The Germans do cars right. Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Porsche are all nice sets of wheels. But the Germans also came up with something great that will grow you a nice set of wheels (and guns too). Meet German Volume Training (GVT) one of my most loved, and hated programs to use.
I still remember it to this day…I was 17, on my first day of this awesome new program I had heard about, and ready to get after it. German Volume Training is an intense 10 sets of 10 reps superset program with only 60 seconds of rest in between exercises. Here’s my internal dialogue while going through my first lower body (Squats and Leg Curls) GVT session:
Sets 1-2: That wasn’t bad at all. This might be too easy.
Sets 3: I think I might be superman. People said this was hard?!
Sets 4-5: Ok, I guess I’m starting to feel it…
Set 6: I can’t feel my legs. Shit. Where’s the trash can, I think I need to puke.
Set 7: Seriously, where’s the trash can!?
Sets 8-9: Is it over yet? Are my legs supposed to stop working?
Set 10: I’m never doing this again. Somebody bring me a trash can.
I hated it. But I kept it up. For six long weeks. And the results were incredible. My body fat dropped, but I gained weight. I got stronger and looked better. Fast forward to twelve years later and I still use it with my athletes because there are few (if any at all) things that pack on muscle as fast as GVT.
What is it?
German Volume Training is simple, but brutally hard. Popularized by the great Charles Poliquin, GVT involves the use of 2 antagonistic compound lifts (squats, bench press, rows, not curls and triceps extensions) as a super set. There are 10 sets of 10 reps with minimal rest (60-90 seconds) in between each exercise.
We generally use 50-60% of the 1RM (One Rep Max). As your strength increases (and, it will), so should your weight. As Poliquin suggests, when you can successfully complete and entire session with all your reps, increase the weight “4-5%”. DO NOT use a spotter to help you with reps. If you can’t finish them all, that is fine. Keep records and try to beat your previous training sessions rep count.
You can lay out a 2 or 3 day GVT plan. I prefer 2 days a week, with a 3rd day focusing on “sports weakness’s”, but that is not necessary.
2 Days/Week + Sports Weakness
In this circumstance, the lift for upper body day will depend on the athlete. There will always be a pull (Row, Pull-ups, etc.) but the push will differ with each athlete. For example, a football player will bench press (horizontal push) and a wrestler will push press (vertical push) because each sport demands a different emphasis.
|Lower Body||Rest||Rest||Upper Body||Rest||Sport Weakness||Rest|
Rest periods must be short. I have seen great results using a 60 seconds rest between each exercise, however Coach Poliquin recommends 90 seconds. Use what you would like, however you must make sure to take no more than 90 seconds rest. Use a stopwatch or time. These rest periods are paramount to the system and hypertrophy.
The eccentric (muscle lengthening) portion of a lift is your bread and butter for hypertrophy (muscle growth). Therefore, you must put an emphasis on it. Tempo should be 4-0-0; in other words, it should take 4 seconds to lower the bar, 0 seconds at the bottom, and 0 seconds to raise it explosively. Like the rest periods, this is an important part of GVT and must be done correctly for maximum results.
|1A. Squat||10×10||400||60-90 seconds|
|1B. Glute Ham Raise||10X10||400||60-90 seconds|
|1A. Bench Press||10X10||400||60-90 seconds|
|1B. Pullups||10X10||400||60-90 seconds|
|1A. Dips||10×10||400||60-90 seconds|
|1B. Barbell Curls||10X10||400||60-90 seconds|
|2A. Arnold Press2B. Bent Over Dumbell Raise||3×12 (each)||200||60 seconds|
*On the third day, we address the shoulders as an assistance lift, not the primarily lifts of GVT. If shoulders need to be given the priority, use a push press movement instead of the bench press on day 2.
Results and Implementation
I have seen an average lean mass gain of 4-6% of body weight in my athletes after 6 weeks of GVT. While that is impressive, it is important to realize that due to the intensity of it, 6 weeks is the max we should use it, and then move on to different programming. I do not recommend this during the season, as in-season training should be focused on speed/power/strength maintenance and complement technical/tactical skill training, not detract from it. Also realize that in sports that require weight limits (wrestling, MMA, boxing, etc) this should only be completed when weight gain is acceptable.
While GVT is incredibly hard, the quote “The Juice is worth the squeeze” applies here. This is a program the just plain works if you want to pack on muscle fast. No gimmicks, no powders, just old fashioned hard work. This is something that I will always keep in my toolbox as a strength coach as it is tried and true and never fails. If your workouts have stalled, you need to pack on some lean mass, or need to gain some weight for your sport, give GVT a shot. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you when your clothes start getting a little tighter and the ladies start noticing you a little more from the new found muscle.