I expected week two of Smolov Jr to be tough. The first week I had ridden the wave of enthusiasm and motivation for a new strength stimulus. The second week would be a test of commitment and belief – could I love front squatting this much!?
I had originally calculated 5kg as my increment each week. My recent 65kg for 3 reps had allowed me to predict a 70kg max rep for week one. However, Alis wisely reminded me that each rep has to be achievable with correct technique. Failure is not an option. At a 5kg increment each week, could I see myself lifting 70kg for 10 sets of 3 on day 4 of week 3? No! Indeed I had never front squatted that weight before, ever, and definitely not at that volume. 2.5kg increments would be intensity enough!
These were my numbers for Smolov Jr week 2:
Mon – 6 sets, 6 reps at 70% = 52.5kg
Wed – 7 sets, 5 reps at 75% = 55kg
Fri – 8 sets, 4 reps at 80% = 57.5kg
Sat – 10 sets, 3 reps at 85% = 62.5kg
Every session I needed to do an extended warm up. As a 52 year-old athlete, I know I need a long warm up just get the stiffness out and mobility into my joints. When everything feels warm and loose and quick, I am ready to go! (I should also mention my morning and night foam rolling sessions, just to keep everything moving.)
Each Smolov Jr session began with rowing for 5 minutes, followed by animal crawls, the greatest stretch in the world, prisoner squats and wall angels. Then a 20kg barbell complex of 2 sets of 6 reps snatch balance, overhead squat, snatch high pull, snatch. Then I did 2 warm up sets of front squats with a green mini band just over my knees, 40kg and 50kg.
The sessions for Monday and Wednesday followed this routine and I felt strong. By Friday however, my legs were heavy and achy. My quads felt like crunchy bars and my shoulders felt tender where the barbell rested. I reminded myself that I had to keep shoulders and chest well pushed up to keep the bar cushioned and there was still plenty in the tank to get me through this. (A two egg omelet and a coffee to be exact!)
Ah the first couple of sets in my 8×4 on Day 3… then my front squat demons mocked me. My descent was good, but getting back up my knees wavered and I had to fight hard and red faced to get past my sticking point. I grimaced and held on to the bar for dear life as my chest dipped.
Time to take a long rest and reassess. The next 6 sets, I approached the ascent more deliberately. I told myself: “take as long you need to fight your way up and keep good form.” Any rep done with the wrong technique is a wasted one. I definitely did not want to waste all that effort. This psyching worked for me. I survived.
So when Saturday, Day 4, came, I knew what to expect and I was ready for the fight. I made it over the finish line of my week 2 front squat experiment.
A big thank you to wonderful Alis for giving me feedback and encouragement all week. She was the angel on my shoulder willing me to succeed. As a reward for
completing the second week, I treated myself to a couple of Clean lifts. Alis had assured me they would feel easier after all that front squatting. She was right, they felt great!
And did I say how much more I enjoyed eating and sleeping this week? Mmmm… Bring on week 3! Smolova Snr. is ready and motivated to front squat more than ever.