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vol. 2012 issue 1



Bulgarian Training Bag

The Bulgarian Bag was invented by Ivan Ivanov at around 2005.  Ivanov, a former Bulgarian Greco-Roman Olympic athlete, was working as a U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling coach at the Olympic training center in Marquette, Michigan and was looking for a training tool that would allow his wrestlers to improve explosive actions and dynamic movements involved in pushing, twisting, swinging, pulling, bending, rotating, squatting, lunging, and throwing.

Ivanov was inspired by the tradition of shepherds performing strength acts with sheep and goats on street fairs in his native Bulgaria. The shepherds were often forced to carry lambs and weak sheep around their shoulders when they were wandering with their herds, and were showing off their strength at festivals. Ivanov based the design of his tool on the body of an ovine and saw its use as a modern interpretation of the old tradition.

Although the Bulgarian Bag was initially designed for Olympic class wrestlers, it came to be adopted by fitness trainers and professional athletes for its ability to increase muscular endurance and make weight training more versatile.  One of the first advocates of the Bulgarian Bag outside the Olympic wrestling circuit was fitness specialist and retired Navy SEAL Stephen Nave. Along with Ivan Ivanov they formed the International Bulgarian Bag Confederation to educate the public and offer advanced instruction to individual consumers, personal trainers and fitness establishments.

The unique shape of the bag created by Ivan Ivanov is designed to achieve both upper and lower body training.

Muscular Endurance Training

  • Training with the bag is designed specifically for building strength and overall conditioning by performing high intensity repetitions with short rest intervals.
  • The number of repetitions for each exercise can be anywhere from 15-30 per set or 30-60 seconds per set with only 10-15 seconds of rest between each set.
  • The sets for each exercise can range between 2 and 5. Remember, bag training is not about lifting it only few times per set, it is about pushing through when you are tired and fatigued. (This is my special recommendation for athletes that have set high goals within their sport)

Explosive Power Training Below are the most coming exercises when building explosive power with the Suples Bulgarian Bag.

  • Upper body:  Spinning the bag to the right and left, power snatches, shoulder throw imitation or baseball swings, throwing the bag over chest - body lock throw imitation, body twists and a few others.

  • Lower Body:  Long jumps, squats jumps, lunges, jumping over the bag sideways, scissors with the bag, swing squats, sprinting with the bag on level surface or on a incline like bleachers or hills.

When training for explosive power, you want to perform 3 to 5 sets of 12 to 15 reps per exercise, with 1 to 2 minutes of rest between sets.

Using the bag during warm-ups:  The bag can be very helpful as a warm up before physical activity, especially before weightlifting. Some of the best exercises for loosening up your muscles are: Spinning the bag, bend over-good mornings, body twists - left to right , squats, lunges among others.  Based on ability and level of preparation, each coach or athlete can custom design workouts to maximize user potential.

Do-It-Yourself Construction


  1. 1:  Heavy Duty Inner Tube (Larin Passenger Tube).
  2. 1:  50lb bag of sand.
  3. 2:  Heavy Duty Zip Ties
  4. 1:  Contractor Cleanup Bag
  5. Duct Tape


This has to be one of the easiest pieces of equipment that I've made (along with sandbags). 

  • Simply cut a small section from the inner tube (including the nipple). 

  • Roll one end of the inner tube up (start from the inside out) and zip tie it to create a handle.  I prefer to run a piece of duct tape over the zip tie for added security and abrasion resistance.

  • When using a fine material like sand, I prefer to stuff a contractor quality trash bag inside of the inner tube to prevent leakage.  Fill the bag with sand and tie and tape it.  (When filling my bag, I continued to weigh it until I came up with 35 lbs.)

  • Roll, Zip, and Tape the other side of the tube.

  • Done!

Some of the plans that I have seen for these bags use a bunch of tape on the handles.  I prefer the rubberized feel of the inner tube.  Great training tool!


The Bulgarian Bag (


USA Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!

Suspended Push-Up


It's a new year, and I'm starting to run low on ideas for my customary monthly bodyweight exercise!  So since I recently picked up a Universal Strength Apparatus (USA) I thought that I'd take this year to feature some of the many outstanding suspension exercises that can be performed on the USA (or other suspension tools).  I figured the suspended pushups would be as good as place to start as any.  They are probably one of my favorite suspension exercises and the additional shoulder stability required by the straps really add to the excellent chest burn and stretch.  As with many of the suspension exercises, the closer you get to horizontal, the more challenging the exercises become due to the increased percentage of your bodyweight you will be using.  This makes the exercise possible for most levels of strength and fitness since beginners can start from almost a full standing position.


Target:  chest, shoulders, triceps, core (pectoralis major, deltoids, triceps bracchi, rectus abdominus)

Count:  2 count

Description:  Choose the appropriate handles of the USA to provide you with an angle that you can handle for 8 or more repetitions.  Grip the handles and plant your feet firmly on the ground or sturdy chair, bench, or box.  Keeping your body as straight as possible as you lower down and up for the pushups, focusing on stability and control of your hand/arm motion throughout the range of motion. 


I figured this would be as good a time as any to hit an article on motivation.  After the holidays, there's a good window of opportunity when people are much more receptive to improving their fitness and diet, due to the guilt of gluttony peaking at the New Year's Eve celebrations J  Work Hard - Play Hard is a good motto... but since we just got done with the whole "Play Hard" portion... You know what comes next!

Although the list of exercise benefits is impressive, it is apparent that just hearing about them does not assure consistent exercise compliance in most individuals.  Research suggests that 50% of persons starting an exercise program will drop out within the first 6 months (Wilson & Brookfield 2009).

How people view themselves based on past experiences and current reality soundly influence their physical activity choices.  Self-perception plays a major role in whether people will start exercising, and it may impede some individuals from beginning a program... even if exercise has been recommended for medical reasons.  Fortunately, these self perceptions are modifiable, especially with social support and encouragement from others (including exercise professionals).

Once people start an exercise program, there are additional factors that come into play that affect the motivation to continue.  Research designs designated the following major categories as those affecting participation and adherence to exercise...

Demographic and Biological Factors - Research shows that men are more involved than women in physical activity.  Moreover, being overweight and/or obese consistently proves to be negatively associated with exercise adherance.

Psychological, Cognitive and Emotional Factors - The primary psychological factor associated with exercise adherence is a person's confidence in her or his ability to do exercise and be consistent with workouts (self-efficacy).  Ensuring that a program involves exercises that the person is able to perform successfully is important to bolster their self worth.

Behavioral Attributes and Skills - It appears that there is a positive association between a healthy diet and exercise adherence.  Affirmative health related outcomes that people detect and appreciate from exercise program are a principal catalyst to exercise compliance.  The key, however, is to acknowledge that truly realizing these healthy outcomes often takes months from the start of the program.  Positive feedback and knowledge of actual fitness gains also play a large factor in confidence and motivation.

Social and Cultural Support - Numerous studies show that social support from a significant other or meaningful friend is highly associated with exercise adherence.  Working out with a personal trainer, participating in group fitness activities, or having a workout buddy can increase this support and keep things moving.

Physical Environment and/or Physical Activity Characteristics - Easy access to exercise facilities, as well as the satisfaction with the actual facility, appears to enhance exercise adherence.  For some people, watching others exercise also helps to motivate them to continue their own workout plan.

It's easy to come up with barriers to exercise (excuses) and some can certainly be valid.  However, you will often find that if you try as hard to come up with reasons to DO IT, they are just as easy to come up with as your excuses as to why you can't!  Make time, not excuses!

ref. IDEA Fitness Journal, Jan.2011

It's Go Time!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!  Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be so loud.  I know that there are a good portion of you out there that might be moving a little slow after the New Year's celebratory events J  And why not... 2011 is done and here we are in 2012.  Whether you had a good year in 2011 or a bad one... a new year is a mental checkpoint where you can start fresh and make changes to put yourself back on the right path, or up your game by setting new challenging goals!

If you're looking for a place to start, think about what you did last year... what you were happy with... and what you think needs to be changed.  Whatever change you decide upon, be realistic in your approach to ensure that it is something that you can stick with.  Don't set yourself up for failure.  Also keep in mind that most changes that you want to make should be things that you can do "from now on"... not just until you reach your goal.  Goals should just be a rung on the ladder... not and end point.  When you reach that rung, you set your sites on the next one, and the next one!

So how about some commitment?  Register now for that run that you've been talking about doing, join a team for that bike ride that you keep putting off for "next year", and for Pete's sake... throw away the rest of that Halloween candy already!  It's gonna be a GREAT year!

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Exceed Your Potential!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT


If you really want to do something you'll find a way.  If you don't you'll find an excuse"

youtube of the month -->
Bulgarian Bag Exercises
Great collection of Bulgarian Bag exercises from Joe Hashey at Synergy Athletics. | Personal Training | News | Tips & Tools | Fitness Stuff




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