Build tree trunk legs with this little-known ultra-effective routine
The biggest fitness mistake I’ve ever made is skipping legs for the first 2 years.
Post my realization, even after 2.5 years of meticulous leg training, my lower body severely lagged — while my deadlift got close to 450 lbs, I struggled to squat even 260 lbs.
While running the compound-lift-dense Lysaur program brought my numbers up, my squat was still dismal.
Determined to bring up my lagging legs, I hopped on the Smolov Jr. squat program — a 3-week routine with 4 brutal squat sessions per week.
Given that I had miserably failed Bench Smolov Jr. in the past and stopped a previous squat Smolov attempt, my hopes were dismal.
But I miraculously succeeded — and my squat 1 RM went from a gritty 291 pounds to a grittier 313 pounds. Here’s a video of the latter:
A highly compressed GIF of the author’s squat attempt
Here’s an Overview of Those 3 Weeks
Post-keying in my 1 RM in the Smolov Jr calculator and using a brave 11 lb weekly jump, these were my numbers:
Screenshot by author
Forget week 3, the thought of the 1st week’s last workout itself got me perspiring.
I didn’t change my diet but bumped up my sleep a bit — plus I started foam rolling.
- 6 Sets of 6 Reps with 202.5 Lbs: This proved easy, and I got done within 30 minutes — I was doing reps without even pausing at the top.
- 7 Sets of 5 Reps with 217.5 Lbs: This felt (surprisingly) easier than the previous but took a while longer.
- 8 sets of 4 reps with 232.5 lbs: Moderate. The first set moved slow but the rest went well.
- 10 sets of 3 reps with 245 lbs: Similar to the above. The last 4 sets took longer rest times.
As I felt the fatigue and soreness set in, I bumped up my calories and became more religious with the foam rolling.
- 6 Sets of 6 Reps with 213.5 Lbs: Slightly harder than week 1.
- 7 Sets of 5 Reps with 228.5 Lbs: Again (weirdly) easier than the 6X6.
- 8 Sets of 4 Reps with 243.5 Lbs: Between moderate to hard — the last 2 were quite testing.
- 10 Sets of 3 Reps with 256 Lbs: The first hard workout — especially the last 4 sets.
By this point, I stopped estimating my calories and tried to sleep 9 hours a day. With my body adapting to the fatigue, the soreness receded — but my knees got quite snappy.
- 6 Sets of 6 Reps with 224.5 Lbs: This was hard — from the first set itself. But the last one felt easier.
- 7 Sets of 5 Reps with 239.5 Lbs: Since I did this the next day itself, this was even harder.
- 8 Sets of 4 Reps with 254.5 Lbs: The hardness climbed another notch — it left me sweating like a pig by the end
- 10 Sets of 3 Reps with 267 Lbs: Sleep wasn’t good, and I used a double caffeine dose — barely hit parallel on many of the sets. Funnily, as the caffeine wore out, the sets got easier — and I did 11 sets by mistake.
The Most Shocking Part of The Result
The workouts were so exhausting and intense that despite the bumped-up calories, I didn’t gain any weight — in fact; I lost a half-pound.
It’s a win-win-win — higher strength, muscle gain, and fat loss.
My Top 8 Tips for Smolov Jr
Smolov is for neither the faint of heart nor the casual lifter — you need a fair bit of masochism to grind through it.
- Don’t Run This if You’re a Beginner or Early Intermediate. A linear program will serve you better. Use this only if you’re a late intermediate or advanced.
- Bump up Your Calories in A Weekly Fashion. Add 250 calories for week 1, then 100 to 200 more for week 2, and at least 500 to 750 for week 3.
- Sleep (At Least) 8.5 Hours. If you don’t sleep enough, you WILL not recover enough. Supplement with ZMA or Melatonin if you have trouble.
- Warm-Up Carefully. If you don’t want to snap your spine (or knees) or tear your quads (or hip flexors), meticulously warm up.
- Use Textbook Form (at Least in The First Week). As the weights get heavier, form will break down a bit, but try your best to use good form. Much of Smolov’s results come from your body mastering the form.
- Foam Roll Obsessively. This deep-tissue massage tool will shoot your recovery to the skies. I did only pre-workout rolling but ideally, do post-workout as well — mid traps, lower back, glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
- Avoid All Lower-Body and Spinal-Erector Movements. Don’t deadlift. Don’t barbell row. Don’t leg press. Just don’t add to the already-high fatigue. Also, cut down your horizontal pulling volume.
- Use Caffeine only On Your Squat Days. Since your body readily adapts to caffeine, to keep its potency high, use it only on your squat days. Also, use 1.25 to 1.5 times the dose in week 3.
- Massage Your Knees if They Feel Snappy. Use oil if you wish. Slight snappiness and fatigue are normal but if it’s too much, you’re probably squatting wrong. Fix your form.
- Blast Some Hard EDM or Metal. This is a mental game — only the hardest of music can amp you up enough.
One Reddit user wrote, “Don’t run Smolov if you’re into bodybuilding, it’ll make your regular workouts look drab”.
He’s right. Since Smolov, even my hard strength workouts have lost some of their sheen. That’s the beauty of it — the hardest of things are also the most satisfying.
More than the boosted squat or leg gains, Smolov will leave you a changed man (or woman).
And that perseverance will carry over to all aspects of your life.