To my knowledge, most people recommend that the original smolov Jr is a blitz program. Therefore, it should only be run every 6 months or so. Does this apply to your version?
I never understood the “only do Smolov junior once every 6 months thing” from a recovery standpoint it makes zero sense: it’s not like you will need 6 months to recover from squatting 3-4 times a week. If that were the case all olympic lifters who squat AT LEAST 3x a week and often up to 5-6 days a week, some squatting twice per day, year round would be in trouble!
That’s why personally the Smolov program never looked anything special to me: I trained as an olympic lifter for 7 years and that’s pretty much how I squatted all the time (minus the high rep sets), heck personally I squatted 6 days a week: 3x back squat and 3x front squat.
Was it effective? Of course, it quickly took my front squat to 220kg (484lbs) and back squat to 272.5kg (600lbs). But I didn’t need a special program, all I did was squat fairly heavy 6x a week.
Anyway, I still talk about the Smolov program from time to time because for the “normal” lifter it is special because for these guys squatting more than 1-2 a week is almost unheard of! But for all olympic lifters it’s the norm. Heck John Broz has his lifters max out on squats every single day!
So from a recovery perspective there is no way in hell you need to stay away from “Smolov” (or any other high frequency squatting program) for 6 months after completion of the plan. Heck, Chris Duffin is squatting 800lbs EVERY DAY for 30 days and he won’t need 6 month to recover either.
HERE’S WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING
The first time you switch to a high frequency program (squatting 3-4 times a week … or more) you WILL have rapid gains. These gains come from a sudden boost in neural efficiency that comes from training a movement hard very often. You’ll get better muscle fiber recruitment, a faster firing rate (the recruited fibers fire faster, leading to a high force production), better intramuscular coordination (muscle fibers within a muscle work better together), better intermuscular coordination (the muscles involved in a movement work better together) less inhibition from the GTOs (your body feels “safer” squatting heavy weights and does not shut down force production to protect itself) as well as you become more in the groove of the lift.
The work of D.G. Sale has shown that neurological “gains” are very rapid over the course of 3 to 4 weeks. During that time your performance will improve rapidly because you don’t need to “build” anything to get stronger. You are just improving your “software”. After that period gains get slower because neural adaptations are almost 90% done, so there is a lot less rapid improvement and most of the strength gains will come from building new muscle tissue or nibbling at those last 10%.
You’ll notice that the Smolov Jr. program is 3 weeks long. So you basically maximize the rapid neurological gains, then stop.
Here is what people think: “I gained 40lbs on my squat in 3 weeks from running Smolov Jr. I’ll run it twice back to back and will gain 70-80lbs”. Then they run it a second time and MAYBE get an additional 10lbs… disappointing.
Heck, even if you take 1 month between two cycles you’ll only gain 10lbs on the second cycle.
People assume that it’s because they have not recovered or that the body is not responding to the program and they need to get resensitized.
IN REALITY the program is still working the second time around. But because you almost maxed out your rapid neurological gains those first 3 weeks you stop progressing at a fast rate.
So now the gains will be slower because you need to build more muscle (which is a slow process), then learn to use that extra muscle to produce more force in the squat (which also takes time). So if you do a new cycle you think that the program doesn’t work. It still works, but it now works via a different pathway which takes more time.
I’ve seen a huge amount of people doing Smolov, especially among Crossfit athletes. And if their gains from the program varies (those who were already squatting often didn’t gain that much, those who rarely squatted had huge improvements) they all lost some of their squatting strength after a few months off of the program, especially if they went back to squatting once a week. It’s because they lost some of the neural efficiency from not practicing the movement frequently.
So when they start the Smolov plan again 4-6 months later: lo and behold, rapid gains again! But it’s not because they are “recovered” or “resensisitzed to the program”. It’s simply because they regained the neural efficiency that they lost.
Yeah he’s really a beast.
Very insightful answer Coach.
If the gains made in blitz are mostly neural, do you think those strength gains would translate beyond just squatting? For example, if I ran a smolov type blitz and gained ~40-50 lbs on my squat, would I perform better in other areas, in my case wrestling, due to better fiber recruitment? Or would the increased ability to recruit muscle fibers only matter in a squat pattern?
it would be mostly movement-specific, with some transfer over similar movements (other types of squats for example) but the further away you are from the trained lift, the smaller the gains. I doubt that a blitz approach would yield performance increases on the mat.
For example I once took my snatch grip high pull from 125kg to 180kg in 3 weeks. But only had a small increase my my deadlift and no change in squat
Makes sense, thanks!