Smolov: Base Mesocycle Review and a HUGE P.R.

Today was my testing day for the base mesocycle of Smolov, and I am blown away by the results.


First, a brief recap of where I was going into this:

- Bodyweight of 190lbs
- End of July squatted 350 at PR Day with pretty awful form. This brutal squat plus wrecking my wrist/hand is what pushed me to do Smolov.
- Working off a 335 max (technical failure)
- Really focusing on fixing my technique as it has constantly been an issue for me due to an MCL injury, a leg length discrepancy, possible herniated disc and/or spodylolysthesis, and my hip flexors hating me 24/7
- Skipped the intro cycle because I leave for Algonquin park tomorrow and it would have screwed up training times
- All time best of 395lbs last summer


Today, I hit a 420lb squat at a bodyweight of 206.4lbs using only knee sleeves (no belt), and during this cycle I never squatted anything over 315lbs. That is an 85lb PR in less than 28 days, and is one for the record books.

I was squatting at CIF and as you know if you have been following this the 45lb plates don’t weigh 45lbs. I weighed all the plates I used afterwards and the total weight was 420.8lbs, even though it looked like 435. This means the average weight of a 45lb plate at CIF is 43.2lbs. Don’t forget when you set PRs there :P.

I was familiar with Smolov prior to going into this so I I expected to get about 25-30lbs in the base cycle alone and have heard of people getting 50lbs out of these 4 weeks, but 85lbs is incredible. I was hoping to get 365lbs today with good form but things got crazy – the whole time I was in disbelief.

I was getting some questions today about how to work up to a max so I’m going to go over it before I discuss what I did that can contribute to this stellar PR. If you know how to max out you can skip the next section.

Working Up To A Max

I do a ton of warm-up sets because otherwise I can’t get to depth without rounding my lower back. I have also been finding my knee pops with my new stance so extra sets help alleviate that. Here is what I did to work up to this:

Keep in mind these are ‘CIF weights’ so 45s aren’t 45lbs, but I this is what the bar LOOKS like it has on it

bar x 10 for 3-4 sets supersetted with SMR and SS
135 x 3-5 for a few sets
225 x 1-3 for a few sets
275 x 1-3 for two sets
315 x 1
335 x 1 – max from 4 weeks ago)
365 x 1 – usually I would only add 10s but I was thinking about how Will chirps me for adding weight so slowly, so I said fuck it lets break records. Thanks, Will, lol
385 x 1 – I took note of how awesome my setup was – super tight
405 x 1 – 4 plates on the bar and I didn’t even grind it… :O
425 x 1 – hard, but I did it
435 x 1 – This was a fucking grind

I only do high rep sets (over 5 in my books) when it is easy as hell, and as I said in a post where I complained about the 7×5 day, I love singles.

I made sure that I was NEVER fatigued as I worked up, and I rested 3-4 minutes once I got over 365lbs. Doing mostly singles makes sure that the total volume lifted stays relatively low, and this comes into play when you don’t know how high you are going. Had I done sets of 5 until they got hard, my total volume would have been much more and I might have been too fatigued by the time I hit the heavier weights.

WTF Did I Do To Hit This?

Truthfully, I hardly believe it myself, but there are a few things that I did well and others that I can improve on.


- I did a serious warm-up before every workout. I am talking hard SMR and static stretching for 25-30mins before I touched a bar. Overkill? Maybe, but it worked. I also used the Voodoo bands when I was extra tight, and then as you can see I do a lot of warm-up (practice is a better word, really) sets before things get heavy.
- I fixed my form. This was a huge blow to me but to acknowledge it needed work was unavoidable. It sucked having to use a 335 max but it had to be done.
- I ate a shitload. I have been eating the Marshall White Breakfast every morning and making a point to eat at least 4 meals a day. For the first week I also ate either a quarter of a pie or half a cake after each session. This wasn’t consistent for the rest of the cycle but I crushed carbs in the last month.
- Chocolat milk is actually the nectar of the gods. From Sunday night to Wednesday night I drank 16L of chocolat milk. 8L of that was from 5pm to midnight last night while I played battlefield. The whole time I was thinking “nobody can conquer the gallon” in regards to videos of people chugging a gallon of milk then puking. I didn’t chug it, but I did drink 2 gallons in an evening and overall I am impressed/disgusted with myself. I do not have diarrhea, FYI.
- I slept 9-12 hours a night. I have been sick (allergies maybe?) lately so sleeping is tough but I make sure to be well rested.
- I didn’t miss a lift. This is easier said than done, but when I have a program I don’t like to screw it up. This is the main reason why I don’t think I will ever do my own programming again – when I write it, I cut shit out; when someone else does, it is set in stone. I am considering doing online coaching with Craig Bongelli of True North Barbell or Marshall White with LBEB

What could have been improved:

- I should have had a better schedule. It is summer, classes were over, and I didn’t have a whole lot to do. This is great, except it meant that some days I would sleep in, lift late and sometimes miss meals. If I was always getting up at 8am or whenever normal waking up time is then I would always be sure to eat enough and get to bed on time.
- I should have spent more time on form in the earlier weeks. My best day technique wise was Week 3, Day 3. If I had grooved good form form the get-go it would have been practiced more.
- I probably didn’t need to eat as much shitty food as I did (note: other than the pie and cake it wasn’t that bad – not like Dave Tate eating boxes of oreos and whatnot if you’ve read that article). I have a feeling all the gluten I don’t normally eat is the reason I am so sick and congested. Next time I should stick to rice and ‘taters, but this is as good a reason as any to eat dessert, and I will likely eat like this when I lift this hard again. This is also the reason my bodyweight jumped 16lbs, and though I did gain some fat this is the heaviest I have been while still having a bit of abs.
- I should have done the intro cycle. It is there for a reason, and I didn’t write the program, so it isn’t mine to mess with. I probably wouldn’t have been so sore the first week if I did it.

Where Do I Go From Here?

I am still in disbelief. I was telling people that I wanted to hit 405 at PR Day at the end of November, and now I break that by 15lbs and the term hasn’t even started. I must have counted the plates on the bar 5 times after I finished.

One of the reasons I did this was because my left hand was useless. It is now less useless, and but I think I want to finish Smolov. I don’t expect to add another 85lbs to my squat but even if I can get a reasonable 20-30 out of the next phase it is worth it. I hear the intensification phase is killer but if I really need to I can cut 5% and survive – It’s only 8 more weeks including the switching phase. I just hope the long weekend of canoeing doesn’t kill my lifts.

After that, assuming my hand/wrist is healed, Kory had this awesome idea to follow up Smolov with Smolov Jr. (bench press version) but to do it at the same time as the 10 week Ed Coan deadlift routine. Apparently Coan’s deadlift routine is brutal, so I might be over-estimating my abilities, but I also just won at Smolov so we will see. The other option is to do Canadian Bear, which is a fucking awesome program and is what I followed to hit my previous all time best squat. It is a time-based program and kicked my ass last summer.

If my hand isn’t better I might just do Smolov again. Either way, I’m going to make sure I keep the intensity up. Smolov has taught me that HARD work pays off. There is training, and there is TRAINING.

Thanks for reading. What have you done with your 4 weeks? Go drink some chocolat milk and set some PRs.


What did you think? Love it? Hate it? Please comment below and share with your friends!

Share: facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Awesome Job!

  2. Congrats Ben, that is an amazing PR! Now I can’t wait to start my Smolov cycle :)

  3. Pingback: The Goal of Balance | Benjamin Pickard

  4. Pingback: Training: Aug 26 - Sept 3/13 - 40 Day Program Days 1-6 Benjamin Pickard

  5. Pingback: Training: Sept 25 - Oct 4/13 – 40 Day Program Day 16 + Testing Benjamin Pickard

Thoughts? Additions? Enjoy the article? Comment below!