Advanced Exercises with Eastern European Names: Part I

Many strength coaches have a well guarded secret. And that secret is this: strength exercises typically have boring and lackluster names. So to make them sound more interesting and exotic, the name of an Eastern Bloc country is added to the movement, transforming an ordinary squat into a Bulgarian Squat and the average deadlift into a Romanian deadlift! Clients are always far more impressed if they are performing a Hungarian Chin Up* rather than a plain old chin up! And it’s now becoming very popular, especially with females strength coaches, to add the name Brazilian, if the exercise is performed with no weight at all!! How these exercises came to be named after a country is an interesting story. Certain superstar Eastern Bloc athletes in weightlifting and track & field performed particular lifts with such regularity or with seemingly impossible heavy loads that the lifts themselves, over many years, became known by the country which popularized them. This article summarizes six of the better known and widely used exercises with exotic names. The Cuban Press**, however, did not make it to the present list, unfortunately, as it lacks a certain eastern European flavour! Romanian Deadlifts Introduction The Romanian version of the deadlift obtained its name from two famous Romanian weightlifters (and later coaches) Dragomir Cioroslan and Nicu Vlad who used the movement extensively in their own training and in the preparation of their weightlifting athletes. Some coaches prefer not to name the exercise after Romania, so you’ll sometimes see them referred to as a Semi-Straight Legged Deadlift with Neutral Spine. Personally, I think Romanian deadlifts sound better!

Primary muscles involved:
The hamstrings, gluteals, adductors and the erector spinae in hip extension. The rhomboids and trapezius are involved isometrically to hold the scapula in place.

Set up:
*Grip on the bar slightly wider than shoulder width apart, with a pronated grip;
*Set the feet hips width apart and turn the toes out slightly;
*Bend the knees about 15-20 degrees to relieve pressure on the iliotibial band;
*Lock out the elbows and turn them outwards;
*Keep the chest up and watch forward;

*Initiate the descent by shooting the hips back without bending the knees further than the set position of 15-20 degrees – this movement occurs only in the hips and not the spine or knees;
*Keep the chest up which helps preserve the neutral spine;
*Make sure that the bar brushes the thighs and lower until the spine almost loses the neutral curve.

*Drive the hips forward and the chest up;
*Finish in exactly the same position as the set up position.

Key Points:
*Keep the chest up to maintain neutral curvature of the spine;
*Don’t allow the knees to bend more than 20 degrees;
*Keep the bar in contact with legs at all times during the lift

*Perform with dumbbells rather than a barbell or with a single-leg, with the non-working leg acting as a counter balance behind. Romanian deadlifts can also be performed with a wide stance and a shoulder width grip on the bar. The name then becomes a Sumo stance Romanian deadlift.

Tony Boutagy is a strength coach based in Sydney, Australia. He is the director of the Sydney Sports & Athletic Performance Centre and a doctoral student at ACU. Visit his website at

* No such exercise exists.
** Strength coach Charles Poliquin made up the name Cuban Press so he could convince a weightlifting athlete of his to do them. Poliquin told him that the Cuban’s did them on a regular basis, and that is why they excelled in the snatch! The Russian Twist didn’t make into the final cut either because it lacked the pain producing qualities of the other movements listed here!

Advanced Exercises with Eastern European Names: Part 2

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