German Volume Training

German Volume training was created during the mid-70s in Germany and was popularized by the National coach of weightlifting Rolf Feser. This method, also known as the “10 sets method”, was used by off-season weightlifters to gain lean body mass and shed unnecessary body-fat. Weightlifters would commonly move up an entire weight class in twelve weeks due to the shear effectiveness of this program. German volume training was brought mainstream by Charles Poliquin in a 1996 issue of the magazine Muscle Media 2000, and since then has been a stock program for gym rats all over the planet. Jacques Demers, a silver Olympic weightlifting medalist, accredited his strength and massive leg size to german volume training.

Jacques Demers

German volume training targets a specific group of motor units exposing them to intensive amounts volume, i.e. ten sets of a single exercise. The body adapts to the mass amounts of stress by hypertrophying (muscle-growth) the targeted fibers to cope with the work load. Although this program is geared more towards hypertrophy than strength it still has a substantial positive impact on performance for any weightlifter. Practicing a lift for ten sets every five days is going to drastically improve your form and muscular endurance. When you do a high amount of sets for a single exercise fatigued muscle fibers will begin to drop out and new unused fibers will join in to compensate. At the end of ten sets you will have literally used parts of your muscles that you have never used before.

To say this program adds muscle fast is probably an understatement. Gains of ten pounds or more in six weeks are not uncommon, even in experienced lifters.- Charles Poliquin

The goal with this method is to complete ten sets of ten reps for each exercise. You’ll want to start with a weight of which you could do twenty reps until failure, which for most people is 60% of their 1RM (one rep max). So if you can squat 400 pounds for one rep, you would then use 240 pounds for your ten sets of ten. You must keep the weight the same throughout the ten sets and only increase the weight by five percent once you have completed your ten sets of ten with constant rest intervals. The rest intervals are short (60 seconds between accessory work and 90 seconds between the main lifts) which results in accumulative fatigue. You may find yourself to get stronger again when it comes to the eight and ninth sets because of a temporary neural adaptation.

You’ll only be performing one exercise per bodypart so you’ll only be doing lifts that recruit the most amount of muscle fibers i.e. bench press and squats. For accessory work you can do 3 sets of 10-20 repetitions. Refrain from using any intensity techniques such as forced reps or drop-sets, the volume will take care of the strength and hypertrophy on its own. At the same time the intense amount of volume will make recovery harder and longer. Typically training a bodypart every four to five days is sufficient. Below is the recommended bodypart split for lifters new to the german volume training method.

Recommended Split

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5
Chest and Back Legs and Abs Off Arms and Shoulders Off

After day five you’ll start over from day one, so each training cycle is five days. You’ll want to keep a notebook to track your progress, and a stopwatch to track your rest intervals. Charles Polequin also recommends keeping a certain tempo when doing certain lifts. For example when doing long range movements such as squats you would use a 40×0 tempo, and for shorter range movements a 30×20 tempo. The first number represents the eccentric portion of the lift and the second number represents the concentric part of the lift. The eccentric portion is the negative part of the movement (if you’re benching the eccentric portion would be you lowering the bar down to your chest), and the concentric would be the positive part of the lift(again using bench press as an example pushing the bar up from your chest after lowering it would be the concentric portion).

jim williams

The tempo is really the least important part of the program and is not mandatory, so if you feel that it is to much to keep up with than by all means drop it. You must however keep up with the rest intervals as they are part of what makes German volume training such a well respected program. Below is a sample routine based on a five-day cycle and is phase one of german volume training. Once you’ve done six workouts for each bodypart you will move on to a different program for three weeks and then return to complete phase two.

Beginner/Intermediate German Volume Training Program Phase One

Day 1-Chest and Back

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest Interval
A-1 Bench Press 10 10 40×0 90 seconds
A-2 Chin-ups 10 10 40×0 90 seconds
B-1 Incline dumbbell flyes 3 10-12 30×20 60 seconds
B-2 seated rows 3 10-15 30×20 60 seconds

Day 2-Legs and Abs

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest Interval
A-1 Squats 10 10 40×0 90 seconds
A-2 Leg curls 10 10 40×0 90 seconds
B-1 weighted sit ups 3 15-20 20×20 60 seconds
B-2 calf raises 3 10-15 20×20 60 seconds

Day 3-Rest Day

Day 4-Arms and Shoulders

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest Interval
A-1 Dips 10 10 40×0 90 seconds
A-2 Hammer curls 10 10 40×0 90 seconds
B-1 lateral raises 3 10-15 20×0 60 seconds
B-2 lying side laterals 3 10-15 20×0 60 seconds

Day 5-Rest Day

You superset the A-1 and A-2 exercises together with 90 seconds rest in between sets, and you do the same for the B exercises except you only take 60 seconds in between. So you will do A-1 then rest for 90 seconds, do A-2 then rest for 90 seconds, then do A-1 again and rest for 90 seconds ect. Keep doing that until all sets of A-1 and A-2 are completed then move on using the same cycle for B-1 and B-2 (remember only 60 seconds rest instead of 90).

After you have completed the first phase you will move onto a different program for three weeks. The recommendation is doing a phase of only four-six sets per bodypart over a five day period with 6-8 reps per set. You can do any split of your choice as long as fits your recovery ability. After the three week intermission you can return to german volume training and begin phase two. With phase two you will still be using ten sets, but will now only be doing six reps for the main lifts. For the exercises that use ten sets, use a weight in which you could normally do 12 repetitions with.

Beginner/Intermediate German Volume Training Program Phase Two

Day 1-Chest and Back

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest Interval
A-1 Incline Barbell Bench Press 10 6 50×0 90 seconds
A-2 Wide grip pullups 10 6 40×0 90 seconds
B-1 dumbbell flyes 3 6 30×10 60 seconds
B-2 barbell rows 3 6 30×10 60 seconds

Day 2-Legs and Abs

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest Interval
A-1 Romanian Deadlifts 10 6 50×0 90 seconds
A-2 Leg curls 10 6 50×0 90 seconds
B-1 twisting crunches 3 12-15 30×30 60 seconds
B-2 calf raises 3 10-15 30×30 60 seconds

Day 3-Rest Day

Day 4-Arms and Shoulders

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest Interval
A-1 Close grip bench press 10 6 50×0 90 seconds
A-2 close grip EZ bar curls 10 6 50×0 90 seconds
B-1 lateral raises 3 10-12 20×0 60 seconds
B-2 lying side laterals 3 10-12 20×0 60 seconds

Day 5-Rest Day

You can keep using phase two until you plateau then move onto something else. This is a sample program and you may substitute any exercise you want as long as you follow the guidelines of german volume training. For the main lifts (A-1 and A-2) be sure to pick a movement that will recruit the most fibers, and you should include the basic compound lifts whenever possible. Another good option would be to pick a variation of a compound lift such as front squats instead of squats.

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41 thoughts on “German Volume Training”

  1. This is an awesome way to workout. There is an additional benefit that I’ve found to using GVT that is not mentioned here: with less weight, you can use much better form. There is also less overall stress on the joints than when working with 80% max weight with the “normal” resistance training routine.
    Those who might be new to this may wonder: if it’s so effective, then why isn’t everyone using this method? The answer, in my opinion, is simple: it takes a much bigger chunk of time to do this type of training. Most people prefer the quicker methods of drop sets or traditional techniques. This method is going to require some time commitment. Nothing worth having is going to be easy. It is absolutely worthwhile. If you doubt it, try this one simple “trial” method: just do your calves. That’s it. Just your calves. Try it and see if you can stick with it. I did a GVT “tryout” on just my calves, and they exploded over the summer (about 3 months). Doubled in size. When I started seeing those results I moved to my hams and quads, and am already seeing gains in size and strength. Give it a try on just one muscle group and you’ll see for yourself.
    Good luck and good health everyone.

  2. Giving it 4 months …. highly doubtful as these type of routines will work if ur on juice.
    But as a natural lifter I give all pre 60′s routine a try.
    I took measurements and will post back.

  3. Just an awesome system, works good even when alternateing with power routines.Very adaptable to many different training regimens.

  4. Ive done this GVT method periodically for the past 15 yrs.Awesome damn routine.I alternate back and forth with 5×5
    Training..Im 50 yrs old now and even though Im not into the max effort 1 rep shit, I still love training hard and the GVT training never fails to deliver an awesome workout..

  5. I love/hate articles like this because they NEVER explain to you the REAL weight you’re supposed to use while on a program like this – GVT. It’s the same bullshit as the 20 rep squat programs where they ‘explain’ to you to use your 10 rep max then “don’t stop until you get twenty!” nonsense. Guess what? NO ONE can get 20 reps with their 10 rep max OR IT’S NOT YOUR 10 REP MAX!!! It doesn’t matter how long you pause between reps and how much you breathe, if you don’t rack the bar and you get 20 reps then you just squatted your 20 rep max. PERIOD. Giving instructions like this only results in injuries and turning people off from lifting weights.

    The same applies here. You do/can NOT start with 60% of your 1 rep max with 90 seconds max rests or else you will find yourself too fatigued to continue after about the 4th or 5th set. If you DO find yourself completing all ten sets then guess what? You didn’t use 60% of your 1 rep max, you used much less!

    Hell, even Vince Gironda said that to start such a routine (10×10 or 8×8) you begin with a weight that is around 30% of your 1 rep max or else expect not to finish all the sets nor complete all of the reps.

    I’m so sick of this, “I have to act as hardcore as possible to prove to the world how much more of a hardcore lifter I am than everyone else” attitude. This bullshit is why more people either don’t bother lifting or give it up after a few weeks because some asshole gave them such “hardcore” instructions and they failed on their routine miserably so they gave up. It doesn’t make you tough, it doesn’t make you cool, and it doesn’t do anything but confuse people who don’t possess proper years of training knowledge.

    Use your brains, people. This program works, but you’re supposed to start with much lower weights than they say and build up to using 60% of your 1 rep max, NOT start out with it. If you want to make great gains then heed my warning and start with lower weight, but if you want to start with the weight suggested in this article then don’t expect to even finish this routine even the first time you try it. Think about it, it’s the same as the 20 rep breathing squat bullshit hardcore advice of, “Take your 10 rep max and don’t stop until you get 20!” Really? Okay, i will, BUT then how the FUCK do you expect me to add any weight and make any progress at all if it took everything i had on my best day just to do that first fucking workout??? Exactly.

    1. Joe your just a big baby that doesn not want to put in the hars work it takes to change your body. This is what we do, go to thw gym and kill it everyday. Fuck you panzee ass that thinks it should be easy and if its not your gonna get hurt. This lifestyle isnt for everyone, so if you cant handle it then dont do it.
      Brb time to squat

      1. Yeah, 20 years of lifting, doing GVT many times over those years, including many 20 rep breathing squat routines and the same but with heavy deadlifts totally makes me a pussy. You are SO correct, LoL. Get a clue, moron. You are the same kind of idiot who tells someone asking about 20 rep squats to take their 10 rep max then don’t stop until you hit 20, then you wonder why that person tries it once, FAILS because you CAN’T get 20 reps with your 10 rep max, then they never hit the weights again. Yeah, good job making sure LESS people stick to weight lifting instead of doing what you’re supposed to be doing and encouraging people to start and stick with it, giving them HELPFUL advice that won’t cripple them physically and mentally. But hell, i wouldn’t doubt you have a 1rm bench press of 150lbs but go around telling everyone you rep 300 but you’re ‘too tired’ to actually do it in front of others ;-P

        1. Mr Joe I completed my phase I very appropriately. This routine is really awesome. I think you should grow up properly b4 commenting…..grow up kid

    2. Coming from a guy who probably cant even bench the bar. Its called pushing yourself BEYOND your limits to promote growth and development. Agreed with the other guys here. Youre nothing but a pussy.

    3. I agree in some aspect to your comment, but it also depends on the lifter. Some people have a higher strength endurance to maximal strength ration. My 5 rep max for squat is 225, so that is about 80-85 percent my one rep max. I just did 10×10 front squat with 185 for the first time and made it through all my sets with 90 sec. rest.

    4. Not true. Yes this is an advanced style of training, however, if done properly it is very straight forward. 60% of your 1RM for 10 reps is a great start weight to build off of. Example: 60% of what you row for 1RM for10 reps is ideal. (200lb row x 1 for 60% is 120lbs for 10 reps.) Same goes for all body parts. Yes it can be a struggle with back squats or front squats etc for anyone looking to complete GVT. But a hypertrophy / endurance program should have been completed to build the ground work before progressing. Instead of going off on a rant, simply post questions. As a strength coach for professional athletes I would be happy to answer any of your questions regarding training. Deal?

      1. “But a hypertrophy / endurance program should have been completed to build the ground work before progressing.”

        Hello Strength Coach, when you mentioned hypertrophy/endurance program should be completed before advancing to something like GVT, what would be an ideal workout regimen before commencing into GVT and for how long? I wanna build a solid foundation like you advised in your comment. Thank you, Best Regards, DiscoRick.

    5. Ive wondered about this for a while. Some programs use a “working 1RM” Which is 90% of your real max and go from there. That seems to work well for me.

    6. Haha, getting a bit angry there towards the end man but I feel ya, I tried this with just squats for the first time a couple days ago. My best 1-rep max was 182.5kg after finishing the Smolov base cycle (didn’t do the whole thing as I didn’t have the time and barely the inclination but I must say I think it’s a great program and I saw tremendous gains using it), I thought I’d try something a bit different this time around for a change…

      Every website I looked at said to start with 50-60% of your 1-rep max – most said 60% – but I decided to be cautious and consider 160Kg my 1-rep max *and* use 50% so I started at 80Kg and aimed to do 90 seconds rest between sets (some websites I’ve seen say to stick to a strict 60 seconds but some said 90 seconds was fine for the bigger lifts so I thought, “damn dude, I’m using all the rest I can get!”. How did it go? Well…

      First couple sets the weight felt light enough but I was shocked at how slowly I was performing the concentric portion of the squat after taking 4 seconds on the eccentric descent and I could tell that doing that was going to totally knacker me waaaay before I got close to finishing (mainly because you end up having to hold your breath for so long when squatting with that damn slow cadence, it feels like your body can’t get enough oxygen man!) so I dropped that shit quick and decided to just squat normally which was was just quick as possible and that felt much better being able to breath quicker and utilise the hip-bounce.

      Even so, I was really struggling a couple sets later and my rest times were creeping up significantly. By the end of the 6th or 7th set I was basically taking a good 3 minutes rest before I felt like I could tackle another 10 reps. I probably could have kept to stricter rest times since I managed to complete all 10 sets of 10 reps but damn man, I’m still sore as all buggery today and feel like I will be all week :-S *Definitely* recommend starting with lower weight!!!

  6. Decided recently to replace a lot of my dumbbell/barbell training with body weight exercises. Am interested in applying the principles of GVT to my bodyweight routine. Can Imagine chest may become an issue as I’m sure push ups don’t account for 60% of my 1RM. Might have to include some free weights after all.

    1. If you look at Marathon runners, you really need to add weight to gain muscle. If you look at a lot of the guys doing calisthenics, they don’t have much muscle, but they’re more lean.

  7. This program put 30 pounds of lean muscle on my frame in 6 weeks and added 100 lbs onto my big 3 lifts. I now weight 210, bench 600, squat 225, and deadlift 300

        1. Seriously, I was 170lbs, 6’1 and I was squatting 225lbs and I could deadlift 275. Bench on the other hand was low, lower than my body weight for some reason my chest hates me.

  8. I’m 46 and have been lifting since I was 12. I’ve used just about every program and tried nearly every supplement that has been put on the market. Experience has shown that most programs can work, albeit some for only a short period, then you’re on to something different. I have lifted competitively for the past several years and have broken several national powerlifting records (UPA), including my own. Having said that, I still consider myself an intermediate-level lifter. With regards to high-volume training, it has worked very well for me the past 6 months in terms of reducing my joint, tendon, and ligament pain. I now walk out of the gym with a nice pump without feeling “beat up”. I introduced volume training with my squats, then months later, my deadlift. It allows me to keep my form and work on explosiveness. I initially started out with roughly my 50% max only because I was not sure how my body was going to take it, but found myself quickly moving upward. There are cardiovascular adaptations/improvements that occur over time. As far as testing the program with real world results in competition, I’ve yet to do this as I would like to give this a little more time. I’m not “packing on the weight” as some younger lifters may, but my body composition has changed for the better, my legs have gained some fullness, my cardiovascular health has improved, and I feel much healthier overall. This program may not be for everyone, but for me, it has been a very positive experience.

    1. Hey Mark,
      I don’t know how old this report is or if you’ll get this but I felt your comments were very informative. I too am 46 and have a lot of trouble with my shoulders. Since I started this program I have been getting more mobility and less pain.

  9. I first seen this routine 1 n half month back and at that I was unable to figure it out if this routine is really toughest of all. I checked various websites n check its reviews nd science behind this schedule. It was totally new routine for me so I started it curiously with my training partner. On the very first day I realized how intense it is. It is the toughest of all routines. 1st week I had a pain in my left arm, 2nd week I had it in my upper back, 3rd week I ha such a painful pain in my traps wich I never experienced b4. I literally cried dat nyt. 4th week no pain, 5th week I had a painful arm again. In this fashion I completed my 6 weeks. After 6 weeks, I gained 5 pounds of lean mass with a decrease in body fat. This is best routine ever. When I came back again on normal routine for 3 weeks, I noticed a nice gain in my strength.
    This program really works but its not for faint hearts. This routine needs GUTS n DEDICATION. Now today I completed myffirst day of phase 2 and I am praying to GOD , plz dont give me unbearable pain….lol

  10. Could someone explain to me “tempo” a little better? I am someone who’s never done a routine like this and I know what slow and controlled, rest-pause, ___ second negative, etc. mean..but what does 50×0, 40×0, 30×30,20×0 mean?

    1. The tempo refers to the different phases of the movement:
      e.g.: 40×0 for bench press

      4s – eccentric phase (moving the weight towards the chest, chest muscle’ elongates’ under tension)
      0s – no pause at the ‘bottom’
      X – explosive concentric phase (moving the weight away from the chest, chest muscle ‘shortens’ under tension))
      0 – no pause at the ‘top’

    1. uh, 99% of lifters can’t do anywhere near 10 sets of 10 pullups?
      I have never met a lifter who couldn’t do at LEAST 10 sets of 10 pullups and I mean strict pullups – not chin ups, not mixed grip and not kipping pullups. Pullups are f&*kin easy when you bench 600 for breakfast. Crossfit Troll.

      1. Bob. some of us have rotator cuff issues. I personally can’t do pullups. Not assisted anyway. It’s always been a goal of mine. Some day I will reach it. I’m 6,8 and 270 lbs. Athletic build, not fat.

  11. i totally agree with the comment about powerlifters not being able to complete 10×10 of pull ups. i dont know every lifter, but as for the ones i know, moving 600lbs on bench does not correlate to the ability to complete 100 pull ups. jjust my 2 cents.

  12. Just to reiterate a point some may have overlooked, there is actually 180 seconds between each set. Giving your quads 3 minutes should be sufficient to recover between sets, after 90 seconds you do leg curls, working your hammies. Obviously hamstrings are used in squats, yada yada yada, just wanted to say I’m pretty sure 10×10 is possible by following this routine. Besides, all of the volume workouts I’ve read say that short rest intervals are key to maximizing growth… Good luck lifting!

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