We are reader-supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.Β Learn more.

The National Sport of Bulgaria is Weightlifting.

Weightlifting in Bulgaria has a rich history of achievements, showcasing the country’s strength and determination.

To learn more about sports culture in Bulgaria, read our article about the most popular sports in Bulgaria.


#1 History of Weightlifting

  • 1896: Weightlifting is introduced as an Olympic sport at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens.
  • 1949: Formation of the Bulgarian Weightlifting Federation, marking the official beginning of weightlifting in Bulgaria.
  • 1952: Bulgaria participates in weightlifting at the Olympic Games for the first time, establishing a strong presence in the sport.
  • 1972: Bulgaria wins its first Olympic gold medal in weightlifting, with Yordan Bikov taking the top spot in the middle heavyweight category.
  • 1976-1988: A period of dominance in the 1980s, with Bulgarian weightlifters winning numerous international titles, including 16 Olympic gold medals.
  • 2000s: Despite controversies and doping scandals, Bulgarian weightlifters continue to make their mark on the international stage.

#2 Culture and Traditions

Weightlifting is an essential part of Bulgaria’s cultural identity, representing the resilience and perseverance of the Bulgarian people. The accomplishments of Bulgarian weightlifters at international competitions have instilled a sense of national pride, especially during the sport’s heyday in the 1980s.

While there may not be specific festivals or rituals connected to weightlifting, the sport plays a major role in local sports culture. Gyms across the country continue to produce talented athletes, keeping the tradition of weightlifting alive and thriving in Bulgaria.

Bulgarian weightlifters have had a significant influence on training methods worldwide. The “Bulgarian Method,” developed by legendary coach Ivan Abadjiev, emphasizes high-frequency and high-intensity training, revolutionizing the sport and inspiring athletes and coaches globally.

#3 How it Works: Rules, Gameplay and Equipment

πŸ“• Rules & Gameplay

  • Events: Weightlifting competitions consist of two events: the snatch and the clean and jerk. Each athlete gets three attempts in each event.
  • Weight Classes: Athletes compete in designated weight classes, ensuring fair competition.
  • Scoring: The heaviest successful lift in each event is recorded, and the combined total determines the overall winner.
  • Three Stages: Snatch involves lifting the weight from the floor to overhead in one motion, while Clean and Jerk is a two-stage process: lifting the weight to the shoulders (clean) and from shoulders to overhead (jerk).
  • Faults: A lift is considered unsuccessful if the athlete drops the barbell, steps out of the designated area, or does not fully extend their arms overhead.

βš™οΈ Equipment & Gear

  • Barbell: The standard weightlifting equipment, consisting of a metal bar with weight plates on each end.
  • Weight Plates: Circular plates of varying weights, used to adjust the total weight of the barbell.
  • Platform: Athletes compete on a designated lifting platform, measuring 4 meters by 4 meters.
  • Weightlifting Shoes: Specially designed shoes for weightlifting that provide stability and support during lifts.
  • Singlet: A one-piece, tight-fitting garment worn by athletes to allow freedom of movement and minimize interference with the barbell.

#4 Modern Development of Weightlifting

In recent years, weightlifting in Bulgaria has faced challenges due to doping scandals and funding issues, yet the sport continues to evolve and adapt. Numerous athletes and coaches have dedicated their lives to preserving the legacy of Bulgarian weightlifting, ensuring that future generations can excel in the sport.

Technological advancements have also impacted the world of weightlifting, from better equipment and training tools to advancements in nutrition and recovery methods. This progress enables athletes to reach their maximum potential and revolutionizes training techniques in the sport.

As the sport of weightlifting continues to grow and develop, Bulgarian athletes are well-positioned to shine on the international stage. With a rich history of success and a dedicated community supporting the development of the next generation of weightlifters, Bulgaria’s legacy in weightlifting remains strong.

#5 Weightlifting and the Olympics

Weightlifting has been a core part of the Olympic Games program since 1896, providing a global platform for athletes to showcase their strength and skill. Bulgarian weightlifters have been participating in the Olympics since 1952, achieving numerous medals and becoming one of the most successful nations in the sport’s history.

The Olympic Games have significantly influenced the global recognition and popularity of weightlifting. With the world’s strongest athletes competing for their countries, weightlifting events summon excitement and admiration from fans and contribute to the growth of the sport worldwide.

#6 Famous Athletes and Achievements

  1. Yordan Bikov: The first Bulgarian to win an Olympic weightlifting gold medal in 1972, leaving a lasting legacy as a pioneer in the sport.
  2. Ivan Abadjiev: Legendary coach and architect of Bulgaria’s weightlifting dominance in the 1970s and 1980s, responsible for developing the “Bulgarian Method” of training.
  3. Naim SΓΌleymanoğlu: Known as the “Pocket Hercules,” SΓΌleymanoğlu originally competed for Bulgaria before changing nationality to Turkey. He won three consecutive Olympic gold medals and set multiple world records during his illustrious career.
  4. Stefan Botev: A decorated weightlifter who won a gold, silver, and two bronze Olympic medals for Bulgaria before going on to represent Australia. He remains one of the most respected figures in the sport.

#7 Where to watch Weightlifting

  • Eurosport: A prominent source for weightlifting events, including European and World Championships, as well as Olympic Games coverage.
  • YouTube Channels: International Weightlifting Federation and European Weightlifting Federation channels, which live stream and share videos of major weightlifting events.
  • Asen Zlatev Weightlifting Centre: This modern facility in Pleven, Bulgaria, not only serves as a training center but also hosts national and international weightlifting competitions for those wanting to experience events live.

Max is a sports enthusiast who loves all kinds of ball and water sports. He founded & runs stand-up-paddling.org (#1 German Paddleboarding Blog), played competitive Badminton and Mini Golf (competed on national level in Germany), started learning β€˜real’ Golf and dabbled in dozens of other sports & activities.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments