Fitness, Health & Sports

Minimalist Training: How to Make and Use a Bulgarian Training Bag

Steve Nave

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Joe Hashey, CSCS.

Are you sick of waiting for machines at your local commercial gym?  Perhaps you just want to spend more time at home and are looking for a workout solution.  Whatever your reason might be, making your own version of a Bulgarian Training Bag is an effective and practical solution.

What Is a Bulgarian Training Bag?

The original creation of the Bulgarian bag is credited to Ivan Ivanov, a former Greco-Roman wrestler from Bulgaria that was hired as a US Olympic wrestling coach.  The official bag is shaped like a half moon and typically filled with sand.

The bag was soon adopted by fitness professionals as a versatile tool for muscular endurance and general fitness.  It can be used to perform any exercise the lifter can do with a shoulder-loaded barbell.  Additionally it can be used for rotational swings and multi-planar training.

Depending on your exercise selection, the Bulgarian Training Bag can be used to target the legs, shoulders, core, upper back, triceps, biceps, and forearms.

Even though it was originally developed for wrestlers, the Bulgarian training bag is an excellent fitness tool for everyone. If you do home workouts for overall health, a full body program can easily be designed around this one piece of equipment.

Buying a premade Bulgarian Training Bag can run you anywhere from $150-$250. But you can easily make your own for around $15, less if you can get some of the materials for free.

How to Make a Bulgarian Training Bag

Materials Needed:

  • Duct Tape (optional)
  • Truck or Tractor Tire Inner Tube
  • Wood Pellets or Rubber Mulch
  • Zip Tie

I prefer wood pellets, as they don’t leak as much as sand and rubber mulch.  Also, in the video below I have truck and car inner tubes purchased from a tractor supply store. However, the best construction came from using tractor tire inner tubes that I got from a heavy equipment company.  I went in and asked them if they had any tubes with holes in them.  They gave me a stack for free, and the holes don’t matter since you can cut them out.

Basic Instructions

  1. Cut the inner tube in half.
  2. Zip tie one handle tight, leaving 4-5 inches for a handle.
  3. Fill with wood pellets.
  4. Trim the open side to comfort (or so it forms a better “U”).
  5. Zip tie the other end tight, leave 4-5 inches for a handle.
  6. (optional) Duct tape around the zip tie and handle piece for a more uniform grip.

You may have a desired weight in mind, so weigh the bag periodically while filling it.  Once you hit your goal weight, trim the excess bag off (but not the handle space!).

Video Instructions

The baseballs were for grips on the backside as shown in the second video.  However, after using Bulgarian Training Bags for about two years, I heavily favor the original and basic construction detailed above.

How to Use A Bulgarian Training Bag

Most common uses:

  • Loading your shoulders (squats, lunges, jumps, etc)
  • Front position loading (similar loading pattern to a front squat)
  • Swings
  • Controlled handle exercises (rows, curls, etc)

For your use, here is a Bulgarian Training Bag Exercise Index:

Some of these movements are small accessory training (flips, etc), so choose some larger exercises first and then finish with the smaller ones.

Bulgarian Bag Combos

One more awesome aspect of using Bulgarian Training Bags: it is easy to link exercises together.  Here is a core conditioning combo we have used at Synergy Athletics–simple and effective.

Conclusion

Minimalist training needs to be both simple and effective.   This Bulgarian Training Bag project fits both of those criteria, and whole general fitness training programs can be built around it.

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Joe Hashey, CSCS, is a personal trainer and owner of Synergy Athletics. Joe has been a featured author in Men’s Fitness Magazine and a speaker at National Strength and Conditioning Conferences (Vermont, Ohio, Las Vegas).  Joe has over 500 free fitness articles and  giveaways at www.Synergy-Athletics.com.


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