Bags of Bulgarian Fun!!

Ross Bulgarian bag squatsWhen I first heard about this tool I thought it was just another money-making modality, the brain-child of a hungry fitness professional who had thought of a new twist on a sand bag. Well, like the man in the orthopaedic shoes, I stand corrected!!


This bit of kit blew me away, the Bulgarian bag is designed to add resistance to any and all exercises in one way or another. Drills like squats, reverse lunges, bridging all take on a new meaning when performed with this bad boy!!

Some of you may or may not remember Dave Starbrook, he was Great Britain’s first Olympic medallist in judo. He formulated this workout and I routinely perform this with a sand bag as it stresses the grip in the same way a judogi (uniform) would. Plus I like grip training, as some of you may have guessed!!!

Anyways, I was messing around with the bag and came up with a circuit which goes as follows:

Bulgarian Bag swings (performed like a KB swing utilising a powerful hip thrust movement to start the drill) – 6 reps
Around the worlds (swing the bag in an arc around your head trying to keep it away from your body – an excellent core movement) – 6 reps each way
Jump squats (rest the bag around your neck/traps area and hold the handles) – 10 reps
Lateral lunges – 6 reps each leg
Push-ups (position the bag around your neck as in the jump squats) – 10 reps
Neck Bridging (rest the bag across your chest with the handles under your arms) – 15 reps

Go through the above like crazy and don’t stop until you’ve completed all reps for all movements. After the neck bridges, rest for 60 sec then repeat for another 3-4 rounds. Remember, this is for combat athletes so if the neck bridges aren’t for you, you could substitute them with glute bridges – where you simply lie on your back, with feet flat and planted on the floor, and raise your butt up by contracting your glutes and hamstrings, pause at the top and return to the start.

This was a nice little complex to do when short on time, and worked the anaerobic system nicely.
I started to think about making it more taxing for myself and came up with the idea of tweaking the Starbrook circuit. The various handles on the bag made performing the Starbrook circuit with this tool a real puker!!!! Right up my street…

The original line-up for the circuit is detailed below:


Shoulder press – 10
Tricep extension – 10
Reverse curls – 10
Bent over rows – 10
Curls – 10
Straight-arm pullovers (lie on a bench if you have one, if not the floor will suffice and bring your arms to the top of a bench press position, take your arms back towards the floor so you end up at the top of what would be the military press at the end of the movement)  – 10
Step-ups – 10
Leg raises – 30.

This is done three times through without rest. Starbrook, prided himself on being as fit, if not fitter than his counterparts. Up to the point that the Russian international team (who were seemingly invincible during the 70s) gave him the nickname “Iron Man”!! Starbrook only used an Olympic bar for the routine. He recommends a weight of no more than one-third of your bodyweight. For example, if you weigh 90kgs, then 25-30kgs should be challenging enough, as the tempo for the workout is brisk.

For performance enhancement, Starbrook would do this immediately after a run or 1-3 miles. For weight reduction, he recommends doing the run after. My take on performance is to have the athlete perform a set of Tabata (20 sec work with 10 sec rest) burpees then move into the routine itself. I gained a massive amount of anaerobic endurance with this routine and it only takes around 15-20 mins in total. But it leaves you on the floor!!!

If you want to try it….

That is the original circuit remember. My variation with the bag went like this:

Shoulder press – 10
Tricep extension – 10
Reverse curls- 10
Bent over rows – 10
Hammer curls – 10
Pullovers – 10
Jumping Squats/lunges – 10
Around the worlds – 10 each way

Go through this little lot three times completely without rest, to see what you’re made of. It’s a great little complex to perform when you’re short on time – people always use time as an excuse!!! But at the end of the day, you either have an awesome result or pathetic excuse. Which will you choose?

There you have it – whichever circuit you play with ensure the weight is challenging enough for you but it should be no more than one-third of your bodyweight. Too heavy and you won’t complete, too light and you’re not gaining anything!!!

As always please post your comments too folks!!