German Volume Training: Get Jacked And Increase Your Strength

GVT The Bad-Ass Workout Of The Week

More muscle is something we all want, and yet along with fat reduction, it seems to be one of the hardest things to accomplish. That explains why there are so many conflicting theories as to what is the best method. I personally feel that consistency is the best approach overall, but there are always tactics that can be employed to get growing again when it feels like our progress has halted. Today is going to be spent looking at one of those tactics to help us break out with some new growth, especially if our training is in need of a new direction.

German Volume Training  (GVT) has a reputation for adding rapid size to new lifters. It’s a series of ten sets of predetermined reps for each big lift.

In 2000 Charles Poliquin brought one such theory and method to the fitness world by shedding light on a training system known as German volume training. Since then it has become not only a cornerstone in bodybuilding but also a staple for anyone wanting to put on size. The system is simple and effective, however, it is anything but easy. Based on the results that I have seen firsthand, it is a strategy that is worthy of consideration.

German volume training consists of finding a weight that you can effectively complete with proper form and technique for 10 sets of 10 repetitions. This is an intense undertaking, especially when you are limiting yourself to 90 second rest periods between sets. Due to the grueling and punishing nature of German volume training, only one exercise is the focus per muscle group.

Compound exercises are ideal for this method of training as they recruit the most muscle groups, as well as muscle fibers. The trick is finding a weight that you can effectively complete 10 repetitions comfortably with. This relatively light-weight is generally in the area of 60 – 70 % percent of your one repetition maximum. How can such a light-weight be effective at gaining mass? This ties in very well with the previous two weeks Muscle post findings.

Previously we talked about sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. If you recall, in that article we discussed that a rep range between six and 12 would help both myofibril and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. If you notice, the German volume training rep range falls within that target. Similar to sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, this method promotes the idea that significant tension must be endured by the muscle fibers, for a long period of time to stimulate growth. This point relates to the post Muscle: Rep Range For Maximum Muscle Mass, where muscular fatigue was offered as one reason for muscle growth signaling.

If this was a perfect world we would complete the 10 sets and 10 reps, but this is not a perfect world, and accomplishing this will be very difficult. In reality, our reps will start to diminish after only three or four sets, and continue that downward progression – how much depends on your previous lifting experience. By the time we get as low as seven reps per set we will likely want to quit, but by sticking to it we will see something unusual happen. At approximately the eighth set, something remarkable happens that effectively enables us to complete the required number of reps for the remainder of the sets. It is still unknown as to exactly what happens, but it has been speculated that neuromuscular recruitment becomes more efficient.

GVT can be adapted for the advanced lifter. Decrease reps to accommodate heavier weight and only do the same exercise every ten days.

In order to understand that theory, we have to take a look at how muscles respond to neurological stimulus. The principle of orderly recruitment states that motor units are activated in a predetermined sequence within a muscle according to the size of the motor neuron. As more force is needed the larger motor units are recruited to assist in generating force until the required force is met, and/or all motor units are recruited.

Another theory is the size principle theory. This theory it easier to understand; the size of the motor neuron is what actually controls the order in which a motor unit is recruited. The smaller less powerful motor neurons are called upon first until the required force production is met. Everything from lifting weights to running a marathon follows this predetermined firing sequences without exception. Our muscles in their attempt to remain efficient will respond with the smallest motor units available until it is necessary to generate more force. Only at that point will our body begin recruiting the larger motor units.

WIth the above to theories as likely explanations, we are better able to understand how German volume training works at the basic physiological level. As we fatigue we force our body to adapt and increase force output by recruiting more motor units to generate the necessary force that the training demands of it. Our fast twitch fibers will grow stronger as the need for strength is greater due to the constant heavy load, and our slow twitch fibers become stronger as a result also, as they are called upon to produce more force in relation to endurance.

A detriment to German volume training is the likelihood of overtraining. The volume is very high, the loads are heavy, and the result is a consistently high demand on our body’s recovery reserves. That is largely why this training style is only recommended for a four week period. Long enough to reap the results, but short enough that serious recovery issues will not surface.

This is an example of a training split that would be effectively applied to German volume training;

Day One: Quads

  • Front Squats – 3 sets of 10
  • High Bar (bar high on the back), Narrow Stance, 1 and 1/3 Squats – 3 sets of 10
  • High Bar, Medium Stance – 3 sets of 10
  • Leg Extensions – 1 set of 10

Day Two: Chest and Triceps

  • Incline Bench Press – 3 sets of 10
  • Decline Bench Press – 3 sets of 10
  • Close Grip Bench Press – 3 sets of 10
  • Dumbbell Flies – 1 set of 10

Day Three: Off

Day Four: Hamstrings and Shoulders

  • Good Mornings – 3 sets of 10
  • Straight leg deadlifts off box – 3 sets of 10
  • Straight Leg Deadlifts (from floor) – 3 sets of 10
  • Leg Curls – 1 set of 10
  • Medium Grip Presses (in front of neck) – 3 sets of 10
  • Medium Grip Presses (behind the neck) – 3 sets of 10
  • Very Wide Grip Presses (in front of neck) – 3 sets of 10
  • Lateral Raises (using dumbbells) – 1 set of 10


Day Five: Back and Biceps

  • Wide Grip Pull-ups – 3 sets of 10
  • Medium Grip Pull-ups – 3 sets of 10
  • Narrow Grip, Semi-Supinated Pull-ups – 3 sets of 10
  • Barbell Rows – 1 set of 10

Day Six: Off

Day Seven: Repeat Cycle

If you decide to try this style of training and stay within the guideline of four weeks, it will prove to be a fantastic way to break through any plateau or stalled progress. From there, resume a more traditional lifting regimen, but this time with increased strength and endurance – both of which will translate into new growth. Sometimes these kinds of blast and cruise theories in relation to training can be just what is needed to kick-start a new run of progress.

Happy Lifting!

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