Ivan "the Butcher" Abadjiev the Famous Bulgarian Olympic weightlifting coach.

Ivan Abadjiev, the legendary Bulgarian Olympic weightlifting coach

In the realm of Olympic weightlifting, certain names have legendary significance. One such example is Bulgarian coach Ivan Abadjiev, whose unique training methods transformed the sport and created some of history's most dominant weightlifters. Abadjiev's technique not only produced impressive results on the competition stage, but it also provoked arguments and controversies that are still heard in weightlifting gyms throughout the world.

Early Life and Career

Ivan Abadjiev was born February 2, 1932, in Malko Tarnovo, Bulgaria. His introduction to weightlifting began at a young age, and he rapidly exhibited both talent and enthusiasm for the sport. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Abadjiev participated as a featherweight weightlifter for Bulgaria in a variety of national and international championships. Though he had some success as an athlete, it was his switch into coaching that would have a lasting impact on the sport.

The Abadjiev method

Abadjiev's coaching methodology was defined by an uncompromising focus on intensity and specialization. He believed in pushing his athletes' physical and mental boundaries through high-frequency, high-intensity training sessions centered on the competition lifts: the snatch and clean and jerk. This strategy, known as the "Abadjiev Method," emphasized detail, repetition, and maximum effort.
Abadjiev's training program was based on the concept of "daily maximums," in which athletes would repeatedly try maximal or near-maximal lifts in training, typically multiple times per day. This emphasis on heavy lifting, along with minimal diversity in exercise choices, aims to instill good technique and create unprecedented strength and explosiveness.

For example the following is one of Zlatan Vanevs typical training days on 19 (Tuesday) October 1999. His records in 77 kilos weight class were 165 snatch and a 205 clean and jerk

10.10 – 10.28 Snatch 80/2+110/2+140/1+150/1+(155/1 went over)
10.28 – 11.30 rest
11.30 – 11.45 c + j 120/1+140/1+160/1+180/1+200/1
11.45 – 12.30 rest
12.30 – 12.55 snatch 90/1+120/1+140/1+150/1+90/1×2+120/1+140/1
12.55 – 13.40 rest
13.40 – 13.55 c + j 90/1+120/1+160/1+(200/1 missed the jerk)+190/1
13.55 – 14.00 rest
14.00 – 14.13 front squat 160/1+200/1+220/1+240/1
14.30 – 15.00 lunch

17.45 – 18.00 snatch 90/1+120/1+140/1+150/1+160/1
19.00 – 19.12 Abadjev kept a speech to the lifters
19.12 – 19.18 rest
19.18 – 19.35 c + j 100/1+130/1+160/1+190/1+205/1
19.35 – 20.18 rest (listening classical musik)
20.18 – 20.30 snatch 90/2+110/1+140/1+(150/1 went over)
20.30 – 20.55 rest
20.55 – 21.06 front squat 140/2+210/1+(250/1 didn’t get it)+240/1
21.30 – 22.00 dinner


Dominance and Controversy

Under Abadjiev's leadership, Bulgarian weightlifters gained unparalleled international success. Bulgaria dominated Olympic weightlifting in the 1970s and 1980s, winning multiple medals and setting world records. Abadjiev's coaching led to the success of athletes such as Blagoy Blagoev, Yanko Rusev, and Naim Süleymanoğlu, who demonstrated remarkable power and athleticism.

However, the awards were not without controversy. Critics of Abadjiev's methods expressed concern about overtraining, injury risk, and the psychological toll of constant intensity. Reports of athletes collapsing during training sessions and suffering from persistent injuries prompted disputes regarding the ethics and viability of his method. Despite the criticism, Abadjiev stood firm in his approach, maintaining his unwavering pursuit of greatness.

Legacy and Influence

While Bulgarian weightlifting dominance gradually faded, Ivan Abadjiev's impact remains a defining chapter in the sport's history. His revolutionary training methods questioned conventional thinking and pushed the limits of human ability. The Abadjiev Method continues to influence the training philosophies of weightlifting instructors around the world, with athletes and trainers alike inspired by his unwavering commitment to greatness.

Abadjiev's legacy extends beyond his impact on the sport itself, including the innumerable players he inspired and coached over his career. His unrelenting pursuit of greatness and unwavering dedication to his art demonstrate the transformational power of passion and determination.


Ivan Abadjiev's influence as a pioneering figure in Olympic weightlifting is profound and multifaceted. His unconventional training methods and unwavering pursuit of greatness propelled Bulgarian weightlifting to new heights, sparking discussions over the ethics and viability of his methodology. Despite the controversy, Abadjiev's legacy lives on as a monument to the unwavering pursuit of athletic achievement. As the weightlifting world evolves, his legacy continues to inspire athletes and coaches, reminding us of the transforming power of devotion, ingenuity, and unshakable resolve.

Want to learn or improve the Olympic Weightlifting lifts?

Online Olympic Weightlifting Coach

Ivan Abadjiev