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The Ultimate Guide to German Volume Training

Each and every one of us sometimes face a lack of motivation, boredom or feels powerless. Don’t panic, that’s normal.

Especially in weight training, it quickly can become frustrating.

You are trying to be consistent, committing and putting the dedication in. Literally going to the limits of one’s capacity.

But somehow the results are a long time coming.

Disappointment. Frustration. Anger.

I know how that feels. Particularly when I look back on my beginnings in strength training, you don’t feel confident right away, do you?

At least I didn’t. As it is with most things in life, we have to do them over and over again until we get familiar with it and eventually it becomes a habit.

The more often we repeat the same procedure, the better we get doing it.

Along these lines, stay confident, keep your head up and keep pushing forward. Nobody said it will be easy.

At the end of our lives, we have to be proud of ourselves. Being satisfied with what we did, achieved and experienced.

Do you want to look better? Get healthier? Building muscles? Then what are you waiting for?

There is no time for excuses.

In today’s article, I’ll bring nearer to you the German Volume Training (GVT).

Especially interesting for all of you who feel bored with their current workout routine, want to try out something new or just being curious about fitness training systems.

Man flexing his muscles for the optimal abs volume

German Volume Training – What is it about?

German Volume Training also called the ‘10 set method‘ is an old-school training system which has been used for a long time to successfully build muscle.

Black man doing biceps curls

There are hundreds of thousands of programs and training systems, but many of them do not really shine out.

GVT is an exception here. It has shown to acquire various athletes considerable muscle mass over the last few decades.

It is described as one of the most effective training systems to possible lose weight and increase muscle growth simultaneously.

While the GVT has not received much attention for many years, currently it has been experiencing a veritable hype, which is attributable to all the good results.

GVT’s origin can be traced back to the Olympic weightlifting, where the coach of the German national team, Rolf Freser, used this system in preparation for the Olympics.

Its aim was to increase his athlete’s lean body mass and overall improving performance.

Especially weightlifters and powerlifters mostly train in very low rep ranges of 1-5. Switching to the 10-set method (GVT) means a radical shift in the workout routine.

Later, star coach Charles Poliquin took up the training system, modified it and brought it back to light.

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However, in this article, we are only concerned with the original version of the German Volume Training.

In order to understand the effect of GVT training, let’s first take a short look at our muscular physiology.

During muscular exposure to forces, our body does not utilize all muscle fibers at the same time. Even if a great effort is required, still a certain percentage remains, which is only used under extreme forces.

Due to the severe fatigue caused by German Volume Training, the proportion of activated muscle fibers should be increased. This, in turn, promises even better results in terms of muscle hypertrophy.

German Volume Training (GVT) at a glance:

  • Main goal: building muscle
  • Training type: split training
  • Training level: advanced/professional (recommend to have at least 1-3 years of training experience)
  • Frequency: 3-4 sessions per week
  • Required equipment: barbell, dumbbell, bodyweight, machines are optional

German Volume Training – How does it work?

GVT training involves performing a higher number of sets per exercise than normally done in classical hypertrophy-oriented training.

Performing 10 sets of 10 reps per exercise at 60% of your one repetition-maximum (1RM). These 60% is to be about the same as the weight you can use to execute 20 clean reps to muscle failure.

During all 10 sets, the weight remains constant. Between the sets short breaks (60 seconds for single exercises and 90-120 seconds for supersets) should be obeyed.

Overall, the German Volume Training is quite intense and demands to push to your limits. Therefore, it is not recommended to complete seven different exercises per session with 10 sets.

Usually, about four to five exercises per training day are implemented in a split system.

The first two sets are performed with 10 sets.

One muscle group should not be stimulated more than once every 10-set workout. Limit your choice of exercises to the basic compounds (such as squats, chin-ups, bench presses, deadlifts).

Isolation exercises for smaller muscle groups (such as triceps pushdowns or biceps curls) are not suitable for the 10-set training and by the same token are recommended for the subsequent 2-3 exercises with a maximum of 3-4 sets.

Nevertheless, there are athletes who used the 10×10 system for isolation exercises because their arms fell off behind their remaining body. That’s why they wanted to put special focus on it.

Summary of key aspects

Breaks at the German Volume Training

The breaks in between sets should be kept short and not exceed 60-120 seconds.

Man showing his gains for the optimal chest volume

I recommend sticking to 60 seconds in most sets and save longer breaks for the last sets (90-120 seconds).

The correct training weight

At the beginning of a GVT, the weight should be about 60% of your 1RM (the weight you can manage to handle just once) for the 10×10 exercises.

For example, a friend of mine had to reduce his maximum bench press weight by 50% because otherwise, he would not have managed to complete the 10×10.

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As a rule of thumb, try to increase the weight by about 5-10% per training session. This corresponds to 2.5-5kg with a weight of 50kg.

Do not reduce weight!

Most importantly, when doing GVT, the training weight must not be reduced during 10×10 sets. Although it is tempting to reduce the weight after 5-6 sets, resist and carry on with constant weight.

In order to use the right muscle fibers, all 10 sets must be done with the same weight. If you do not get 10 reps during the last sets, don’t worry.

Worse things happen at sea.

Then take the same weight in the next session and try to get the 10×10 cleanly executed.

Only after having successfully managed all 10 sets with 10 proper reps and steady weight, you can increase the weight again.

German Volume Training – Sample plan

This sample plan is based on a 3-day split (Workouts A, B, C) and intends a frequency of 3 days per week.

There is always a main basic exercise for the bigger muscle groups done for 10×10 and a secondary exercise in classic 3×10.

German Volume Training Phase 1 = 6 weeks

Workout A: Chest/Back

Exercises:

  • Superset Bench press 10×10 + Bent over rows 10×10
  • Superset Dumbbell Flys/Cable Flys + Lat pull downs to your chest 3×10

Workout B: Legs/Abs

Exercises:

  • Superset Front Squats/ Classic Squats 10×10 + Leg Curls (Hamstrings) 10×10
  • Superset Machine Crunches or Incline Bench Crunches + Calf Raise Machine 3×10

Workout C: Shoulders/Biceps/Triceps

Exercises:

  • Superset Miltary Press 10×10 + Barbell Curls 10×10
  • Triceps Cable Pushdowns 3×10 + Dumbbell lateral side raises 3×10

After the first phase (6 weeks), it follows a break of 7 days. This facilitates proper recovery for your body, muscles and nervous system and makes your start fresh into the second phase!

German Volume Training Phase 2 = 6 weeks

In the second phase, you orientate yourself according to the training plan from phase 1.

This remains the same except for the weight and the rep ranges of the main exercises.

Whether you continue performing all additional exercises depends on how intense the workout becomes.

The second phase starts with the main exercises with more weight and only 6 reps instead of the usual 10 reps. In this phase, the weight gets slightly increased after two sessions while the reps get reduced respectively.

After a total of 3 weeks, it’s time to lower the weight a bit and go back to 6 reps again. Thereafter, we’re getting into the heaviest phase where the weight goes up and reps down to 4 in total.

To illustrate the procedure, let me give you an example:

  • Week 1: Squats 80kg for 6 reps
  • Week 2: Squats 80 kg for 6 reps
  • Week 3: Squats 85 kg for 4 reps
  • Week 4: Squats 82,5 kg for 6 reps
  • Week 5: Squats 85 kg for 5 reps
  • Week 6: Squats 87,5 kg for 4 reps

Having done both phases, the GVT system is completed.

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I would recommend taking another 7 days of rest to give especially joints, tendons, and ligaments some rest.

Advantages of the German Volume Training

An advantage of GVT training is that our body is exposed to new training incentives. Due to the increased volume and thereby also circulatory activity, your calorie intake increases significantly.

For this reason, depending on your nutrition, weight loss and body fat reduction are quite reasonable.

Switching to GVT provides a new growth stimulus to your muscles. Moreover, muscle fibers which are virtually unclaimed in conventional training as others, get demanded very well.

Further advantages are the simplicity of the concept and its focus on heavy basic compound exercises.

In fact, performing basic exercises with 10 sets for 10 reps can make a huge difference. Particularly such exercises require enormous power and have huge muscle growth potential.

Unfortunately, more and more people evermore replace essential basic exercises for isolation exercises.

Elsewhere, quite a lot of folks term the lesser amount of time spent in the gym as a benefit, but from my personal experience, I cannot agree with that. I think I’ve only rarely had a gym session of less than 60 minutes.

Disadvantages of the German Volume Training

As already mentioned above, the focus of GVT training is on building muscle.

Compared to 5×5 training which combines both strength and muscle growth, GVT does not remarkably increase strength due to its relatively low weights.

Pretty logical if you think about it. Training with around 60% of your 1RM does not demand your body to expend maximum strength whereas focus upon hypertrophy.

This was demonstrated in a study by Baker and Newton (2009). Thus, depending on your individual goal, this may be a disadvantage if you would rather like to prioritize strength.

It should be kept in mind that even powerlifters and weightlifters should not train purely for maximum power all year round.

The risk of injury is too high and to give your central nervous system (CNS) a break, GVT training is constructed for a period of 6-8 weeks.

Final thoughts: German Volume Training

To conclude, GVT training can be a valuable and highly effective method for your workout.

As you can see, the German Volume Training comes without many frills.

This is a tough training method for advanced athletes, which can call up tremendous muscle growth over a short period of time.

For longer training periods, it has to be gauged whether your main goal is on building muscle or strength. If the latter is the case, then you may want to overthink using the GVT and switch to, for example, to 5×5 training.

Even in weightlifting, it was only used for short periods of about six to eight weeks but apparently athletes made relatively good mass gains.

Did you already hear about German Volume Training (GVT)? Would you consider trying GVT?

Let us know what you think about GVT!

Thanks for reading,

Claas

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Claas

Claas

Hi, I'm Claas. I am a passionate fitness and performance lover. For several years I have been training and developing my personality with dedication, ambition, and commitment to pursue my goals. During this time, I already had the opportunity to support many friends, family members and athletes on their journey to achieve their goals, both athletic or performance driven. Whether about nutrition, training, performance or self-development, for the last few years I was able to steadily improve my knowledge to provide our clientele with all my experience. I believe the key to a happy life, to pursue your goals, overcome challenges and convert your dreams to reality, is based upon mastering our four underlying four pillars; nutrition, fitness, productivity, and mindfulness.

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