Are you looking for a way to spice up your strength and conditioning routine? Look no further than Bulgarian bags! Bulgarian bags are a great training tool for any fitness enthusiast looking to increase their strength, coordination, and overall fitness. In fact, they are an excellent choice for anyone looking to get creative with their workouts and challenge themselves.
While still relatively unknown, they have been growing in popularity in recent years due to their many benefits for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike. In this blog post, we will discuss what Bulgarian bags are, who should use them, their benefits, and what to look for when buying one! So keep reading to find out more…
Bulgarian Bags - A Quick Overview - Created in 2005 by Bulgarian and former Olympic wrestler, Ivan Ivanov - Great for (most) beginners to advanced users with traditional to unique exercises - Ideal for combat athletes due to power and rotational development - Especially useful for circuit training or HIIT (high intensity interval training)
A Quick History Lesson
Bulgarian bag variations have been around for centuries, and were originally developed in Eastern Europe. Over time, the shape and materials of the bag evolved from its original form into what we have now. Ivan Ivanov, a former Olympian (from Bulgaria!) and wrestling coach, is widely credited with creating the “modern” Bulgarian bag back in 2005.
As legend has it, livestock animals were given out as prizes in the annual Bulgarian Folkstyle Wrestling Festivals held in his native country. As part of this tradition, the winner of the final match must “swing” the livestock prize—a lamb, sheep, ram, or even a young calf—over his head in order to carry it on his shoulders and proceed proudly through the audience.
Today’s more modern Bulgarian bags are made from durable fabrics such as leather or nylon, and can hold anywhere from 8-50+ pounds depending on size and weight preference. These versatile tools provide an effective way to perform exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once, making them ideal for strength training programs.
Similar to slam balls, they also allow athletes to practice explosive movements like throws and rotations while maintaining control during each rep.
Why should I use a Bulgarian Bag?
Increase strength in different planes of motion
Due to their unique design, Bulgarian bags are an effective tool for increasing overall muscle strength and coordination. Unlike traditional weights that usually only move in one direction or plane, the Bulgarian bag shifts with you while you perform various exercises and easily allows movements in different planes of motion.
This constantly shifting weight means more muscles are being worked differently and simultaneously. In addition to challenging your stability, it also requires better coordination in order to successfully complete the lift. In short, it means your typical exercises are much more difficult when using a Bulgarian training bag.
Easy To Learn
While not easy to do, it’s easy to learn to use a Bulgarian bag. As such, it can be used by a wide range of users; more on this below.
The Bulgarian bag allows you to experiment with different exercises and add variation into your training routine; keeping your workout enjoyable while still being highly effective.
Because the bag is mobile, you can swing or easily move the bag around your body. That movement means you have different options available to you that you don’t get from standard equipment.
Who should use a Bulgarian bag?
Much like a sandbag, this versatile piece of equipment can be used by pretty much anyone for virtually anything – lower body training, upper body training, enhancing grip strength, improving core strength, and more.
Beginner to Advanced Trainees
Now, personally, I wouldn’t use a bag for a complete beginner. In those cases, they should focus on the basics of training – such as mechanics and proper form. Basic barbell and dumbbell routines are the place to start. Once that’s understood, though, a Bulgarian bag can be used from novices to advanced athletes alike.
Remember, the weight (or load) should be adjusted based on the user’s strength level. In the same way, exercises should be based on the user’s skill level. For example, a novice may focus on “easy” movements such as front squats, presses, and lunges. A more advanced athlete could look at doing overhead squats, a Bulgarian bag swing (similar to a kettlebell swing), or floor-to-ceiling press.
Great For Athletes
A Bulgarian bag is also great for athletes, especially combat athletes such as those involved with wresting, BJJ, Judo and similar sports. Remember, the Bulgarian bag is a training tool and this particular tool is really great at working the entire body at once while incorporating rotational movements, which is something that combat sports (in particular) needs.
Those sports also require endurance – both muscular and cardio – which can be trained effectively when using a Bulgarian training bag. It’s great for circuits or HIIT, which help mimic the demands of the actual sport. Since it also enhances core strength and grip strength, both of which are hugely important in combat, you now have an ideal training partner.
What are some benefits of using a Bulgarian bag?
As I mentioned, a Bulgarian bag is a great tool for enhancing strength, muscular endurance, agility, and overall fitness. Let’s look at a few of the overall benefits of using one:
- Overall fitness and strength – the entire body can be worked efficiently by virtually anyone familiar.
- The unique shape lends itself to unique and challenging exercises – work on those weak points and use muscles you’re not used to using.
- Because the bag can be thrown or dropped, it’s ideal for power movements and rotational movements.
- Numerous handles – both main handles and side handles – and a couple straps allowing you to grab or hold the bag different ways. As such, you can strength train multiple different grips and grip strength.
What are some common Bulgarian bag exercises?
Much like body weight training, there’s almost an endless amount of so-called functional training you can do with a Bulgarian Bag. Here are 5 common Bulgarian bag exercises to help you get started:
- Squat – A great lower body exercise that works your quads, hamstrings, and hips. You can work different variations from the front squat to a back squat to a myriad of others.
- Lunge – Works your legs and glutes while also engaging the core;
- Push-Up – Adds resistance to this classic exercise and develop strength in your arms and chest;
- Overhead Shoulder Press – A great shoulder (and upper back) movement where you simply press the Bulgarian bag over your head. Again, there a ton of shoulder exercises you can do.
- Core Rotations – Incorporate rotational movements for an extra challenge for your abdominal muscles
Again, that’s just a smattering of the different things you can do with the bag. In a future post, I’ll add a good Bulgarian bag workout that you can do. In the meantime, there’s always YouTube.
What Bulgarian Bag Should I Buy?
Let’s just look at a few factors that make a good bag.
1. Durable and high-quality materials – Quality is paramount when choosing a Bulgarian bag, as it should be able to withstand the vigorous movements that come with training. Look for bags that are built from premium materials; such as thick vinyl, canvas or leather.
Also, look for a good warranty; for example, the Suples brand bags come with a 2-year warranty which is well beyond the norm.
2. Weight – Some bags are shipped empty and it’s up to you to fill them. Others are already filled 2usually with sand and have a fixed weight. While there’s no right or wrong answer here, just be aware to buy one that fits your strength level. Here’s a handy guide on which one to buy, based on the experts from Suples:
3.Handles – Most bags have the same basic handle design – 3 top handles, a couple side handles, and 2 straps. Simple, right? But during intense exercise when grip strength is drained and hands get sweaty, sometimes the handles can “go flat” from continuous gripping and you lose a lot of surface area to hold onto. This is generally a thing with a cheaper bag so just be aware that it may (or may not) be an issue.
If you’re looking to buy one, here are some really good options. While the Suples brand is very highly rated, it’s also the most expensive option on this list. The other two are worth checking out if you’re looking to save some money –
The Bulgarian bag is a great tool to incorporate into any weight training program. This versatile piece of equipment can be used for a variety of exercises to target different muscle groups, making it perfect for whole body workouts. Due to its unique design, the Bulgarian bag is ideal for both beginners and advanced users alike.
It is also an excellent choice for any HIIT or circuit workout since it builds stamina and strength while providing a more intense challenge than traditional weights. Whether you want to increase your overall muscular strength or develop agility and coordination, the Bulgarian bag offers a great way to take your training up a notch.
What the difference between a Bulgarian and a Sandbag?
Bulgarian bags and sandbags are both effective tools for strength and conditioning training and vary similar in terms of their benefits. The main difference is the shape of the two: the Bulgarian bag being a half-circle shape while a sandbag is more of a straight line. A sandbag also tends to be heavier and less comfortable for certain movements where a circular shape is preferred (like in a back squat).
Who Benefits From Using a Bulgarian Bag?
Anyone who’s interested in strength and fitness, especially when performing circuits or HIIT. Beyond that, they’re ideal for combat athletes such as wrestlers and BJJ practitioners due to their versatility and ability to enhance entire body strength.
Are Bulgarian Bags Easy to Use?
Yes! They’re easy to learn but difficult to master, making them ideal for beginners to advanced lifters and athletes.