When you think of weightlifting success, Bulgaria should come to mind pretty quickly. Here are 5 of the biggest, most successful and most famous Bulgarian weightlifters to grace the sport.

1) Naim Suleymanoglu

We’ve got to start with the one and only Naim Suleymanoglu. His 147cm height and incredible strength led to his nickname as “Pocket Hercules.” His accomplishments include becoming a seven-time world weightlifting champion as well as a three-time Olympic gold medalist.

Across his career, he set a staggering 46 world records! Today, he is widely considered as one of the greatest Olympic weightlifters of all time, and the greatest pound-for-pound lifter in the history of weightlifting.

Naim Suleymanoglu Records

Naim set 46 world records over his career, his best lifts being his:

  • 152.5 snatch world record
  • 190.0 clean and jerk world record
  • 342.5 total world record

All of which were set in the 60kg bodyweight class. Which is just mind-boggling.

For reference, these records still exceed the current world records in both the 61kg and 67kg men’s weight classes (at the time of writing, June 2022)

2) Stefan Botev

Botev’s list of achievements includes:

  • 2x Gold medalist at the World Championships (1989 and 1990)
  • 1x Silver medalist at the World Championships (1993)
  • 2x Bronze medalist at the World Championships (1994 and 1995)
  • 2x European weightlifting champion (1989 and 1990)
  • 1x Gold medalist at the Commonwealth Games (1994)

Not to mention setting 7 world records during his career.

Bulgarian Weightlifting Programme

Bulgarian weightlifting programme

Wanting to train like a Bulgarian but not have your entire body crumble to dust?

I’ve written a 6-week bulgarian weightlifting training program just for you.

It’s designed as a peaking block to allow you to set some insane new PR’s before returning to more normal training.

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3) Antonio Krastev

This famous Bulgarian super heavyweight weightlifter and olympian is best known for his 216kg snatch world record at the 1987 world championships. This was the heaviest snatch ever, and it stood as such for 30 years until Lasha Talakhadze broke it in 2017.

4) Nikolay Pechalov

Nikolay’s achievements include:

  • 3x World champion and 6x medalist
  • 1x Olympic champion and 4x Medalist – For Bulgaria in 1992 and 1996 and Croatia in 2000 and 2004.
  • He was also European champion 8 times, 5 of which were won in consecutive years from 1991 to 1995.

5) Blagoy Blagoev

Blagoy was one of Bulgaria’s finest weightlifters. His major accomplishments include being a 3x World Champion, the silver medalist at the 1980 Olympics, plus a 4x European Champion.

He competed in both the 82.5kg and 90kg weight classes across his career, and showcased his ability by winning the Bulgarian national championships every year from 1979 to 1984 (with the exception of 1980, in which I imagine he was too busy preparing for the Olympics)

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‘Til Next Time


Strength coach

Alex Parry, MSc, BA

Alex is the Head content writer and Coach at Character Strength & Conditioning, as well as an Assistant Lecturer and PhD Researcher at the University of Hull.

His experience includes 7+ years within professional strength and conditioning, as well as working as a tutor & educator for British Weightlifting.