When I first heard of Bulgarian Bag Training, I imagined some form of vicious Eastern European regime, where elite housewives are trained to get the last loaf of bread off the supermarket shelf.
Sterotypical and harsh maybe, but I wasn’t all that far off the truth. Believe me after being put through my paces with one of these things I would not get in the way of anyone in a Bulgaria let alone their supermarkets.
Actually the story goes that this training device was developed by a Greco-Roman wrestler named Ivan Ivanov and his inspiration was the tradition of shepherds performing feats of strength with their sheep and goats at street fairs in Bulgaria.
In 2005 Ivanov was coaching the U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling team at the time and looking for ways to improve the explosive strength of the team. He thought back to the shepherds and the way they showed off in his native Bulgaria when forced to carry weak sheep across their shoulders. The design of the Bulgarian Bag is based on a sheep. You couldn’t make it up really.
However, his invention has proven so successful that fitness trainers and athletes around the globe have taken it up to increase muscle endurance and general fitness levels
I popped along to Wimbledon where Dan Newman, a personal trainer and Bulgarian Bag specialist (an Englishman who to my knowledge does not own any sheep) showed me what a workout Bulgarian style is all about. Believe me its intense.
Dan started off by explaining to me how force production in the body works and using the ground as a stability starting point to generate energy along the body’s myo-fascial lines. The what? I hear you cry. Well as Dan explained there are pathways of connective tissue throughout the body that are both linear and spiral. The way in which the body moves is not linear and athletes in physical sports such as rugby, football and martial arts move in directions that require explosive force in different directions.
This is where the Bulgarian Bag comes in. It basically works so many muscle groups in relatively few exercises that after just one session I can see why professional sportsmen and women have taken to it to give themselves that extra edge.
Also, because you are working so many different muscle groups it gets your heart and lungs pumping. Be the time I left Dan’s gym I was sweating hard.
I was able to get a lot out of the session due to Dan’s methodical approach. Before we even touched the bag he had me perfecting my deadlift and squat techniques. Its easy to get into bad habits doing weights and I know I have slipped into a few. After doing a few rounds of working with the bar we ironed out the loads I was transferring to my back to make sure I was using my legs properly. Then we did a bit of work on the kettle bells.
This is where you really notice if you are centred, stable and fluid in your movements to accelerate and decelerate loads to get the maximum efficiency and benefit out of your workout.. However, while kettle bells can only bring into play the front and back myo-fascial lines, the Bulgarian Bag works the all important spirals that strengthen those twist movements and all round physique.
When I was ready for the Bag I seemed to pick up the technique pretty quickly and that was a case of taking all that Dan had told me and dialling in the form and technique I’d picked up from the deadlifts, squats and kettle belling.
After a few rounds of getting techniques right on various exercise I went for the circuits that Dan teaches.
First off I did the Basic Spin Protocol (5 x 10 spins left, 10 spins right and 10 press ups) in four minutes
Then I completed 3x Bulgarian Bag Circuit:
10 spins left, 10 right
10 squat jump with bag
10 lateral lunge with throw
10 Lunge each leg (20 total)
10 Sit up, Stand Up, Press
10 Power Snatch
I did the first two using the green 8kg bag and then completed the third and definitely the hardest the red 12kg bag. With just a minute rest in between sets I was aching.
I’m going to look into doing more Bag sessions and as I started on a stereotypical note I’m going to finish on one. If the Welsh ever hear that this thing was based on the design of a sheep, trust me its going to be massive over there.
If you want to learn more about BBT then check out Dan’s website: http://www.personaltrainersinwimbledon.com