I didn’t set any personal records.
Actually, I did, but not like you’d think.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, we can focus on the benefits and pitfalls of this training method.
Omar and Greg have put together a really great program that you will have to think through before attempting. And then you’ll have to think some more as you execute. As they will tell you in their awesome email follow up series, this isn’t for everyone. You should have several years of training (real training – not the usual time-wasting, leg-neglecting, pectoral-obsessed garbage that you have probably been doing) before attempting the Bulgarian Method. You need solid technique and the sense to know how to manage your efforts each day. That last bit was more of a struggle for me than I expected, but more on that later.
Let’s get to the details. I used the front squat and the overhead press as my two lifts for this program. Both lifts are performed every day that you train. You only add in other assistance lifts when you feel up to it. I trained four days per week, the minimum training days. With ankylosing spondylitis, I wanted to be cautious in my volume, since it is easy for me to fall into a massive pain cycle from too much activity.
I went into this program being able to front squat 325. Badly. I could front squat 315 a little less badly. After a month of doing front squats 4 times a week, I was able to hit 315 two or three times in a week pretty comfortably. Still hard, but with solid form, and I didn’t feel like death the next day. That’s pretty cool. I also set some rep PRs with fairly heavy weight where I could only get a single before. I got a lot more comfortable in the front rack position since I was doing it so often. This can be a real problem area for many lifters, if they can even get into the front rack at all. I’m not saying that the Bulgarian Method will give you a good front rack position, but if you can get into it, you will be more comfortable after a month.
I know I am poised to hit some new PRs on the front squat, but with a powerlifting meet in five weeks, I need to shift back into a more traditional method and do the appropriate lifts. But after this meet, you can bet there will be some shiny new numbers on that front squat.
I went into this program being able to press 190. Again, very badly, and with huge amounts of hip drive. Basically, I was doing a jerk or split jerk without the split. I wasn’t using the arms to do anything other than catch the weight at the top of the movement. At the end of the month, I was strict pressing 190 pretty smoothly, and hitting 175 for a couple reps, and hitting 185 pretty often. My mechanics improved dramatically, and I feel that there will be some 200+ presses in the near future.
We’re gonna need bigger people over here.
The hardest thing to do was focus on my daily minimums. This is the amount of weight that knew I could lift on any given day. The daily minimum is your best indicator of progress. This number did increase quite a lot in the month of Bulgarian Method, and I am very happy with that. Omar and Greg warned me about pushing into PR territory too often, but it is so difficult to avoid pushing really heavy when you know you can grind it out. But grinding reps is not a good idea in the context of this program. I need to be more cautious of that the next time I run the program. It is tempting to get greedy with the PRs, but that is the surest way to kill your progress. Patience, grasshopper.
I also noticed repetitive muscle strain in the lower leg and forearms. This is easily addressed through self care like deep muscle therapy, stretching, etc., and I will be more diligent about this in a future cycle of the Bulgarian Method. Because there will be one.
I am very satisfied with the program that Omar and Greg have put together. The book and tools do a great job of helping you avoid any inherent pitfalls of the training intensity. Self-discipline will help you make the best use of those tools. So if you have program ADD or think you can just freestyle every workout, this won’t be for you. It takes time to reap the rewards of this style of training, and I look forward to investing more time into it in five weeks.