If you’re looking to pack on muscle quickly, German Volume Training (GVT) could be the strength training program for you.
It involves doing 10 sets of 10 repetitions per exercise at 60% of your 1RM.
The workouts are incredibly tough and the total volume you’ll lift each week means your muscles will be challenged in a way they have likely never been before (which does bring drawbacks as well as benefits).
The program is more often than not, associated with traditional compound lifts such as bench press, squats and RDLs.
But is it suited to everyone? What are the drawbacks? What are the best exercises to select?
In this workout guide, we outline everything you need to know before starting German Volume Training, including, benefits, things to consider, as well as a free workout plan you can follow along to.
What is German Volume Training?
German Volume Training, also commonly referred to as “GVT” or “10×10 training” is an advanced strength training program that is designed to improve hypertrophy and strength.
It was created by Charles Poliquin and used by a number of high profile bodybuilders in the 1970s.
The workouts involve doing 10 sets of 10 repetitions per exercise, lifting 60% of your 1RM (1 rep max).
You typically rest 60-90 seconds between sets.
GVT also requires a relatively slow eccentric phase of each exercise (a 4 second tempo for the “lowering” part of a lift)… which is also incredibly difficult.
This intense approach to lifting weights can help to better stimulate muscle growth and is commonly used by bodybuilders and gym-goers to help them push through a strength plateau. Due to the high volume, the time under tension for your muscles is high, helping to promote muscle growth and development.
High volume training like GVT is tough on your body and you’ll need to prioritize recovery and a very good diet to help ensure you’re ready for the next workout.
You could use the concept of German Volume Training for all sorts of exercises, but the program is most commonly associated with compound lifts, such as squats, deadlifts and bench press.
It could also be used with different splits, such as upper/lower, PPL, and Arnold splits (check out our guide on PPL Vs Arnold Split to understand which one is better suited to your goals).
More from Charles Poliquin
Charles Poliquin has popularized more than just German Volume Training. Our guide on the Poliquin Step Up is another example of his approach to strength training and worth reading if you want to reduce stress on your knees during leg day.
German Volume Training Plan
You can follow any schedule that works for you, but the example below helps illustrate how your week might look during German Volume Training:
- Monday – Chest and Back
- Tuesday – Rest
- Wednesday – Legs and Abs
- Thursday – Rest
- Friday – Arms and Shoulders
- Saturday – Rest
- Sunday – Rest
An example GVT workout is shown below. These exercises are designed to pack the biggest punch and offer full range movements for each major muscle group.
“A” exercises includes the bulk of the training session with “B” exercises designed to complement and finish off the training session. The reason why “B” exercises only includes 3 sets is to avoid over-training.
Chest and Back
- 1A – Bench Press – 10 Sets x 10 reps @60% of 1RM
- 2A – Pull Up – 10 Sets x 10 reps
- 1B – Incline Dumbbell Fly – 3 Sets x 6 reps
- 1B – Dumbbell Row – 3 Sets x 6 reps
Legs and Abs
- 1A – RDL – 10 Sets x 10 reps @60% of 1RM
- 2A – Leg Press – 10 Sets x 10 reps
- 1B – Russian Twists – 3 Sets x 6 reps
- 1B – Calf Raise – 3 Sets x 6 reps
Arms and Shoulders
- 1A – Shoulder Press – 10 Sets x 10 reps @60% of 1RM
- 2A – Tricep Extension – 10 Sets x 10 reps
- 1B – Lateral Raises – 3 Sets x 6 reps
- 1B – Bicep Curl – 3 Sets x 6 reps
German Volume Training is very adaptable for different exercises so the above provides an example workout but you can choose exercises that best reflect the goals you want to achieve.
German Volume Training Benefits
Fast Hypertrophy Results
If you’re looking to build lean muscle (as opposed to simply increase your strength), workouts that focus on hypertrophy are worth following.
Higher volume training, for example, 10 sets of 10 repetitions, is seen to better promote muscle growth.
German Volume Training takes high volume training to another level and puts muscle fibres under extraordinary stress, forcing them to adapt and grow.
If you want to see fast hypertrophy gains, GVT is hard to beat.
As Charles Poliquin says himself… “credit to the German method for achieving such a spectacular level of hypertrophy.”
Stimulate Muscle Growth
GVT encourages a slow eccentric phase of the lift, 4 seconds to be precise. Repeating this slow lowering phase for 10 sets of 10 repetitions will mean your muscles are under tension and engaged for a long time and this TUT (time under tension) helps to stimulate muscle growth too.
The ability to select different exercises means you can keep the program slightly refreshed and new over time. This helps combat the fact that doing 100 reps of the same exercise in a workout can lack some variety to say the least.
Having said that, the program doesn’t lend itself well for exercises that are designed to isolate small muscle groups… so it’s best to stick to compound movements.
If you need some ideas, check out some of the exercises below:
Chest – Bench Press, Dumbbell Flies, Incline Dumbbell Press, Dips
Back – Pull-Ups, T-Bar Rows, Bent-Over Rows, Lat Pull Downs, Seated Rows
Shoulders – Military Press, Seated Overhead Press, Shoulder Press
Arms – Tricep Dips, Bicep Curls, Skullcrushers, Close Grip Bench Press
Legs – Squats, Deadlifts, RDLs, Split Squats, Lunges, Leg Press
As well as building muscle, German Volume Training will naturally increase strength too… however, perhaps not in the traditional sense you may associate with lifting weights.
GVT is unlikely to help you increase your 1RM directly… but it will help improve your muscular endurance and being able to lift weights for longer and keep muscles engaged for longer. This is an underrated form of strength but is also incredibly practical and useful.
Things to Consider
Ultimately, the biggest drawback to German Volume Training is the difficulty… this sort of training isn’t very suited to beginners, due to the total volume you’re lifting during a workout.
Without experience and building up a good foundation, you may struggle to stick with such an intense program.
Similarly, you may find you need to use a workout logger like Alpha Progression to help you calculate 60% of your 1RM for each exercise.
Diet Becomes Very Important
Due to the stress your muscles are under during the workouts, having an appropriate diet becomes increasingly important.
Ensuring you are fuelling your body with lean protein and enough calories to provide the energy needed for such training is crucial if you want to see good results.
This is also particularly important if you’re using German Volume Training to lose weight and see visible differences in your muscle mass.
Similar to diet, including enough rest in the week is also really important. Overtraining can lead to injury and something like GVT will put your body at the limits of strength training, so you need to schedule in enough rest to allow your muscles to adequately rest.
The rest within the workouts is also very important. You probably do want to use an app or have a timer with you, to ensure you aren’t resting too long (or too little) between sets.
This will also help you ensure you are doing 10 sets too, as it’s easy to lose count when you’re doing that many.
The focus on German Volume Training is to increase lean muscle, not necessarily absolute strength… so you may find after following this sort of training for a while, your overall 1RM actually drops slightly.
This is simply because you’re not training to improve your 1RM as you’re lifting 60% of your maximum during each exercise.
GVT workouts will likely lack much variety. You’re doing 10 sets of each exercise, and only selecting one exercise per body part… so the workouts can feel quite repetitive.
This lack of variety might put some people off.
Performing 10 sets of 10 repetitions equates to doing 100 repetitions per exercise. This high volume training is vulnerable to repetitive strain injuries, which is why it isn’t that suited to beginners.
A study in 2017 also highlighted that doing 5 sets per exercise (i.e. halving the total reps) yielded similar results in terms of hypertrophy and strength.
Why is it Called “German Volume Training”?
The name draws inspiration and plays homage to German weightlifters in the 1970s who were using this technique in the off-season to gain lean body mass.
It has since been used more widely by average gym-goers looking to get stronger and build muscle.
Although some refer to it as a 10×10 workout, the name “German Volume Training” has largely stuck and is how most people refer to this sort of strength training program.
Who is German Volume Training Best Suited To?
German Volume Training is best suited to those who are determined to see improvements in hypertrophy (building muscle) quickly, particularly at an elite level.
The high volume nature of the strength program will help to stimulate muscle growth.
The program is difficult, so it wouldn’t be suited to beginners and those just getting started. It’s also not suitable for those short on time. GVT workouts will likely be quite long, due to the amount of sets you’re doing.
Best App for German Volume Training
Compared to a lot of workout programs and splits we’ve tried, we’ve found having access to a workout logger is really important if you’re following German Volume Training.
We’ve got a whole guide and review of the best weightlifting apps but as a quick summary, we’d say Alpha Progression is best suited to these high volume workouts.
We have a full Alpha Progression review if you want to learn more about this workout app too.
Ultimately, German Volume Training is an effective program for building muscle and stimulating hypertrophy.
It is, however, a challenging style of exercise and the total volume you’ll lift in a week means it isn’t the best option for beginners and those without much experience with weight lifting.
The latest research also suggests just doing 5 sets per exercise, instead of 10, may have similar outcomes (and would make your workouts much easier), so based on that, for most people, GVT probably isn’t required to see improvements in hypertrophy. Instead, a more traditional hypertrophy workout program that includes fewer sets is likely an easier and more sustainable way to see results.