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Bodybuilding

German Volume Training for Maximum Hypertrophy

Are you ready to pack on some serious muscle? I mean serious maximum muscle hypertrophy? Then prepare yourself for some pain that will guarantee you gain. It’s called German Volume Training (GVT), and it’s brutal.

german volume training

The idea is stupidly simple. For each workout you do two main compound exercises. For each of those exercises you do 10 sets of 10 reps with the same weight. Top off the workout with two supplemental exercises of 3 sets each and call it a day. Easy right?

Okay, not at easy as it sounds, but GVT is extremely effective. You will be incredibly sore for days afterward so be prepared not to walk for several days after your leg workout. You’ll be hobbling all about while your body recovers and forces itself to grow.

The program works by blasting the motor units with high volumes of extensive, repeated stress. This forces the body to adapt by hypertrophying the targeted muscle fibers. Many people see significant size gains of 8-15 pounds of lean mass in just 6-8 weeks!

History

The idea largely came from Germain weight lifters in the 70s who used this type of approach in the off season to pack on lean muscle. It was so effective that many of the athletes who used this training were able move up a full weight class within 12 weeks.

The routine shared here was refined, developed, and introduced by Charles Poliquin in the 90s. It immediately became one of the most popular routines ever produced.

Choosing the Weight

For each exercise, select a weight that would take you to failure at 20 reps. This weight will probably be about 60% of your one rep max. Use this weight for all 10 sets.

The first few sets will seem very easy, but soon the sets will get more difficult and you may struggle to complete all 10 reps. Don’t increase the weight until you can do all 10 reps of all 10 sets.

You may find that you get stronger again 8th or 9th set, this is because of a neurological response called post-tetanic facilitation. You can already see your amazing body trying to adjust to this stress with this short-term neural adaptation.

Tempo

Poliquin suggests making each set last between 40-70 seconds for maximum hypertrophy results. You can do this by lifting the weight smoothly with control over about 2 seconds and then lowering the weight much more slowly over about 4 seconds. I would recommend maintaining constant tension on the muscle throughout the entire set by never fully locking out or relaxing at the top or bottom of a movement. Remember to use perfect form at all times, don’t get sloppy now!

Process & Rest Intervals

Each daily routine will consist of two main compound exercises (A1 and A2) followed by two more supplemental exercises (B1 and B2). You can superset each group of exercises while resting 90 seconds between each set in group A and resting 60 seconds between exercises in group B. Time the rest intervals with a stopwatch and don’t fudge the time too much, you want to be able to properly track your progress. Here’s a quick example of what this looks like:

  1. A1 – Set 1
  2. Rest 90 seconds
  3. A2 – Set 1
  4. Rest 90 seconds
  5. A1 – Set 2
  6. Rest 90 seconds
  7. A2 – Set 2
  8. Rest 90 seconds
  9. .etc

Continue this pattern until you’ve complete all 10 sets for both A1 and A2 exercises. Repeat this pattern for the B1 and B2 exercises, but only resting 60 seconds between sets.

Supplementation

It will be vital to eat like a champion during this routine. It’s a ultra high volume workout so you may find you need to dramatically increase your calorie intake to keep up. One suggestion Poliquin gives for maximum muscle-mass gains is to consume a liquid branched chain amino acid (BCAA) shake during the workout. He recommends .44 grams per pound of body weight.

The Phase 1 Routine

The following is a sample routine suggested by Charles Poliquin. You will repeat this Phase 1 routine 6 times, after that you will move to a more intensive 3 week program.

Day 1 – Chest and Back

Exercise Sets Reps
A1 Decline Dumbbell Press with Semi-Supinated Grip (palms facing each other) 10 sets 10 reps
A2 Chin Ups (palms facing you) 10 sets 10 reps
B1 Incline Dumbbell Flyes 3 sets 10-12 reps
B2 One-Arm Dumbbell Rows 3 sets 10-12 reps

Day 2 – Legs and Abs

Exercise Sets Reps
A1 Back Squats 10 sets 10 reps
A2 Lying Leg Curls Feet Outward 10 sets 10 reps
B1 Low-Cable Pull-Ins 3 sets 15-20 reps
B2 Seated Calf Raises 3 sets 15-20 reps

Day 3 – Rest Day

Day 4 – Arms and Shoulders

Exercise Sets Reps
A1 Parallel Bar Dips 10 sets 10 reps
A2 Incline Hammer Curls 10 sets 10 reps
B1 Bent-Over Dumbbell Lateral Raises 3 sets 10-12 reps
B2 Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raises 3 sets 10-12 reps

Day 5 – Rest Day

The Phase 2 Routine

After completing the Phase 1 routine 6 times, you can switch to another routine of your choice for three weeks. Any workout split that suits your recovery pattern will do. Poliquin recommends hitting each body part over a five day cycle, averaging 4-6 sets per body part at 6-8 reps.

The Phase 3 Routine

After the three weeks of recovery routine, you can begin the next phase of GVT. This time you’ll again be doing 10 sets method, but this time of only 6 reps. This time choose a weight that you would typically fail at 12 reps, and use it for all 10 sets.

Day 1 – Chest and Back

Exercise Sets Reps
A1 Incline Dumbbell Press 10 sets 6 reps
A2 Wide Grip Pull Ups (palms facing away from you) 10 sets 6 reps
B1 Flat Dumbbell Flyes 3 sets 6 reps
B2 Bent Over Rows with EZ Bar 3 sets 6 reps

Day 2 – Legs and Abs

Exercise Sets Reps
A1 Bent-Knee Deadlifts 10 sets 6 reps
A2 Seated Leg Curls Feet Inward 10 sets 6 reps
B1 Twisting Crunches 3 sets 12-15 reps
B2 Standing Calf Raises 3 sets 12-15 reps

Day 3 – Rest Day

Day 4 – Arms and Shoulders

Exercise Sets Reps
A1 Close Bench Presses with Chains 10 sets 6 reps
A2 Scott Close Grip EZ Bar Curls 10 sets 6 reps
B1 One Arm Seated External Rotation 3 sets 3-12 reps
B2 Incline Prone Lateral Raises 3 sets 10-12 reps

Day 5 – Rest Day

Now Build Your Own Routine

German Volume Training is intense, but you’re sure to see results in no time. After you’ve given this sample routine a complete try, take some time to recover a bit and then create your GVT routine based on the principles you’ve seen here. Substitute some exercises with equivalent variations and find some ways to incorporate other body parts more directly such as shoulders and forearms. The method is brutal, but it will make you a beast!