The Bulgarian Weightlifting Method: Can We Use It?

Now if you’re interested in Olympic weightlifting it would be a fair to assume that you are familiar with the Bulgarian method for weightlifting. If not then allow me to give you a little history behind it…

 

The Bulgarian method was the brainchild of Ivan Abadjiev, former head coach of the Bulgarian national weightlifting team. During his first spell as the head coach (1968-1989) he coached 9 Olympic champions, 57 world champions and 64 European champions. It’s fair to say his system gained a lot of interest especially when you consider this was from a country with a population of just 8 million people.

 

Abadjiev was a huge believer in the S.A.I,D principle – Specific Adaptaion to Imposed Demands – In short, you get good at what you do a lot of and in the case of Olympic Weightlifting that’s lifting maximally in the snatch and clean and jerk. That’s exactly what Abadjiev programmed, training as heavy as possible…..everyday.

 

Nicknamed the “Butcher” for the level of commitment he demanded from his athletes, his program consisted of training up to three times a day and pretty much always working up to a max in each lift, lets just say it was very demanding and tiring but the athletes would adapt…..or break but that was a small price to pay for building an Olympic champion.

 

To give you an idea of how a week might look here is the training schedule for the week.  

 

Session 1 - (Mon, Wed, Fri)

9:00-9:30 -

Front Squat

9:30-10:00

Break

10:00-11:00

Snatch

11:00-11:30

Break

11:30-12:30

Clean and Jerk

12:30-13:00

Front Squat

 

Session 2 - (Mon, Wed, Fri)

16:30-17:30

Clean and Jerk

17:30-18:00

Break

18:00-19:00

Snatch

19:00-19:30

Front Squat

19:30-20:00

Pulls

 

Session 2 - (Tue, Thu, Sat)

 

9:00-9:30

Squat

9:30-10:00

Break

10:00-10:45

Power Snatch

10:45-11:15

Break

11:15-12:00

Power Clean 

12:00-12:30

Front Squat

12:30-13:00

Pulls

 

I think you’ll agree, it looks like a tough day at the office.

 

To get an example of how that might look in regards to training loads etc. click on the link below to have a look at an athletes training journal.

 

http://www.owresource.com/training/images/bulgarian.jpg

 

  

Now there are a few things to understand when looking at this program. The lifters exposed to it were at the elite level already, masters of the sports and their technique was already ingrained. This is why all assistance exercises were admitted from the program, they had already spent years building them and now they focussed on lifting heavy in the classical lifts. They lived and breathed for training, they didn’t have jobs and the stresses of everyday life which allows them to have such a high training stress. They were also more often than not doping to allow themselves cope with this huge workload. All in all it’s not for your everyday Joe.

 

So should we disregard the program and the principles all together?

 

No, not in my opinion, there is a lot to be said to lifting heavy. After all it’s the nature of the sport, but rather understand how to use it so that you can reap the benefits from it.

 

I believe that the principles of the Bulgarian method can be used as part of the bigger picture, 2-3 weeks of daily maximal training, when prescribed intelligently,  following a building phase is something I have seen work really well. Especially leading up to a competition. It allows your body and technique adapt to heavy weights but first you must prepare your body for this with a slightly higher volume/ less intensity program which will include a greater variation of lifts to help build up certain areas of the body to cope with the demands of heavier weights.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion there is a lot we can take from the Bulgarian Method with regards to conditioning yourself to lift heavy. However for those of us who aren’t full time lifters training smarter is far more productive long term. Using the principles as and when instead of year round can yield great results but take the time to condition yourself to be able to handle the work load and PBs will come.

 

Train smart, train heavy and stay healthy