Top Set Strength Training Program – Week 1

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Back at it!

I’m finally getting back into a regular strength training program after coming off of the Smolov squat routine. First, let me start by saying I kinda wish I would have just stuck to my training program prior to starting Smolov because I might have possible made more all-around complete progress doing that.

I really felt burnt out after Smolov and had a hard time getting back on track. My upper-back was tore-up from the bar, my elbows and forearms felt horrible and that halted my bench training a lot. With that being said, I do see some value in Smolov, although most likely I would never run it again or recommend doing it more than once. Smolov’s greatest benefit is the repetitive practice that helps you learn how to squat better and more efficient.

When I made the decision to do Smolov for the second time, I was at the time doing more high-intensity with very little volume and thought that changing it up a bit; by adding in more volume with a progressive intensity structure could allow me to put on some muscle and better my squat. So, by doing this I did in some aspects improve my squat, but in the process I sacrificed my bench gains big time!

My plan now is to work myself back into a complete and well-rounded strength program that consists of 6 training days a week.

  1. Squat – 6 Days
  2. Bench Press/ Press – 6 Days
  3. Deadlift – 2 Days

I will be following my own programming I set up for myself based on my specific needs to improve strength in the squat, bench, and deadlift. If you’re interested on how I came up with the Top Set Training Program, check out my article ‘What is Strength and Power? – Mind & Muscle!’

I plan to run this in 3 week blocks making adjustments along the way. After this at some point I want to get back into doing some equipped lifting in single-ply, but this won’t be for at least 12 weeks. I will continue to train hard with the intention to get as strong as possible. Also, I got some new equipment for my Home Gym that will be fun to incorporate into my strength program.

Week 1

Day 1 – 11/11/18

  • Squat: 335×5
  • Bench Press: 245×1,1, 235×1, 205×3,3,3
  • Deadlift Sumo Deficit: 365×2,2,2,2
  • Bench Press Long Pause: 215×1,1,1
  • Seated Rows: 170×8,8,8
  • Leg Extensions – Superset – Leg Curls: 100×8,8,8

Notes: For squat I worked up to a Top Set of 5 and it felt good, I plan to keep pushing it for the next few weeks. Starting to really feel like I am getting my lats and upper-back more involved and locked-in better. Brought my stance back in just a little because it felt more stable.

Bench is feeling way off. After not benching much during the last couple weeks of Smolov seemed to really mess up my bench or I was really burnt-out and I need to rebuild; not sure! Either way I need to make some changes because my set-up feels horrible. I will try bringing my grip in a bit and play with my foot position to get better leg drive without allowing my butt to come up off the bench. Work in progress!

Deadlift is feeling good, but I know I can Improve it much. Work in progress!

Day 2 – 11/12/18

  • Front Squat: 275×1, 300×1,1, 250×3,3,3
  • Floor Press: 205×3, 215,3, 205×3
  • Seated Overhead Press: 135×5,5,5
  • Dips: 25×5, 50×5, 75×5, BWx15
  • Chest Supported Rows: 60’sx8,10,10
  • Curls – Superset – Triceps Extensions: 30’x12,12,12

Notes: I haven’t done front squats in a while, so I put this variation in to mainly stay active, but also to build the upper-back, abs, and quads.

Floor Press is a great variation to get in more volume and build triceps strength. I also did seated OHP after for shoulder health. I am working weighted dips in to see if this can help me build by bench up. I plan to push these each week.

Gotta build the arms up! Doing curls supersetted with triceps extensions gets a lot of work done in little time. I definitely know that bigger arms = bigger bench!

Day 3 – 11/14/18

  • Squat: 350×1, 365×1, 375×1, 320×3,3,3
  • Bench Press: 205×4,3
  • Bench Press Pin: 205×1, 215×1,1
  • Lat Pulldown: 3×8
  • Leg Extensions: 3×12
  • GHD: 3×12

Notes: Squat is going good, feeling confident with heavier weights. Haven’t squatted this much for several weeks.

Bench is super weak. Not much to say, but lots of room for improvement. I will get back! Working on some pin presses to help build strength off the chest.

Trying to figure out how use the GHD properly. I know I’m not doing them right, but I will figure it out.

Day 4 – 11/15/18

  • Safety Squat Bar Box Squat: 290×3 310×3,3
  • Bench Press: 235×1,1, 240×1, 190×5,5,5
  • Deadlift Sumo: 455×1,1,1
  • Bench Press Wide Grip Feet Up: 185×5,5,5
  • Chest Supported Row: 90×10,10, 115×6, 70×12
  • Curls – Superset – Triceps Extensions: 70×8,8,7

Notes: Box squats feeling good, need to stay tighter sitting on to the box. I use these for building the hips mainly for the sumo deadlift. I use the safety squat bar on these to help strengthen the upper-back and keep my chest more up.

Bench still feels off, it might take a bit to get back on track. I will keep at it and it will come back. Did some wide grip bench with feet up to build the chest up, these seem to help in the past.

Deadlift felt great, but not pretty. I really need to get my chest up and hips closer without dropping my butt down. This has been a challenge because when I try to bring my chest up my butt drops down causing a minor seesaw effect. So, I have been just starting in that position and it feels fine, but I know I can improve it.

Used my new chest supported row machine and it’s awesome! Weights feel heavy compared to a regular barbell row.

Day 5 – 11/16/18

  • Squat Pause: 315×1, 325×1, 335×1, 295×3,3, 300×3
  • Bench Press Close Grip Slingshot: 250×1, 260×1,1, 225×3,3,3
  • Squat Pin: 275×1, 295×1, 315×1
  • Chest Supported Rows: 90×10,10,12
  • Pec Fly: 30’x12,12,12
  • Reverse Hyper: 160×12,12,12

Notes: Pause squats are probably the best for helping me learn to stay in position coming out of the bottom. Did pin squats to help build that mid point area where the weight seems to slow down.

Bench actually felt ok, but not great. Slingshot for overload. Did some pec flyes to build and restore.

Reverse Hyper is great! This is a great machine and I feel that this can help take me to a new level. Still learning how to use it, but I am loving it. Feels great!

Day 6 – 11/17/18

  • Safety Squat Bar Squat: 295×3, 315×3, 330×3
  • Hatfield Squat: 350×5,5,5
  • Bench Press Incline: 195×1, 205×1, 210×1
  • Bench Press Incline 2 Board: 195×3,3,3
  • Safety Squat Bar Goodmornings: 200×5,5,5
  • Rear Delts: 30’sx12,12,12
  • Curls – Superset – Triceps Extensions: 30’sx12,12,12

Notes: Did safety squat bar squats and they went better than I expected. After, did Hatfield squats for overload and these went great.

Incline bench was ok, no pain. I am super weak at incline, so I probably should be doing them. Then, I followed up with the 2 board for added volume and those felt fine.

Goodmornings for the back and hamstrings. The safety squat bar challenges the upper back on these too.

Sometimes More is Better!

In the past I have done well with a high-frequency/ high intensity style training, so that’s what I’m going to stick with for now. I am training 6 days a week; squatting all 6 days with many variations and same with bench, while only deadlifting twice within a week.

I typically do my main workouts in the evening and also, do a light restorative workout in the morning most days. My evening workout usually lasts around 2 hrs. and my morning workout is no longer than 15-20 min. tops.

I added some new equipment to my home gym that I’m hoping will help me build-up some of the muscle groups to improve technique and gain more strength.

What I got is:

  • GHD
  • Reverse Hyper
  • Chest Supported Row

With this equipment I will be able to add in more volume in many areas that will benefit my performance. Not only can they be used for building muscle, but also for restorative and active recovery as well. I am also, getting a Duffalo Bar and a Fat Pad for my bench. I decided to invest in myself and get some equipment to not only benefit my lifting, but also to add some excitement and fun into my program.

My goals have remained the same and I am inching closer and closer with each training session. I am far from my potential, so through hard-work, consistency, and persistence I know I will get to where I want to be.

Until next time, Keep Pushing!

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them below.

Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.-Mark Rippetoe





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Marcus is a man of God, married to a wonderful women and has 4 children. He is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and aspiring Powerlifter. He has a passion for helping others achieve personal growth through a healthy fitness and nutrition based lifestyle. With hard work and dedication anything is possible. God bless

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