Disclaimer: I believe the following program outlined is a great way to begin a Bulgarian-like training regiment for the sport of Powerlifting for the intermediate/advanced trainee. If you’re a beginner to strength training or have less than 2-3 years of training under your belt then I recommend following one of the many programs offered here on the LBEB site.
Article written by Damien Pezzuti
Practice makes perfect, right? After all, strength is a skill and needs to be practiced just like a Basketball player would practice his jump shot. That said, I believe the weights lifted need to be >85% for the specific transfer towards the sport of Powerlifting.
Too often the problem with high-frequency but lower intensity programs is that it builds non-specific strength required in Powerlifting. Doing 5×7 @ 500lbs is impressive, but if you can’t do 600 for a single then what good is it?
Bulgarian Training For Powerlifting Program Overview
I’m not going to bore you with long scientific studies and explanations. Instead, I want to provide you with a basic and simple program that you can follow and implement immediately for improving your strength and skill for the sport of Powerlifting.
The program will be set up on a 3x a week training schedule. I recommend Monday-Wednesday-Friday.
Day 1: Squat & Bench Press – Up to max single
Day 2: Squat & Bench Press – Up to max single
Day 3: Squat/Bench Press/Deadlift – Up to max single
As you can see on all three days you’re going to be squatting and bench pressing. On Friday you will include the Deadlift. I like to include the Deadlift on the last training day of the week as it is the hardest exercise of the three Power lifts to recover from.
You will then have two days off before starting your next training week. These sessions should be very brief and swift. It should take no more than 45-60 minutes on Day 1 & 2 after you warm up.
On Day 3 it will obviously take longer but you should be able to complete the session in 90 minutes. Every 4th week I propose hitting 10 singles at 75-80% in the Deadlift instead of working to max.
Progressing To Max
Take however long you need to start feeling warm and loose with the bar. Once you start adding weight, though, I recommend the following scheme up to max.
Rest between sets should be however long it takes to load and unload the bar. Once you get up to 85-90% you can begin to take a bit longer breaks. That said, it should not take you long to get up to the 90% range.
If you follow these numbers you should almost always hit 95%. The only time you should miss is if you’re attempting a new PR.
If you hit a new PR on any lift scrap the back-off work. That said, as a general guideline I propose the following back-off work for the squat and bench press: 1-2 sets of 2 reps @ 90% of your max single for the day.
For the Deadlift I recommend hitting two singles @ 90% of your max single. Also, back-off work is entirely dependent on energy levels after hitting your max. Be honest with yourself when it comes to this. If you’re feeling rundown and wiped scrap the back-off work.
Sometimes the best back-off work is no back-off work.
Accessory work should always be treated based on energy levels and how you feel after doing the main lifts. If you choose to do accessories I recommend keeping the rest periods brief and focusing on the following muscle groups: lats/rear delts/upper back/biceps/abs.
I do not recommend any direct chest/front delt/triceps work as the bench press will take care of that. If you choose to do direct leg or lower back accessory I recommend doing it only on Day 3 after you’ve deadlifted.
Another option for accessory work would be to treat it as a quick mini-workout on your off days. No longer than 20-30 minutes to pump up and get some blood flow going. Accessory work really is entirely individual and it’s something that will take some trial & error on your part.
For the most part, I recommend sticking to the direct competition movements. That said, the following are some good squat/bench press/deadlift variations you can do:
For The Squat
Pause squat & high-bar (if squat low-bar) squat.
For the Bench Press
Floor press and close-grip press if your lockout is an issue. If you struggle off the chest then 3-count pause presses are your best friend.
For the Deadlift
If your lockout is an issue then block pulls or rack pulls are solid options. If you struggle to break the floor then deficit deadlifts are a great choice.
For the Front Squat
I’ve personally been asked quite a bit if I do any front squats and the answer is no. I’ve built my squat entirely with back squats and pause squats. I believe pause squats to be far superior to the front squat simply because they more closely resemble the competition squat.
So do I hate front squats? No, I do not. I just happen to think they’re a bit on the overrated side for the sport of Powerlifting. By all means, feel free to incorporate them into this program if you feel they help you.
I’m just giving my opinion on a question I’ve been asked quite a bit.
First off bleed the well until it is dry. If you’re continuing to make progress at 3x a week then there is no reason to add any training days. In fact, there may never come a time where you need to add any extra training days.
That said, if it comes to that then I recommend adding a 4th training day on Saturday but only as a “light” session. Work up to 85% in the squat and bench press for 3 singles.
Peaking for a Meet
Obviously, we don’t want to leave our strength in the gym come meet day. Here is my recommendation for meet week.
Monday – Up to max – no back-off work
Wednesday – 80% for 2 singles
Friday – 60% for 2 singles.
Saturday – Meet Day!
There you have it. A very basic and simple approach to applying a Bulgarian-like regiment to the sport of Powerlifting. If you have any additional questions please feel free to ask me. I tried to cover all of the most common questions I’ve gotten about the system.