I don’t like the look of it.

let’s get this out of the way first:

wt: 171.0

Squat: 45×4, 135×3, 225×2, 315,355,385,405,420×1; 355×3, 360,365,370×2, 375,380,385×1

squat time: 1 hr

Bench: 45x8p, 135×4, 225×2, 275,305,325,335,345×1; MGB: 285,290,295,300,305×2, 310,315×1

Deadlift: 225×2, 315,360,385,400x1; SGD: 320x7x1

Time: 2:19


Now let’s take a look at Christian Thibaudeau’s t-nation article, Bulgarian Training Simplified.

Here’s what you need to know…

1. His analysis of the Bulgarian system contains several errors.

2. The attached program is total bullshit.


the only assistance work consists of front squats and the power variation of the competitive lifts

Wrong. Abidjaev said that he thought he would someday eliminate back squats.  His champions did not train like this.  Broz was skeptical.

Elite athletes in all sports fragment their daily training volume into more than one daily session, but the original Bulgarian system took this to the extreme.

All right, this is a common straw man that I need to address.  PL2Win says, “there isn’t a single powerlifter out there who truly uses the Bulgarian Method.”  The Bulgarians trained six times a day, possibly to keep them in line.  Fine.  Many of Broz’s athletes train two times a day.  Many other weightlifters train 1-3x a day.  Ok.  I usually train once a day.  Great.  If you meet the other four characteristics that Thibs (I’m going to call him this, not because I’m mocking him or because I’m his pal, but because it’s easier to spell and type) lists (extreme frequency, extreme specificity, max effort, low reps), then you are doing Bulgarian Training.  If you squat to max every day, you are doing Bulgarian Training.  If you squat to max 5 days a week, bench to max 3 days a week, and do some shit for your deadlift, you are doing Bulgarian Training.  I personally consulted the Prime Minister of Bulgaria and he approved my clarification, but told me to remind readers that if you are training every day but using a percentage system, you’re not doing Bulgarian Training, you’re doing Sheiko.

Practicing the same lifts every day or multiple times a day is the best way to become technically efficient.  Strength-skill work is great if you want to become good at a specific movement, but it’s not the best way to build overall strength

So if you are good at the clean, the snatch, the back and front squat, you are not “overall strong?”  If you are good at the bench, squat, and deadlift you’ve not built “overall strength?” What are you weak at?  Leg curls?

Sure we want to be the best we can, but enjoying what we do is also a big part of it. Most of us need some variety to maintain our motivation.

Honestly, I know what he’s saying and sometimes get burned out on certain exercises, and I drop them.  Right now I would like to drop the following exercises: Squat, Bench, Deadlift.  Ha ha!  Here’s a rule of thumb that applies to everything from the NBA to the Starcraft Championships: If winning is not enough motivation, you will not be the winner.

Very few elite weightlifters actually look muscular. There are exceptions (Lu Xiaojun, Klokov, etc.), but most don’t look much more muscular than the average guy you see in the gym.

What fucking gym do you go to?  Oh, that’s right the secret gym in the T-Nation compound where Tim Patterson has rigged the water fountains to dispense Plazma.  All elite weightlifters except the big fat heavyweight ones look muscular

It’s very hard on the nervous system.  Although it’s not metabolically demanding because of the low mechanical workload, working up to a 1 rep max is very draining emotionally and neurologically. It can even affect the hormonal system (the adrenal glands especially) over time.

I’ve been doing this shit for a year and a half.  So either:

A) I’m a genetically gifted superman

B) You don’t know what you’re talking about because you never tried it.

C) You did try it but it was too hard because you jumped in 110% like an idiot

D) You’re a pussy.

Choose one or more.  Take your time.  (Hint: I’d like you to choose A, but sadly, it’s not the right answer)

People have recently been saying that “CNS fatigue” isn’t real. Well maybe it is or maybe it isn’t, but something is definitely going on when you work up to your max frequently.

People have recently been saying that the “Loch Ness Monster” isn’t real. Well maybe it is or maybe it isn’t…

I do have a criticism of one of Broz’s platitudes/anecdotes.  I’ve never liked the one where he talks about how if you were a garbage man, you would be very sore when you first started out, but you wouldn’t take a day off or you’d get fired, and in a little while you’d be tossing cans and joking around.  My problem is not that it’s not true but that the proper analogy would be that you’d need to throw the cans farther than anyone else had ever done it before, otherwise it would be better to convince the boss to let you work every other day or something.

Listen, it is still completely undetermined whether:

1. Bulgarian training can/will make you an elite powerlifter

2. It’s worth training like this.  Not in the sense of “I don’t want to spend fifteen hours a week lifting” but in the sense of “I could have done this in ten”

However it has been established by numerous internet maniacs, including myself, that when performed with a proper buildup and knowing how to do the lifts, your adrenal glands and/or CNS, if those are actually real things, will not explode from this type of training.

Doing the original Bulgarian system is pretty much a full-time job. If you have an actual full-time job, it will be hard to do both.

Back to the straw man. Fuck six times a day.  If you squat every day, it takes about an hour.  If you bench and deadlift every day too, it takes more like two hours (the above was maybe my longest workout of the year).  I’m not promising that if you work an eight hour day and spend two hours lifting weights that it’s going to be easy and/or thrilling.  Or that if your job is running a jackhammer or being an infantryman, it’s even going to be possible.  Or that you’re going to be able to watch as much TV as you’d like.  But man walked on the moon, guys survived the Bataan death march, and listen, go to Chaos & Pain to find other examples of hard motherfuckers from days of yore.  I can promise you that it is possible to work for a living and do barbell squatting exercise every day.


The Program

ugh I doubt he did this program.  I don’t think anyone else he trained ever did this program.  Nobody is going to do this program.  Everyone who reads this article and wants to try:

A) is going to use an actual Bulgarian program

B) is going to change this one to make it even more shitty because they’re a T-nation pussy (“can I do this three times a week instead of four” “can i run sprints on the treadmill instead of training legs”)

C) is going to just make a comment in the facebook forum or retweet it and not do anything because they’re a T-nation pussy.

There’s so much to criticize and so little point (see above).  But really quickly:

1. Great idea to lead off with Zercher squats.  Because for a competitive powerlifter a) this matters b) you want to lift heavy weights with your fucking elbow tendons.

2. Percentages are not Bulgarian.  Okay fine, let me clarify:  Broz criticizes them but sometimes uses them as a rough guideline.  I make a guideline to keep my volume at 80% or more (otherwise I’ll be tempted to drop down to 135 and be a sissy).  But 90% of 4×3 of your 3RM is not fucking Bulgarian.

3. Periodization is a fucking scam.  Again let me clarify:  Training lightly a week before a powerlifting meet is one thing.  Lifting less during football season than in preseason is a similar thing.  Making complicated flow charts with Speed/Strength Phase IIIa -> Strength/Speed IIIb -> Power/Endurance Phase IV is utter nonsense perpetrated by the NSCA.  I have a theory that complex periodization is a Russian hoax that was motivated by:

a. revenge for our SDI hoax

b. an attempt to cover up copious steroid use

c. a need for the thousands of Russian sports scientists to seem intellectual/necessary

It’s not just me; Louie Simmons and Brooks Kubik (two VERY different guys) have both figured out that these complicated phases are a joke.  (Sadly, Rip has not)

4. Bulgarian training may be too much work for you but make sure you get in enough extra bodybuilding training: “Pump-enhancing techniques like partials, slow reps, rest/pause, double contraction and the like can also be used.”

5. How about, for an intermediate/semi-advanced type (target audience of T-Nation), starting off training every day or 6x a week, but not going to a real heavy max the first day, and not doing very much volume.  Do this on squats only.  Then, over time, you can try benching and deadlifting more frequently, increasing your max weights, and doing more volume.  You know, like Broz suggests.  Or, try this completely unproven program from a guy who doesn’t know shit.  It’s up to you.

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47 thoughts on “I don’t like the look of it.

  1. It seems illogical to me to say periodization is cover up for steroid use but Bulgarian methodology is not. Bulgarians got busted for steroids significantly more than the Russians did, and countries now using Bulgarian methods still get popped today all the time. Obviously, passing drug test doesn’t mean clean, but what I’m saying is if periodization is a scam and a cover up for steroids, “Bulgarian” is more so. Abroad you have a mountain of failed tests, and at home the founder of American “Bulgarian” training had his top athletes test positive.

    • It was tongue in cheek. They all use(d) steroids. Including Thibs, btw. The point is that I’m mocking these phases which not only don’t work, but sound nerdy. I think it’s a reflection of the Soviet culture of 5-year plans for their economy. Which didn’t work either.

      Accumulation phase!

      • What, thibs doesn’t use steroids?? He has states on t-nation that he has a heart condition that becomes dangerous when he adds too much muscle too fast. That’s just science man.

        • He used them twice that he’s admitted. He also has a slew of health problems. We have all learned from other bodybuilders/athletes that:
          1) they always publicly admit to ALL their drug use
          2) any rare health conditions are in no way related

    • “Bulgarians got busted for steroids significantly more than the Russians did”

      Let’s not forget the most valid (IMO) criticism of the Bulgarian system:

      a) Invent “breakthrough program”, rise to relative domination in sport in a couple of years,

      b) Get popped for roids,

      c) ???

      d) Never set a record, or even post a significant result on the world stage, EVER again.

      Russians dominate both weightlifting and powerlifting. The Bulgarian method is seldom used by world-class lifters in the former sport, virtually never in the latter sport. I’d say that’s a pretty strong argument against Bulgarianism and in favor of Russianism.

        • i had to look up click bait but I still don’t understand; it seemed like a valid article at least by T-Nation standards.

          also, you may be right about Russian being better than Bulgarian, esp for powerlifting. This is about Thibs and his bullshit. I’m not getting lured into this argument vs. you and Celica when you have both the facts and the anecdotes on your side and I have me in a garage. Too bad cold fusion advocates don’t have the same discretion, lol.

    • Oh I get it. You’re the exception. How clever. Next use Andrzej Stanaszek to prove something I said about powerlifting to be wrong.

      I don’t think you look too bad, sir.

      • I got to say coach that ussually your on the money but if periodization is a joke why does every Track and Field athlete, Cross country, ect in the world use it. What I’m saying is both methods work, one program uses different periods to account for up and downs, one just rides them out. Westside and Louie Simmons are very bad examples because Louie has stated that he has taken steroids for 30 years. The argument could be made that periodization is not needed when you have a constant flow of steroids(bulgarians, westside, pat mendes, ect.). I do still enjoy and think squatting everyday can be usefull up to a point.

        • Also in case I was confusing, I agree that your style of training won’t kill you, is effective and may not be for everyone.

        • I think I’ve been unclear. Periodization is fine. What I object to is three things. First is overcomplication of it. For example in cross country, we ran a lot of miles over the summer and early fall, then lowered mileage and did more sprint repeats, then during the peak competition time had less strenuous practices. That’s it. It’s a simple concept that doesn’t need volumes written on it in pseudoscientific jargon.
          The second objection was raised by Louie Simmons, and it’s surprising because he worships everything else Russian. It’s that if you do 5×10 for six weeks, and then 5×5, then 3×3, then singles, by that time you’ve lost all the benefits (whatever they are) of the 5×10 phase. Hence his conjugated periodization of doing everything, just on different days.
          My third objection was brought to my attention by Broz and it is the folly of scheduling light days when you may feel great and heavy days when you feel like crap.
          A fourth objection was raised by Brooks Kubik and it’s just the use of escalating levels of support gear in powerlifting IOT simulate strength gains (“Eight weeks out we add loose wraps and a belt…”)
          Steroids are something I am against but I purposely didn’t bring them into the discussion, except to say that Bulgarian training is feasible without being on them.

          • Coach, you were clear. I was clueless when I read your logs. I had been out of the game and the last time I was in it was in the 90’s and it was BB stuff. I wanted to be strong again and did the madcow to kick it off. It worked as I am sure the TM, SS, etc. Would have as well. My interest was piqued by your logs/methods and I researched them. I found numerous sources and granted, some of it is click bait, but I looked into it and tried it. I was sort of flamed by my ignorance, but hey, it worked. I made huge gains and more importantly I realized that periodization is relative. I don’t use guce and personally, I could care less if people do. Whatever. Keep on rocking man. I’ll be doing my version of it come August regardless of what anyone says. Dope or no dope, it works if your not a pussy. If there is dope, you’ll be a fuckin’ monster. (Please notice that I use curse words selectively)

          • This argument is significantly weakened by the mention of Brooks Kubik in the same breath as Simmons and Broz.

            I mean, I also devoured Kubik’s stuff when I was younger, but the guy was popular because of his writing style (which he cribbed from Steiner) and his comic diehard training philosophy (borrowed from Ken Leistner), not because he was a trainer of champions, come on man. He was like the REH of lifting.

          • listen I know you think he’s a clown. I mentioned him because in Dinosaur Training he specifically illustrates a powerlifting training cycle that I’ve seen people use, and I haven’t seen anyone else raise this exact objection

    • To be honest I probably had that phrase floating around in my head from reading your blog. As for what’s next, I’ve learned that you will do what makes you happy. An exception is when you’re unhappy and ask for advice, in which case you will ignore it and do what makes you unhappy.

    • Thanks for the good article. I’ve never said there is no such thing as overtraining, just that most people are not overtrained. For example if I suddenly doubled what I was doing, there’s a strong chance I’d be overtraining (and a slight chance that I could survive and thrive). If I tripled it, I’d certainly be overtraining.

      • Personally, for “Bulgarian” training, what Ilya Ilyin does intrigues me the most, as far as his training program, and it actually makes sense to some degree. http://www.allthingsgym.com/ilya-ilyin-on-weightlifting-world-podcast/ So it’s very weird how it’s very much periodized Bulgarian, if that makes sense. Especially watching his prep videos on youtube for Worlds, it started out as him doing like, military presses and situps and riding an exercise bike, to Bulgarian, ie, just classic lifts, he said at the end of training it’s only classic lifts and (strangely to ‘Murican weightlifting) the deadlift. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISrfkrL91WM Note after 8 minutes of this video it becomes a situp marathon.

        But then he goes to this:

        And here he’s just doing singles working to 90ish % of his maxes.

        I guess one thing too is I think even in Bulgaria, lifters didn’t train under Abadjiev year round. They’d go to the national training center with Abadjiev for a few months before competition, they wouldn’t just be there for years and years at a time maxing out everyday forever, even Galabin Boevski said he got better results training under his own trainer Hristo Boev compared to Abadjiev.

  2. Pingback: w4d4 + w5d1 – all at once | lyfta på jobbet

  3. “Periodization is a scam”

    Then all through the comments, slowly back away until you basically say “well yeah everyone uses periodization”. All periodization is is “volume, OK a little less volume with triples, OK peak”.

    Honestly, Louie’s idea is stupid. If I study pure math for a month, then spend a month doing physics(related subject that doesn’t need as much complicated shit as pure math), and then go back to math, did I completely waste my time doing math and have to start over from 1+1=2? No, not only can I be better at physics from doing math, but when I go back to math I may have lost a bit from lack of practice but I’ll get back in and make progress in a week or two at most.

    You can call it accumulation, transmutation, sport specific if you want. Or use DUP with different rep ranges. Or Texas Method, which is really just DUP. Periodization works. I bet if you track your training, you end up ” periodizing” it through average tonnage or volume over a period.

    • Don’t confuse “periodization” with “doing volume,” don’t put words in my mouth, and don’t accuse me of backpedaling. I clarified in the initial post, after my initial outlandish claim, that what I was talking about was overcomplicating it. Another thing is that Thibs does it at all when he’s supposedly writing a Bulgarian program. Just nowhere do you see Broz say “next we do the _____ phase”

      Second of all, there’s a lot to criticisze about Louie Simmons, but you can’t do it by comparing academics to lifting. It’s just not the same thing. You don’t forget knowledge as quickly. A better analogy is that if a distance runner stops doing long distances and has a sprint phase that’s lengthy enough, he will suffer the consequences.

      As for my periodization, that’s the good part of the system is that if my volume or tonnage increases I don’t have to total it on a damn spreadsheet and give it a fancy name. It’s called trying as hard as I can.

      Here’s an awesome analogy for you: counting grams of protein. Average untrained American doesn’t need to count protein at all – they get enough. Average lifter might need to keep track in the sense “I try to eat 1g/lb” Competitive physique folk might try to be accurate with their protein to the nearest few grams to keep their macros where they want them. But no one needs to figure their protein content to 0.1 grams. But in my analogy world you have guys selling books about Russian Protein Counting, doing complicated mathematics, spreadsheets, etc. So when I come along and say “protein counting is a scam” it doesn’t mean that I’m talking about every instance of it and that you should try to find the exception. It means that in general the whole thing is vastly and overhyped and nonsensical for normal people except in a mostly vague and i.nstinctual way.
      Me: “I try to get at least 150 g of protein a day”
      Bodybuilder: “I do higher reps closer to the contest time”
      Basketball Coach: “We practice with less intensity during the playoffs; the guys’ legs are pretty dead.”

      TLDR: if you need more than the back of a napkin to “periodize” then you’re a nerd.

      • OK I agree with that, but I also think even with the academic explanation, I have never seen a good program that can’t be written out in a napkin. Even “block periodization” can be written on a scrap of paper. “Accumulation” sets of 8s & 6s, maybe extra accessories. “Transmutation” 3s and 5s, deload, then test/”sport specific”.

        Boom.

        • Not sure which programs/books rely on this “complex periodization” you’re talking about? PC’s programs work off this concept, and so does Wendler’s and the Juggernaut one, but in all three cases the periodization is extremely simple and straightforward and can be “written on the back of a napkin”. E.g. build muscle for a few months so you can lift more weight, then lift heavier weights for a few months so you can adapt the new muscle to it.

          • I can’t comment on Juggernaut or PC. I personally am against “10s and 8s” for powerlifters. Marathon training for sprinters. So that kind of makes most periodization for powerlifting stupid IMO, but this is beyond the “complex periodization” objection I was talking about. Practical programming, and a lot of the Russian and Russian-based texts are the books I’m talking about, as well as the NSCA stuff. (The C stands for communist btw)

      • Also, I think the issue is that Yes, 10s are obviously way different than a max single. But are they as different as running a marathon is to running a mile…I don’t think so. Maybe a 10k to a mile, but ask any 10k runner and they will say if you improve your mile, you improve your 10k and vice versa, up until the elite levels.

        Honestly, if most people improve their mile, they improve their marathon too…

        • Well we’re nitpicking here, and talking about my interpretation of Louie Simmons’ interpretation of Russian literature, as applied to a sport that I’m not that keen on. But I would say that modern distance runners do more of a conjugate thing, where they run sprints like a day or two a week rather than a six week block where they run nothing but.

  4. Hey Coach, I have a problem that I feel like you could help me solve. There is a company that I bought something from, they sent it to the wrong address, the people at that address have since used the product, and now the company won’t refund me or send me what they owe me. And yes, I paid for the product before they shipped it. Anyway, I feel that their website has enough general information about the owner that I should be able to track down his phone number if I had internet skills like you. The salesman and customer service are routinely ignoring my calls. You got any tips?

    • A whois search will help you identify the site owner but often it’s registered to the hosting company. I would go with a ripoffreport and similar sites. And continue persistent but polite pestering. I’m not a lawyer but if it was something expensive like a car you might want to get one.

      • Thanks man. Total cost is over $1000 so a fair amount of money. I liked the idea of calling the president at his home one evening.

        • Be careful. While I don’t see how there’s anything wrong with calling someone at home because you couldn’t get a hold of them at their office, you want to avoid harrassment/threats/calling at 2 AM etc. We have laws about debt collection for a reason, and from my observations, courts turn you into the bad guy because vigilantism 1) usurps their legitimate authority and 2) in their view is about one step from loan sharking and leg breaking.
          Having a lawyer just draft a sternly worded letter is often enough to put the fear of God into these businesses* however, and sometimes even sending them invoices and past due notices will get their attention.
          Posting their name and your warnings all over the net will give satisfaction but probably recoup little. For me, I have a lot of time and a lot of holy fury to expend on (legal) revenge. YMMV

          *if this is a fly-by-night actual scam artist, then the shaming/online reviewing stuff won’t work, but fraud charges would. However, if that’s the case, you don’t need Fatman to come here and wax cynical about your chances

          • Damn you for the reasonable and solid advice. I just want to feed the burning rage inside from them ignoring my calls

          • This is a good point.

            If you got scammed, write it off and move along. But if it’s an actual company, don’t do anything that would screw up your chances of obtaining legal recourse. I.e. don’t call the CEO at midnight and breathe heavily into the phone. Lawyering up is the way to go, especially as the amount is substantial.

  5. Hey I have a few questions but first I want to thank you for this post.
    When I read the article on T-Nation, i was all like “im gonna try this” then I tried to search more about the bulgarian method and that training program didnt match what ppl said and it made me wonder, so again, thanks 🙂

    1) All the talk about the bulgarian method and roids, made me wonder, doesn’t it work if you are on roids and you want one day to compete in powerlifting events?

    2) I see the point of squat everyday = stronger deadlifts automatically
    but the question is, how can I strengthen my lats, upper back, etc. without deadlifts more than 1-3 times a week?
    Like can I throw in some back training every second day? OR will it be too harsh on the body?

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