German Volume Training For Building Lean Muscle
German Volume Training (GVT) has been used since 1970’s as a trusted method to build lean muscle and improve strength. Initially started by the coach of the German National Weightlifting team the method was popularised by Canadian strength coach Charles Poliquin in the 1990’s. The training method as the name suggests involves high volume strength training as a unique way to improve strength under fatigue. GVT is also increasingly being seen as a stepping stone to CrossFit training.
GVT is a brutally hard program to follow but packs in impressive benefits leveraging supersets and trisets which allow you to perform a lot of work within in a short period of time. The introduction of short rest periods in the workout allows enough rest period so that you are able to use heavier weights but keeps your muscle and heart rate intensity high helping you engage higher threshold muscle fibers which helps you overcome strength plateaus.
One of the major factors for the efficacy of the program is the fact that it targets a larger number of motor units in the body, exposing them to heavier ultimate loads which emanate from the extensive volume, specifically, 10 sets of a single exercise. The hypertrophy induced by the extraordinary stress on targeted muscles helps in strength and size gains. Even the more experienced lifters have reported gains of upto 10 pounds or more in short periods of six weeks.
The core of GVT is its unique 10 x 10 set-and-rep scheme. To make it gruelling its important to time your rest periods as short as 60 seconds between sets if you are doing one key lift like squat or bench press and a max of 120 seconds if you are working two muscle groups alternately. The short rest gaps do impact the intensity but help in improving the muscle threshold as you move a few weeks deeper into the program.
It is generally advised to start with a load that allows you to lift 20 reps or something which is equal to 60 percent of your one rep max, but perform only 10 reps. The weight will feel too light for the first couple of sets, but, as you begin to fatigue, you’ll struggle, and you may not be able to get all 10 reps by the 5th or 6th set. That’s okay. As your nervous system adapts, you may find that your reps increase again by the last few sets. The important thing on this program to not only constantly aim for 10 reps, but also keep track of how many reps you finally manage to get in each set. The day you achieve a full 10 reps in all 10 sets, increase the weight by 5 percent in the next session of the same muscle group. Its pertinent to note that some muscle groups will allow you these increases rapidly and some might be a bit slower to respond based on your past workout history etc
To extract the most from the rigourous routine you will have to focus on the tempo of your workouts. The recommended tempo for lifts with a bigger range of motion like squats, deadlifts, chin-ups is 4-0-2-0 (4 seconds downward, 0 second pause at the bottom, 2 seconds up, 0 seconds at the top). The shorter-range moves like leg curls, cable rows should be done similiarly with a 3-0-2-0.
Do only one exercise per body part with the 10 x 10 system, and only up to two exercises with this method in a single workout. If you want you can add two to three other exercises that work on different muscle groups, or one more for the same muscles you worked with 10 x 10 for three sets of 10 to 12 reps each. It is generally suggested to end the workout with four exercises in total for a single muscle group.
Each workout has four exercises in two supersets, A and B. Both “A” exercises are performed with ten sets of ten at 60 percent of your 1-rep max, with ninety seconds between sets: A1, rest 90 seconds, A2, rest 90 seconds, repeat a ten times. For the first few sets working with 60 percent of your max capacity might feel very light but as you progress into the session into sets 7-8-9 you will feel the burn.
The efficacy of a GVT program is directly proportional to the recovery time between sessions on a particular muscle group. So experts recommend to work one set of muscles no more than once every 4 to 5 days only after proper recovery. A sample workout split could be as follows:
Monday: Chest and Back
Tuesday: Legs and Abs
Thursday: Arms and Shoulders
Saturday: Start Over
If you have ever tried German Volume Training before please share your experiences in the comments section below: