Smolov and Knee Pain

Saturday, July 13th 2013


Good Mornings with Barbell 2×10
Monster walks lateral/forward/backwards 2×10 steps
Side planks 2×30 seconds


Smolov Squat Cycle:

10X3 @ 85%+, rest 2 minutes

Notes: If last week’s squats were all easy, and you had zero problem with any reps, you may add between 10 & 20# this week. If they became difficult in the last few sets, and you experienced some legitimate soreness, you may add between 5 & 10#. If you could not complete all sets or could not walk because you were so sore, do not add weight.


20 minutes to work up to a 1RM Clean & Jerk



“Diane” 21-15-9 reps for time of: Deadlift 225/155# Handstand Push Ups

Notes: This is one of our most commonly repeated workouts. Be sure to write down your numbers and post how you did compared to last time!


Cooldown/Core Work:

3 rounds:
Max Effort hollow holds
10 Shoulder bridges (single or double leg)

Stretching x1 min each:

Pigeon Stretch
Couch Stretch


High Five!

Recent knee pain?


As many of us are experiencing all of the wonderful benefits of the Smolov Squat Cycle, our bodies, most notably our knees, appear to be the least happy with our current PCF programing. Is this normal? Yes and no.

Knee pain is never really normal but its not surprising that so many of us are experiencing this sudden ache and discomfort in our knees recently. Here are a few reasons:

1)   Volume: Due to the added number of sets per day and days per week heavy squatting, we are looking at (for most people) a few extra hundred pounds of compressive forces that our knees are sustaining, most notably the patellofemoral joint.

2)   Muscular imbalance. High bar back squats are very quad dominant, which is great, but there needs to be a safe ratio of quad to hamstring strength. The Guideline has been 3:2, meaning that if you can lift 30 lbs with your quad, you should be able to lift 20 lbs with your hamstring.  If this ratio changes, which is very common in heavy squat cycles, the quads “outgrow” the hamstrings and ratios of 3:1, or 4:1.5 become much more common. This is important because the joint biomechanics of the knee are altered and the amount of joint compressive forces significantly increases. Also, muscular tightness of the quads usually occurs which makes it even more difficult for the hamstrings to do their job properly. Its also quite common to develop tight hip flexors which also can cause decreased activation of the posterior chain. Be aware that everyone is built differently, so these specific imbalances although quite common, are not always true for everyone. Just understand that any imbalance can lead to injury.

3)   Breakdown in form due to fatigue. When doing 8 sets of 4, I usually see people hold their form for the first 4 sets, but the last 4, I see that form is less of a concern vs. doing whatever they can to get the bar back up on the rack. The most common faults are excessive knee genu valgus (knee dropping in) and shifting weight from the heels into the toes. Both are a problem that can lead to knee pain because they significantly increase the torque placed on the meniscus and increase joint compression.

4)   Lack of adequate warm up. This last one is huge because it can go along way to help reduce the negative consequences of the top three reasons I just discussed. The whole purpose of a good warm up is to prepare your body for the specific movements/activities that your body is about to encounter. This means that your warm up must be methodical and purposeful. I spoke with Jessica Suver (Crossfit Games athlete and expert coach here at PCF) about her warm up because like many of us, she used to experience severe knee pain. However, she has since learned a new set of stretches/exercises and became more diligent with her warm up routine, her knee pain is virtually non existent. I asked if she could share her routine with us. So here it is:

 Jessica Suver’s Hip/Knee Warm up:

-Foam Roll IT band and quads
-Couch stretch x30 sec per leg
-Gymnastic leg swings forward/lateral x10 each
-Hold bottom of squat x1 min – 5 steps forward/backward
-Lunge/Pigeon Stretch (shin off ground) x30 sec
Quad/Hip flexor stretch track stretch x30 sec
“Thomas Stretch” for hip flexors/Quads x1min
Hip External Rotation Stretch x2 min

 So as you can see, its quite lengthy, but it targets everything needed to get her body prepared for extensive squatting, Olympic weightlifting, and vigorous Crossfit conditioning. It is very well planned and more importantly, it works for her.

 The bottom line is that there are a multitude of reasons why your knees maybe giving you problems right now, but there are also just as many solutions to fix the problem. Listen to your body, give your self a warm up that’s specific to your own needs, and if you need any additional assistance correcting your knee pain, you can always come see me for an in depth evaluation and treatment.

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