T Nation

Misconceptions of Bulgarian Training


First, allow me to make a few things clear. I am a 17 year old kid with some decent lifts and reasonable strength. What I say here is purely what I have been told by a former Bulgarian weightlifter who migrated to Australia. If you watch the Ironmind video on the Bulgarians, you will see at the beggining the little guy who fails a snatch, that's him. I am by no means an expert, but I found it very interesting, and at odds with the usual idea of what Bulgarian trainings is.

A quick google search will tell most people that Bulgarian training at the elite levels compromises of snatch, clean and jerk, and front squats, this is entirely true and accurate. However the main misconception occurs because the only things people see are articles of the methods used by the elite lifters. The problems stems from people having no idea how these lifters got there in the first place.

From my talks with said Bulgarian, the were was an enormous amount of build up programs used before they entered the national program. At age 11 he was made to do things such as hold a bar in a clean starting position for 10 minutes, carry rocks around, run nto other kids etc, most of the training through the teen years had an enormous amount of variety for all the lifts. Work from the hang, from the waist, from below the kness, all styles of squatss etc. Each lifter in the regional training programs was given specific programs with alot of variety. People who have read Simmon's articles on Oly lifting will be surprised to find that the squats and pulls were often the driving factors as he himsself advocates. Weaknesses were heavily targeted with specific work. All this development means by the end of their regional training alot of the lifters arrive at the national training hall as extremely well rounded lifters with little imbalances and weaknesses.

By the time they actually get to the national training hall under Abidjev (however the fuck you spell it) they are extremely capable units who can suffice entirely on a program of snatch, clean and jerk, and front squats with a few extras thrown in around the place.

Further more, the programs you find on the internet only show the regular programming schedule. Work such as hang cleans etc were done in BETWEEN the numerous sessions because the Bulgarians regarded this as light work in between to bring up any problems.

Again, this is all second hand information from a guy who was there, for all I know he could be telling me different to what happened, but I highly doubt it. The internet has strongly obscured perrception of Bulgarian training. The true principle is that the lifter is so well prepared, so musculalry balanced from several years of excersises ranging from the lifts to throwing rocks that they are at a level of physical readiness where by they just need to snathc, CJ and front squat.

If a sprinter has an equally sound start, acceleration and top speed due to his over all physical balance and control... why bother working on the start undividually, the full run should just be practiced. Sure at times the start may need to be worked on exlusiviely etc. Similar principle.

I am by no means trying to spark a debate, I do stress this is second hand information from a reliable source and I am merely conveying it. I have neither the expertise, experience or strength to qualify this as my opinion. I hope it does provoke some thought.



Extremely well said and, hopefully, hard to debate with. makes great sense. This is what ive heard from the people who have trained in the actual bulgarian regional or national program or know those who have talked with them. We just got a georgian guy back from training in europe under a bulgarian coach and the programming he brought back is highly supportive of at least 4 years of very diverse lifting.



What's Bulgarian Training


This is way, way, way outside my expertise (probably because I don't have a lifting "expertise" yet), but I want to second an appreciation for how well you put your post: You give an idea as to your background and how you came about the information, and present it in a clear and balanced way. Lots of people here older than you could learn from your example.

Thanks for sharing this.


Thanks for sharing! You should write a book about this. I would buy it. :slight_smile:


Maybe when I total over 400 kilos and actually have lifts to back up my 'knowledge.' I have no desire to become another guru.


That was a really good post.

It's the sorta thing that should really be fairly obvious when you think about it too. Like afaik there's been research which shows early specialisation isn't a good idea unless you've the relevant capabilities to support it. Sounds a lot like what the Bulgarians were doing!!


Thanks for such an excellent post.
When you think about it there are no real differences between all the various systems.

All emphasise an ultimate goal of eventually working at maximum intensity and limited number of exercises, it's the build up to this which can last 6-8 years is what is intersting.
The question is: should a lifter who typically started lifting at 18-20 engage in such a process.

If you have any more info/details please share!


Certainly an interesting question.

I can again (unlike the vast majority of teenagers) only speak from experience. The tactic I have seen employed is somewhat similar to what I can the other kids who started realtively young go through. There are 3 guys atm who have started at 18-20 and, holding my coach as a steady variable, the change seems to be less variety but still a huge focus on weakness.

At the core of any strength sport is the elimination or minimsation of weakness. Weakness not just in the typical sense of a stciking point, but anatomical problems that are generally rampant. Generally any program should endevour to minimse that.


Cool, thanks for sharing. Is this lifter your coach now?


That was an excellent and informative post by the OP.


Well, I tought your information was interesting and well written. How much you lift doesn't really matter, the fact is that you are a good writer.


Thanks for clearing that up Fuzzy. It's been a pet peeve of mine, when people think that Sn/C&J/FSq was all there was to their system.

Article about the Bulgarian system: http://mikesgym.org/articles/index.php?show=article&sectionID=2&articleID=113

Discussion about said article: http://www.fortified-iron.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=235122891


Exactly. I remember there was a thread a while ago where some kid posted that the "only way to train" was maximal snatch, C&J, and front squat every session, and how he was ready for this kind of training after only 2 years of prep. I wonder how he's doing now.

If I may ask, the lifter is Ivanov, yes?


Interesting, I think being well rounded is important for any athlete, and accessory exercises are important for that end.


Thanks for sharing, a great post!


Well written mate :slight_smile:

All lifters should work on weaknesses. Your only as strong as your weakest link. If you can't squat up with 150kg then get you better get cracking on front squating, Your back rounds like f0ck during your 2nd pull, you hammer pulls/ pulls to mid th igh so your back is rock solid throughout the 2nd pull,

BUT there comes a time when NONE of this matters to a few select few (world class competition lifters with 6-8yrs experience and over 7000 training hrs) you just have to get obscenely strong and powerful :smiley: and roll with what you got.



Great post! Like others have said very well written, a really good thing you did is that you didn't try to come off like some sort of expert like soooo many people on the internet try to.

Also I might not be on Oly lifter but, there is still things that I can learn from that post, it's somethings everyone needs to keep on their mind, to work on your weaknesses.

Does your Bulgarian friend recommend putting more emphasis on an individual's weaknesses over the lifts themselves?

Do you have anymore Bulgarian training information to share?