German Volume Training – Big Sets For Big Mass


German Volume Training or GVT for short, is a very popular method of weight training. It was popularized by German national weight lifting coach Rolf Feser. It was used as an off-season method to help lifters build muscle mass and lose body fat. It works by exposing the motor units of the muscles to a rigorous and high volume of repeated effort forcing hypertrophy of the muscles. The aim of the game is to perform 10 sets of 10 reps on the same exercise with the same weight. A general rule of thumb would be to begin with a weight you could for 20 reps to failure if you had to, and do 10×10 with this working weight. I’ve heard people say this is usually about 60% of your 1 rep max on the particular exercise you have chosen, but in my experience it is usually less, more like 50% so don’t beat yourself up playing to numbers. If you participate in ego lifting, GVT is not for you and you won’t reap the benefits if you engage your ego when trying GVT. It is better to err on the side of caution and try a lighter weight and complete 10×10 on your 1st try and build from there rather than choosing a heavier weight and failing to hit 10 reps in only your 3rd or 4th set in. Once you complete 10×10 using the same weight, for the next work out on the same exercise, you can slightly increase the weight. For example, if you trained bench press and completed 10×10 with 60kg, the next time you trained your chest, you would try 10×10 with 62.5kg. Do not worry if you cannot complete the 10×10, you will most likely start to miss 10 reps on the 6th or 7th set, simply do as many as close to possible to 10 reps and then the next time you try 10×10 for the same exercise, just try hitting 10×10 again. As long as you are making progress you are improving.

There are some differences of opinion on the number of exercises you perform for each body part when using GVT, after 10×10 you will be exhausted, so if you really want to do more sets on a different exercise for the same body part, keep it short, something like 3×10 or 3×12 should more than suffice. Generally GVT will work best when you select a compound exercise, so that means Bench Press, Overhead Press, Squats, Rows,Deadlifts probably not, as you should take great care with your back if you are going to expose it to 100 reps of deadlifts. Machines generally should be out, you want to choose exercises which give you the biggest bang for your buck so try to avoid 10 sets on the pec dec for chest and choose the bench press instead, select squats over machine leg extensions. Olympic lifts such as the Snatch should not be used for GVT, these are technical lifts complex in nature, it would be very difficult to maintain correct form when pushing for higher reps. Rest periods are commonly advised as 60 seconds, but I have seen variations between 60 and 90 seconds, I myself used 60-75 seconds.


GVT is not a method you use often, it should only be used in small cycles or periods in your training routine, no more than 4 weeks at a time, with a week taken off after you have completed the 4 week cycle. If you are one of those people who cannot stand to take a week off training then I suggest using a de-load phase for 2 weeks, so drop the 10×10 for 5 sets of 10 or 10 sets of 6(using the same weight you were doing for 10×10 the previous week as this is a de-load phase) so you are reducing volume. I would suggest you do not try a GVT cycle more than 2-3 times in a year. I personally haven’t ever managed to do more than 2-3 weeks in a row of GVT training, it is not so much the physical pain which challenges you but the mental torture you must put yourself through, due to the sheer volume of work and the pain(or pump) from the work out can be immense. For this reason I recommend using GVT when you are only training one body part per day, so back, legs, chest, shoulders all get a separate day, this also helps to avoid the common pitfall of over training which will only lead to sluggish work outs and a loss of enthusiasm as well as delayed recovery time. There are differences of opinion on whether GVT should be used on the arms, you can give it a go and see how you like it or you can add biceps to another day such as back and triceps to another day such as shoulders, in this case I would advise just the one exercise of 10×10 for your main body part, and then start working on your biceps/triceps in a pretty standard fashion of 6-9 sets between 6-12 reps. If you’re using GVT in a 3 or 4 day split, things can very quickly get tiring both physically and mentally when you have 20 sets to get through.

As with all advanced routines, I do not advise beginners to the iron game trying GVT until they have at least 6 months to a year’s worth of consistent training under their belt. Other considerations to factor in, are you dieting? GVT on a calorie reduced diet may be pushing it, I would ensure you are taking in enough nutrients when undertaking a GVT routine….unsurprisingly the last time I tried GVT was during the winter months and I could go home to some pringles and bakewell tarts(preceded by a healthy serving of fish first of course….) but in all seriousness, ensure you are taking in enough protein and eating enough good quality food. If you play or compete in a sport, GVT probably isn’t the best work out for you as the muscle soreness will hinder your ability to perform at your best, also you may find yourself putting on weight which could also be of detriment(depending on your sport of course) if you are off season then that allows you to have some flexibility to try GVT(generally GVT is an off season workout)

Go ahead and give German Volume Training a try, one thing I can guarantee is, after your 1st workout, you will be very sore….

About the author 


Boxing Coach
Strength and Conditioning Coach
Boxing Author of:

The Boxing Cheat Sheet - Your Ultimate Guide to Ring Survival

Strength and Conditioning for Boxing - Work out Hits to get you Fighting Fit!

Forgotten Legends of the Ring - Ten Past Masters of the Squared Circle

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