Recently I found this article, Heavy Lifting, No Rest, Candy: The Bulgarian Method, on the Wall Street Journal. Ivan Abadijev is the father of the Bulgarian Method and much of this program is based on this approach.
I posted the above article on our site and one of my athletes after reading the article posted:
…there’s little base to the method- whose to say his athletes would have not found success through the conventional method where rest is deemed as important as work. The Bulgarian method is obviously physically taxing but with the rigors of day to day life it might be worse mentally. Your opinion?
Here was my response:
I believe [Abadjiev’s] methods work but would not work for most individuals. His athletes were chosen at a young age and then as adults were full-time weightlifters. His account were that people did not drop out of the program due to injury or overtraining, but the mental rigors of lifting that much were overwhelming. Allegedly, his athletes were rarely “injured”. They worked out 2 sessions a day in short bursts of 20-40 minutes per lift (clean, snatch, squat) buttressed by 20-40 minutes of rest between lifts, about 3 lifts per session. If you think about it in those terms, it doesn’t seem as bad. We use some Bulgarian principles in our training, though obviously not full fledged.
Of course the next question was, how is it incorporated in our program. Well, this program has 4 major commonalities with the Bulgarian Method.
1. Concentration on the clean and jerk, snatch and squat.
We, like the Bulgarians, concentrate on the classic Olympic lifts. That might seem like a “duh” statement but keep in mind, we as CrossFitters are not weightlifters. We are distance running gymnasts who lift weights. And when we are lifting those weights, we could choose to do so in a myriad of ways from moving a stone to pulling a weighted sled. Concentration on the Olympic lifts is not a given for someone looking to be proficient across ten recognized general physical skills. That said, we have “discovered” that the Olympic lifts (along with running) provide the most athletic development for the proverbial money. So we do them.
2. Lift heavy, often.
Probably the main tenet of the Bulgarian system is to lift heavy all the time. This was possible for those in the program as the were elite athletes and specialists. Since we specialize in not specializing we wouldn’t be able to lift heavy all the time. So we lift heavy, often, through max or near maximal, lifts with at least one of the classic lifts per training day.
3 & 4. Short training sessions. Well timed rest periods.
The Bulgarians kept their training sessions to about 30 minutes per lift. Abadjiev believed testosterone levels would drop after this time period and his lifters needed to replenish their stores with an equally timed rest period. As mentioned the Bulgarians also broke their training up into morning and evening sessions. Again, under the precept this would restore testosterone levels. This program is ideally broken up into morning and evening sessions as well. And time limits on max or near max efforts are also incorporated.
Now Abadjiev would tell you to engage in this modified version of the Bulgarian Method would give subpar results. Again recall, we are not looking for world-class weightlifting results. We are looking for world-class CrossFit results. So far, the athletes following this program PR nearly weekly. And these are not noobs. These are seasoned athltes, albeit, not specialist weightlifters. Whatever shortcomings are inherent in our modified version of the Bulgarian system, we try to address it in other ways.
NOT for time:
30-50 UB double unders
ME strict hspu (-1) + ME kipping hspu (-1)
7-10 weighted butterfly pull-ups
15-20 weighted (w/ vest) box jumps @ 24/20″, Games standard
With a running clock:
On the initial minute, EMOM for 7 minutes:
3 position snatch @ 75-78% of Wednesday’s max (video)
On the 10th minute, EMOM for 7 minutes:
3 position clean @ 75-78% of Tuesday’s max (video)
On the 20th minute:
2 minute AMRAP