Incorporating Variety with Bulgarian Bags

by Julie Boggess and Brian Jones PhD, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
Personal Training Quarterly March 2018
Vol 2, Issue 2


This article presents ways to add variety to workouts using Bulgarian Bags as an alternative to kettlebells. It also provides an effective sample Bulgarian Bag program.

Personal trainers are required to constantly challenge their clients physically and mentally. In order to retain customers, trainers must improve or maintain their client’s fitness levels while keeping them interested in the process. For this reason, incorporating variety into the training program can be an invaluable tool. Research has found that a major predictor of whether people continue to exercise is how much they enjoy it (1,7,9,13). Results simply are not enough motivation if they are not having fun. The Bulgarian Bags, developed by Bulgarian wrestling coach Ivan Ivanov, provide a unique way to add interest to any client’s workout program (8,11).

These bags are similar to sandbags and have many of the same benefits, but the unique shape allows for the performance of some movements that are difficult to perform with most weighted bags (2,4,10). The unique shape of the bag combined with the different grips and handles make it an extremely versatile tool. It allows for many different rotational exercises that are often not possible with other exercise equipment. The bags are portable enough for travel workouts and ideal for personal trainers who travel to their clients’ homes.

Many of the same movement patterns popular in kettlebell training can be done with the Bulgarian Bags. This means that clients can learn proper kettlebell movement patterns using the Bulgarian Bags with less potential injury risk and the bags may be less intimidating than kettlebells for some people. Currently, there is no direct research on the effectiveness of the Bulgarian Bags, but several studies have found similar training with kettlebells to be effective for developing strength, power, and cardiovascular endurance (1,3,5,6,12).


This article originally appeared in Personal Training Quarterly (PTQ)—a quarterly publication for NSCA Members designed specifically for the personal trainer. Discover easy-to-read, research-based articles that take your training knowledge further with Nutrition, Programming, and Personal Business Development columns in each quarterly, electronic issue. Read more articles from PTQ »

About the author

Brian M. Jones, CSCS

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