Seb Ostrowicz

The Bulgarian System is Not About Maximums

People think that the Bulgarian system was built around going to maximum multiple times a day. That max attempts were the staple of the system. But really this wasn’t the case. Going to maximum often was more of a consequence of the system. Going to max evolved as a way to express the staple of the program. Going to max allowed Abadjiev’s focal point of training to become more intense.

The staple of the bulgarian system was not about max lifts, it was about competition with team mates. It was about putting a group of poor, aggressive  weightlifters in a room and giving them a monetary incentive. It worked in Bulgaria because athletes didn’t have much money, and the only way they could make money to feed their families and themselves was to become the best weightlifter. They weren’t competing for their own glory necessarily, they were competing to keep their families out of poverty.

When you put 10 of those guys in a room, all competitive, all trying to beat the others, it is natural that max attempts occurred. It was a way of being more competitive with each other. Going heavy often was the best way to encourage competition between the athletes.

Competition came first. Max attempts came second.

So if you want to try the ‘Bulgarian System’, perhaps try to find better team mates and make the conscious effort to do everything you can to become the best weightlifter. See which way training goes. It may turn into max attempts, it might not.  It might just be that the poor conditions the Bulgarians lived in gave them a much greater drive than the conditions we live in now. Most of us live in better conditions than humans ever have, and so training for our own desires may never be as strong as the the desires of the Bulgarian lifter training to afford milk for his children.

Disclaimer – I am not saying that maximum attempts did not become perhaps the most important part of the Bulgarian system. But they developed organically from Abadjiev’s belief that competition was the most important part of training. 

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