Bulgarian Blitz

The words below I have copied and pasted from a web site, on Bulgarian style weightlifting for the “natural” trainee, as it put it.

If u want to go straight to the training agenda then skip the first 8 paragraphs.


This article was written for the single purpose of exploring Bulgarian
training methods as they can and should be
used by your run-of-the-mill American weightlifter. Well, that and for
the purpose of firing off a little rant. But, if you can get through
the ranting, I promise there will be some training stuff somewhere in

As of late, it seems that an increasing number of people have taken to
saying that the Bulgarians have lost their edge, and that Bulgaria is
‘no longer dominant’ in international weightlifting. I am not altogether
sure exactly what results these folks are looking at. The 2000 Olympics,
for example, which was about the worst meet in 3 decades for the
Bulgarians, still saw 4 Bulgarian-trained lifters on the medal stand.
Six students of the Bulgarian system medalled at the 2002 World
Championships. As of March 2003, if one were to look at the IWF men’s
rankings one will find that the Bulgarians have a lifter ranked in the
top 3 in ALL SIX classes that are 69 kilos and above. Not only that,
but in 4 of those classes the Bulgarian is ranked number one.

So, it seems to me that in the ‘ever-expanding world of the 21st
century’, the Bulgarians are continuing to more than hold their
own in weightlifting. Especially when one considers that Bulgaria
is a nation of about 8 million, while countries of half a billion
sit and flounder with no lifters and no medals.

But I digress… the fact is that the Bulgarians are still good.
They are better than good. And the single most important reason
for their success is their training methods.

Yes, after comments about how the Bulgarians are not that good
anymore come out of one side of the mouth, comments about how
their training is worthless usually comes out of the other.
The most common version of this old song and dance is a statement
to the effect of “Oh, that routine would KILL you!” Inherent in
this excuse is one of two common premises. First is that the
Bulgarians succeed with their training solely because of enormous
amounts of drugs. Second is that only their hand-picked genetic
freaks could handle that kind of workload.

The problem with the first point is that the Bulgarians are not
that high on the list of IOC drug offenders. Sure, there are
Bulgarians that use banned anabolic substances. But, the same
can be said for EVERY international team, and I do mean EVERY.
The fact is that the Bulgarians dominate the middleweight classes,
where excessive use of anabolics might just put a lifter over his
class limit. Some countries which will remain nameless, for instance
Russia, always seem to have their best lifters drifting through
the 94s and the 105s on their way to being 135 kilo heavyweights.
This type of situation seems much more indicative of drug use, but
of course the whiners do not want to hear logical arguments.
Additionally, the Bulgarian training system is not the type
that would draw too heavily upon the benefits of using anabolics.
The Bulgarian-type workout consisting only of a moderate number
of not-quite-maximum singles imposes a heavy burden on the CNS,
but if one is looking for CNS stimulation or recovery there are
better places than steroids to find it. Again, contrast this with
traditional training programs in the Russian regime where athletes
of high sports mastery would be training on up to 80 different
lifts/exercises a year, with about 25% of these done for sets of 5
reps or more, and you can see a training protocol that drastically
has its effectiveness increased by substances that will increase
protein synthesis and help recovery at the cellular level.

The second point, that of genetics, has a grain of truth in it. The
best Bulgarian lifters have been in the system for quite some time,
and have risen to the top from among the best of the best. However,
one can look down the Bulgarian ranks to see if it is the ‘system’ or
the ‘individuals’. Bulgaria usually has a very deep team of lifters,
so much so that they can afford to sell half of them to foreign countries
. I somehow doubt that, again, in this nation of only 8 million people
there are that many more ‘perfect weightlifters’ born than anywhere
else. The other thing is, these lifters have slowly worked up to what
they are doing over that long time that they have been in the system.
Bulgaria does not throw its 14 year-olds into a situation where they
go from doing nothing to doing 27 workouts a week where they snatch to
a heavy single. In fact, many Eastern European nations that start
lifters as young as 12 years old have them doing only about 30% of
their training as specific preparation for as long as 3 years. It
takes them a long time to ramp up to the volumes they are handling
once they are competing at the world level.

Finally, as an adjunct to both points, people need to realize that
the training program, as the elite Bulgarian lifters follow it, IS
brutal. However, drugs are not as big a piece of the pie as they are
made out to be. Neither is genetics. The Bulgarians have massages before,
during, and after workouts. Do you? The Bulgarians take all sorts of
herbs and ‘adaptogens’ and are deeply involved in legal sports
performance pharmacology. Are you? The Bulgarians on the national
team don’t have to keep a 9-to-5, forty hour a week job. Do you?
The point here is that there are many recovery factors that can come
into play that do make a Bulgarian routine more accessible to their
lifters than to the average American. That said, if you are willing
to do some homework on herbs and learn a little bit about sports
self-massage, etc., you also can reap the benefits of increased

All that having been said, I simply refuse to accept the idea that
there is nothing to learn from their training. In fact, I have
arrived at what I believe is a way to work anyone into a system
that at least draws upon the same principles as the Bulgarian
training methods, and have been using it with myself and others.
You might never get to ‘Full-on Bulgarian’ status, but you can
definitely make their type of workouts work for you…

Step 1: Basic Routine Template


Snatch: 3 singles, using ‘Maximum Training Resistance’ (use matrix)
Clean & Jerk: MTR matrix
Front Squat: 3 singles, using MTR, then 2 doubles with MTR -15 kilos


Back Squat: 3 doubles with Monday CJ MTR + 20 kilos
Power Snatch: 3 singles with MTR
Power Clean and Push Jerk: 3 singles with MTR
Romanian Deadlift: 3 triples with Mon CJ MTR + 20 kilos


Snatch: work up to true 1RM
CJ: work up to true 1RM
Front Squat or Back Squat: work up to true 1RM
[Basically this is a ‘Total Day’ or a simulated competition. Again,
you don’t want to psyche up like this is the Olympics, but you do
want to ‘let loose’ and push yourself to darn near what your
absolute max for that day would be.]
(Goose’s side note; more routines further down the page)

There you have it. Pretty simple, eh? And who could complain about that
volume or frequency? If you cannot handle the above workout schedule,
then you have some serious recovery issues. You may want to consider
retiring from weightlifting and taking up cross-stitch, or something
else less stressful.

Now, one of the important concepts here is that of “Maximum Training
Resistance.” This is what some of you may have heard referred to as a
‘daily max’ before. The definition of the MTR is “the maximum resistance
that can be overcome one time without a strong effort of will or emotional
stress.” This is key in this program, at least as I have it structured
to work for the individual. We want to use the MTR so as not to burn
out the nervous system. Thus, on Mondays and Wednesday, the singles
in the classical and power lifts must NOT be ‘balls to the wall, my
youngest son is hanging suspended over a Judas Cradle’ type of lifts.
They are ‘I can walk up to the bar and pull this weight’ lifts. Of
course, you have to toe the line. Also, you have to learn whether
you are missing lifts because you are actually working above your
MTR, or because your form sucks. For me, it is an issue of pulling
in the snatch and clean and the drive in the jerk. If I am pulling
the bar high enough to snatch it or clean it, and driving it high
enough to jerk it, I don’t feel that I have exceeded my MTR, whether
I am making the lifts or not. If I am missing my snatches out front,
it is likely just because of my crappy first pull and lack of a full
shrug, and not because I am going too heavy. As a lifter progresses,
he will learn exactly where that line is.

At the start of the program, Mondays and Wednesdays only will be done
using the ‘MTR Matrix’. This matrix will appear at the very end of
the article, and I will place appropriate comments with it.

Step 2: Adding a Session

Alright, the first step beyond the basic workout on your way to becoming
a Bulgarian. What is it? On the middle day of the week, you are going
to do 2 sessions. The session you have already been doing will be the
AM session, and the following will be done in the PM:

Snatch 80%/2 (3-4 sets)
CJ 80%/2 (3-4 sets)
Snatch Pulls 3-4 sets of triples with a weight 10 kilos over what was
used for the snatches
The issue here becomes on what day of the week are you able to add a
session. So, if you can do an AM and PM workout on Thursday, that
becomes your ‘middle day’, and you are now lifting Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday.
Though, if adding an AM (or basically just a session 2-3 hours earlier in the
session is a big stumbling block, continuing on with the progression of
the program might be next to impossible.

The other issue here is when to take these steps. That, I am afraid, is
up to the individual lifter and/or his coach. I would say that once you
have been ‘through the matrix’ a couple of times at each and are able to
keep making progress, add the next step. Your body is ready for the challenge.

Step 3: Adding a Day

So, you have added a session. A few months later, you should be ready
to add a fourth day. What previously would have been the M, W, F workouts,
respectively, will now take place on M, Tu, and Sat. What do we add in? On
Thursday, you will do a workout that looks exactly like Monday’s. That
wasn’t so hard, was it?

Step 4: Adding a Session

You have now been lifting 4 days a week, twice on Tuesdays. Your hair
has gotten a little longer than is stylish, and you tend to wear
t-shirts bearing '80s slogans that were not even cool in the '80s.
It is time to move on…

You will add an AM session to Monday. (with the previously done Monday

session moved to the PM, or done second) What will that AM session look like?

Snatch: 85%/2 (3-4 sets)
CJ: 90%/2 (2-3 sets)
Back Squat or RDL to MTR

Step 5: Adding Two Sessions

This is it. The final bump in the road. It may have taken you a year and a
half to work through the prior steps. You now can answer your cell phone
between the clean and the jerk portions of the lift, and you got a new
driver’s license that says “?a? C?/4??” instead of “Dave Smith”. You are
ready for the final step in truly becoming a Bulgarian…

What is added? It’s simple, really. On Thursday you add an AM workout that
looks the same as Monday’s AM workout, and on Saturday you do the following
workout (though it is more of a CNS warm-up than a workout) in the AM:

Back Squat 80%/3 (3 sets)
Power Snatches: ‘light’
Power Clean and Push Jerk: ‘light’

So, there you have it. You now do 8 workouts a week. Craziness? Hardly,
if you have added the steps only once you were ready. Not quite as
extreme as the Bulgarians? Think again, because you are now using almost
the exact same routine that the Bulgarian team has been doing since new
Head Coach Plamen Asparukhov took over for Abadjiev in 2001 and reaffirmed
the Bulgarian team’s commitment to staying in line with IOC doping
regulations. You now train just like Boevski and Jeliazkov, so good
luck and go lift like them…

*The MTR Matrix

This is basically a system of volume/intensity progression that was used
by the old Bulgarian regime that has not fallen out of favor. You can play
with and rearrange the weeks as you like, but my preference is to
go A-B-B-C-A. Some people can handle A-B-B-C-C-A. Try different
things and see what works for you.

Also, to start with a lifter is probably best off basing the entire
mesocycle on the MTR that was used during the first week. So, the
weeks will just build upon each other. As the lifter becomes more
comfortable with the system and his own capabilities, however, he
will become more in tune with what his true MTR is on any given day,
and during weeks B and C, respectively, will basically just do a
second wave and a third wave back up to that weight irrespective of
what MTR was used during week one.

“A” Week: Predicted MTR -20kilos for 2 reps, Pred. MTR -10 kilos for a single,
MTR for 3-4 singles.

“B” Week: Perform A week progression, followed by MTR -10 kilos for a
double, MTR -5 kilos for a single, and then MTR +5 kilos for 2-4 singles.

“C” Week: Entire B week progression performed, followed by a double
with MTR -20 kilos, another double with MTR -10 kilos, and finally
3-4 more singles with MTR plus 5 or 7.5 kilos.

So, if you were doing a simple A-B-B-C-A progression over 5 weeks,
and you found that your snatch MTR was 100 on the first Monday, for
the next 5 weeks your Monday snatch workouts might be as follows:

Week 1: 80/2, 90, 100 (3-4)

Week 2: 80/2, 90, 100 (3), 90/2, 95, 105 (2-4)

Week 3: 80/2, 90, 100 (3), 90/2, 95, 105 (2-4)

Week 4: 80/2, 90, 100 (3), 90/2, 95, 105 (3), 80/2, 90/2, 105 (2), 107.5 (2)

Week 5: 80/2, 90, 100 (3-4)

At this point, the lifter would start over, this time likely using 105 as
the MTR for the first A week in the mesocycle.

The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the
page author.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the
University of Minnesota.


This link is for the original website version of the script.

“the Bulgarian training system is not the type
that would draw too heavily upon the benefits of using anabolics.”

thats actually quite funny! :slight_smile: