German Volume Training: A Brutal Workout to Quickly Increase Muscle

By guardian-elite
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January 20, 2021 Guardian-Elite Fitness
German Volume Training is a weight training method that combines 10 sets of 10 reps each of a single exercise using the same weight. Because of this, German Volume Training is also known as the 10 sets method. A German Volume Training plan is brutally effective at building muscle. Through combining high volume and targeted weight lifting exercise, it’s not uncommon for weightlifters of any level to gain as much as 10 pounds of muscle in six weeks.

Below we’ll explain what German Volume Training (GVT) is and how you can implement it to gain more muscle fast. At the end of the post check out the German Volume Training Plan workout routine.

  • What is German Volume Training?
  • How Does German Volume Training Work?
  • One Rep Max and Hypertrophy Rep Range
  • Tempo for German Volume Training Plan
  • Five Day Muscle Group Split
  • Rest Intervals
  • When to Add Weight During a German Volume Training Plan
  • German Volume Training Plan
  • German Volume Training Benefits
  • Build Muscle Fast
  • It’s Beginner Friendly (Sort of)
  • You Don’t Have to Spend Everyday in the Gym
  • German Volume Training Program
  • German Volume Training Routine

What is German Volume Training?

man lifting a large dumbbell
German Volume Training is said to have it’s roots in German-speaking countries where it was first popularized in the mid 1970’s. In fact, the national weightlifting coach for Germany developed this German volume 10 x 10 routine for his lifters with great success.

Of course, the German’s didn’t call it German Volume Training. Charles Poliquin used this concept and in the 1990’s popularized German Volume Training as a way to add muscle in a short period of time.

Here are the main points that make up a German Volume Training plan:

  • Three different workouts performed over five days, repeat six times (30 days)
  • Each workout uses four exercises in two supersets: A and B
  • Sets are 10 x 10 reps
  • Rest interval is 90 seconds in between sets when using superset
  • Lift at 60% of one rep max

If you’re familiar with the concept of progressive overload, and you should be, one way to overload your training is to add volume. GVT is first and foremost all about volume.

How Does German Volume Training Work?

A German Volume Training plan is not complex in nature. The main focus is to gain muscle hypertrophy at an accelerated rate through repeated and intense repetitions.

The key is how the body responds to the stress of this very high volume of work. The body will normally respond by triggering muscle growth to meet this demand.

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This accelerated muscle stimulation is why people report gaining up to 10 pounds of muscle in as little as 6 weeks of work using German Volume Training.

One Rep Max and Hypertrophy Rep Range
man bench pressing for volume
Since a German Volume Training plan includes such high volume of work, it’s important to know what your 1 Rep Max is. You’ll use the 1RM to gauge the amount of weight to lift for each exercise.

It’s recommended to choose a weight that is roughly 60% of your 1RM. So, if your 1RM for bench press is 275, you’d lift at 165 pounds using GVT.

Don’t know what your 1RM is? Before starting any German Volume Training plan, you’ll want to lift the heaviest weight you can for one rep only. This weight will represent your 1 rep max.

GVT is effective for muscle gain because the number of reps for each set (10 reps) is smack dab in the middle of the hypertrophy rep range.

For more information on rep ranges and why they are important to either strength or hypertrophy (muscle building), see our post on which is better, high or low reps.

Tempo for German Volume Training Plan
man using cable for chest fly exercise
Tempo is also important for GVT. It’s recommended that a 4-0-2 tempo is used for compound lifts and a 3-0-2 tempo is used for isolation lifts like bicep curls.

If you don’t know what these tempo numbers stand for, take a quick look at our post on time under tension for a full break-down on why time under tension (and tempo) is important to form and muscle building.

Here is a quick over-view of what these tempo numbers mean:

For example, the 4-0-2 tempo interval. The first number is 4 seconds as you lower the weight. The second digit, the 0 is the time at the bottom of the movement, and the last digit is the time in seconds lifting the weight back to the starting potion.

If applying the 4-0-2 tempo to a back squat, you’d take 4 seconds to lower your body down to a full squat position.

As soon as you reach full squat, immediately start lifting your body back up (0 seconds).

The last digit is the time it takes to get back to the start (2 seconds), as you lift your body back to the standing position.

Keeping a steady and consistent tempo will ensure that as your muscles become fatigued you keep proper form and are not rushing through any of the reps or sets.

Five Day Muscle Group Split
man flexing muscles
Each workout will be a combination of upper and lower body exercises. The key is to choose muscle groups that don’t compete with each other.

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For instance, using a pull exercise paired with a push exercise. As an example, you might pair a bench press with a barbell row for the back.

Rest Intervals
man resting on ground
Rest intervals are important during GVT. Not only because as you progress through the sets you will find that you cherish this rest time, but also because it helps to keep the intensity high and not give the muscles a full recovery.

Each rest interval in between sets should be 90-120 seconds long when using a superset for two exercises.

It’s even suggested to use a stop watch to make sure you’re not cheating the time either way, and to keep each rest interval the same constant length.

When to Add Weight During a German Volume Training Plan
man adding weight to barbell
When you first start out it is very important to establish what your one rep max is.

If you still aren’t sure about your 1RM, another rule of thumb is to choose a weight that you know you could lift for 20 reps. This will usually be about 60% of the 1RM.

At first, this lighter weight will seem too light. But, as you continue through the 10 sets the weight will get harder to lift as your muscles fatigue.

If eventually you’re able to get through all 10 sets of 10 with level intervals more easily, increase the weight by around 4% to 5%.

This will ensure that you continue to stimulate the body and use progressive overload to your advantage.

What are Supersets? A Small Change with Big Gains

German Volume Training Plan

Below are the general guidelines for a German Volume Training workout plan

german volume training infographic
For a full list of compound lifts to use, go here.

German Volume Training Benefits

The benefits of GVT are fairly straight forward. Most people who are remotely interested in a German Volume Training plan want to gain muscle and gain it as quickly as possible.

Below are some of the benefits to German Volume Training:

Build Muscle Fast
Using a German Volume Training plan you will gain muscle faster than you would if you are following the standard 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps each.

But, why does German Volume Training make you gain muscle so quickly?

Anyone who is aware of rep ranges and hypertrophy lifting knows the difference between lifting for strength and lifting for muscle growth (hypertrophy).

GVT takes lifting for muscle growth and turns that up to an 11 on the muscle growth scale.

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If you want to learn more about what rep range is right for your goals, check out this post here.

A rep range of 8 to 12 is ideal for hypertrophy. Using a German Volume Training plan that’s 10 x 10, you stay right in the middle of that range.

It’s Beginner Friendly (Sort of)
German Volume Training for beginners might not be a great idea, but if you are a newbie and want to really crank up your newbie gains phase, six weeks of GVT could start you off on the right foot for building muscle and transforming your body.

There isn’t anything too complex about German Volume Training, other than it’s very intense and difficult physically.

If you’re not afraid of throwing yourself to the fire and understand how GVT works, any beginner could try it.

StrongLifts 5×5: The Ultimate Beginners Workout Routine

You Don’t Have to Spend Everyday in the Gym
Because of the very high volume of work required, along with the intensity, you’ll only be training each body part every 4-5 days. This means that you might only be hitting the gym 4 days out of the week.

Don’t fool yourself though, those 4 days will kick your butt. So you’ll want to use the remaining 2-3 days to rest and recover.

German Volume Training Program

When starting a German Volume Training plan, here are what each day will look like:

  • Monday: Chest and Back
  • Tuesday: Legs and Abs
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Arms and Shoulders
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Start From Beginning or Rest

Most of the exercises you’ll want to use for each muscle or body part will be a compound lift, with some isolation lifts sprinkled in.

Here are the lifts we’ll be using for our program:

Chest:

Bench Press (Barbell or Dumbbell)
Incline Bench Press (Barbell or Dumbbell)
Dumbbell Fly
Legs:

Barbell Back Squat
Leg Press
Romanian Deadlift
Calf Raises
Dumbbell Lunge
Leg Curls
Leg Extensions
Back:

Pull-ups
Lat Pulldown
Bent Over Row (barbell or dumbbell)
Deadlift
Single Arm Dumbbell Row
Abs:

Crunches
Leg Raises
Hanging Leg Raises
Sit-up with Twist
Arms:

Barbell Curls
Dumbbell Curls
Triceps Pull-Down
Triceps Kick-Backs
Shoulders:

Military Press
Upright Row
Lateral Raise
Overhead Press
German Volume Training Routine
Use the below to get started with the first week of training.

It’s recommended to swap out different exercises for different weeks to keep muscles stimulated.

Day 1: Chest and Back

EXERCISE SETS REPS TEMPO REST INTERVAL
1A: Bench Press w/ Barbell 10 10 4-0-2 90 seconds
1B: Bent Over Row w/ Barbell 10 10 4-0-2 90 seconds
2A: Incline Dumbbell Fly 3 12 3-0-2 60 seconds
2B: Single Arm Dumbbell Row 3 12 3-0-2 60 seconds

Day 2: :Legs and Abs

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest Interval
1A: Barbell Back Squat 10 10 4-0-2 90 seconds
1B: Romanian Deadlift 10 10 4-0-2 90 seconds
2A: Calf Raises 3 12 3-0-2 60 seconds
2B: Leg Raises 3 20   60 seconds

Day 3:

Rest

Day 4: Arms and Shoulders

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest Interval
1A: Military Press 10 10 4-0-2 90 seconds
1B: Overhead Press 10 10 4-0-2 90 seconds
2A: Barbell Curls 3 12 3-0-2 60 seconds
2B: Triceps Pull Down 3 12 3-0-2 60 seconds

Day 5:

Rest

Day 6:

Rest or start from beginning