10 Sets of 10
German Volume Training Routine
German volume training may be your answer. But be careful, this mass building workout is not for the faint of heart. This bodybuilding workout has brought many grown men to tears and will probably do the same to you.
But if you’re stuck in a rut, looking for a change, or just want an efficient workout routine to build muscle mass quickly, German volume training will produce results and is well worth the pain.
Discover how to build muscle fast with this quick effective workout routine. Your guide to a killer bodybuilding workout… GVT.
But before you go any further, I have to warn you…
German volume training, though simple in design, rather harmless on paper, is brutally difficult. Particularly so on leg day. With that said, let’s dig into one of the most simple training protocols to build muscle fast.
I’m not sure where the German volume training program originated, but I’m going to assume it has something to do with German weightlifters. I believe it was a program they used in their off season to help them gain lean body mass. I’ve read accounts that GVT was so effective and efficient at putting on lean body mass, that it would be nothing for a German lifter to move up a full weight class in their 12 week off season. Because of these quick and dramatic results, it was quickly adopted by many bodybuilders.
When it comes to bodybuilding, there is evidence that Vince Gironda had been using a similar program back in the day. This iron guru’s muscle building program was known in bodybuilding circles as the “Ten Sets Method.”
But it was Charles Poliquin who really popularized the program back in the ’90s. Poliquin made a few changes that made the program work well for the natural lifter. The program laid out for you in this article is not the original GVT routine, but the modified version made popular by Canadian strength coach Poliquin.
Why German Volume Training Works
The main reason for the success of this program is because it targets a group of motor units with high-intensity and high-volume workouts. Your body’s response to this incredible stress is to hypertrophy the targeted muscle fibers. In a six week period, it is possible for you to gain 10 pounds or more provided you work hard and eat plenty of muscle building meals. There is also some evidence to suggest that you can decrease body fat.
German Volume Training Principles
GVT is pretty basic and easy to grasp. It may be the simplest program I’ve ever seen, but don’t let its simplicity fool you. This is a brutal workout routine.
The basic GVT concept is based on 3 primary principles:
1. One Exercise
All it takes is just one exercise per body part.
One of the things that makes German volume training so unique is that you only use one major exercise per body part. In a typical bodybuilding workout it’s not unusual to do 3 to 5 different exercises for that one body part.
When he comes to selecting this exercise, it has to be a compound movement that allows you to use a lot of weight. That means barbell exercises, save the dumbbells for assistance work.
These are some of the best options:
- Legs – squats or deadlifts
- Chest – bench press
- Back – pull ups and bent over rows
- Shoulders – shoulder press
Isolation exercises are out. Stay away from:
- Legs – extensions or curls
- Chest – peck deck or flys
- Back – rear delt flys
- Shoulders – front or side raises
For supplementary or assistance work, it’s okay to use dumbbells. The sets and reps for these muscle groups will fall in the range of 10-20 reps done for 3 sets.
2. High Volume
Your goal is to hit 100 reps broken down into 10 sets of 10. You may find your first set quite easy, but stick with the 10 reps because the weight will sneak up on you. By set 4 and 5, you should start to struggle.
To maximize efficiency and effectiveness of the workout, pair opposing muscle groups. For example, bench press for chest and barbell bent over rows for back. You will find that you get a killer pump and will be breathing like you just finished 10 high intensity sprints.
No need to force reps, do negatives or anything else along those lines. Just allow the volume to do its job.
3. Rest and Repeat
GVT is a high intensity workout with little time allowed for muscle recovery. Rest periods between sets are 60 seconds, but when supersetting exercises, rest is increased to 90-120 seconds. First set down, 9 more to go.
When you first start out using the GVT program the weight may feel really light, but resist the urge to cut back the rest period or increase the weight. The first few sets will be relative easy, but after that you should start to feel the fatigue set in.
Be sure to use a stopwatch, otherwise around set 7 and 8, if not sooner, you will be stalling and taking big breaks. This is bad because resting longer than recommended decreases the effectiveness of your workout, that means you won’t get the same gains as you would following the program as laid out.
GVT Program Details
Because of the high volume, the weight you use isn’t going to be all that heavy. A good starting place is 60% of your 1RM, or roughly a weight you can do for 20 reps.
When you’re able to get all 100 reps, it’s time to increase the weight. For upper body exercises, go up by 5 pounds and up 10 pounds for your lower body.
If you are someone who generally trains with heavyweight, your first couple of workouts will be tough. The high volume takes a little getting used to, but hang in there. It will be a nice change, giving your joints a little bit of a break and adding some serious muscle mass.
Poliquin recommends you use a tempo for the major exercises and not just bang them out. The goal is to control the eccentric portion of the lift, making it last 4 seconds. No pause at the bottom, then explosively return the weight to the startting position. Again, no pause at the top, immediately lower the weight taking 4 seconds to reach the bottom.
On paper it looks like this:
For the accessory exercises used to train biceps and triceps, use a 3020 tempo.
German Volume Training Workout
Below is a typical workout split. It runs 5 days then repeats.
Keep a detailed training journal with all your sets, reps, and weights used. If you don’t have a journal, now is a good time to get one. This is one of the rules to follow to get bigger and stronger in the gym.
Taking a look at the chart above…
On day 1, back and chest. We can see that there are only 4 exercises. The major chest exercise is the bench press and the barbell bent over row for the back. Do your set of bench, wait 90 seconds, then do your set of rows. Wait another 90 seconds, then it’s back to bench. Repeat this pattern until you get all 10 sets in.
The other 2 exercises are accessory exercises. No need to rest between the two of these. One exercise per muscle group is all that is needed here as well. The sets remain low, but you have a little freedom in the exercises and reps you choose.
There are of course many different German Volume Training variations, but a “variation” in my opinion becomes a different workout routine if you change up the details. So this is what a GVT program is according to Poliquin:
- select one major compound exercise per muscle group
- do 10 sets of 10
- maintain the proper tempo 40×0
- when you can get all 100 reps, add 5 lbs for upper body lifts, 10 lbs for lower body
- stick to your rest periods, 60 seconds or 90 sec for supersets
- limit accessory work
I wouldn’t suggest you cycle in GVT more than 3 times a year.
This is a muscle building routine. Don’t expect your maxes to go up. In fact, you can expect to lose a little bit of strength while doing this program. But I think that’s okay, the added muscle mass will more than make up for it.
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Let me know your thoughts and experiences with German Volume Training.