Updated July 2020. Ah, GVT. The Unicorn of the hypertrophy world. The proverbial ‘Golden Ticket’ to the gain factory. It’s a program known for its brutal punishment of the muscles involved. German Volume Training, GVT, isn’t something for the weak of heart.
Also known by various names, such as the “10-Sets Method” or “10×10,” as well as a few not so nice terms, it’s got a reputation. For good reason, too. Athletes using GVT have been known to put on major mass in a short period of time, just because of the sheer volume it produces.
Most newer people around the gym have never heard about GVT, and it’s usually reserved for more advanced lifters, but if your goal is to get as big as possible, as quickly as possible, GVT might be for you. Especially if you hit a plateau and just need a way to smash through it.
That is, if your body is already conditioned to the stress of working out regularly, and are able to complete the program.
When I was a wee lad in the gym, I did what any young, enterprising individual trying to should do if they want to learn. Eavesdrop on the bigger guys to see what they do. One day, I overheard a few of them talking about something called ‘volume training,’ but before I caught an idea of what it was they were gone.
I did some searching online when I got home and the more I learned about it, the more I was intrigued. I was sold when I read that it came to prominence in the 1970’s and has since been used by tons of bodybuilders, Olympians, and other athletes at the professional, collegiate, and recreational levels.
I’m one of those people that always lets their curiosity get the best of them, so I decided to commit to 4 full weeks of intensive German Volume Training. The program lived up to its reputation.
Honestly, GVT is shocking. The first two weeks or so are comparatively “easy.” Don’t get me wrong, they are grueling workouts, but the body can generally handle it. Then, week three hits and everything changes. You want to stop. Your body wants you to stop.
Thankfully, the results start to show up about two weeks in, helping to push you along. By the end of week 4, the results are honestly shocking.
Volume training is an intense workout regimen that was developed to provide noticeable results, quickly. An incredibly simplified explanation of the process is this: Lift a lot of weight, a lot of times, in a short period time, with the same muscle group, with a single exercise.
It did not come easy by any means, and you will feel like quitting quite a few times, but keep on. You’re probably wondering exactly what German Volume Training is and why results come so quickly when done correctly.
Most gym bros or trainers will set you up with boring, canned workouts consisting of 3-5 sets with 8-10 reps each. They will probably give you 5-6 exercises to do as well.
GVT is in a completely different realm than those workouts, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: high volume. Nothing fancy. No awkward movements. Just you and the bar for 100 solid reps of heavy weight.
Instead of the traditional setup of 5 or 6 exercises with 8-10 reps each, you do 10 sets of 10 reps of a single exercise per session. That’s it. Sounds easy, but it hurts.
If you like pain, you could follow that up with one or two traditional exercises targeting the same muscle group. For example, if you finish your 100 reps on the bench, you could follow it with 3-5 sets/8-10 reps of flys or pull overs, using a medium weight. You will already be torched, and the additional sets will put you over the edge.
It Gets Better
How much you put on the bar during GVT is different than what you might use for regular session. Endurance workouts generally have you using lighter weights and lots of reps. Strength athletes pile on as much weight as they can for just a few reps at a time.
You don’t want to do either for GVT. Aim for 80% of your 1 Rep Max and stick to it the entire time. That means if your maximum bench press is 175lbs, you want to bring that down to about 140lbs. Ideally, anything you lift should be somewhere that you could do 3-4 sets of 20 straight reps.
If you hit a point where you can’t continue, drop the weight 5lbs and try again. The key is to finish all 100 reps with as little aid as possible.
If you are one of those people who enjoy a challenge, it keeps getting better. What makes this even harder is that you only have between 90 seconds and two minutes to rest between each set. Rest time depends on how much of a challenge you want, but don’t go less than 90 seconds between.
That means there is no walking around and sipping on water. You have to focus the whole time. By the time you hit the back end of the sets, those two minutes will fly by and you won’t want to finish.
In weight training, like in music, there is a rhythm, or tempo, that should be followed for ideal results. Playing a sheet of music too fast or two slow can drastically alter the song. Similarly, tempo during strength training can make or break your progress.
Your muscles grow under stress, and the longer they are under stress the better your progress will be. Of course, if they are under stress for too long you risk injury at worst and fatigue before you finish the set at best. The key lies in a good balance.
That tempo changes based on goal, muscle group, and exercise type. As a general rule for GVT:
- For long range movements such as squats, deadlifts, chin ups, or dips, use a 4x0x2x0 tempo.
- For movements that are short range like bicep curls or incline rows, use a 3x0x2x0 tempo.
You are probably wondering what those numbers mean. It’s simple. Take the traditional bench for example:
- The first number is the time spent lowering the barbell from fully extended to your chest.
- The second number is how long you rest when you hit full range of motion for the muscle.
- The third number is how long it takes you to extend back to the starting position.
- The fourth number is how long you rest before starting the next repetition.
Following a 4x0x2x0 tempo for squats, you would take four seconds to lower yourself into the squat, keeping control the entire time, have absolutely no hesitation once in the squat position, and return to standing position within the next two seconds. Then you repeat the process without hesitation at the top.
Because this strategy is so intensive, it’s recommended to work out 4-5 days a week and take at least 2 rest days per weekly cycle. Make sure that you’re keeping your muscle focus days as far apart as the week allows. This is very hard on the muscles and doing two arm days in a row, for example, could lead to injury.
Try a workout split like:
Monday: Chest (10×10 Bench, 3×10 Flys/Pullovers)
Tuesday: Back ( 10×10 Bent over Rows, 3×10 Reverse Fly/Pullups)
Thursday: Legs and Glutes ( 10×10 Squats, 3×10 Deadlift/Kettlebell Swings)
Friday: Arms and Shoulders ( 10×10 Curls and Overhead Press, 3×10 Shrugs/Pulldowns/Hammer Curls/Skullcrushers)
Sunday: Start Over
This kind of schedule can help protect your body from harm by giving your muscles time to recover enough between sessions.
Form is critical
Volume training is considered an advanced training program and because of that, I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to have proper form when you are following this regimen. Putting your muscles under such extreme stress without proper form runs an enormous risk of serious injury. Do not run through this program if you do not have proper form.
Dead lifts, for example, can be terrible for your back if you aren’t careful. Lift too heavy without engaging your core or keeping your back straight can slip a disc, pinch a nerve, or worse. A rounded back puts more emphasis on those vertebra, and is just all around bad juju.
It’s extremely important to listen to your body when you are doing any kind of training. Any body builder or power lifter will tell you there is a difference between burning and hurting.
Your muscles burn when you are working them properly. When you start to feel pain, you’ve done something wrong. You’ll know the difference between the good and bad pains right away. You power through the burn, but you stop at the pain.
Failure to stop can end a gym career very quickly, and people’s form gets sloppy when they are tired. German Volume Training specializes in tired, so be cognizant of form.
It is important to remember that when you are putting your body through this kind of stress, you must be mindful of what you consume and do before and after a workout:
- Make sure you are following proper nutritional guidelines if you want to make any progress. This means having an adequate amount of fuel coming in for your muscles to rebuild themselves and grow. A vital part of this is making sure you consume enough protein to refuel and rebuild your muscles after you tear them apart during your workouts.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Your muscles need the hydration to help fight off fatigue, keep them strong, and move vital nutrients into and waste out of your cells.
- Stretch regularly before, during (if needed), and after each workout to help your muscles properly warm up, relax, and recover!
Following these guidelines, you reduce the risk of injuring yourself or burning out quickly.
Volume Training is a fantastic way to build muscle. As a perk, the increased metabolism caused by the intensity will help you burn off some excess body fat, provided you are eating optimally.
If you are able to commit to German Volume Training for a few weeks, you will see results. With proper nutrition, hydration, form, and consistency, you can have better results. It just takes a some time and a lot of work.
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