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Note: I know that this is not enough time for muscles to fully recover, please read my entire question

I have participated in weightlifting for over 6 years now, and from the start I've constantly heard not to work out the same muscle group two days in a row. The reasoning makes sense, and I've followed this strategy with all of my lifting, up until now. I recently started the Smolov squat program, which as part of the routine involves squatting two days in a row.

My question is whether, for more experienced weightlifters, there can be a benefit to stressing the muscle while it is still mid-recovery, perhaps due to a different sort of response from the body. Could a potential different kind of response make up for the fact that the workout from day 1 of 2 is not fully recovered from?

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Everybody is different. Every body is different. Some people recover faster than others. I recover VERY fast and I do NOT see results unless I hit my body very hard. It has always been this way for me. I hit chest and back 4 times a week - Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. It's the only way I've ever seen results. Just sayin... –  Soylent Green Jul 8 at 14:35
    
@SoylentGreen This question is more addressing working out the muscle before it is fully recovered. For you, that might mean working out your chest in back once in the morning and at night, so as to not allow for full recovery. –  meanderingmoose Jul 8 at 14:52
    
Seems to me that Smolov doesn't really aim to exhaust the muscles and then work with them in a not-yet-recovered state. It seems much more like what olympic lifters do, where they do quality reps until speed and/or form starts to suffer (not even near failure). That way recovery needs (especially CNS) are kept down which allows for higher frequency. –  LarissaGodzilla Jul 9 at 7:38
    
@LarissaGodzilla I'm not sure if you had a chance to read through the program, but days like 10x3 at >90% of your max get very close to failure. Regardless of the state that particular workout brings you to, though, I still am looking for an answer as to whether there can be a benefit to working out a muscle before full recovery. –  meanderingmoose Jul 10 at 15:58
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@AndrewGauthier - This is not a discussion site. This is a question and answer site. Questions that promote discussion are off topic. It's a subjective question, but it's not good subjective. Say Soylent posts an answer about how it works for him, and I post an answer saying it would destroy me to do that. How does that help answer anything? –  JohnP Jul 10 at 16:42

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted
+50

The underlying basic principle to exercise is the concept that in order to force your body to get stronger, you have to demand more from your body than you have in the past. This same principle is at work whether you are a beginner or very advanced. When the body adapts to the increased demands, it does so with a little room to spare. This is called supercompensation. The following chart provides a visual and helps with the understanding:

Supercompensation theory

You'll note that there is no timeline on this curve, because that changes as you get stronger. As a beginner, those changes happened daily or every other day. As you progress those changes can be weekly, biweekly, monthly, or over the span of multiple months. However, the basic mechanisms are the same:

  • You have to provide enough training stimulus to force adaptation
  • If you overdo the training stimulus, you get into overtraining and end up weaker
  • The training stimulus is the overall volume of work you do
  • You have to provide enough time/nutrition/rest to recover from that training stimulus to realize the strength gains

The Smolov squat program is a peaking program, which means it's goal is to help you demonstrate strength, not build strength. If you are not used to the volume of this program, I don't recommend it. Mehdi overhypes the program, but some people do respond well to it. When I attempted it my squat was 405 lbs--and no I did not squat 500 when it was done. That said, let's break down the program a little bit to help you understand how it works:

Base Microcycle

This is essentially work capacity training. The goal is to get the volume in, and slowly increase the volume by adding weight each week. The volume for the first 3 days (every other day) is fairly constant (35-36 reps). The last day is the heaviest, but it is lower volume (30 reps). This provides a little rest as your body gets used to heavier and heavier weights.

For me, the base microcycle worked very well. You gain a lot of confidence in your squat by doing it so much. Just make sure you don't cheat yourself on depth--particularly if you compete in powerlifting. While the last day was hard, I didn't feel as beat up as the earlier days. When the next week starts, the weight is much lighter than the 10x3 day, but a little heavier than last week. By the end of 3 weeks of this I was pretty beat up and enjoyed the week off afterword.

That week off of no squatting until you test your max is very important. Don't do anything that week. Essentially you've been working yourself deeper into the fatigue part of the supercompensation curve, and a week of nothing allows your body to finally catch up and do it's recovery work.

While I did squat 440 lb (twice) at the end of this stage, the reps were high and I didn't have the humility to use a lower number to plug in for the the remainder. Don't make that same mistake. Use the strongest legal squat you can. This program rewards humility and punishes the proud.

Switching Microcycle

The name of the game during this short stretch is speed. You are working with lighter weights, and allowing your body some more relative rest. However, you are also training yourself to perform movements more quickly. In the real write-up on Smolov, there aren't any set exercises for this 2 week period. Power cleans are great, as are any Olympic lifts if you can do them. Speed squats are also a decent choice.

You might feel like this is too easy, particularly after the first part. Just resist the urge to overdo it and work too heavy. This microcycle is about recovery.

Intense Microcycle

This is where things fell apart for me. The intensity phase is all about peaking. You will be putting in a lot of work, and if you aren't careful you'll fall into the "training too hard" curve like I did. Just as a sanity check, if the 5x5 assigned during the last two weeks is the same as your current 1RM, you were way too aggressive for the numbers you put in for this phase. I managed to get through 5x5 at 405 lbs (my previous max before starting the program), and then couldn't finish the program. I had to dump the bar anytime I got close to 405 lbs. This is why I recommend being very conservative with this program.

That said, as you are building up the volume earlier in the week, you are working towards higher intensities with lower volume later in the week. The idea is to help you get used to heavier weights and demonstrate strength later on. The same thing happens at the end of this microcycle as it did in the base microcycle. You have a week off, and then you compete (or test your new 1RM). If you were smart and played it very conservative, you should be presented with a new 1RM. If not, you might have your squat fall apart and you'll need some time to regain confidence in it as happened for me. That said, don't expect to hit that squat every day.

Understanding Training in the Broader Sense

There are several training protocols where you squat every day (for example the Bulgarian method). The problem isn't so much the frequency, but managing fatigue and allowing for supercompensation to happen.

There are several components to fatigue, but training too heavy all the time or burying yourself in volume does make you more prone to injury. You'll find that a lot of standard strength building programs either incorporate a planned recovery week (like Wendler 5-3-1) or they have light weight with many reps ramping up to relatively heavy weight with a few reps, and starting over a little heavier.

The article on increasing work capacity also helps understand a lot of the basics of training theory in a way that makes sense.

My final parting thoughts are good luck, and be humble with Smolov.

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+1 I didnt' even read the whole post (shame on me), but the first sentence is perfect. –  Soylent Green Jul 11 at 14:59
    
I highly recommend reading the rest of it. It includes some helpful hints based on when I ran Smolov. –  Berin Loritsch Jul 11 at 15:22

The reason why people recommend that you do not workout the same muscle group 2 days in a row is to lower the risk of you damaging your muscles whilst they are rebuilding and strengthening from your training.

Having said this... this is a recommendation not a rule. Therefore, workouts such as your Smolov squat program are perfectly okay to attempt baring in mind you are risking the chance of damaging your muscles.

I myself workout the same muscle group 2 days in a row but in a way that lowers the risk.

  • Day 1 - Intense leg workout (Full weight)
  • Day 2 - Mild leg workout (Half weight)

The reason I workout the same muscle group is to enable my muscles to react more aggressively. By this I mean - usually we rest our muscle groups after one workout. But by continuing with the same muscle group the next day you shock your muscles in to pushing more out of them, albeit a slightly less intense workout you will gain twice as much as they are fatigued from yesterdays workout but not in full swing of the recovery mode.

Have you ever felt the DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) worse on the 2nd day? after the workout not the 1st? This is because on the day after workout the muscles are not quite in full swing of recovering...by day 2 they are in full swing and will ache the most.

In Summary I would recommend a similar workout as I do. Having a slightly less intense 2nd day if working out the same muscle group. BUT do not attempt to workout the same muscle group if your DOMS is extremely painful. This is a clear sign that your body is in full recovery and you will only damage your muscles and gain less than you started with. Since you are a seasoned trainer I feel you will have no issues with doubling your muscle group training to maximise the results!

Good Luck!

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Out of curiosity, do you have a source (besides personal experience) for the idea of shocking your muscles and getting twice as much out of them? Thanks for your answer. –  meanderingmoose Jul 10 at 18:14
    
@AndrewGauthier My source is based on my own personal experience and other personal trainers that I work with and the results we gain are extraordinary to what a normal workout gains. Therefore, I can only recommend on this basis and cannot guarantee its effectiveness will work for everyone... however it worked extremely well for the people I have trained. I hope that helps. –  cocojay Jul 11 at 9:43
    
Fair enough. What would you see as the result if the second day was done again at full weight? –  meanderingmoose Jul 11 at 11:56
    
@meanderingmoose The result of attempting to do a Full Weight workout on Day 2 was not much to be honest...apart from the fact that there is a high risk of injuring and damaging the muscles. It is almost impossible to do the same workout as Day 1 IF Day 1 was indeed a full workout to your MAX. If you are able to do a full workout consecutively then this would only mean that you did not workout hard enough in Day 1. Therefore, a half weight is on Day 2 feels like a Day 1 workout because the muscles are not fully recovered. –  cocojay Jul 14 at 13:49

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