The Russian Squat routine is a fairly well known and popular 6 week peaking phase for squats, however it shares some problems with programmes like smolov it’s pretty hard to train other heavy lifts if your doing an intense squatting cycle 3-4x a week. Not to mention that a significant number of people end up not completing these programmes this can be down to a number of reasons.
One of the main reasons for burn out being people going from one squat session a week and then jumping straight into a 3-4x a week specialisation cycle.
Let’s say person A does 5/3/1, person B does the Russian Squat Routing and Person C does the smolov base cycle. Let’s also assume they are carbon copies of each other with a 150kg starting max.
Below shows the volume load (weight x total number of reps) of working sets only assuming they are performing the first block, smolov base cycle, first 3 weeks of RSR and first 3 weeks of 5/3/1 respectively.
As you can see RSR and Smolov offer a huge increase in workload versus a good one day a week programme like 5/3/1.
Three things happen usually on these sort of specalisation programmes.
1 – The lifters burns out and fails to complete the programme.
2 – The lifter notices a huge increase in their top end.
3 – The lifter fails to keep hold of their increased strength because the workload drops back down to what they where doing before thus they loose their gains.
Looking at the graph above it is pretty easy to see why these three things come about. How about a compromise…
Enter Russian Masters.
Russian masters is a peaking programme for squat that uses 4 weeks of volume work (accumulation phase) followed immediately by 5 weeks of increasing load (intensification). The programme involves 2 sessions a week one of which remains constant 6 sets of 2 at 80% of your training max, and the second session will change every week but it follows a pretty logical progression.
This programme allows for a tapered increase in volume, followed by a tapered increase in weight your not going into a massive increase in work load instantly (greatly reducing the chance of burn out) and it allows time for you to reap the rewards of your increased work loads (during the intensification phase).
Below is how 8 weeks on the programme might look for someone with a 150kg squat.
This is a good programme if your looking to improve on your technique or looking to spike your squat strength whilst being able to train at a decent level in other lifts. It is also easy to keep hold of your strength increases, simply by squatting twice a week you can stay around a similar squat work load and thus you shouldn’t notice a huge crash in strength after a glorious PB.
The chances for injury on this programme are also reasonably low since it is both programmed sensibly to gradually bring about the changes in volume and weight but it will not represent a 300%+ jump in your frequency since it is at most one extra squat day a week for most people.
I used this squat cycle while cutting weight for the IPF classic and managed to maintain a decent level of strength whilst cutting 20kg of body weight, I have also known almost everyone who has done it to come out the other end 10-20kg better off in their squat 1RM.
This programme isn’t only good for squat you can pretty much apply it to any lift, Scotland Strongest man competitor Davy Cummings from the shetland islands is a huge advocate of the russian masters programme and is currently using it for both his bench press and log press you can look at his training log here to maybe see how this programme can be implemented in the real world.
I hope this programme brings you many weeks of squat gains.