The idea of a home gym or workout area is appealing to any Jiu Jitsu player. However, your bulky gym equipment may end up competing with potential mat space.
Fortunately, Jiu Jitsu players have several options for space-efficient exercise equipment. One such piece of equipment is the Bulgarian bag. The “U” shaped sandbag sports several handles on its body to provide a versatile set of workouts.
Its shape also allows for comfort while still providing an efficient workout. The Bulgarian bag can be laid across the neck and shoulders for an added challenge to your typical bodyweight exercises.
While the Bulgarian provides an array of exercises, it can be a valuable tool to Jiu Jitsu players for another reason: grips. No matter what orientation you use the bag in, there is a major emphasis on grip strength. Essentially, every maneuver can be thought of as two workouts: the initial workout, plus grip training.
The Bulgarian bag comes in a variety of models and weights. If you are able to get your hands on one, here are a few workouts that can have a positive impact on your Jiu Jitsu.
The classics are classics for a reason. As mentioned before, the Bulgarian bag is a good way to add manageable weight to a standard bodyweight squat.
For a standard squat with the Bulgarian bag, hold the handles on the end as you rest the bag across your neck. A low impact way to maintain a good position through the squat motion is to firmly pull down on the handles while pressing the back of your head against the bag.
You can supplement your squats with additional bag movements for a more full-body effect. With the same grips on the bag, fully extend your arms upward as you come up from the squat for an overhead press.
If you’ve watched a Bulgarian bag workout, you are probably most familiar with the swing. The end handles give users a great degree of control as they rotate the bag around themselves.
Once again, the grips of the user are engaged in a major way. You will also be engaging your arms, shoulders, and core. Be sure to bend your knees slightly as the bag swings in front of you and extend them as you swing it behind you.
You can focus on one side for a set, or switch sides with each rep. As you become comfortable with the mechanics, add a more explosive pace.
While there is no one-to-one Jiu Jitsu motion that relates to the swings, try to imagine a Judo exchange, where your grip strength, explosiveness, and nonlinear movement will help you.
Lunges are another bodyweight exercise that can be enhanced by the addition of a Bulgarian bag. Fortunately, there is no complex motion that you need to perform in order to complete this exercise. If you know how to do a lunge, you’re set.
Have the Bulgarian bag across your neck with your hands grasping the main/end grips. Once settled, begin your lunges. Start out with a few sets of typical, forward lunges to acclimate to the weight you are carrying.
Then, try backward reaching lunges. Finally try lateral, or side lunges. For side lunges, reach a leg out in the direction that you are lunging. The reaching leg will bend at the knee taking you lower to the ground.
Your stationary leg should remain straight. You will essentially be doing a half split. The side lunges in particular will cultivate flexibility in your legs.
Hike and Slam
If you’re looking for an exercise that can more directly relate to your Jiu Jitsu game, the hike and slam should work well for you.
Place the Bulgarian bag on the ground with the open end of the “U” facing away from you. This will force you to use the outside grips. You will be using the outermost side handles.
Squat down low enough to be able to reach the handles. In this drill, we will imagine we are open guard passing, and currently attacking the pants grips. For your grips, grab the handles with your knuckles facing up, so you should be able to roll a fist into the top of the bag.
Keep in mind that for the duration of this workout we are more focused on explosiveness than pure speed. With your grips in hand, rise out of the squat extending your hips forward. At the same time, you will hike the Bulgarian bag up and behind your head.
Just as soon as you complete this motion, you will slam the bag back on the ground, returning to a squatted position. Again, work to emphasize explosiveness over speed, so feel free to take a moment to reset your positioning with each rep.
To relate back to Jiu Jitsu, we are seeking to emulate a slower, albeit a more violent form of passing the guard. Gripping and throwing the legs up in this fashion is how we would set up a double under pressure pass. As we slam the bag down, we can imagine gripping the pants and pinning the legs to the mat as we circle around to the side for the pass.
Although a Bulgarian bag may not be the most typical piece of gym equipment, it is space-efficient for a home gym, while providing a range of uses. In addition to the many exercises available, your grip strength will be tested the whole time.