Recently I’ve been doing some reading and research
on a guy who has to be not only one of the greatest
strength coaches of all-time, but one of the greatest
sports coaches of all-time.
I’ve talked a little about him before, but I’m going to give
you some more detail today and tell you what both you
and I should learn from his training.
This guy was responsible for producing 9 Olympic
Weightlifting Champions and 50 to 60 European and
World Champions. And all from a country with a
population of just 8 million (roughly the size of a city
like London, LA or New York).
This man is of course….
And he almost single-handedly took Bulgaria from a
mediocre Weighlifting country to the most dominant
Weightlifting force of the 1970′s and 1980′s.
So you must be asking yourself, “How the hell did
this guy produce so much from such a small and poor
Weightlifting And Sport In Eastern Europe
It’s important to understand the mentality of Eastern
European countries when it comes to certain things such
They value these sports a bit like we in the West value
Soccer, Football, Basketball and Rugby. In other words, it means a lot to them.
Children in these countries were often made to train
for certain sports by the people who worked in the national
Everything from your mental characteristics to your
size, speed and ability to pack on muscle were taken into
account when it was decided for you what sport you would
These countries in effect created machines that were designed
to churn out champions.
And they were very successful.
However, that much success had some downsides and many
lifters were left broken by training systems that only the
strongest (both mentally and physically) could survive.
This is true of Ivan Abadjiev and his unbelievable Bulgarians.
But I don’t think he cared how many lifters he broke, he
just wanted medals. And they were often GOLD.
And I’m not here to judge the rights and wrongs of such
a system, but rather to marvel at the success it created
and hopefully learn from it and use it to help us all get
Here’s an overview of how Abadjiev trained his Weightlifters.
You must bear in mind that his ideas evolved over time (like
all good coaches should) so what you see hear is simply
from my research and may not be true for the entire time he
was coach. But you’ll get a very good idea of the way they
Prepare yourself because this is H*rdcore:
The Most Brutal Training System EVER
The Weightlifters training under Abadjiev’s used only 5
exercises! YES, just 5.
When Abadjiev took over as Bulgaria’s national Coach
19 exercises were being used.
He quickly whittled it down to 5:
- The competition Snatch
- The competition Clean and Jerk
- The Front Squat
- The Power Snatch
- The Power Clean
The reason for this was all down to Abadjiev’s belief in
the theory of…
Specific Adaptation To Imposed Demands (S.A.I.D)
You get good at what you practice.
And he found that the exercises that carried over best to the
the Snatch and Clean & Jerk were the ‘Power’ variations
and the Front Squat.
* Note… at times other exercises were used but it was
almost only ever when training around an injury or for
For the most part, just those 5 exercises were next.
Next up, let’s look at training frequency…
Abdjiev’s liftes trained almost every day and lifted 2 or
more times a day.
(Remember, when training for competition, these guys
lived, ate, trained and slept at the national weightlifting
facility and they didn’t have regular jobs).
The rep ranges they used were 1 to 6 nearly all the time.
Workouts lasted around 45 minutes or less and many
recovery methods were used; both in between sessions
and at the end of the day. Massage played a key role in
the success of these athletes.
So to re-cap, here’s how the Bulgarian Weightlifting System
looked under Ivan Abadjiev:
- 5 Exercises were used (The Snatch, Clean and Jerk, Front
Squat, Power Snatch and Power Clean)
- There were multiple training sessions per day (nearly every
- Rep ranges were 1 to 6
- Rest periods were 2 to 3 minutes or more
- Sessions lasted approximately 45 minutes
- Multiple Recovery methods were used, including massage
- Lifters lived and trained at the National Training Facility
So, given the success this system produced, am I saying that
we should all train Bulgarian Style? No I’m not, and let’s look
The Harsh Reality Of The Bulgarian Training System
This system broke more lifters than it made. Abadjiev didn’t
care because he still found his 1 in 1000 champions. But, if
you want to stack the odds in your favour it wouldn’t pay to
model a system like this that only works for a small %.
This system suited ‘model’ lifters, meaning guys who were
genetically suited for the Olympic Lifts.
If you were bio-mechanically suited for the Olympic Lifts that
didn’t ensure your success. You MIND had to be solid as
a rock too….
Multiple Training Sessions per day, only 5 lifts, only 1 to 6 reps
performed per set. Kinda boring eh?
And that’s why most guys couldn’t hack it.
So, what can we take away and learn from the Bulgarians?
S.A.I.D… If you want to get a Bigger Squat, Bench, Deadlift or
any other lifts; you must practice it and prioritise it in your training.
You don’t have to take this to the extreme that the Bulgarians did
and end up with only 5 exercises, but don’t think that Glute Ham
Raises or Dragging a Sled can replace a Squat. If you want a big
Squat… do a lot of Squatting and then build up your weaknesses
with sensible assistance movements. I show you how to do all this
in my DVD. You can discover more about this here:
Recovery methods were certainly high up on Abadjiev’s lists
of tricks up his sleeve and we should certainly learn from this.
Do all that you can to work on your recovery. Here’s 7 recovery
methods you should be using:
7 Awesome Recovery Methods
1. Eat well
2. Stretching post workout
3. Peri-Workout nutrition
5. Swim Recovery
6. Contrast Showers
Another thing to consider from the Bulgarians is multiple
training sessions per day. Not something I do personally, but it can
I am not suggesting that you train 4 times per day!
However, if your Squat session normally looks like this:
- 3 to 4 Assistance Movements
You could try Squatting in the morning and doing your
assistance in the evening. Each session would probably
be a little more productive than doing everything at once.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the Bulgarians. If you
want to see more then do a search on YouTube or check
out Iron Mind’s DVD: Unbelievable Bulgarians.
More than anything else, this stuff is just inspiring and makes
you want to train smarter and HARDER than ever.
For more inspiration and to see how to develop extreme
Strength and explosive power, click the link below: