In relation to free weights, dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells are all good choices, however they aren’t your solely choices. One other efficient, although much less recognized piece of apparatus? The Bulgarian bag.

This area of interest software, which at first look resembles an enormous life-vest-shaped sandbag, isn’t precisely new. Nevertheless it does have a brand new fan: Halle Berry.

On Friday, the Academy Award–successful actor shared an Instagram picture of her and her coach, Peter Lee Thomas, squatting with Bulgarian baggage draped round their necks and shoulders. Within the caption, Berry explains that Thomas not too long ago launched her to the software, and he or she’s now hooked, utilizing it for a wide range of workout routines, together with energy coaching, cardio, and plyometric strikes.

You may try the publish, through @halleberry, right here:

Thomas additionally shared the picture, plus a number of extra photos of him and Berry utilizing the luggage, on his Instagram, @peterleethomas. Nevertheless it acquired us questioning: What precisely is the Bulgarian bag, what makes it so efficient, and the way does it evaluate to extra fashionable weighted instruments?

We chatted with Thomas and one other coach acquainted with Bulgarian baggage to be taught extra.

The Bulgarian bag is mainly a souped-up, extra snug model of a sandbag.

Sandbags are an old-school weight coaching software nonetheless used at present by area of interest teams just like the Navy SEALS and CrossFit athletes and in varied group health courses. The Bulgarian bag is actually a nicer iteration of the sandbag, because of its delicate leather-based overlaying, crescent form that matches snugly across the shoulders, easy-to-grip straps, and stuffing of each sand and wool. Due to this form and combined materials inside, “the burden doesn’t have a tendency to maneuver round as a lot because the sandbag will,” Mark DiSalvo, NYC-based licensed energy and conditioning specialist, tells SELF, making it simpler to wield when performing varied workout routines.

In line with Suples, the Bulgarian bag producer from which Thomas bought his baggage, the software was created in 2005 by Bulgarian wrestling coach Ivan Ivanov as a purposeful piece of apparatus for his athletes and different fight trainees whose sports activities require them to carry out heavy throwing actions, although it has many different makes use of.

“It’s a factor you don’t see in most gyms,” Thomas, an teacher with the Thai Boxing Affiliation of America, tells SELF. Thomas has used the luggage sporadically over the previous decade at any time when he got here throughout them at speciality gyms, and solely not too long ago purchased his personal. And it's shortly turn out to be certainly one of his—and Berry's—favourite items of health club gear.

In comparison with different weights, the Bulgarian bag generally is a safer, extra snug, and extra versatile choice for performing sure workout routines.

One of many software’s greatest perks, says Thomas, is that it’s extra snug than conventional weighted instruments. Thomas describes a shopper who complained of upper-back ache when squatting with a barbell, even when utilizing a pad on the bar. When she switched to the Bulgarian bag, she “might truly squat with out main ache.”

Commercial

It’s additionally implement for coaching dynamic actions in numerous instructions, like laterally (side-to-side) and transversely (diagonally) that will be tough and/or unsafe to carry out with a barbell, dumbbell, or different weighted instruments, says DiSalvo. When you don't do dynamic sports activities, performing workout routines with the Bulgarian bag could be “a good way to place dynamic actions into your routine,” he provides. “This will help you prepare your mobility just a little bit in a different way—you get to maneuver your physique in a approach that’s extra athletic."

The bag can be nice for swinging actions, like aspect swings, that may’t be carried out safely with a dumbbell, barbell, or plates. On prime of that, it’s a good way to coach grip energy, because of the handles on each ends of the bag that it’s important to firmly maintain as you carry out varied strikes. Grip energy is “paramount” in sure sports activities, explains Thomas, like mountain climbing, Jiu Jitsu, and gymnastics.

One limitation of the Bulgarian bag is that in contrast to a barbell, on which you’ll simply load or take away kilos, the burden is mounted. So in case your aim is get extraordinarily sturdy—say, you wish to carry actually heavy weights—it’s not your greatest guess, explains DiSalvo, since you may’t progress past the heaviest accessible bag. But when your aim is extra to enhance your basic health? “You might get in actually nice form with a Bulgarian bag,” he says.

Listed below are Thomas and DiSalvo's recommendations for incorporating the Bulgarian bag into exercises.

First, by way of choosing the suitable weight, Thomas recommends newbies begin mild—round 20 kilos—and use baggage of various weights so it’s going to really feel difficult with totally different actions. For instance, you would possibly wish to begin with a heavier bag for lower-body actions, like squats, and a lighter bag for upper-body actions, like overhead presses. (In case your native health club doesn't have Bulgarian baggage, you may order your individual, although, truthful warning, they're fairly dear, starting from about $53 to $325 relying on the model and weight of the bag.)

After you have a bag, you don’t must carry out superior or advanced strikes to reap the advantages. With the Bulgarian bag, and train normally, for that matter, “it’s the fundamentals that win,” says Thomas, who suggests utilizing it with an array of conventional workout routines—from again squats (like Berry and Thomas demoed), entrance squats, and overhead presses, to extra advanced actions just like the squat to press and the clear and press. You too can swing it between your legs (like a kettlebell swing) or drape it over your chest “like a child bib” and carry out sit-ups to overhead presses, says Thomas. Or, you may put it on prime of your ft and carry out sit-ups instead of a companion holding your ft.

You too can maintain it in entrance of your physique (racking it in your elbows) to carry out lunges, says DiSalvo, or you may drape it over one shoulder and do a set of lunges on that leg, then change sides, says Thomas. You too can use it to carry out aspect swings, a dynamic transfer that works the rotation of your backbone and engages your obliques, says DiSalvo. You may even simply drape it over your shoulders to do carry workout routines.

The underside line: When you're trying to diversify your energy coaching and add extra dynamic actions to your routine, the Bulgarian bag generally is a nice, purposeful choice.