I wanted to post some thoughts that resulted from running through Pavel's "friendly" version of the Smolov squat routine.
The original program calls for three weeks of squatting at four sessions a week; one week of taper and test; and two weeks of a "switching phase". You can then peak (or, go back into a high volume phase). In the three volume weeks, you do sessions of 4 of 9, 5 of 7, 7 of 5, and 10 of 3. Session to session you do a simple linear progression (70% -> 85%). Week to week you do a linear progression (about +5% week 2, +8% week 3). For details, use google and see the ontariostrongman site and Pavel's "Beyond Bodybuilding".
Pavel's version makes a very simple modification: instead of doing 4 sessions/week for three weeks (12 total sessions) you do the same work spread over 2 sessions/week for six weeks. This modification takes you from about 140 lifts per week to around 70). My own scheduling worked fairly well but between my "week 2" and "week 3" (workouts 8 and 9), I was teaching on skis for 5 of 9 days. I decided to take the week "off" of leg work (heh!). So, the volume portion of my "Smolov" was spread of seven total weeks.
"week 1" in quotes refers to the first four workouts; similarly for "week 2" and "week 3".
A number of thoughts:
(1) Reading about Smolov, I saw many people saying "I felt great in 'week 1'". I'll second this: I ended up doing my two Smolov days and two kettlebell days for the two weeks that made up my "week 1". However, you'll notice, I DON'T have those in later "weeks". For the Pavel-Smolov, it probably matters a lot less (you have more built in recovery time anyway); for the real deal Smolov, you'd be crazy or ... not in need of my advice.
(2) I did keep a pretty thorough warmup the whole time. You can see my recent post on serratus anterior work for some of it. Also, I did goblet squats, bootstrappers, and contract-relax hip flexor stretches. Lastly and potentially more importantly for you, I did lots of planks (in the warm up). I was skeptical when I heard Dan John talking about them in his warm-up DVD (see it for the other stuff, as well) but ... here's my main impression: would you rather
start by stressing your (possibly beat up) body with lots of motion or with tension without motion? The planks get the tension really going (and the anti-rotation, anti-crunch, anti-extension stuff ... i.e., anti-motion).
I do my planks like this (all in the low "forearm" position): 15 seconds all fours, 15 seconds arm up, 15 seconds arm/opp leg up, 15 seconds all fours, 15 other arm up, 15 other arm/leg up, 15 all fours. I call them 4-3-2 planks (although it is really 4-3-2-4-3-2-4).
(3) My formal lifting was smolov squat, smolov bench, and assorted pull-ups, chin-ups, and neutral grip chins. I'm a big fan on neutral grips: the put the arm in a non-stressed alignment (helpful for beat up shoulders). Some days, I just said "no" to the pull ups. But, in general, I tried to do about 50 bodyweight and/or 20 weighted vertical pulls a week. Typically, the vertical pulls were alternated with
squats, benches, or both.
(4) Having done the six week version, I would like to do a three week version (if nothing else, to check it off my sheet). If I do it soon, it will be late April/early May. Whenever I do it, I will "respect the squat" and do nothing else (besides thorough warmups and mobility work).
(5) I went conservative on the 1RM estimation. I had been off for about a month due to Christmas and an academic gym calendar. To make up for this, I used somewhat bigger steps for my "week 3". Instead of the +5% then +8%, I did about +5% and +10%.
(6) The hardest days were the frist two "4 of 9" days. The only rep I missed the whole period was rep 36 of the first day. On "week 2" "4 of 9", I wrote: "good god, dying"! Along the way, I figured out that I needed more warmup sets. But, I always kepts the reps really low. After some light stuff at 95 and 135, I typically did singles. If I felt I needed more I took a brief rest and did ... another single at
Just about every first set of bench press (at the work weight) felt like crap. By about 1/2 way through the sets, I got into a groove.
(7) Both the sq and bench improved during each session. The first bench was almost always very difficult; sets 2,3,4 improved ... 5,6,7 stable or fading .... the later sets required increasing concentration and tightness.
(8) I used lots of motivational tricks to keep squatting: sets of five? My son's name has five letter ... E-T-H-A-N ... you can't fail if you are spelling your boy's name
. I dedicated alot of sets to a friend who is currently deployed in Afghanistan. Sure not going to let him down. Sets of 3? Wife's initials. And the fact that she's working just as hard as I am ... I mean really even if it's her 1RM
and my sets across weight .... I don't want them _that_ close.
(9) I was doing a fair amount of skiing; the kind-fluffy Smolov worked out ok, but remember that I used conservative weights. I didn't push my skiing very hard and when i did my legs gassed out pretty quickly. But, I was skiing very aggressively. The bigger issues was overall fatigue and motivation ... it got hard to get up and go. I was definitely pushing my recovery window.
(10) Be prepared to buy new pants. Fortunately, all my jeans are relaxed fit. Seriously, there isn't much slack in them any more. My wife just shakes her head at my thigh measurement (that is, the tree trunks): it's ridiculously close to her waist.
(11) I did deal with several colds during the six weeks (or just some that wouldn't go away). Was it the Smolov or working with grade schoolers on many days of the week? Probably both.
Last but not least, I've seen almost no concrete recommendations as to what to do in the switching phase. Here's what I'm looking at (untested, but I'm in the middle of it):
Two workouts a week for three weeks (I/II are done in workout I or II, not both):
Slalom Jumps 2 of 20 2 of 30 2 of 30
Power Skipping 2 of 40y 2 of 40y 1 of 40y
(I) Broad Jump 2 of 5 3 of 5 1 of 5
(II) Jump to Box 2 of 5 3 of 5 1 of 5
(I) Knee to chest 2 of 8 2 of 8 1 of 6
(II) Drop off box 1 of 5 2 of 5 1 of 3
(I) Jump Sq @ 30% 3 of 6 4 of 6 1 of 6
(II) Rep. Lunge Jmp 2 of 6 3 of 6 1 of 6
3-5 sets of 2 in the 70-80% range for technique practice. More towards 70% on squats, more towards 80% on bench. I'm a motor idiot: I admit it. Three weeks with no squatting, and I'll loose too much of the motor learning on technique.
One glaring question: are the percents of new or old? Well, I don't know the new. And it won't be the new until I squat it. The old is too old. Fortunately, the point of this stuff is speed and pratice: the percent doesn't matter too much. If your movements are quick and snappy, then you're doing ok. So, I guess that means "round down".