Have you ever trained with a Bulgarian Bag? Along with steel maces, I guess that this piece of conditioning equipment really tops the list of odd object training for grappling. Understandably it is a genuinely useful way of improving grappling performance; otherwise, we wouldn’t be discussing it here. The Bulgarian bag is a sandbag of sorts, just firmer and with a very unique shape. It is actually a tool that was designed specifically for wrestlers and features plenty of gripping surfaces to challenge exactly the muscle groups you need for grappling. This crazy fitness tool rally does offer something different, and if you haven’t done a Bulgarian bag workout for BJJ yet, you’ve really missed out on a lot.
Why use a tool that, at least according to its name, originates in Eastern Europe? What makes it so special? Well, all these odd objects that we see in fitness gyms around the world nowadays actually originate in Europe or Asia. The kettlebell is a Russian thing, for example, while the steel mace is a staple of Indian wrestling conditioning. In fact, it just so happens that all these countries that provide us with crazy grappling strength and conditioning tools have some of the best wrestlers in the world, along with age-old grappling traditions. Bulgaria is no different; hence any Bulgarian bag workout for BJJ is bound to make you a much more efficient grappler.
What Is A Bulgarian Bag?
A Bulgarian bag is a fairly new training tool, compared to other similar odd objects that were/are used for grappling conditioning. In fact, the idea of the Bulgarian bag came about in 2005, when a Bulgarian wrestler named Ivan Ivanov came up with the concept. He was an Olympic level wrestler that also coached wrestling in the USA. In fact, he was a distinct Olympic level coach at the Olympic training center in Marquette, Michigan. Seeing the need for a tool that will help his wrestlers become more powerful and explosive while training functionally without wasting time, he came up with the Bulgarian bag.
The inspiration for the Bulgarian bag came to Ivanov from Bulgarian folkstyle wrestling conditioning traditions. These involved training while holding livestock animals over the shoulders, with sheep, lamb, rams, or even baby calves being the preferred options. Not really animal friendly, but definitely worked for Bulgarian wrestlers.
Training in such a fashion is not really sustainable in today’s modern world. Then again, training with barbells and kettlebells and other metal equipment is neither the most efficient, nor the safest way to develop Olympic level wrestlers. Enter the Bulgarian bag. It is crescent-shaped and made out of leather. In Bulgaria, they’re made by hand, mostly from goatskin. On the inside, there are packets of sand, which make it as heavy as you might desire (it comes in several different shapes and sizes).
The bag has to handles on each end, which comes in the form of either handle, or straps, depending on what grip quality you’re trying to train there are also more handles running the length of the outer edge, to further provide grip training challenges. The shape and construction of the bag make each Bulgarian bag workout for BJJ interesting, challenging, and extremely sport-specific.
The Unique Nature Of A Bulgarian Bag Workout
If you’ve never done a Bulgarian bag workout for BJJ, you’ve missed out on a lot. The bag itself looks deceitfully small and easy to manipulate until you pick one up. When you do, you’ll realize that even a 22 lbs bag will take the wind out of you in a single Bulgarian bag workout.
The muscles getting a real beating are those of the grip, wrists, shoulders, back, legs, and the core muscles, particularly those in charge of rotational movement. Given that Bulgarian bags do not come in ultra-heavy versions (no point in training 1 rep max with one), they focus mostly on developing muscular endurance. This is, arguably, the most important quality for any grappler, whether it is wrestling or BJJ in question.
Apart from endurance, Bulgarian bags help develop many grappling specific qualities as well, like agility, speed, coordination, mental toughness, etc. Moreover, the movement patterns are such that you can’t actually mimic or replace a Bulgarian bag workout for BJJ with any other available fitness tool (apart from using a live animal, old-school style).
The Bulgarian bag uses acceleration and deceleration motions in order for you to be able to swing, lift, pass, throw, or spin the bag around. Since a Bulgarian bag workout for BJJ takes place in all planes of motions, is it by definition a full-body functional strength and conditioning workout. Plus, you’re going to develop a gas tank that will never fail you when you have to face a person instead of a crescent-shaped leather bag.
Bulgarian Bag Workout For BJJ
The best part about a Bulgarian bag workout for BJ is that you never have t do the same one twice. It is that versatile a tool. In fact, you could use one for any of the regular exercises, like squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses, biceps curls etc. You could also really work on explosive power by getting one over the shoulders and doing plyometrics like long jumps, jumping lunges or jump squats. You could even use partner drills with a Bulgarian bag. However, one of the best ways to do a Bulgarian bag workout for BJJ is to use it with functional patterns that no other fitness tools allow you to perform.
This particular workout is organized as a circuit. There are 4 exercises that you need to do back to back, without rest, for 10 repetitions each, before you catch your breath for a minute. If you can do 5 cycles of the circuit without too much difficulty, you need to either up increase the number of reps, go for time or get a heavier Bulgarian bag.
- Around The World Swings – 10 (do both sides)
- Bulgarian Bag Snatches – 10
- Alternating Shoulder Swings 10 (on each side)
- Pushups On The Bag – 10
Why waste time with your strength and conditioning “homework” when you can finish in minutes inside the gym or your own home? Pick up a Bulgarian bag, or if you want to be really hardcore, a small livestock animal. Do the above Bulgarian bag workout for BJJ for three weeks, at least three times a week, and you’ll notice improvements in your grappling performance like never before.