T Nation

Hepburn v Smolov

Hey everybody,
I’m new here, but not so much to powerlifting. Long story short when I first started I was very impatient And couldn’t stick to a program to save my life. So two years later I finally stuck out the stronglifts 5x5 and madcow 5x5 and can now squat 340 bench 260 and deadlift about 405 at 175lb bodyweight. I’m just looking into what to do next. Ive heard good things and bad things about both these programs( Hepburn program A and B, and smolov squat program) based on where I’m at what do you guys think the beat program to do from here should be?

Smolov is a gamble, some people make big gains on it while others burn out fast or get injured. There are a few different versions of the Hepburn method but they are all basically the same. The biggest drawback is that it can get very boring. Also, using triples or singles is probably not a good idea if you need to add muscle mass, if anything you might lose some. The exception would be if you were peaking for a meet, but it’s still not a great peaking program.

Yeah I see what you mean and I have read a ton of reviews on people burning out quick on smolov. So what would the next best step be? I could care less about muscle mass. Would something like westside or 5/3/1 be better?

How tall are you?

About 5’6" why?

This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Aside from being surnames, those two training models have very little in common. One denotes a long-term progression model formulated by a great strength athlete from half a century ago, and the other is a very short-term cycle designed for weightlifters with weak legs. How the Smolov cycle ever became known as a powerlifting program is beyond me.

The fact that you appear to be choosing between two totally disparate methodologies, one of which is designed for only one lift, suggests you have no idea what you’re doing and should really consider outsourcing this decision to someone who does. Since this, or any forum isn’t a great venue to ask open-ended “what should I do” type questions, you should probably look for a qualified coach and make an investment in at least a consult.

Failing that, any general strength program built for long-term use will serve fine. You mentioned 5/3/1, I think that’s as good as you can do at this point. I’d be sure to buy the books and just let yourself be coached, i.e., don’t get cute and try to customize anything too soon. Do the lifts, bag some volume and just let the process work, strength takes time.


I had to laugh at this part

Because you said

At your height, somewhere in the range of 180-205 at around 12% body fat is what you should aim for in the long run. Unless you are incredibly strong for your size (and you aren’t) or incredibly muscular with weak lifts (and you aren’t) then you will have to add some mass to get anywhere in powerlifting. You don’t need to train like a bodybuilder, but don’t neglect hypertrophy.

By the way, training volume is the main factor for hypertrophy. You can get stronger on a low volume/high intensity program, at least for a time. People who do well with Smolov are usually bulking. The volume is way more than most people can tolerate, even if you cut out deadlifts.

Simple answer: do 5/3/1 with a template that has you squatting and benching at least twice a week.

I understand that these are 2 very different training models and that’s why I’m asking. Should I just try to spike my lifts real quick then focus on the long term or just slow everything down. If I did smolov and lets say by some grace of god I get a 405 squat by the end of it(which I seriously doubt but who knows) then with 5/3/1 or the hepburn programs is be trying with percentages of a 405 squat instead of something lighter.

Don’t do Smolov unless you’re already hitting four plates for reps otherwise you would likely make just as much (if not more) progress on a program that’d allow for improvements in ALL lifts. Have you tried a high-frequency DUP program? It’d probably work wonders for you. Hit every main lift 2-3 days per week, having a heavy strength day, a moderate hypertrophy day, and then a light day where you focus on form and speed.

If you care less about building muscle, you might as well quit now. You will NOT get much stronger if you don’t build muscle.

5 rep sets are the best bang for your buck in strength and muscle mass. Been proven for years.

However, I’d like to make a suggestion to you: find a baseline. What I mean is find a weight you can handle for 5 reps at any given point during your training. My baseline is 70%ish of my max for a set of 5. I may do that for 1-5 sets depending on my goal for that session or how the weight is moving. Always hit that number in every workout, then go from there.

My last two workouts looked like this on the bench:

  1. Worked up to 285x5 then triples at 325/355/365 raw.
  2. Worked up to 285x5 325x3 then added the Magnum and went triples at 375/415/435/455.

Find your baseline and work from there. Your baseline will always make you stronger and more muscular. It’s boring and its work but its very necessary work. You might have a bad day and just hit your baseline and go home, but at least you put in work that works.

Follow principles, not programs.


Awesome response.

I laughed when I read that a beginner actually wanted to try Hepburn’s program

Squat 5 x 1
Bench 5 x 1
Squat 5 x 5
Bench 5 x 5

All in the same session, not even counting the progression model.