If you can imagine trying to work out using a heavy and awkwardly shaped sandbag, you can understand why the Bulgarian Bag is such a game-changer in the functional fitness world.
A crescent-shaped weight filled with sand, this fitness innovation is typically made of leather or canvas and has flexible handles allowing for both lower and upper body training and building grip strength.
Ranging in weight from 11 to 50 pounds, these game-changing weights feel heavier than they are, due to the slumping and unpredictable nature of sand.
A versatile tool that improves both general fitness and muscular endurance, it can be utilized in any exercise typically performed with a barbell as well as multi-planar drills and rotational swinging.
The Bulgarian bag can be used to work the core, upper back, legs, and shoulders as well as the forearms and biceps, depending on which exercises you chose.
Who’s the Bulgarian?
The Bulgarian bag is a relatively new innovation in minimalist exercise. Former Olympic wrestler and Olympic wrestling coach Ivan Ivanov had been looking for a training apparatus that increased the power behind explosive and dynamic movements used in wrestling such as pulling, pushing, twisting, bending, squatting, throwing, lunging, and rotating.
After searching the strength training and powerlifting market, he came up short.
Then in 2005, he became inspired by the sheepherders at the street fairs of his native Bulgaria who displayed incredible strength and endurance. When a sheep or lamb grew too weak to walk on their own, the shepherd picked them up and carried them around their shoulders while keeping their flocks all day.
Ivanov created the Bulgarian bag to mimic the body of a sheep who had grown limp from exhaustion, wanting the kind of dead weight that can be hard to manage. As such, he formed a crescent-shaped bag and filled it with sand.
His product was so successful at increasing muscular endurance that it changed the concept of functional weight training. The unique design caught on, not just in the wrestling world, but in fitness training and professional athletic programs throughout the globe.
Together with retired Navy SEAL and enthusiastic fan of the invention Stephen Nave, Ivanov established the International Bulgarian Bag Confederation. Aimed at educating the public about the benefits of training with a tool like the Bulgarian bag and showing how it improved explosive and dynamic strength movements, they offer instruction to personal trainers, fitness gyms, and individual customers.
How to Train with a Bulgarian Bag
An incredibly versatile tool, the Bulgarian bag can be utilized in the performance of any exercise where you would normally employ a barbell or kettlebell, including:
- Front-loading exercises like the front squat
- Shoulder-loading lifts such as lunges, jumps, or squats
- Arm or leg swings
- Handle exercises including curls and rows
A typical beginner’s workout might entail a 4-round routine consisting of:
- Spin right for 30 seconds
- Spin left for 30 seconds
- Front Squat for 30 seconds
- Shoulder press for 30 seconds
- 60 seconds rest
- Improves functional fitness
- Increases power in explosive and dynamic movements
- Builds grip strength
- Improves balance and coordination
- Increases muscular endurance
- Improves ability to perform traditional lifts
- Strengthens and protects joints
Buying a Bulgarian bag can be pricey, typically setting purchasers back $150-$250. However, you can make one yourself relatively easily for around $15. All you need is:
- Tractor or truck tire inner tube
- Sand, Wood pellets, or rubber mulch
- Zip ties
- Duct Tape
The Bulgarian Bag: An Exercise in Minimalism
Minimalist training, when done right, is both effective and simple. Using one primitive and basic weighted bag for all your lifting needs is minimalist training at its finest. If you want to improve your functional fitness while increasing the power behind explosive, dynamic movements, the Bulgarian Bag should be your go-to gym tool.