What do Bill Kazmaier and Bev Francis have in common? One is arguably the strongest man to ever walk the face of the earth and the other put female bodybuilding on the map. And both trained periodically with 10 sets of 10 reps.
Charles Poliquin, possibly the greatest strength coach of all-time, legendary East German weightlifting demigod Rolf Feser, and bodybuilding guru, Vince Gironda, all have endorsed the 10 sets of 10 reps method to add muscle mass to athletes. This training system originated in Germany in the mid-1970s and was popularized by Feser, so Charles Poliquin coined the term German Volume Training (GVT) for this protocol.
Hell, I used this method in my journey to add mass in the off-season to become the youngest human being to bench press 600 pounds.
No bones about it, this is a very high volume routine and more than likely has Mike Mentzer rolling over in his grave.
Volume is defined as reps x sets x poundage lifted. Science and my in-the-trenches experience concur that in general, higher volume produces more hypertrophy. That’s why compound movements are the method of choice for a ticket to hypertrophy heaven.
Let’s look at an example working the quadriceps using the Olympic squat and the leg extension. If four sets of 10 repetitions are performed on the Olympic squat with 350 pounds, the total volume is 4 x 10 x 350 = 14,000 pounds. If we did the same workout with leg extensions using 60 pounds, the total amount of volume would be 4 x 10 x 60 = 2,400 pounds. That’s nearly six times more volume with Olympic squats.
Bottom line—a lot more volume can be accomplished if you place the emphasis on compound movements. And that is the essence of German Volume Training!
More on GVT
Nowadays a majority of educated coaches and athletes correctly emply compound movements as their bread and butter moves to slap on size, and after they perform the main barbell movement in a training session, they strive to hit the muscle from all different angles.
This is done with supplementary core lifts (for example, performing a front squat after a back squat) and, of course, multiple sets and repetitions of isolation movements. The objective is to reap the benefits of the core movement and stimulate as many muscle fibers as possible by attacking the muscle from a variety of angles with a number of movements.
What’s the alternative to that? Attack the same movement with multiple sets, many more than typically recommended. Originally, German Volume Training was a protocol of 10 sets of 10 repetitions of a compound movement, using a 20-repetition max (20RM), or approximately 60% of the athlete’s 1RM. Rest periods are minimal — 60 seconds up to three minutes — however, rest depends on the movement being performed, the load used and the anaerobic capacity of the athlete.
In the event that you’re unable to complete all of the repetitions, reduce the load by 2.5%–5%. If you were using 200 pounds and didn’t complete the final rep on the seventh set, use 190–195 pounds on the following set.
While this reduction is quite minor, the goal is to keep the intensity as high as possible for maximum muscle growth. If you attempt to keep the weight the same and continually miss reps because of fatigue, you won’t reap the intended benefits of GVT. Think about it: Performing only five reps on your last set, even if you had made every rep until that point, reduces the total volume of that set by 50%! That reduction across multiple sets significantly compromises the protocol, destroying the intended training effect. German Volume Training is 10 sets of 10 repetitions. Either get to work or join Planet Fitness.
How Does German Volume Training Work?
Because of the high volume training load, short rest intervals, and moderate load, this method produces a very anabolic natural growth hormone response.
The idea, as Poliquin has written, is to attack the same muscle fibers over and over with the same movement for extremely high volume, forcing the muscle fibers to experience major growth.
German Volume Training Leg Workout
1A. Squats: 10 sets x 10 reps (rest 20 seconds before 1B and start with 60% of your IRM)
1B. Leg Curls: 10 sets x 10 reps (rest three minutes before repeating complex; if bodyweight becomes too difficult, go band assisted)
It’s time to quit ridin’ the gravy train on biscuit wheels and put in some work! Besides muscle hypertrophy, German Volume Training can benefit the cardiovascular system. One study on professional rugby players performing a German Volume Training bench press routine; showed by their last set, their heart rates climbed to 160 beats per minute and never dropped below 120 during the recovery phase. Imagine with squats!
Even if you're pressed for time, following the rest periods exactly, this workout will take under an hour.
German Volume Training requires big balls but yields big results!
Time to hit the pig iron!