Every once in a while there is a health and fitness expert that comes around and truly creates something spectacular.The late Charles Poliquin has a history of creating some of the most advanced training programs for elite level athletes, but in the late 90s, he really outdid himself with his creation of German Volume Training.
To this day there is no other program that receives more questions and statements than German Volume Training.
Although it seems simple it follows the teachings Charles discovered from his diverse training experience in Europe and especially with German strength athletes.
Unlike many programs which focus on hitting personal results, percentage lifts and near-max efforts, German Volume training takes a different approach by setting strength and mass through repeated efforts.
If there was ever a program that would help you to put on muscle in a short period of time it is German Volume Training. In this guide, we are going to take a detailed look at this program to help you build muscle, strength and improve your overall physique by simplifying this program.
Table of Contents
What is German Volume Training?
Although this program has had many modifications and revisions, the original program was created by Charles Poliquin, a Canadian Strength expert who focussed on strength athletes in the realm of weightlifting, wrestling and power sports.
German Volume training is the history and understanding of a constant quest to study performance-based training around the world. Charles has worked as a strength trainer for many professional athletes and has tested the best principles used worldwide by Russian lifters, Bulgarian athletes and the best of European strength athletes.
German Volume Training or GVT, for short, is the culmination of years of hard work and practice, put into one simple program to help athletes build a strong foundation of power and size.
What does “Volume” mean?
Every exercise is performed with 10 sets. This is where the word volume comes. Not from the amount of weight, but rather the volume of total reps you are performing.
How Does German Volume Training Work?
Any strength program must have a set purpose. While some programs focus on building strength through pre-determined weight amounts or max reps – German Volume Training works by stimulating the muscles through hypertrophy and repeated efforts.
If you’re like us, and you’re obsessed with setting new strength goals then you would have probably already heard this word. Hypertrophy is the increase in cell size.
The important part here is that you cannot stimulate this increase in cell size by simply lifting weights over and over again. This is a process of build and repair, not hypertrophy.
Hypertrophy must be stimulated in other ways – generally though volume (time under tension) or with high resistance.
German Volume Training works on a low-load scheme, so you never train at a near-max effort.
Hypertrophy is stimulated on GVT through a high amount of repetition with a slow movement speed (similar to tempo training, also popularized by Charles Poliquin).
This is the second and perhaps most important aspect of German Volume Training.
Most programs will look to train you through about 24-32 reps per exercise. Sets usually follow a 3×8 or 3×12 scheme and will have you train at a near max effort. In other words, at the last 2-3 reps of each set, you should be tired and pushing through.
German Volume Training does not follow this method and instead looks to train you at a lower intensity with repeated efforts – each with near-perfect form. In this way you condition the muscle in perfect sequence, lower the impact on joints and can still overload with a high amount of volume.
Repeated efforts allow you to build muscle faster with less technical components making German Volume Training one of the best programs for beginners and advanced athletes who are looking to put on size and strength.
Here’s Doug Miller Deadlifting on German Volume Training – 475 x 10 x 10 sets.
I’ve done a lot of tough workouts over the years but this was the single hardest one I’ve ever done. I felt like I went through serious trauma after I was finished. – Doug Miller
5 Important Aspects of German Volume Training
Although this program may seem simple at first glance there are a handful of important factors you need to consider before you get started. Let’s delve into five important aspects of German Volume Training that will help you to build muscle successfully without any injury or hiccup.
Always Complete 10 Sets
Some people think that it is the total amount of reps that counts – which in some cases is true. With respect to German Volume Training, you should only be concerned with completing the 10 sets. You may need to drop the number of reps on some exercises (especially towards the end of the 10 sets) but you should never decrease the number of sets.
Perform Big, Compound Movements
The biggest asset of German Volume Training is that you train with big compound movements. This will not only help you down the line when you are looking to develop more strength, but it will also help you to train the biggest muscles in a shorter period of time.
In other words, you are not hitting the triceps, you are training bench, overhead presses, California presses – exercises that will integrate the smaller muscles into the movement.
This is a simple way of targetting what Charles calls the “bang for your buck” exercises. Many of the workouts and exercises involved in German Volume Training will only involve 3-4 exercises, but since the volume is high and the exercises are compound it is more than enough to help you grow stronger – and results are proven.
Use Antagonist Groups
This is a fancy way of saying you should hit the front and the back in the same workout. Some training programs have you do a push one day, and a pull another day but this is not the same principle that German Volume Training works on.
Instead, you will be training both a push and a pull sequence in the same workout. For example, a good upper body antagonist workout you could complete would be a bench press (10×10) followed by a bent over row, or barbell row (10×10). In this way you are hitting your chest, shoulders and triceps in the bench press, while the bent over row targets the middle back, lats and biceps.
Completing your workout like this will help you to hit as many muscles as possible with as few exercises as possible – perfect considering the low frequency on a weekly basis.
Train at a Sub-Max Effort
Far too many of us get so hyped up on getting a personal best every workout. Some would even call it ego lifting – but German Volume Training must be completed without ego.
For this program to work you must understand and keep your training at a sub-maximal effort. This means that the first 6-8 sets of your 10 sets per exercise should be rather easy to complete (in the sense that you are not feeling exhausted and nearing max).
Only the last 2-3 sets of your 10 sets should be difficult.
Remember, you are completing 10 sets, the sheer amount of volume and repetition involved in this program will cause you to feel tired and sore, trust that the program will work – do not overload and train at max for 10 sets.
Moderate-Long Rest Times
A lot of us become impatient at the gym but it is important for all of us to understand that rest is important in a training program – especially while completing GVT.
Your rest times should be about 2 minutes between sets. This rest time will ensure that you can hit your set with high energy and good glycogen stores.
The longer you rest, to a certain extent, the better your results will be on this program. Do not rush through your 10 sets and hope for the results to work. Focus on each rep, contract, and take your rest times seriously by keeping your muscles and body hydrated.
German Volume Workout Guide
Alright, enough discussion. Continue reading below to find your basic workout program and structure.
Basic Workout Structure
Your basic workout structure for GVT will follow a 3-4 training days per week with each workout hitting both push and pull movements. Only the first 2-3 exercise in each workout will be 10x10s and the remaining will be traditional 3×8 rep schemes (with exceptions).
It is important to remember that your main goal for any exercise is not to train at near-max, but rather, to follow the prescribed tempo and training volume.
For more information on how to properly assess your training tempo be sure to check out our TEMPO TRAINING GUIDE here.
Although you might be keen to train every day of the week you should consider that a high-volume program like German Volume Training will only recommend 3-4 workouts a week – even at its highest volume.
If you have never tried a bodybuilding program before I would personally suggest you start off with a basic 2 workouts/ week scheme (Monday and Saturday in our structure).
Beginner or advanced, the most important thing to remember is that this program is tried and tested. It is not worth becoming injured just because you think your body can handle the stress of more workouts. Your body needs rest and recovery after training in this way. Sleep well and let your body recover.
Example German Volume Training Workout Routine
Here is our adapted version of the ever-popular German Volume Training. Following this program will help you to pack on muscle and strength in a short period of time.
|Monday (Upper body)|
|Flat Bench Press||10||10||4020||120s|
|Chest Supported DB Row||10||10||4020||120s|
|Incline DB Fly||12||3||2010||90s|
|Cable Face Pull||8||3||2110||90s|
|Wednesday (Lower body)|
|HB Back Squat||10||10||4020||120s|
|Hamstring Curls (lying)||8||10||2110||120s|
|DB Cyclist Squat||8||3||31X0||120s|
|Seated Calf Raise||8||3||2110||120s|
|Saturday (Upper body)|
|Incline DB Neutral Press||10||10||4020||120s|
|Seated Later Raise||8||3||31X0||120s|
|Triangle Cable Pulldown||8||3||2110||90s|
If a day is not mentioned above, it is sanctioned as rest. This means Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday are rest days.
Final Considerations for GVT Success
1. Nutrition is Key
Raise your caloric intake – aka, start eating more whole foods. You will see huge improvements with more complex carbs and lean protein sources on this program.
2. Sleep Long and Consistent Hours
Ensure that you are getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night – with consistent sleep and wake times. If you are having trouble sleeping there are several products you can try to help ensure you can acquire adequate rest times.
3. Supplement as Needed
It is all well and good to have a clean and healthy whole-foods diet but many of us will see huge benefits from basic supplements like creatine or d-aspartic acid.
We recommend grabbing yourself a product like Testogen. Not only has Testogen been proven to help build more muscle by naturally increasing your testosterone levels, but many users have reported better sleep, more energy and better results in the gym.
You can find more information about Testogen, and if this product is right for you by following this link.
Good luck, train hard, follow the program, and enjoy the results.