german volume training

If you really enjoy pushing yourself to the limit in the gym, you’ve most likely heard of (or even tried) German Volume Training.

The philosophy behind German Volume Training (“GVT” for short) is pretty straightforward: you force your muscles to grow by exposing them to very high amounts of volume using a high number of sets per exercise and relatively short rest periods.

But does this “extreme” approach to building muscle work, or is a more balanced lifting routine better for making optimal gains?

Let’s take a closer look…

What Is German Volume Training?

what is german volume training

German Volume Training originated in the mid 1970’s in Germany, where weightlifters used it in the off-season to pack on muscle.

During a GVT workout, your basic goal is to do 10 sets of 10 reps on a big compound lift such as a squat, bench press, chin up, row etc. So in total, you’ll do a hundred reps on each exercise.

The most common recommendation is to use 60% of your one-rep max (a weight most trainees can lift around 20 times) and to use that same weight across all 10 sets.

Once you’re able to do 10 sets of 10 with a certain weight, you’ll increase the resistance for your next workout by 2-5%.

Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, don’t be fooled.

When performed correctly, a German Volume Training routine is extremely demanding due to the high number of sets per lift, the shorter rest periods between sets (60-90 seconds), and the fact that you’ll be training multiple large muscle groups at the same time.

The first few sets won’t be particularly challenging, but once you hit around the 6th set onward, you’ll really have to dig down deep and will struggle to complete the prescribed amount of reps.

On the last couple of sets you might only be able to complete 5 or 6 reps at best. You should, however, avoid hitting failure on your first 7 sets. Doing so will cause an excessive amount of fatigue too early on and limit the number of reps you can do on your remaining sets.

The last 3 sets, on the other hand, you’re free to push your limits and train to concentric failure.

Example German Volume Training Routine

german volume training routine

While German Volume Training dates all the way back to the 70’s, it only began gaining real popularity when a well-known strength coach started actively recommending it and gave the method a twist.

He first wrote about the GVT routine in a 2000 edition of Muscle Media and turned the program into a five-day workout split using “antagonist pairing”.

In antagonist pairing, you switch back and forth between two different exercises that hit opposing muscle groups, such as the quads/hamstrings or chest/back.

This means you’d start with exercise 1A, rest, perform exercise 1B, rest, and then return to exercise 1A.

Here’s an example 10×10 German Volume Training routine based on the five-day workout split and antagonist pairing:

Day 1 – Chest and Back

1A) Bench press
10 sets of 10, rest 90 seconds
1B) Chin up
10 sets of 10, rest 90 seconds
2A) Incline dumbbell press
3 sets of 10-12, rest 60 seconds
2B) Bent over dumbbell row
3 sets of 10-12, rest 60 seconds

Day 2 – Legs

1A) Barbell squat
10 sets of 10, rest 90 seconds
1B) Lying leg curl
10 sets of 10, rest 90 seconds
2A) Dumbbell lunges
3 sets of 10-12, rest 60 seconds
2B) Romanian deadlifts
3 sets of 10-12, rest 60 seconds

Day 3 – Rest
Day 4 – Arms

1A) Barbell curl
10 sets of 10, rest 90 seconds
1B) Close grip bench press
10 sets of 10, rest 90 seconds
2A) Dumbbell incline curl
3 sets of 10-12, rest 90 seconds
2B) Dumbbell overhead triceps extension
3 sets of 10-12, rest 90 seconds

Day 5 – Rest


Is German Volume Training Good For Building Muscle?

is german volume training good?

So the real question you’re probably asking is, “is German Volume Training effective for building muscle?”

Well, keep in mind that ANY training routine that utilizes sufficient intensity and volume for each muscle group along with progressive increases in strength will ultimately be effective for adding muscle size and strength to your frame.

The “10×10” German Volume Training program has been around for a very long time and has been used successfully by plenty of lifters, which is why it’s still a widely used and popular method of training.

By using such a high volume, you create a high amount of metabolite accumulation in your muscle tissue. This causes cell swelling, commonly called “the pump,” and increases various anabolic hormones including testosterone, IGF-1, and human growth hormone.

However, in the vast majority of situations, German Volume Training is not going to be an optimal approach for the average natural trainee since the total volume per session is just simply too high.

Keep in mind that you can only stimulate a limited amount of hypertrophy in any single training session, and doing more and more sets doesn’t automatically mean more growth.

Instead, the process works on a bell curve to where a certain amount of volume is beneficial, but to where too much will simply eat into your recovery time, put additional stress on your central nervous system, and place more wear and tear on your joints than you really need to without providing significant additional hypertrophy.

For that reason, you’ll almost certainly be better off by lowering the overall workload per session to allow for faster recovery, and then hitting each muscle group more frequently throughout the week.

In addition, because German Volume Training involves such a high number of sets per exercise along with fairly short rest periods, your cardiovascular system can actually become a limiting factor midway through the session, especially on those really big movements like squats and deadlifts.

If you’re an advanced lifter who is already close to their genetic potential and are looking to experiment with something new and more challenging, then a GVT workout is something you could optionally test out to see if the high volume helps you squeeze out some additional gains.

For everyone else though (meaning 3 years or less of consistent proper training as a minimum), I’d highly recommend that you stick to a more conventional style of training if you’re wanting to maximize your gains without spending unnecessary time in the gym and potentially burning yourself out.

So, What Should You Do Instead?

german volume training results

With many things in life, the results you obtain are in direct relation to the amount of effort you put in.

Bodybuilding and fitness works a bit differently though, and there comes a point where doing more does not necessarily lead to faster progress.

In fact, taking your workouts too far can actually become counterproductive by increasing the risk of overtraining and injuries.

Exact training volume recommendations are hard to give since it highly depends on your individual experience level, goals, genetics, training intensity and more, but the following weekly training volume figures are a safe guideline for most average naturals:

1) Train each individual muscle group directly 1.5-3 times per week.
2) Hit your large muscle groups using a total weekly volume of roughly 70-120 reps.
3) Hit your smaller muscle groups using a total weekly volume of roughly 30-60 reps.

Large muscle groups include the quads, hamstrings, back and chest. Small muscle groups include the shoulders, biceps, triceps, abs, and calves.

In terms of rep ranges, anywhere between 5-12 reps will be highly effective for stimulating hypertrophy as long as you’re continually striving for progressive overload by increasing the amount of weight lifted on all of your exercises over time.

German Volume Training Review: The Bottom Line

german volume training review

As long as you’re training decently hard in the gym (around 1-2 reps short of concentric muscular failure) using proper form and technique, you really don’t need to perform a ton of volume or spend hours and hours lifting weights in order to make great gains as a natural.

Don’t forget that the German Volume Training program was originally designed for advanced and elite-level weightlifters whose entire days revolved around training, paired with professional coaching and supervision.

They most likely did not have the same external stressors as you do (like a stressful job or a big exam they had to pass), and would have also been in the upper percentile in terms of genetics and recovery ability from training, not to mention that drug use would have been fairly commonplace as well.

Bottom line?

If you’re a highly trained, advanced lifter who knows their body well and are looking to test out something new, then a GVT routine could be worth a try.

For everyone else, just stick to the basics and leave the German Volume Training alone.

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