The Smolov Jr Program For Strength, How To, Pros + Cons

There are plenty of specific strength training programs that have been designed for weightlifters of varying fitness levels and goals.

Although plenty of strength programs become somewhat like a flash in the pan, such that they are popular for a short period but then seemingly die out as quickly as they exploded in the resistance training scene, the best strength workout programs have lasting legs.

The Smolov squat program and Smolov Jr. strength programs are two of the popular strength programs for powerlifters and strength athletes.

But, what is the Smolov Jr program? What are the differences between the Smolov bench Jr vs Smolov strength program?

In this exercise guide, we will discuss what the Smolov Jr training program is, how to follow it, its exercises, and who should consider following the Smolov Bench Jr training plan.

We will cover: 

  • What Is the Smolov Jr. Program for Strength Training?
  • What Is the Difference Between the Full Smolov Squatting Program vs the Smolov Jr. Strength Program?
  • How Do You Follow the Smolov Jr. Strength Program?
  • Pros and Cons of the Smolov Jr. Strength Program
  • Who Should Do the Smolov Jr. Strength Program?

Let’s get started!

A bench press.

What Is the Smolov Jr. Program for Strength Training?

The Smolov Jr. strength protocol is a 3-week truncated version of the very intense, 13-week Smolov strength training program.

The full Smolov training plan focuses on the compound big lifts, mainly the squat, bench press, and deadlift.

In contrast, because the Smolov Jr strength program is only three weeks, it usually focuses on just the squat or the bench press to help you improve that specific lift. 

This is why Smolov Junior is sometimes referred to as the Smolov Jr. bench press training plan or the Smolov Jr. squatting training plan.

It may first appear that it is an abbreviated strength training program, and the term Jr. in the name might make you think that it is for beginner or novice lifters.

However, the Smolov Jr strength training program is still intended to maximize intensity in your weightlifting sessions while focusing on one of the big compound lifts, generally the squat or bench press.

A back squat.

This program for strength training is a 3 week plan that has you lifting four days per week, increasing the intensity while maintaining the volume.

This design is inherently what makes this strength program very difficult and inappropriate for beginner or novice weightlifters.

Typically, strength training programs manipulate either intensity or volume but not both such that if you increase the intensity of the weight-lifting workouts, the volume decreases. 

Conversely, if you increase the volume, the intensity decreases.

However, the Smolov Bench Jr. and Smolov Squat Jr Strength Programs continually crank up the intensity while holding the volume the same.

This means that you are lifting heavy loads with a lot of total volume, a combination that can be thoroughly exhausting for even well-trained weightlifters and completely inappropriate/dangerous for beginners and (even intermediate weightlifters in some cases).

The Smolov Jr strength program uses high rep ranges, which is one of the reasons why you generally don’t do a deadlift Smolov Jr. program because the long sets with higher reps would make the workouts too cardio-focused with the deadlift vs bench or squat Smolov Jr.

That said, this training plan is intended to be seen as a concentrated block of 3 weeks of strength training that focuses on one of your lifts, again usually the squat or bench, and would then be followed by some deloading or rest before progressing.

A bench press.

What Is the Difference Between the Full Smolov Squatting Program vs the Smolov Jr. Strength Program?

The Smolov Jr. training plan, also called the Smolov Jr. program, Smolov Jr. bench plan, or the Smolov Jr. squat protocol, is an abbreviated version of the Smolov bench or squat training plan.

The Smolov Jr. protocol is a 3 week “Smolov cycle,” whereas the full 13-week Smolov protocol has different phases (two back-to-back sets of a 2-week acclimation phase with a 4-week base phase after that and then a 1-week peak phase).

The full Smolov training plan is usually done for the squat, but it can also be attempted with the deadlift or bench press.

A squat.

How Do You Follow the Smolov Jr. Strength Program?

As mentioned, the Smolov Jr. training plan is a 3-week strength program with four workouts per week.

Here is how to follow this program:

WeekDay 1: 6 sets x 6 repsDay 2: 7 sets x 5 repsDay 3: 8 sets x 4 repsDay 4: 10 sets x 3 reps
170% of 1RM75% of 1RM80% of 1RM85% of 1RM
270% of 1RM (+5-10 pounds, if possible)75% of 1RM (+5-10 pounds, if possible)80% of 1RM (+5-10 pounds, if possible)85% of 1RM (+5-10 pounds, if possible)
370% of 1RM (+10-20 pounds, if possible)75% of 1RM (+10-20 pounds, if possible)80% of 1RM (+10-20 pounds, if possible)85% of 1RM (+10-20 pounds, if possible)

Due to the high volume and the focus on a particular lift, it is generally advised not to include accessory exercises when following it.

A bench press.

Pros and Cons of the Smolov Jr. Strength Program

As with any strength training program, there are benefits and drawbacks or risks.

Here are some of the benefits:

  • The laser focus on either the squat or bench press helps you make major improvements in a specific exercise while still appreciating carry-over to other exercises, mainly if you do the squat program.
  • Due to the high intensity and volume, this plan can increase strength and build muscle (hypertrophy).
  • This program helps you improve due to the inherent intensity/volume because it forces functional overreaching, and the high frequency of constantly practicing the same lift over and over improves neuromuscular coordination and technique.
  • From a practical perspective, one of the benefits is that the workouts are very streamlined in terms of equipment. You’re only doing one exercise in each workout, and the loads stay the same for all of the sets per workout.
A back squat.

While there are benefits of Smolov Jr for bench or squat performance and increases in strength, there are also downsides:

  • Given how repetitive the plan is, it can be extremely monotonous and boring.
  • The high volume and intensity can increase the risk of injuries and overreaching/overtraining beyond functional overreaching.
  • Training 4 days per week with the same muscle groups doesn’t give you adequate time between workouts for complete muscle recovery and repair; diet, sleep, and listening to your body becomes extremely important.
  • The focus on one exercise can potentially detract from your “sharpness” and strength on other lifts since you won’t be practicing them for the three weeks (although actual strength shouldn’t decrease too significantly in just three weeks, lack of doing the movement patterns can make you feel rusty when you start back up).
  • Workouts can be long because of the number of sets and reps. One of the workout days has 10 sets; if you’re taking a long rest between Smolov Jr sets for full recovery, the workout may take upwards of two hours. Longer rest intervals between sets are implicated in achieving more significant gains in strength.
  • Some lifters feel anxious not doing accessory lifts, but doing so can compromise recovery and negatively impact the next workout since you have to train four days per week.
An assisted bench press.

Who Should Do the Smolov Jr. Strength Program?

Given the high intensity and volume of the Smolov Jr training plan, this program is best for powerlifters looking to get super strong and hone in on one lift.

Additionally, if you’re a serious weightlifter who wants to take on an extreme (masochistic?) strength program, or like the idea of high-intensity resistance training (HIRT), you might like the Smolov Jr bench or Smolov Jr squat program.

This program is not good for beginners, people who like variety, lifters who won’t have a spotter, time-crunched individuals, people who need more recovery between strength training workouts, or anyone looking for well-rounded strength training vs focusing on one powerlifting exercise.

Are you curious to try a different strength training program or compare weightlifting programs to find the best one for you? Check out our guide to the 5×5 strength training program here.

A back squat.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.