Training Update: Smolov Jr For Bench Press

June 3, 2012 — 4 Comments

Halloween is one of my favorite time of the year.

The squat is also my favorite exercise, and I’d like to hit 500lbs in the next few months.

Pavel Tsatsouline, Master of Sports wrote that “Every day is a Halloween” during the Smolov base mesocycle, which is a 4 week period in a gruelling Russian squat routine designed to add a lot of weight to your 1RM.

That being said, I really wanted to do the Smolov (Sr?) squat routine, experience Halloween everyday and eventually squat 500lbs+, but I’m still feeling pain in my lower back. An inversion table has helped relieve some of the pain, but I’m sure the sheer volume and intensity of squats prescribed in the Smolov base mesocycle would probably make things worst.

So for now, I’m going to play it safe and take it easy on the squats to allow my lower back to recover. This means no squat or deadlift PR’s for a while.

Good news is, my chest and shoulders feel fine, so while I won’t be able to Smolov my way into a bigger squat (and deadlift), I’ve decided to run Smolov Jr. for my bench press.

What Is Smolov Jr?

Zangief Kid

This animated gif is relevant.

Smolov Jr is a 3 week training routine derived from the “base mesocycle” of the Smolov Russian squat routine. Apparently it’s easier and can be used for a variety of lifts. In my case, I’m going to be using this routine for the bench press.

Bench press will be done 4 times per week, with escalating intensities as the week progresses.

Additional weight is added to the bar every week, for 3 weeks in total. For me, I’ll be adding 10lbs to the bar.

Week 1 looks like this:

  • Monday (70% 1RM): 6 sets x 6 reps
  • Wednesday (75% 1RM): 7 sets x 5 reps
  • Friday (80% 1RM): 8 sets x 4 reps
  • Saturday (85% 1RM): 10 sets x 3 reps

Weeks 2 and 3 have the same sets and rep schemes, but in week 2 I’ll be adding 10lbs to the bar from the first week.

  • Monday (70% 1RM + 10lbs): 6 sets x 6 reps
  • Wednesday (75% 1RM + 10lbs): 7 sets x 5 reps
  • Friday (80% 1RM + 10lbs): 8 sets x 4 reps
  • Saturday (85% 1RM + 10lbs): 10 sets x 3 reps

The third week I’ll be adding ANOTHER 10lbs to the bar from the previous week:

  • Monday (70% 1RM + 20lbs): 6 sets x 6 reps
  • Wednesday (75% 1RM + 20lbs): 7 sets x 5 reps
  • Friday (80% 1RM + 20lbs): 8 sets x 4 reps
  • Saturday (85% 1RM + 20lbs): 10 sets x 3 reps

Smolov Jr Bench Press Routine

My current 1RM for bench press is 330lbs (touch and go). I’m going to work with this number for the calculations.

Based on this Smolov Jr calculator, my bench press routine for the next 3 weeks looks like this:


This appears to be doable. I think.

I haven’t bench pressed this many times per week before. I hope this frequency doesn’t aggravate any old injuries, or cause any new ones like a pec tear.

Overhead Press

Supposedly pressing overhead keeps shoulders healthy somehow. I’ve found this to be true, since I don’t perform any dedicated rotator cuff exercises and haven’t had many problems with my shoulders for a while.

With this amount of benching, I won’t be able to perform overhead presses like I normally do, which is normally once or twice per week as prescribed in the Texas Method. In fact, I’ll be removing full OHP workouts altogether.

So in order to squeeze in some OHP work to keep my shoulders feeling fine and minimize any loss in strength, I’m going to warm up for my bench press starting with overhead presses, up to a weight of 140-165lbs for 2-3 reps. I might even try 190lbs for a rep, depending on how I feel.

After that, I’ll move onto a quick bench press warmup (probably 140lbs followed by 190lbs) and head into my main sets from there.

Expected Gains from Smolov Jr

I’ve read people typically get 15-25lbs to their max bench press.

So if all goes according to plan, my bench press 1RM should be around 345-355lbs.

Not too shabby.

Tomorrow the fun will begin...let’s hope this works!

John Phung

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Ever since I started taking strength training seriously, I was bitten by the Iron Bug. Then it burrowed under my skin and laid eggs in my heart. Now those eggs are hatching and I... the feeling is indescribable.

Quick Stats
Height: 5'4" on non-squat days
Weight: 200 lb 210 lb ~220 lb (FOREVER BULK BRAH)


  • Texas Method: March 4, 2011 - April 28, 2013
  • Smolov Jr for Bench Press: June 4 - 22, 2012
  • Starting Strength: Nov 29, 2010 - March 4, 2011