What is Smolov?

Lundgren_Ivan_Drago
“I must break you.”

Today is the official start of the 16-week training program that my CrossFit gym is using to prepare for the Freeze Fest competition.  We spent last week establishing our baselines, which the workouts will be programmed around.

We are going to be doing Smolov, a Russian squat routine that was designed by the Russian Master of Sports, Sergey Smolov. His name has been bandied about the gym for the past few weeks and I had no clue what anyone was talking about. All I knew was that it sounded Russian and it sounded scary.

The Smolov cycle was popularized by Pavel Tsatsouline when he published it in a 2001 issue of Powerlifting USA. People following this program have seen amazing gains of anywhere from 40-100 pounds.

Pavel writes about the cycle, “In case you got all starry eyed and bushy tailed having read the title beware that you cannot get something for nothing. Either of the two four week loading blocks of the thirteen week Russian cycle pack more work than most American squatters do in a year, no joke. You shall gain but you shall pay with sweat, blood, and vomit, Comrade.”

I am not well versed enough to explain the mechanics of this program nor the science behind it. For reference, you can read a copy of Pavel’s article here from the resource section of the Ontario Strongman Association website.

Breaking Muscle provides a nice short explanation: “The Smolov involves thirteen weeks of squatting, broken down into four specific cycles. After a short introductory microcycle to get the legs ready for what is to come, there is a four week, four times a week base mesocycle, at the end of which should follow a new max. After a two week switching cycle comes an intense mesocycle, very heavy squatting three times a week based on the new max, which should increase once again at the end of it all.”

In that same article about Smolov, its author Chet Morjaria says that the routine is brutal. In all my reading about it, the routine will clearly require a lot of focus and commitment. In addition, Chet strongly advocates that in order to be successful, one needs to do the following: “Eat big. Sleep well. Mobilize.”

The gym is going to follow the Smolov Jr., which is a slightly abbreviated version. It is a 4 day per week program that extends over three weeks.

Here is what Week 1 looks like in terms of sets and reps based on my personal 1 rep max:

MON WED FRI SAT
 Lift 1 Rep Max 6 x 6 7 x 5 8 x 4 10 x 3
Push Press 130 90 97.5 105 110
Back Squat 180 125 135 145 152.5

Tonight I will encounter Smolov for the first time. It shall be the Ivan Drago to my Rocky. Cue the music. I am ready to enter the ring.

# of days to Freeze Fest: 109

Cindy, Cindy, Cindy!

Despite the Brady Bunch joke, I actually like “Cindy”, which is a CrossFit benchmark workout that consists of as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of 5 pull-ups plus 10 push-ups plus 15 squats.

thecindyworkoutFor me, “Cindy” is the perfect number of each element. I have difficulty rapidly string pull-ups together, so 5 is very doable. And on a good day, I can do multiple sets of 10 push-ups (just don’t make them sets of 11). As for squats, I guess there is really ever a good number of squats so the less the better and only having to do 15 at a time seems like I am pulling a fast one over my coaches.

This evening’s attempt at “Cindy” was okay, not great. Truth be told, my push-ups could have been a lot better. Early on into the workout I had to start breaking up the sets of 10. At this time last year, I was coming to the end of doing 100 push-ups for a 100 days in a row. During that time, my push-ups improved dramatically in terms of form and capacity. It paid off in the WODs in class that involved push-ups and helped with my overall strength. Plus, it was a fun challenge that I was able to rope some of my friends into

Making them a part of my daily routine has fallen by the wayside. I have heard mixed advice about whether doing so many everyday is valuable or not. Whether or not 100 per day is necessary is up for debate and will require more research.

However, I do believe there is value in my training if I regularly do push-ups throughout the week rather than simply do them when they show up on the whiteboard in class. A workout like “Cindy” is never going to get easier if you don’t practice the elements involved.

Colin Stuckert, in an article entitled “50 Ways to Get Better at CrossFit“, advocates that you “Wake up to 20 push-ups every morning”. That seems like a good way to start the day that even Mrs. Brady could get behind.

Today’s Training:

Morning

  • Overheard Press – Main sets = 3 x 5 @ 85#
  • Deadlift – Main sets = 1 x 5 @ 245#

Afternoon

  • 5 x 2-minute Rounds: 10 burpees + Double-unders
  • Stretching
  • “Cindy” = AMRAP / 20 minutes of 5 Pull-ups + 10 Push-ups + 15 Squats

# of days until Freeze Fest: 120