigger, stronger and shredded—all at the same time.
Barbell Back Squat

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  • Goal

    Build Muscle & Strength

  • Skill level

    Advanced

  • Duration

    13 weeks

  • Days per week

    2-4

  • Type

    Muscle Endurance, Strength Training

  • Goal

    Build Muscle & Strength

  • Skill level

    Advanced

  • Duration

    13 weeks

  • Days per week

    2-4

  • Type

    Muscle Endurance, Strength Training

The words “Russian strength method” are all but synonymous with victory to those who recall the thick-limbed, barrel-chested athletes who ran roughshod over the rest of the Olympic weightlifting field for a few decades of the mid- to late-20th century. In the process of leading their athletes to dominant performances on the international stage, the revolutionary Russian strength coaches gave birth to the first hard-science programs for increasing strength—programs like the conjugate method and block periodization, which have stood the test of time and are still used regularly today.

Russia’s contributions to the world of strength and conditioning didn’t end with these programs, though. Other great ideas were spawned by other great minds, including Sergey Smolov, a Russian Master of Sports whose diabolical squat program—which calls for squatting four times a week in certain phases—was popularized in the West by Pavel Tsatsouline.

The Smolov squat program is broken into five phases: an introductory microcycle of two weeks, a four-week base cycle, a two-week switching phase, a four-week intense cycle, then a one-week taper before you finally max out. When applied correctly, most lifters can expect a strength gain of around 100 pounds on their squat—a little less or potentially more, depending on experience level.

We may have lost some of you at “squatting four times a week.” We get it. You didn’t necessarily come here for powerlifting advice. You want to look good, not walk around like a gimp for days at a time. Yet aesthetics are one of the best reasons to try this program. It’s so metabolically demanding, you’ll be able to be less strict on your diet, gain muscle, and slash body fat all at the same time.

Kyle Hunt, the former NFL tight end and current personal trainer and fitness model shown in these photos, took his squat from a very respectable 495 to an even 600 while getting leaner—and that’s despite having begun the program in phenomenal shape.

“My starting body weight was 240, and I went up to over 250,” Hunt says. “I did that while my body fat went down 2%, so the weight gain was pure muscle. I wouldn’t say I kept my diet as clean as I normally do, either, because my body needed extra calories to recover. I still ate well—lots of chicken, fish, steak, and sweet potatoes—but I ate as much as I wanted throughout the program.”

Hunt also modified the routine, as the original Smolov program only focuses on the squat. Not wanting to lose any upper-body mass or shape—although Smolov’s program doesn’t cause this—Hunt added a moderate amount of targeted moves to the mix: handstand pushups, pullups, weighted pushups, and inverted rows. During the switching cycle—a form of deloading—he added two deadlift days to keep his posterior chain strong, plus a bench day and military-press day. Don’t add extra work to what he prescribes here, as you risk burnout and muscle loss. True to its origins, Smolov training is as unforgiving as a Siberian winter.

How to Do It

Perform the 13 weeks of our modified Smolov squat program without taking time off between phases. The weight you squat is always a percentage of your one-rep max, or 1rm (see our calculator if you don’t know it); Weeks 4 and 5 add specific poundages to that percentage. Do not go heavier than prescribed—don’t add extra exercises, sets, or reps. Heavy squatting is demanding work, so you could easily experience central nervous system burnout if you push it too far. Finally, the stretch/foam roll days are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

1RM Calculator

If you don’t know your one-rep max for a particular lift, use this simple formula to estimate it:

Weight Lifted x Reps x .0333 + Weight Lifted = 1RM

The Plan

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  • Goal

    Build Muscle & Strength

  • Skill level

    Advanced

  • Duration

    13 weeks

  • Days per week

    2-4

  • Type

    Muscle Endurance, Strength Training

Phase 1: Introductory Cycle

Week 1
  • Day 1

    Lower Body

    --

    4

    Yes

    Lower Body

  • Day 2

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 3

    Lower Body

    --

    4

    Yes

    Lower Body

  • Day 4

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 5

    Lower Body

    --

    4

    Yes

    Lower Body

  • Day 6

    Upper Body, Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    1

    No

    Upper Body, Stretch/Foam Roll

    Also perform stretching/foam rolling. These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 7

    Rest

Week 2
  • Day 1

    Lower body

    --

    1

    Yes

    Lower body

  • Day 2

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 3

    Lower Body

    --

    1

    Yes

    Lower Body

  • Day 4

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 5

    Lower Body

    --

    1

    Yes

    Lower Body

  • Day 6

    Upper Body

    --

    1

    No

    Upper Body

  • Day 7

    Rest

Phase 2: Base Cycle

Week 3
  • Day 1

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    2

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 2

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 3

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    2

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 4

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 5

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    2

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 6

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    2

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 7

    Rest

Week 4
  • Day 1

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    2

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 2

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 3

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    2

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 4

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 5

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    2

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 6

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    2

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 7

    Rest

Week 5
  • Day 1

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    2

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 2

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 3

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    2

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 4

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 5

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    2

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 6

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    2

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 7

    Rest

Week 6
  • Day 1

    Rest

  • Day 2

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 3

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 4

    Rest

  • Day 5

    Lower Body

    --

    1

    Yes

    Lower Body

  • Day 6

    Lower Body

    --

    1

    Yes

    Lower Body

  • Day 7

    Rest

Phase 3: Switching Cycle

Weeks 7 & 8
  • Day 1

    Upper Body

    --

    3

    Yes

    Upper Body

  • Day 2

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 3

    Upper Body

    --

    3

    Yes

    Upper Body

  • Day 4

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 5

    Upper Body

    --

    3

    Yes

    Upper Body

  • Day 6

    Upper Body

    --

    3

    Yes

    Upper Body

  • Day 7

    Rest

Phase 4: Intense Cycle

Week 9
  • Day 1

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    5

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 2

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 3

    Lower Body

    --

    5

    Yes

    Lower Body

  • Day 4

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 5

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 6

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    4

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 7

    Rest

Week 10
  • Day 1

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    6

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 2

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 3

    Upper and Lower Body

    --

    6

    Yes

    Upper and Lower Body

  • Day 4

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 5

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 6

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    5

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 7

    Rest

Week 11
  • Day 1

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    5

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 2

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 3

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    5

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 4

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 5

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 6

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    5

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 7

    Rest

Week 12
  • Day 1

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    4

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 2

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 3

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    4

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 4

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 5

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 6

    Upper & Lower Body

    --

    3

    Yes

    Upper & Lower Body

  • Day 7

    Rest

Phase 5: Max Out/Tapering Cycle

Week 13
  • Day 1

    Lower Body

    --

    4

    Yes

    Lower Body

  • Day 2

    Rest

  • Day 3

    Lower Body

    --

    2

    Yes

    Lower Body

  • Day 4

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    --

    --

    No

    Stretch/Foam Roll

    These are not off days: foam rolling and dynamic stretches like spidermans are hugely important, as your hips, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will all need TLC to overcome chronic soreness.

  • Day 5

    Rest

  • Day 6

    Rest

  • Day 7

    Lower Body

    --

    1

    Yes

    Lower Body