If the name intimidates you, it should. German Volume Training is probably the most demanding and draining resistance workout routine around.
Back in the ‘70s, the coach of the German national weightlifting team came up with a great plan to bulk up some of the team’s lifters. The workout routine was characterized by intense, rigid work and rest structures — and for its results.
By the ‘90s, Canadian strength coach Charles Poliquin adopted the same program, and it has since become popularized by the name German Volume Training (GVT). It came into prominence in 1996, by Charles Poliquin in the now defunct “Muscle Media 2000” magazine.
German Volume Training is used by powerlifters, bodybuilders, and Olympic lifters to break plateaus and gain mass. Currently, it’s being used by people from all walks of life to reach new fitness goals, pack on muscle, break plateaus, or just simply challenge themselves to see if they can do it.
Regardless of the lifter’s goal, GVT has been — and continues to be — proven successful. Anyone who wants to be a champion in the world of weightlifting, whether it’s powerlifting, Olympic or bodybuilding, needs to become well versed in this training technique.
GVT is defined by its rather distinctive set-and-rep scheme.
Basically, it contains 10 sets of a compound lift, where you aim for doing 10 repetitions from each set – or 100 reps in total.
If you get to the point where you can do all 10 sets of 10 with the same weight, you move up in weight. You should only do this with one exercise, and it should be a compound exercise, such as bench press, squat, barbell row, or overhead press.
The key thing here is to start with a weight that allows you to do 20 reps (this may equate to around 60 percent of your max), but actually perform only 10 reps.
Then, you load the weight on the bar and do your first set of 10 reps.
The weight may feel too light for you in the first couple of sets, but, as you begin to fatigue, you’ll struggle even with that, and you may not be able to get all 10 reps by the 5th or 6th set. That’s okay. Just complete the 10 sets to failure, and try again with the same weight next time.
Also, you need to take a very short rest, around 60-90 seconds and proceed to the 2nd set. Then you rest and do a 3rd set and so on, until you get to the point where you can’t do 10 reps anymore.
If you get all 10 reps on each of the 10 sets, you add more weight, and then do it again.
Let’s look at this in a training log. This lifter can perform 185 pounds on squat for 20 reps. Therefore, he’ll use 185 pounds on all 10 sets.
Set 1: 185 for 10 reps. Rest 90 seconds.
Set 2: 185 for 10 reps. Rest 90 seconds.
Set 3: 185 for 10 reps. Rest 90 seconds.
Set 4: 185 for 10 reps. Rest 90 seconds.
Set 5: 185 for 10 reps. Rest 90 seconds.
Set 6: 185 for 10 reps. Rest 90 seconds.
Set 7: 185 for 9 reps. Rest 90 seconds.
Set 8: 185 for 9 reps. Rest 90 seconds.
Set 9: 185 for 7 reps. Rest 90 seconds.
Set 10: 185 for 6 reps. Rest 90 seconds.
Note how the lifter didn’t get all 10 sets for 10 reps. So the next time he should do this – which should be no less than 5 days from today – with 185 pounds again. On the other hand, if he had succeeded, he can move up to 190 pounds the next time.
You’ll need to perform each exercise with a specific tempo. For lifts that have a big range of motion (i.e., squats, deadlifts, chinups) should be done with a 4-0-2-0 tempo (4 seconds downward for the eccentric portion, 0 second pause at the bottom, 2 seconds up for the concentric portion, 0 seconds at the top), and for shorter-range moves (i.e., leg curls, cable rows) can be done with a 3-0-2-0.
GVT for Advanced Users
This system is called the four-percent method. Here, you increase the load by 4-5% every workout for 2 workouts in a row, and you reduce the target rep by 1 rep for every weight increase.
Then you reduce the weight again by 4-5% and increase the rep bracket to its original starting point. Since this is all mathematical stuff, let’s look at an example to clearly illustrate this point for you.
Let’s say you can do 100 pounds of barbell curls for 12 strict reps, and you haven’t been able to increase the amount of reps or weight on this exercise.
Here’s a sample routine that would increase your curling strength:
Workout 1: 10 sets of 6 reps at 110 lbs
Workout 2: 10 sets of 5 reps at 115 lbs
Workout 3: 10 sets of 4 reps at 120 lbs
Workout 4: 10 sets of 6 reps at 115 lbs
Workout 5: 10 sets of 5 reps at 120 lbs
Workout 6: 10 sets of 4 reps at 125 lbs
Workout 7: Test Day
Workout 7 is a test day. By this point, you should be able to curl 120 pounds for 12 strict reps. Over a course of 6 workouts, you gained almost 10% of strength on your curl. Of course, this can also be used on squat, bench press, or any other compound lift you have in mind.
In essence, do the beginning programs for six weeks, lower the intensity for three weeks, then, if you want to push yourself to the limit, give the Advanced GVT program a shot.
The German Volume Training is a hard routine, especially if you’re not used to doing so much volume in your normal workouts. So make sure you’re consuming plenty of protein, taking in good, healthy carbs, drinking no less than a gallon of water every day, and taking quality supplements for recovery and maintenance.
If you need that plateau busted, or you must break through that glass ceiling and ascend to new levels of strength that you had never fathomed you could reach, give German Volume Training a try and see if this doesn’t do the trick for you.