German Volume training, often referred to as GVT or GVT training, is a strength training program used to increase strength and build muscle.
But, is German Volume training really effective? Can you use German Volume training for weight loss or building muscle?
In this article, we will discuss what the German Volume training plan entails, the purpose of the German Volume training program, and how to do the German Volume training plan.
We will cover the following:
- What Is German Volume Training?
- How to Do the German Volume Training Program
- Is German Volume Training Effective?
Let’s dive in!
What Is German Volume Training?
The GVT program was popularized by the late strength coach Charles Poliquin and is now used by many bodybuilders and powerlifters looking to build muscle, get a chiseled or sculpted physique, and increase strength in a relatively short amount of time.
Rather than taking a moderate approach with gradual progression over a longer period of time, the German Volume training program is a high-volume, “quick fix“ strength training plan that includes very little rest.
For this reason, the German Volume training plan is not appropriate for beginners, nor is it intended to be followed long-term.
Rather, it is an extremely intense, short-duration hypertrophy and strength program for serious and competitive bodybuilders and powerlifters to put on mass and boost strength in just a few weeks.
The German Volume training program is designed to be followed intensely for a few weeks and then not attempted again for about six months, depending on the level of the athlete and how long they did GVT before reloading.
In the interim, strength athletes and physique athletes are encouraged to follow more moderate strength training programs to prevent overtraining while continuing to maintain and improve the gains achieved with the GVT plan.Coach Poliquin said that the inspiration and principles behind the German Volume training program initially came from his observations that German weightlifters seemed to be in engaging in the most advanced weight training programming.
This spurred him to go to the German National Training Center in Leimen to do more research on German weightlifting methodology.
There, Coach Poliquin learned from Rolf Feser, who was the national weightlifting coach of Germany at the time.
Coach Rolf Feser explained how his strength athletes would do high-volume periodization, using 10 sets of 10 reps, 10 sets of 5 reps, and 10 sets of 3 reps.
The guiding principle was that high-volume training was necessary to yield significant improvements in strength and muscle growth.
From there, Coach Poliquin created the German Volume training program to replicate the high-volume training that the German bodybuilders and weightlifters were utilizing to achieve their impressive results.
How to Do the German Volume Training Program
The German Volume training plan involves performing three workouts over the course of a five-day cycle and then repeating that same cycle six times for a 30-day strength training program.
Most serious recreational weightlifters and competitive bodybuilders, and powerlifters only follow the German Volume training plan for 30 days (six cycles of the five-day workout plan, which works out to 18 German Volume training workouts in total).
However, advanced strength athletes and bodybuilders may perform 2 to 3 complete 30-day GVT programs back to back.
With that said, because German Volume training is extremely intensive and, by nature, a high-volume strength training program, more than 30 days on the GVT strength plan is not advised.
Each GVT workout includes four exercises that are performed in supersets: Superset A and Superset B.
A superset is an advanced strength training technique that involves performing two exercises back to back with no rest in between them.
You might perform a superset with exercises that work the same muscle groups, in order to achieve maximum fatigue for those muscles, or more often, you might perform a superset with exercises that target opposing muscle groups.
Performing supersets limits the amount of rest that you get, increasing the intensity of your workout while simultaneously improving efficiency from a time standpoint.
With the German Volume training program, there is a specific rep schema for the exercises in each superset.
For superset A, both exercises are performed with 10 sets of 10 reps using a weight that is equivalent to 60% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM) with 90 seconds in between each superset before hitting the superset again.
For example, if superset A is composed of barbell back squats and barbell hip thrusts off of a weight bench, you would first need to calculate 60% of your one RM for each of these two exercises.
Note that this will feel like a very light weight for your first several sets, but because you are doing so many sets and reps, even this low weight will feel quite fatiguing toward the end of the workout.
Let’s say that your 1RM for the barbell back squat is 220 pounds (100 kg).
This means that the heaviest weight that you can use while performing one full rep of the back squat with perfect form is 220 pounds.
Then, you would take 60% of this weight to determine the load for your German Volume training workout.
This works out to 132 pounds.
If you can do a barbell hip thrust with a maximum of 165 pounds (75 kg), 60% of your barbell hip thrust 1RM is 99 pounds (you would use 100 pounds).
Then, you would perform 10 reps of barbell back squats with 132 pounds (or 135 depending on the weight plates you have), and then you would immediately get down on the bench and do 10 reps of barbell hip thrust with 100 pounds.
This would be one round of your first superset (superset A).
Then, you would rest for 90 seconds and repeat the same exact procedure another nine times, performing 10 reps of each exercise back to back with no rest and then resting for 90 seconds once both exercises were completed.
This would conclude superset A for the first part of your German Volume training workout for the day.
Because you are doing 10 sets of 10 reps of two exercises as part of your first superset, this portion of the workout already accumulates a total of 200 reps.
Note that you are supposed to begin the German Volume training program using 60% of your 1RM for the exercises in superset A.
However, once you are able to get through all 10 sets of 10 reps of both exercises using this light weight, you are supposed to increase your weight by about 5% for the next workout.
For every subsequent German Volume training workout that you do, continue to increase the loads used by 4 to 5% as long as you are able to get through the entire workout, including all of the reps of every set, with proper form.
If you have to end a set early or your form starts to break down, stick with the same load for your next GVT workout that hits those same exercises before progressing the weight again.
As you progress your weight to a higher percentage of your 1RM, the workouts will become even more intense, but your strength should also be increasing, enabling you to achieve the high volume with heavier weights.
Then, you move on to Superset B.
You follow the same general principle, but you only perform three reps for each set rather than 10. Therefore, each exercise in Superset B is 10 sets of 3 reps, and there is 90 seconds of rest in between each superset.
In general, it is best to pick compound exercises for your German Volume training workouts because you will get the “biggest bang for your buck.“
The German Volume training program does not dictate specific exercises that you have to do for each workout; rather, you will choose exercises based on your training goals and relative deficits.
Because Superset B includes fewer reps, it is often best to choose exercises for this grouping that include muscles that are not as traditionally strong or exercises that are inherently more difficult.
For example, you might do weighted pull-ups or chin-ups, overhead presses, lateral raises, or incline bench presses, whereas, with superset A, you can choose major compound lifts like deadlifts, squats, flat barbell bench presses, power cleans, etc.
Is German Volume Training Effective?
There isn’t a lot of research looking specifically at the effectiveness and results of the German Volume training program.
However, there has been one small study that looked at the potential purported benefits of the German Volume training program methods.
The researchers split 12 men into two different workout groups. One group performed five sets of 10 reps, while the other group followed the GVT program and did 10 sets of 10 reps.
Both workout groups used a weight that was somewhere between 60 to 80% of their 1RM.
Subjects were evaluated at six and twelve weeks into the workout program.
Results failed to show that there was any benefit of doing the high-volume 10 sets of 10 reps approach.
There was an insignificant increase in benchpress strength in the group that only did five sets, but it was not statistically significant. The researchers concluded that the study group was really too small to show any meaningful conclusions either way.
All of this is to say that there is not much evidence for or against the effectiveness or benefits of the German Volume training plan.
If you would like to try the German Volume training program, just make sure that you have a good foundation of strength before you start because the program is very high volume, and the risk of injuries is great if your body is not accustomed to training frequently and at a high volume.
Additionally, if your goal is increasing maximum strength, this is likely not the best workout program. Consider something like the Texas method workout program or StrongLifts.
On the other hand, if you are looking to build muscle and have the time to devote to high-volume training, you might find that the German Volume training program helps you achieve impressive hypertrophy gains in a short amount of time.
Keep in mind that if you are trying to build muscle, your body needs an adequate amount of protein, and a caloric surplus is recommended.
Ultimately, it is difficult to say whether or not the program works because it is more of a general high-volume training scheme with a specific programming superset structure and numbers of sets and reps rather than some of the other popular strength training programs.
These programs, such as 5×5 StrongLifts or the Texas Method, provide specific exercises for every workout in the strength program, along with sets, reps, and loads.
Therefore, if you are doing the German Volume training plan with big compound lifts like the squat, deadlift, bench press, power clean, pull-up, and overhead press, you are more likely to see major improvements in total body strength, power, and muscle mass than if you choose isolation exercises such as the leg curl machine and biceps curls.
This is not to say that you will not increase your strength or build muscle using isolation exercises within the German Volume training program method, but overall gains in mass and strength may be less for those types of movements relative to big compound lifts used in other popular strength training programs.
Additionally, the high-volume approach to strength training used by the GVT program is often ideal for bodybuilding, improving muscular endurance and total work capacity and working strength of your muscles rather than absolute strength since the number of reps is so high and the weight is relatively low.
Although there are some studies to suggest that a low weight high reps framework can increase muscular strength, most of the going research suggests that it is more effective to perform fewer reps with higher weights.
For this reason, if you are a powerlifter trying to increase you are one-repetition maximum for various lifts, the German Volume training method may not be the best strength training program for your goals.
However, Coach Poliquin says that powerlifters and strength athletes can modify the number of reps in the GVT program.
Instead of doing superset A with 10 sets of 10 reps starting with 60% of your 1RM, you can do 10 sets of 4 reps with a higher weight (maybe starting with 80% of your 1RM).
You would still follow the same high-volume approach, with 90 seconds of rest in between each superset, but you would only be performing a fraction of the reps.
You could stick with three reps for each exercise in Superset B or drop down to two reps if you want to increase the weight.
As written, the German Volume training program is ideal for those looking to build muscle, such as bodybuilders, as well as those looking to increase the total work capacity of their muscles.
For more training programs, check out our guide to the 5×5 strength training program here.