smolov vs. smolov

so this week I’ve been focused on feeling good. haven’t really lifted – just a few circuits of chins, dips and bodyweight bulgarians with some shoulder and hamstring circulation work mixed in. Have spent more time with the lacrosse ball than lifting, and everything is feeling mantastic.

and i’ve been doing some planning for the next comp, which will be in NY state in March.

it is time to live up to my name and start smolov.


my last assault on mr smo was great – probably the best i’ve ever done. hit every rep, every lift, and didn’t use a belt the whole time. it fixed some form errors and gave me some serious wheels. the result was a 550 squat with a belt. unfortunately after that I injured my adductors which then led to injured knees and then everything fell apart.

but I learned a lot from that experience and my rest, recovery and pre-hab habits are stronger than ever now.

so armed with this I am going to get back onto the smo-train.

Now, with everyone working on new routines and planning their training for the next little while I think it is a good time to write a quick blurb on periodization (aka planning). Basically, periodization is a structured plan of attack used to improve one’s performance at something. You can think of it like a novel which contains a sequence of different chapters. Each chapter in the novel serves a purpose chronologically – preparing the reader for the next plot development for example.

Planning your training must follow the same pattern if you want to have successful and purpose-driven training. If you’ve been lifting long enough you know that when you are following a designed protocol towards a specific end your body adapts much faster and more predictable than when you lapse into periods of random lifting.

The basics of periodization for getting stronger

There are four phases used by (good) strength coaches training athletes towards improved performance. They are:

Accumulation > Transition > Competition > Recovery

These can be considered as 4 chapters in your training novel. They must be read in that sequence in order for your novel to have the best ending possible.


This phase is dedicated to building bigger muscles. It can be considered the hypertrophy phase of a program and it gives the trainee a bit more clay on their frame to work with. The work done is more general in nature – that is, less geared towards the specific movement patterns required by the sport that the athlete is training in. The loading parameters are often some variation of a linear progression, with deload weeks interspersed depending on the length of the phase.

For example, if you are running a straight 5×5 routine, increasing the weight each session or each week, then you are working on an accumulation phase.

Another example is the smolov base mesocycle. This phase works high-volume in a progressive overload for 3 weeks and is considered an ‘overreaching’ plan, which is basically a short period of overtraining.


The phase that follows accumulation introduces more specific movement patterns for each lifters sport. For example, a sprinter may start plyometric jump-training, sled-dragging and powercleans. The idea here is to transition your new strength gained from the accumulation phase into an improvement in something useful for your sport.

It is also important to focus on any muscular imbalances and technical weaknesses that may have been developed during the accumulation phase in order to better prepare one for competition. Often times many powerlifters will have lagging hamstring and shoulder development and so gearing your transition phase towards improving these groups is necessary.


This is the most specific phase of training, and it is during this time that one will reach peak performance during competition. The lifts are most specific to the patterns of the sport. For example, a sprinter would begin training on the track, include parachute sprints, overspeed training and specific plyometrics all focused directly on improving speed.

For a powerlifter, this means working with the powerlifts frequently, executing technical mastery and focusing on speed and power development with competition-level loads. The work loads are more focused – such as doubles and triples with 80% and above. Accessory training is dramatically reduced as an adaptation in the main lifts is desired and hypertrophy will hinder progress.


After a competition phase lasting 1-4 months, the lifter must reset and relax and allow the body to fully heal in preparation for the next accumulation phase. This can last anywhere from 2-4 weeks where rehab, prehab and general well-being are the goal.

so? how do i use it?

Here’s an example of someone (i.e. myself) planning to compete in a powerlifting competition in 4 months:

Phase 1 – accumulation: (4weeks)

progressive overload 5×5, squat 2x, bench 2x, deadlift 1x per week. accessory at 5×10 with gradual increases. hypertrophy burn sets with 50-100 reps total geared at weak muscle groups

or: smolov base cycle (ie accumulation phase) with 2x/week bench training in a 5×5 or 3×10>8>5>3 fashion. Rep effort westside style would also be cool.

Phase 2 – transition: (2-3weeks)

focus on strengthening accessory and dynamics. 2x weakpoint hypertrophy sessions and 2x dynamic sessions would work nicely.This is suggested for 2-4 weeks


MON – powercleans, paused squats against bands, depth jumps, ghrs, abs

TUES – chinups, OHP, db rows, rear laterals, shrugs

THUR – hang cleans, dynamic deadlifts, lunges off of box, db floor press, clap pushups

SAT – BB rows, DB press, incline DB press, face pulls, obliques

Phase 3 – Compeition (8-10 weeks)

Here is where our good friend sheiko would fit in nicely. Running 2 4-week sheiko routines will provide lots of practice working with near competition weights. It dials back on the accessory and depending on which you choose will dial up the weights nicely. A lot of options exist here, like a 5 week prep phase followed by a 5 week competition phase. You may also choose to run 2 competition phases in a row. However you choose to do it, be sure to include bi-weekly practice tests, working up to near max singles in the main lifts.


So there you have it. If you have any experience with the full length smolov squat routine you will notice that it follows this same system. That is because the theories on periodization were established and put into practice in Russia and are reflected in their training programs.

Anyways, there you have my long-winded training plan for the next 4 months.

smolov > transition > sheiko = competition

fun times!



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