The Smolov squat cycle is the toughest training program I’ve done to date. Squats are simply brutal because they hit every big muscle in the body. Combine that with 2 days between heavy squats and you get lifts with sore muscles.
Training breaks down muscle tissue. Recovery is where 95% of your time is spent and where your results come from. The pumped feeling and look you get after the gym is only from heightened blood flow. Post workout your muscles are actually at their weakest. Ah, the gym: the only place where people go to spend money with the intention to get further away from their goals.
This post covers what I do to minimize soreness and improve my results after intense training. All athletes, gym-goers, and others whose body is of importance for physical performance should follow these protocols for faster recovery.
That’s a fancy name for hot-cold oscillations. If you’re hardcore, do ice baths and hot showers, but most of us normal people with feelings can use a cold and hot shower instead.
This is where an adjustable shower head comes in handy. Turn on only the cold water and put up with it for 40 seconds. If you’re scared of cold water like me, apply it directly on the muscles you work out instead of your whole body.
Next, turn up the water temperature to a safe hot level. Do that for 3 minutes. Go back to cold again for 40 seconds and alternate however many times you think is necessary.
Get out of the shower and I guarantee you’ll feel tingly and invigorated all over! I recommend you do this each time you have a shower, not just post workout. You’ll just feel better.
Stretching disentangles muscle fibers much like pulling on a wrinkled shirt. Aligned muscle tissue means better performance and nutrient flow. It also helps flush out lactic acid like hydrotherapy. And more commonly known, you’ll keep a healthy range of motion in the muscle.
The standing glute stretch is one of my favorite stretches. Hip stretches are generally a great idea for anyone who regularly sits a desk to get good posture and manage lower back pain. You can search Google for good stretches if there’s a muscle group you don’t know how to target or you want to try a different stretch.
3. Foam roll
Foam rolling is self-myofacial release. It’s basically a cheap and easy self-massage. You can learn more about it here.
I’m not going to lie, foam rolling is painful. The more painful it is for you, the more indicative you need it. The trick is to find a sore spot and hold it for several minutes until the pain goes away then move on until you find another muscle knot. During the Smolov squat program, I’m trying to roll my quads for 30 minutes a day because they’re the most painful part for me.
I was going to include a massage as a recovery tip but few people have the luxury to afford a regular one. The effects are the same. Maybe you can treat yourself to a massage as a reward for finishing a training program. Whatever helps you justify the pleasure.
Watch the great video below for ways to best use a foam roller.
The video begins with some ways to use what’s called a trigger ball shared in my next tip.
4. Use a trigger ball
A trigger ball is a little prickly bugga you’ll come to hate. It’s basically a small rubber ball with spikes that costs a few dollars. If you don’t have one, it’s worth the investment, but a tennis ball could supplement it if you’re a beginner.
Use it much like a foam roller. I primarily use it on my glutes because it hits the area so well. Here’s a video of beasty NFL trainer Joe DeFranco using a ball for myofasical release in the glutes:
If the first exercise is too painful, you can put your foot on the ground to lessen pressure.
5. Eat a cow
Or down cycles of quality protein to rebuild damaged tissue from exercise. I supplement with Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard straight after workouts and before bed. ON Gold is touted as the number one supplement on bodybuilding.com for years. Not bad for a product in a volatile industry.
6. Move around
Sport nerds call it “active recovery”. I call it “don’t sit on your ass”. Increased blood flow carries vital nutrients to hasten body repair. 30 years ago doctors prescribed rest for everything. Sprained your ankle? Rest. Had your arm operated on? Rest.
Research today has found rest (read, unused muscles) to be detrimental in full recovery because of muscular deterioration and immobility. Break your wrist, get your arm in a sling, and you may get a frozen shoulder from not using your shoulder! My Dad had lumbar vertebrae surgery last week and had to exercise 3 hours following the operation.
Train hard then on the following nights sleep for 4 hours and you’ll notice extended soreness and muscular fatigue compared to 8+ hours of uninterrupted sleep. For tips to get a good sleep, I actually have a post on that!
It’s fitting to include a post on recovery as the second update to my Smolov squat experience because as mentioned in the first update, recovery seems to be key in this cycle (like it should be in most training programs).
The first week was difficult squatting with sore muscles. I’ve never done that before as I’ve always allowed muscle soreness to go away before lifting. I’ll admit I’m guilty of not following everything in this post to improve recovery. Bad boy!
I lifted 85 kilos quiet comfortably at the end of the first cycle. I feel I could break my 1 rep max of 100kg already. Sweet!
Just quietly, I’m one day behind because I (innocently) thought the second cycle started a day later than it did. Shouldn’t matter. The extra day of rest won’t hurt.
If you missed it, you can checkout the first post of my Smolov squat experience.