How Effective is German Volume Training for Muscular Hypertrophy?

german volume training

GVT: German Volume Training

If you’re looking for an easy training program you’re in the wrong place because German Volume training will break you down, however, the results can be astounding if you’re looking for extra muscle gains!

The concept of high volume training has been around for decades, and most people do in fact see amazing muscle gains by doing lots of sets with moderate repetitions during a training session.

“German Volume Training”, also known as the “10 set method” is a well-known training method which consists of doing ten sets of ten repetitions for each muscle group (Yes, it’s intense).

Now as far as simplicity goes… it’s a darn simple program to comprehend, however, don’t confuse this for thinking it’ll be easy because it’s the farthest thing from it. In fact, you probably won’t be able to move for days because of how sore you’ll be.

So you’re probably wondering how effective German Volume Training really is for muscle gains… it’s effective for hypertrophy but to what extent?

The History of German Volume Training

In the beginning, German Volume Training was discovered and utilized for athletes who needed to put on some size pretty fast!…

Rolf Feser, who was a national weightlifting coach in Germany, used the training method for his athletes after it was discovered in the 1970’s. He made it popular in fact and it proved to be extremely effective for lean muscle gains.

Canadian strength coach, Charles Poliquin then gave the training method its name “German Volume Training” (GVT) and made it even more popular among fitness enthusiasts around the world. He really promoted it and developed his own methods which were and still are praised today for its effectiveness.

How Effective is German Volume Training?

The reason GVT became so popular is because it was used for decades resulting in people experiencing phenomenal results.

One documented case of the effectiveness of German Volume Training was when it was praised by Olympic Silver medalist Canadian Jacques Demers. GVT was his base program and he explained that his spectacular thigh development was a result of the training method.

So many others, including Bev Francis (Powerlifting champion and Ms. Olympia runner-up), have experienced the benefits from German Volume Training as well.

The biggest and most bold (But apparently legitimate) claim about the effectiveness of German Volume Training is it’s said ability to pack on 5-10 pounds of muscle within 6 weeks, even for an experienced lifter!

Well back in Germany when the “10 set method” became really popular and was recognized for its effectiveness, weightlifters would use it in the offseason to put on a lot of lean mass.

The effectiveness of the “Ten Set Method” Quoted by Charles Poliquin:

It was so efficient that lifters routinely moved up a full weight class within 12 weeks.

The idea of a repetitive movement stimulating certain, deep muscle fibers while recruiting more motor units per muscle group is the concept behind its effectiveness.

Is German Volume Training the best Method for Muscle Growth?

Although no one could dispute its proven track record for increasing muscular hypertrophy, studies have shown a (GVT) program to be inferior in many ways when it was compared to training with five sets rather than the standard ten.

There was a study of two groups of men, one group trained with “5 sets of 10 reps” and the other group performed “10 sets of 10 reps”. The two groups trained for six weeks and at the end of the trial period, the group who performed ten sets showed no significant increases in hypertrophy compared to the group who performed five sets.

Although both groups saw significant increases in muscle mass; the study actually showed a larger increase in arm and trunk muscle size along with larger strength gains in the bench press and lat pulldown with the group who performed five sets.

So… take the study for it is but everyone is different and the results will vary. However, the study cannot discount the amazing results many have seen with German Volume Training.

To be honest… there will never be a “perfect training program” as everyone will respond to a style of training differently. However, almost everyone will benefit from any program at first and also when a routine is changed up, which provides a different stimulus for the muscle.

How to Start a German Volume Training Program

To begin a German Volume Training program effectively you’ll need to know a few things beforehand. The goal is to perform ten sets of ten repetitions with the same weight throughout. You’ll use a weight which is around your 60% 1-rep max for all sets.

A sample split can look similar to the following:

  • Day 1: Legs
  • Day 2: Back/Chest
  • Day 3: Rest
  • Day 4: Shoulders/Arms
  • Day 5: Rest

The more advanced you get, you can develop a program which tailors to your body but for now, this is a good place to start.

Exercise choice/Rest Periods

The idea of German Volume Training is to perform one compound movement per each muscle group for ten sets. The other exercises you perform require fewer sets (Around 3) and are isolation-focused exercises.

Rest time between sets for compound movements should be around 90 seconds and for isolation movements, 60 seconds is recommended.

Example Beginner/Intermediate Routine – Part 1

Use the following routine or a similar one to structure your workout program. Complete this 5 day workout plan (Part one) and then move on to the more intense 3 week program.

Details on how to complete the 3 week program can be found below the beginner/intermediate (Part one) program.

After completion of the 3 week program, you may move on to part two of the beginner/intermediate workout program…

Legs

  • Barbell squats 10 x 10
  • Lying leg curls (Hamstring curls) 10 x 10
  • Leg press machine calf raises 3 x 10

Back/Chest

  • Barbell rows 10 x 10
  • Barbell bench press 10 x 10
  • V-bar pulldowns 3 x 10
  • Tricep cable rope pushdowns 3 x 10

Shoulders/Arms

  • Barbell curls 10 x 6
  • Close-grip bench press 10 x 6
  • Side lateral raises 3 x 6
  • Rear delt raises 3 x 6

Perform a three-week Intensity-driven Routine

The 3-week program should consist of 4 sets of 6-8 reps per exercise. Feel free to be creative with exercise selection (Still using compound movements) but the most important thing is to cut down on the volume for these 3 weeks.

Example Beginner/Intermediate Routine – Part 2

Legs

  • Stiff-legged deadlifts 10 x 6
  • Leg press 10 x 6
  • Seated calf raises 3 x 10

Back/Chest

  • Pull-ups (Assisted if necessary) 10 x 6
  • Incline dumbbell press 10 x 6
  • Seated rows 3 x 6
  • Cable flyes 3 x 6

Shoulders/Arms

  • Cable lateral raises 10 x 6
  • Reverse dumbbell flyes 10 x 6
  • Incline dumbbell hammer curls 3 x 10
  • Overhead E-Z curl triceps extensions 3 x 10

Example Advanced routine

When you reach the advanced status (Completion of beginner/intermediate routine) you’ll naturally require a change in routine to stimulate more growth.

So using methods which require placing a different stress on the muscles with different workloads and rep ranges is very necessary for consistent progress.

For example:

If you lift 100 pounds for 6 reps, increase the weight by 4-5 percent and perform 5 reps. You can do this for a few workouts in a row and then drop your workload back down by 4-5 percent while performing the 6 reps again.

Charles Poliquin utilized and recommended this training style for the advanced German Volume Training routine, which is called the “four percent method”. The name speaks for itself…

You Have Nothing to Lose and a Lot of Gains to Make

As always you must try a workout routine to see if it will work for you. German Volume Training is one of the most popular methods of training and several people have gotten outstanding results from it.

Yes, it’s hard and no it’s not easy but nothing that’s worth the effort in life is…

Who knows, you could possibly be missing out on potential gains, and we all know how hard it is to put on any kind of muscle size!

To reiterate… start with the beginner/intermediate part one routine, then do a three-week high-intensity program followed by the beginner/intermediate part two routine. Then you’re ready for advanced GVT.

German Volume Training may not be the absolute best method of training (What really is?) but it may be a missing piece of the puzzle which could make your overall muscular development even more complete.

References:

Amirthalingam, T, et al. “Effects of a Modified German Volume Training Program on Muscular Hypertrophy and Strength.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27941492.

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