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"The mind is the athlete; the body is simply the meansit usesto run faster or longer, jump higher, shoot straighter, kick better, swim hard,er,hit harder or box better." Adaptedfrom BruceCourtney, ThePowerof One,1992

Who is the T'lacticalAthlete? The tactical athlete is anyone who engages in high-risk/ high demand operations. These operators/athletes require high levels of muscular strength,muscular endurance, speed, power, agility,balance,joint mobility and muscle flexibility. Steve Nave

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hey need to have a superior energy systemdevelopment and must be able to operatein an anaerobic environment for extended periods of time to handle the rigors ofthese high intensity environments.

PERSONAL HISTORY The SEAL exPerience For the tactical athlete, when conducting platoon workup or being operational,what impact does"fitness"or "functional fitness" really have on operationalreadiness? Operational readinessdoes not rely only on physical preparedness, but many other componentssuch as:mental preparation;self-confidence; being self-aware(which is different from self-confidence); skill development (such as shooting or navigation); tactical proficiencies(mission planning); and the ability to operateunder pressurein

stressful situations.

All thesecombined complete the gamut of the requirementsneededto survive when youte out in the field. So, if we really look at it, the physical fitness element plays only a supportive role, being the part that allows us to operatefrom a solid platform or baseofsupport, but ultimately, it is the mind that is the athlete. I served over two decades in the U.S.Navy,with 18 as a Navy SEAL. And I wasnl done when I retired. I headed over to the Naval Special Warfare Physical Training Centre in Coronado,California to act as a NaTySEAL Instructor, training the men in BUD/S who would go on to becomeSEALs. My experiencesin training physically, mentally, and emotionally,both and on and offthe battle fields,aswell as in training 1000'sof BUD/S studentsgivesme a unique understanding of what it means to take people to the edge and beyond, testingphysical 1 strength,muscleendurance,

aerobicand anaerobic capabilities as well as mental toughness. I've been there,done that, and I ve seenit all. SEALsand SpecialOps get the opportunity to use all kinds ofunique, expensive,and cutting-edgeequipment. One perk was that we field-tested tons ofproducts beforethey hit the market - shoes,watches, artillery, fitnesstools... you name it, if it was something pretty cool, we probably had our hands on it. fust a couple ofyears ago after leaving Coronado, I was looking online for some options on grip training when I discovered what I wish would have been available when I was on the teams- the Bulgarian Bag. We never got the opportunity to test this baby out, but if it had been available to us, it would have been a total game changer in the way we trained and prepared.

HISTORVOF THE BULGARIAN BAG Basedon traditional roots My partner, Ivan Ivanov, invented the Bulgarian Bag around 2005. He is a former Bulgarian Greco-Roman Olympic athlete, and at the time was working as the U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling coach at the Olympic training centre in Marquette, Michigan. Ivan was inspired by his native Bulgaria, where shepherdsoften carry weak lambs and goats around their shoulderswhile tending their herds. For centuries, shepherdshad shown offtheir strength by using sheepand small bulls for various events during local festivals. Ivan based the design of his tool on the body of a bovine and saw its use as a modern interpretation of the old tradition. He was looking for a training tool that would allow his Olympic wrestlers to improve explosive actions and dynamic movements

involved in pushing, twisting, swinging, pulling, bending, rotating, squatting, Iunging, and throwing in a safeyel effective manner.

BROADER APPLICATIONS Although the Bulgarian Bag was initially designedfor Olympic classwrestlers,it has come to be adoptedby fitness trainers and professional athletes for its ability to increasemuscular endurance,' grip strength and provide a transition from traditional training methods to nontraditional. Through a unique collaboration between Ivan and me, we founded the International Bulgarian Bag Confederation(IBBC). The IBBC has grown to be respectedfor its ability to provide high quality education and support for Bulgarian Bag enthusiastsand athletes around the world. In order to truly understandthe benefitsof training with the Bulgarian Bag, firll comprehension can only be gainedthrough education.Usersneed to gain an understandingofthe "\{hyr" and "Hows" behind the biomechanicalbenefitsof this innovative,movementbasedtool. Traditional training methods are constantly being researched;theories are adapted and adjusted to suit the Bulgarian Bag. To obtain superior results with your training, you must apply physics,kinesiology and physiology principles to movement, strength development, development of superior joint specific muscle endurance,and metabolic rate increases. With knowledge of how to manipulate these variables you ll be able to have better carryover to practical applicationand performance increases,particularly with the correct techniques in the development of force with the Bulgarian Bag.


BUTGIRTAI{ HIAG APPT,TGATIOH$ REINFORCING OPERATIONAT SKILLSET Tlaining questioned Should our training methods just enableus to run longer, perform more push-upsand pull-ups, or carry a heavier ruck further? Is this styleof training evengoing to help us perform better in the field or on the mat? Justbecause someoneis in greatphysical condition doesnot make them a greatwarrior or fighter. However, if the comPonentsthat make up the demandsthat this athletewill be required to confront are properly understood - not only on a physicallevel,but also on mental and emotional levels - then the training protocols can be adaptedto support and mimic thoseconditions. Now ask yourself again, will that sameattention to only physicalfitnessbe as effectivewhen this athleteis put in the situation to react under pressure,fatigued, heart pounding, breathing uncontrollabiy and overtaken by fear?

REMAINING INJURYFREE We also needto adopt a training program that will train the body (joints, ligament, tendonsand muscles)to deal with the demandsof the environment. It is imperative to strike a balancebetween joint strength,joint mobility, and adequateflexibility to deal with unexpectedsituations. Adequatemusclestrength and enduranceis neededto be confident in dealing with the changingdemandsofdayto-day operationalor fighting conditions.

PORTABILITY. KEY TO USABILITY AND SUSTAINED FITNESS When I look back on my SEAL days,a factor in the ability to maintain our fitnesswas having accessto superior training tools when we deployed

either by air, ship or vehicles. However,having to adhereto spaceand weight restrictions often deterredus from taking anything useful. So let'slook at the Bulgarian Bag in the deploymentsituation. This versatiletraining tool takes up only a small space. Back in the day, I would have been ableto outfit a l6-man platoon with only four kit bags,which could easilycarry twenty 17kg Bulgarian Bags. Four kit bagscan fit almost anywhere,anltime, and with that Id havea complete, portable training solution. The leatherBulgarian Bagsare tough and can take a beating. They won't rust, wont roll on the deck ofa ship or the backofa truck, and dont need to be attachedor securedto anything for stability.In fact, I ve had a studentuse the bag while underway on a small cruiser during air operation, with 3m wavescrashingagainst the flight deck! , If the guyson deployment havethe opportunity to train, here'swhat they want: . A solution that is time efficient . Requireslittle or no set-up . Is movement-based . Dynamic in nature . Volume of training in a short period of time (45 minutes or less) . Works on anaerobic capacity . Has carryover to aerobic fitness(lower restingheart rate and increasedstroke volume) . Pevelops grip strength and endurance(direct carryoverto day-to-day operationaldemands);and . Increasesmetabolic rate to maximise body composition. The Bulgarian Bag delivers all the above,and more. We haverlt even addressednervous systemintegration and mental toughness.But just wait, I will.

FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT PATTERNS Pull/Push/Carry/ ThrodRotate Functional movementscan be defined as primal movement patterns. Pushing,squatting, lunging, throwing, rotating and pulling are all movement patternsthat exist in our environments.One of the strengthsof the Bulgarian Bag is the ability to train through a wide rangeof movement patterns. It rangesfrom simple, single-joint movements, progressingup to dynamic compound-movementswith high force production qualities, aswell as allowing flexion, rotation and extensionwhile under a dynamic load. There are few tools asidefrom the Bulgarian Bagthat can provide this highly dgramic opportunity and compatibility. When we lookat functional movement patterns therearemany descriptions

asto what this really means, but I believethe following elementsmust be included in the conceptto fully understand what firnctionalmovementis: . Maintenanceof your centre ofgravity over your own baseofsupport - Balance/ stabilitycomponent . Improves relevant Central Nervous System (CNS) integrationIncreasesability . Isolation to integration Movement . Generalisedmotor program compatibiJitySuperiorcarryoverto other activities

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FORCESIN THE ENVIRONMENT Aside from known threats and opponents,both the tactical athlete or weekendwarrior are pitted againstfurther unseen forcesin the environment. Theseareaiwayspresent, alwaysworking and always affectingphysicalperformance: gravity, momentum,vectors, velocity, mechanicalfe edbackmoltementas well as resistance that is changedas a resultofforce aPplication, Ground Reaction Force(GRF),mass,inertia (workingwith acceleration and deceleration ), Ioad distribution, bodyposition(joint anglesand momentarms). At any given time, the forcesin the environment are either working for or against us, and are thereforeobstacles we haveto overcome.Having a technicalunderstandingand applied practical appiication of how to manipulatethese elementscan make the . differencebetweenvictory, defeat.and in the caseof warfare,even death. One of the many outstandingattributesof the Bulgarian Bag is that we can

use this tool to manipulatethe aboveelements,and not only manipulate,but learn to train our body to adapt effectively with theseforces,therfore increasingour performancein whateverenvironment.

OBJECTIN THE ENVIRONMENT What better challenge and training than to have to manipulate a physicai opponent or obstaclein the real 3D world environment. Dependingon your job or sport, moving peopiearound is harder than it seems. MMA and Jiu Jitsuathletes are mastersat this skill. Learningto usethe unseen forces to your advantagetakes skill and physical awareness, and to know what it feelslike to be workingagainstthese elements.The BulgarianBag can train you to be awareof theseforceson your body and what it feelslike to experience many of theseforcesall happeningat the sametime - during a singlemovement with direct carryoverto realworld applications.

BULGARIAN BAG AS AN INTEGRATION TOOL Critical link between nonfunctional and functional movement

Hearryresistivetraining is a cornerstoneof my training regimen. I appreciatethe musclemassand strength that come from training heary. In short, I like to be big, and I like to be strong. But how do I successfullymaintain this impressivephysique, yet also ensureI maintain mobility, fl exibility, muscle enduranceand createa solid inj ury-resistantplatform? In all my yearsof trying out countiessproducts,gadgets, and gimmicks, only one tool has affordedme the ability to truly stay injury-free, yet reap ali the benefitsofan incredibly physicallyactive lifestyle. Yes,you guessedit, the Bulgarian Bag. The BulgarianBagis the perfect transitional tool betweentraditionalweight training and the parameters mentionedabovefor functional training. Training with the BulgarianBagduring offdays helpsme recover without overtraining. The loadsare relativelylight and I

The ongoing argument between what is functionaland what is non-functionalis not the point ofthis articlebut ifyou wereto ask l0 people,"What is functionaltraining?"you will get l0 different answers. Regardless of the definitions provided,I do believethat heary resistiveweight training (ie. squatting,lunging, pushing and pressing)shouid be incorporatedinto any athlete's program,with the program designedto reflectthe physical dernandsofthe sport or job. Having a solid foundation in strengthcarriesover to all activitiesand providesthe baseto build key components - power and speed- and is the ultimatebuilding block for functional movements.

Fora specialBulgarianBagworkout plan includingdetailedimagesgo to category/articles/train ing/

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BUKGANNR BAS APPKTGATTOHS can control force development basedon how I manipulate two variables: mass (weight of bag) and acceleration(speed of movement). Becausethe loads arelight, there is relativelylow protein degradationcomparedto high intensity resistiveweigh training. Remember,we measure intensity for weight training basedon how hard we are working as a percentageof IRM for a given rep range. Intensity with the Bulgarian Bag can be measurednot by intensity (per definition above) per se, but bydensity. By density,I mean how much work we are performing in a given time frame. This again is where the BulgarianBagexcelsby being ableto producevery dense workouts with high relative volume of weight moved.

Nenrous svstem integratiofr: Train the Sodv to move and reciuit more muscles during movement One of my favourite benefits of the Bulgarian Bag is its ability to have direct carryover to resistive weight training. Its movement enhancement for the tactical athlete or MMA fighter is built through the enhanced nervous systemintegration. Let me describethis for you - but to relate to this you need to use the Bulgarian Bag on a regular basis (3 to 5 times a week). Many Bulgarian Bag movements such as the Spin, Power Snatch and Arm Throw require full body integration/activation to perform the movement with correct technique. That means a bottom-of-your-foot-tothe-top-of-your-head type of integration. As you progressand master the movements, you develop an increasedability to recruit more muscles.This is done by developingneural pathways that quickly communicate with muscles to work together to efficiently load and unload the

body during highly-dynamic, load-bearingrotational and sagittal plane movements.

FLOW:USING THE BULGARIAN BAG TO GET INTO FLOW What is flow and why is it important? How we feel toward what we do and the experienceit offers often directly impacts our performance or ability to perform at continually high or optimal level. Mihaly Csilazentmihalyi describes this experienceas:"Flowl' In his book F/ow ls Sporfshe describeswhat various athletes and tactical athleteshavesaid about being "in the flow'i Some descriptionsare: > "In the zonel' "In the groovei' )) "Focused." > "Everything clicksl'

understandhow important the mental factor is to findinq flow. Remember. flow is a psychological state and can be attainedthrough contro) of the mind - or attention. The physical and technical components all need to first be in place to experience flow.

proper GreaFng_the mrno set Mihaly believesit is the mind-set that opensthe possibfity for fl ow. He mentionsnine components that needto be in place: l. Challenge-skills balance 2. Action-awareness merging J. Clear goals 4. Unambiguousfeedback 5 . Concentration on the task at hand 6. Senseof control 7. Lossof self-consciousness 8. Transformation of time 9. Autotelic experience

All are important, but they arebeyond the scopeofthis article.The one.thatis the mosr relevantto the topic is the Challenge-skillsbalanceand the Autotelic experience. So what is this challengeskills balanceand how doesit affect how we train, and more importantly what tool we use, for the tactical athleteor MMA athlete?Challenges come in manyforms - physical,mental or technical.

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But, being in the flow is more than just the words. Flow is a "harmonious experiencewhere mind and body are working together:effortlessly.Victory or defeatis irrelevant;flow is a stateof mind regardlessof the outcome." Thesepoints arebeing discussedto help vou


solution that is time efficielrt."



BUhGf,NNHBNS AFPI,TGATIOHS Challengesare not always driven by the obvious,like to win the fight or accomplish the mission.Many times they are defined in a personalway, and may be far different than the demandsof the structured competitiveor tactical environment. According to Mihaly, a keypoint to remember is, "It is what the athletechoosesto define asthe challengethat determineswhat skills are neededto match the perceivedopportuniry' We all vary in our relative skills and capacities.Howevet the objectiveskill is not critical for the challenge-skillsbalance; it is how we perceiveour skills in relation to the relevant challenge.Mihaly states,"It is more important to realisethat what you believeyou can do will determine your experience more that your actual abilitiesl'

Puttine it all togethEr: the au-totelicexperience What is the autotelic experience?Simply,it is "flowl' This stateof mind can be so rewarding to athletes,that once experiencedit is sought out, over and over again. You can focus on many aspectsof how it feels.Some focus on how the movements feel,that you "feel like a champion - like a true athletel' Performing perfectly may be another component of enjoyrnentand is a result of being in the flow. So,how do we find flow in the tactical athlete? For our purposes,completely understandingthe challengeskills balanceand creatingthe proper mind-set is a great start.

Fundamentals for reinforcing oDeration skill sem g'etief in Self and being Self-aware The importanceof selfconfidencecannotbe underestimated. Without a beliefthat, "I can withstand challengesthat will come from many fronts" you may never get the chanceto experienceflow.

Self-beliefrefersto core idealsthat we hold about our abilitiesand ourselves.This is built up over time and is a consequenceof our experiences and our environment. Typically,the athleteis at the mercy of their sport or event; meaning,their confidenceis basedon performancein their sport and can be affectedfrom match to match. Having self-beliefis deeper and it is not relatedto specific performance,but to a belief in self. So what is the difference betweenbelief in self and being self-aware?Being self-aware meanswe havethe ability to quickly make adjustments to skills or goals,depending on the opportunities in the environment. Mihaly states, "Self-awareness simply means paying attention to the cues provided by movements and reactions,and making adjustmentsto what you are doing when somethingis not quite right. Without self awarenessan attrletemisses important cuesthat can iead to a positive changein performancei' Being self-awareis not thinking about the selfat all; we just processinformation about the fine nuancesofour involvement in the activity.

Using the Bulgarian Bag io facilitale flow How do we use the Bulgarian Bagto facilitateflow? Training with the Bulgarian Bagoffers a different challengethan that to which most of us are accustomed.Peopleoften wonder "What can I do with alight l2kgor lTkgbag?"But remember,that'sthe weight while it sits still on the ground, not moving. Once we start to move the bag and manipulatethe variable the whole game changes.I mentioned beforethat getting to that psychologicalstateof flow dependedon many variables, but the oneswe can impact and developwith well-designed training is self-confidenceand self-awareness.

"The Bulgarian Bag is a uersatile tool that can be taken and used uirtually

any/whenein most or any conditions. Functional and roh-functional training has a place in our phys-cal and mental preparation, and the Bulgarian Bag is a great integration tool." Bulgarian Bagtraining and workouts can be extremely difficult and can provide challengesat physical,mental and emotional levels. What this doesfor us asa tactical or MMA athleteis to build our self-confidenceby truly believing,"I can live through this, I am ready physicallyfor anychallenge."Ifas a coachI can help my athleteovercome any mental obstaclesassociated with the chalienges,then we createthe environment for flow to exist. The secondcheckblock for facilitating flow is by training my athlete to be more physically self-aware.To do this the athletehasto be so tuned-in to how his body feels,reacts and respondsto movement patterns,especiallyonesthat effectivelymimic the potential external stimulus that may be experiencedin the combative environment. This stimulus must be quickly interpretedas environmentalfeedbackand the athletehasto havethe ability to reactand adjust. Becauseof the raw nature of the movements with the Bulgarian Bag,you will become body-aware. For many movements,no muscle escapesthe stimulus and demands ofthe bag. To endure the training you will develop a keener senseof movement-basedreaction. essentiallyyou become a fine-tuned neurological responsemachine.

coNctustoN Thereare many aspectsto performancefor both the tactical and MMA athlete. I haveshown that the Bulgarian Bag is a versatiletool that can be taken and usedvirtually an1'wherein most or any conditions. Functional and non-functional training has a placein our physicaland mental preparation,and the Bulgarian Bag is a great integration tool. Creating the correct mindset can havea direct impact on our performance regardlessof our physical conditioning. Our psychologicalstateand our belief in our abilitieswill often determine our outcome whether it's in the field or on the mat. As a result of that, in my opinion the Bulgarian Bag should be a key component in any serious training program for the tactical or combatathlete.r rirrt

The Tactical and MMA Athlete: Bulgarian Bag Applications  

This article asks the questions, "Who is the Tactical Athlete?"The tactical athlete is anyone who engages in high-risk/ high demand operatio...

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