How to Increase Muscle Size With German Volume Training

Steve Shaw
Written By: Steve Shaw
August 11th, 2020
Updated: March 18th, 2021
749.5K Reads
Man in gym performing overhead barbell press
If you're tired of the same old training routine, and want to shock your muscles into new growth, then German Volume Training is the program you need! Bear in mind, GVT isn't for the faint of heart.

Sprechen sie Deutsch? Translated, that means do you speak German?

Well you don’t need to speak German to master German Volume Training. You only need to master your threshold for pain, because German Volume Training is pain. It’s an insane, effective method of shocking your muscles and forcing growth.

German Volume Training is one of the best ways to break through your plateaus. If you’re in a rut, seeing no muscle gains, or need a dramatic change, then look no further. Consider your plateau over.

Recommended: Need help building muscle? Take our Free Muscle Building Course

Core Principles of German Volume Training

German Volume Training isn’t rocket science. There’s no elaborate formulas to figure out, and no advanced training techniques to be mastered. GVT is built around three simple, core principles:

  1. One - Two Exercises: You perform only 1-2 exercises per body part, that’s it. Stick with heavier, compound-style lifts that tax major muscle groups. Because you will be performing a limited number of exercises per week, proper exercise selection is critical in maximizing the effects of GVT.
  2. 100 Reps: For each exercise, you will be performing 10 sets of 10 reps, using ~60% of your one rep max for that lift. 10 reps will feel incredibly easy on your first 4-5 sets, and your ego may tell you to add a few pounds. Don’t listen to your ego. Sets 8, 9 and 10 quickly ramp up the difficulty. If you fail on rep 7 of your last set then quickly strip 5 pounds and finish your set. When you can perform 10 clean sets of 10 reps, add 5 pounds to the bar the next time you use the same movement.
  3. Rest Pause: You will be resting approximately 60-90 seconds between sets. There are numerous forms of GVT floating around the Internet, some a variation of Vince Gironda’s 8x8 training, and some with incredibly short rest periods. Resist the urge to lower your rest periods under the 60 second mark. Limiting rest like this will force you to decrease the load. You’re already working with weights slightly above half of your 1RM. It does you no good to use lighter weights than this. For most exercises, a 60 second rest works best. Exercises like squat and deadlift are extremely taxing on your CNS, and may require 90-120 seconds of rest at most. Do not rest longer than 2 minutes. Resting any longer between sets will severely reduce the anaerobic benefits of GVT. 

Related: Calculate your 1RM

German Volume Training Notes

You will also find that on certain exercises, you will lose strength fairly quickly. My strength dives when trying to hammer out sets of overhead press. Performing 10x10 with 60% of my 1RM would be near impossible. To be sure that my form is correct, and that I complete all 100 reps, I would have to use ~35-40% of my 1RM for overhead press for the first week or two.

Hang in there. Over time, your muscular endurance will noticeably increase. Keep your form in check and finish your volume (all 100 reps). As long as you focus on progression, the weight will take care of itself.

On the first few sets of an exercise, the weight will feel too light. You’ll start to wonder if you’ve made a mistake. You didn’t. Be patient, focus on your form and your mind-muscle connection. By sets 8, 9 and 10, your muscles will be begging for relief.

GVT is very deceiving. On paper it looks simple enough. After 2 sets it feels too easy. After a week of GVT, you’ll be ready to quit the program, and never run it again. There’s no hiding it, this isn’t easy. But it works!

Man in blue shorts performing barbell preacher curl

The German Volume Training Routine

German Volume Training involves three - four workouts per week. Choosing which split is best will depend on your level of athleticism, and how quickly you recover.

The 3-day split is recommended for novice lifters, and people who have never attempted a GVT routine before. This routine is a variation of your typical push, pull and leg split, which will allow you more time to rest between workouts, and isn’t as mentally taxing.

The 4-day split more closely resembles the original German Volume routines, and uses antagonist exercises for each superset. The workouts in this split are not the most exciting. Performing 10 sets of deadlift, and sticking to strict rest periods requires a high level of focus.

Not only does this routine require advanced mental fortitude, it’s also extremely taking on your CNS. If you aren’t an experienced lifter, with at least a few years of serious lifting under your belt, I recommend you stick with the 3-day split for now.

It’s best to try GVT for several weeks before tweaking it, choose either a 3 or 4-day split and run with it for at least 4 weeks before thinking about changing it too much. My first GVT bench day left me feeling sore all the way to my second bench day, the following week.

Related: 3 Simple Recovery Methods to Train Harder Than Ever Before

3-Day Example:

When doing a 3-day split you will perform each exercise as its own 10x10, no supersets. After working your chest and shoulders, your triceps may already be fried. Hitting 60% 1RM on triceps will be a hefty task. If necessary, drop to ~45-50% 1RM to make sure you get in all 10 sets of 10.

The original German Volume Training method advocated only 3 sets for both biceps and triceps, and involved no direct hamstring work. You can stick with 3 sets for biceps, or jump up to 10x10. I prefer to go 10x10.

For hamstrings, I recommend a 10x10 approach. Since you won’t be able to walk anyway after your squats and deadlifts, you might as well sell out completely to the pain.

Related: Total Body Beatdown: A German Volume Training Routine

If you’re more seasoned of a lifter, and you’re determined to achieve some serious muscle and strength gains, then a 4-day split is exactly what you need.

This split will require you to be tough on yourself. Stay strict with your rest periods, and don’t allow your ego to convince you to add weight after 2 or 3 sets. Focus on perfecting your form, and keeping it perfect all the way through your 100th rep.

4-Day Example:

Since you will be training your abs and calves twice each week on the 4-day split, you will train with heavier weights on day 2 (5x10 exercises), and higher reps on day 5 (5x30-50).

Each day will consist of 2 supersets. Your first superset will be your main lifts, and will be performed in 10 sets 10. Your second superset will be accessory lifts, and will be performed in 5 sets of 10-12 reps.

For example, on day 1 you would superset bench press and bent over row as your main exercises, for 10 sets of 10. Then, you would superset cable iron cross and lat pulldowns as your accessory exercises, for 3-5 sets of 10-12 reps.

Man in navy shorts performing barbell incline bench press

German Volume Training Exercise Selection

Don’t get fancy with GVT, just stick with basic exercises. A GVT program generally runs between 6-12 weeks. Pick exercises and stick with them. There is no need to worry about muscle confusion or hitting each muscle from ”every angle”.

Related: Top 5 Muscle Building Supplements You Need to Be Taking

Time to Hit the Gym

It’s time to hit the gym. Expect extreme muscle soreness on this program.

For novice lifters, I recommend sticking with GVT no longer than 5-6 weeks. After that point, take a break. Your body will need it. Perform a more standard hypertrophy routine.

If you’re a more seasoned athlete; deload for 1-2 weeks (whichever your body needs), use 1 week to find your new 1RM’s, recalculate your new GVT weights and run another 4-6 weeks.

Push yourself on every set. Perfect your technique, and push through your 100 reps every day. GVT has been known for its ability to add up to 10 pounds of muscle over a 6 week cycle. Eat big, rest big and get big!

549 Comments
EddieD
Posted on: Mon, 05/24/2021 - 19:39

This might be impossible but how can this be a 2 day per week workout?

Lee
Posted on: Tue, 06/28/2016 - 14:51

Hi,
Can 15 sets of 7 be considered the same? Also every few weeks can it be done twice a week such as Monday then on Friday? I just like 7 reps as a sweet spot number.

tyrone
Posted on: Sat, 05/28/2016 - 01:33

its scientificly impossible to gain 10 lbs of muscle in 4 to 6 weeks let alone 6 months

brad
Posted on: Sun, 07/17/2016 - 09:44

thats not accurate at all. nutritionally and physiologically it absolutely is.

John
Posted on: Tue, 05/24/2016 - 14:20

So basically, for example. On the first day I one set chest, rest 90 seconds, shoulders, rest 90 seconds, and then triceps, rest again and repeat, and same with other body parts on other days, correct?

Frank
Posted on: Thu, 09/03/2015 - 10:10

I have reviewed the material of this web page and from my analyst this GVT (German Volume Training) and the approach seems very logical by the choice of one execise a heavy compound for the volume training, also the muscle areas choosen for each day of training seems relatively balanced. However where I become a little confused is if I choose my usual Squats, Bench and Deadlifts as my three GVT exercises with the other exercise for the other body parts how many exercises do I choose and how many sets and reps to complete for the additional exercises without suffering from total exhaustion after the GVT work. As I am doing the 5x5 training with the three major compounds do I take a rest before starting the GVT and how would I workout what my 1RM will be when I have not done that type of training for many years due to joint limitations.

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MikeWines
Posted on: Fri, 09/04/2015 - 09:55

Frank,
With GVT often the accessory work is limited due to the high volume from your primary lift. Generally you only perform one exercise per bodypart.

I would definitely not recommend deadlifts as the fatigue:benefit ratio just isn't worth it. There are much better ways to hammer your posterior chain.

Within the split given by the author they were running 3 different exercises 3 days per week (1 per body part). The accessory work was just 3 sets of 10-25 and it wasn't to failure by any means. After the 10x10 on you main lift you're going to want to get out of the gym so limiting volume a bit on the accessories would be wise.

Frank
Posted on: Fri, 10/09/2015 - 04:25

Dear Mike - sorry for not replying earlier, I have been doing the GVT training for the past 4 weeks and I will admit it is an absolute killer, I have however revisted this page because the order that I have been doing the exrcises in may not have been exact, as I do a Mon, Wed, Fri routine due to circumstances that fit my life style, I have been training the following way, Mon bench 10x10, Bent Rows 10x10, dumbbell flyers 3x10 and Latpull down 3x10, Wed Squats 10x10, Romanian dl 10x10 and leg press cal raises 3x20, Fri Shoulder press 10x10, upright rows 10x10 superset bicep curls and tripcep pushdowns 10x10, all of these sessions are executed after initial warm up sets upto the working weight. I have found that after training I am totally exhausted and the next few days most of my joints and rib cage are in pain when i stretch. Looking at the execise order that your websies shows will afford me less time in the gym slightly less exercises a better push, pull order in exercises. As I am completely my 4 week in the GVT my min question is Can I extend the training for another 4 weeks using your exercise routines in order to find out what results I can achieve or should I complete the last two weeks with your exercise order and then ente into a recovey training program before phase two of the GVT training.

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MikeWines
Posted on: Mon, 10/12/2015 - 10:17

Frank,

GVT is more of an overreaching program which one would run in order to break through a plateau or get a stubborn body part to grow. I wouldn't personally recommend you run it for any considerable length of time but admittedly I've never experimented with GVT extensively so I can't say it's impossible to do what you're asking but I certainly wouldn't suggest it in my own opinion.

One of the main ideas of the training is that you want to apply a least minimally effective dose. The body adapts to the stimulus applied to it so what are you going to do when you stop progressing on 10x10? Go to 15x10 or 20x10? You see what I mean?

Short term overreaching is good. Long term application of the same program is where you run into problems.

Frank
Posted on: Mon, 10/12/2015 - 10:56

Mike i have read your email and can see where you are coming from however I am nearly achieving the 10x10 at this time so 15x10 or 20x10 would probably not even come into the equation. Also in accordance with phase 2 of the program this seem to work on the principle of regaining strength after the initial 10x10 program am I wrong to thing that way.

Frank
Posted on: Thu, 10/15/2015 - 07:42

Mike a quick update I wll do the last week of the GVT training as I am now experiencing some issues with my joints especially in the squat, I will go bak t hyperthrophy traing annd change or update this on a 6 week bases to keep the muscles active, if you have any further advice that you can give me I would be happy to consider it and where I see the need I will probably use this GVT training again especially if I hit a pateau, my only issue is that unless I do heavy weights at low reps my strenght does not incease but when I get to a certai level for example 150kg squats I start getting a lot of joint issues this could be because of te arthrtus or agee either way itlimits me, then I have to cut back and try to build actual muscle which I find very hard, it is easier for me to get stronger than put on muscle size any suggestions.

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MikeWines
Posted on: Fri, 10/09/2015 - 09:37

Frank,

I wouldn't run German Volume for an extended length of time as the toll on your CNS and joints can be rather large. I would also recommend you just 10x10 for one exercise as the accumulated volume from multiple exercises is rather high and may be contributing to the excessive fatigue you've been noticing.

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MikeWines
Posted on: Thu, 10/15/2015 - 11:16

Frank,
I didn't want to say anything but I figured this would happen eventually given the fairly demanding nature of GVT.

Regarding your issues with size versus strength, it could be a variety of issues and it's very tough to pinpoint without a more thorough examination of lifestyle factors or programming. For example, it may not be in regards to how hard you're training, it might be due to the fact that your recovery is poor and perhaps you're not eating well enough.

If it is a programming issue then maybe it's due to overall volume, frequency, intensity, or duration. Perhaps it could be a biomechanical issue regarding technique that's causing the issues, it's tough to know without more details or know more about your habits as a lifter and your lifestyle.

Frank
Posted on: Sat, 10/10/2015 - 17:27

Mike thanks for the advise my research with this training stated that after the initial 6 weeks of GVT is to go on a 3 week hypertrophy program for recovery and then enter into a phase 2 of the GVT training which would consist of 10x6 reps, is this correct and if so can the same program be used as the 10x10, after phase 2 what is then recommended to continue to get the benefits from this kind of training or should I then just concentrate on hypertrophy and strength training.

Angus
Posted on: Mon, 08/03/2015 - 11:41

hey i have a question. is it only one of those three exercises? or the three of them? thanks

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MikeWines
Posted on: Tue, 08/04/2015 - 09:31

Nope, you're just doing 10x10 for one exercise. The article discusses how to approach the accessory work after your main lift.

Pascal
Posted on: Tue, 06/23/2015 - 06:08

Hi Everybody,

if you want to grow muscle this works. I packed on 5 kg in four weeks without any mass gainers using whey and casein.

Ivy
Posted on: Thu, 04/02/2015 - 06:52

Just wondering on rest days will high intensity interval training be ok to do.

LFlowers
Posted on: Wed, 02/25/2015 - 14:32

So your only suppose to use 50-60% of 1RM to perform the 10x10 for each exercise? And only One exercise per body part?

Big Rob
Posted on: Fri, 02/20/2015 - 02:30

This is insanity. Pick one exercise for the area your training and hammer out ten sets of ten using 60-70% of your 1 rep max.
Example: your max bench is 300
Do 10 sets of 10 with 185 - 200 pounds
I'm 43, training on and off for 20 years now.
This GVT can help you answer all doubts,
Get past the pain, Feel the burn, and see for yourself.
This is designed to kick your ass to a whole new you.
In the end you'll see what you made yourself Earn...
Takes guts to go through this toughest of the toughest methods. Its painful, it burns and its worth it.
One exercise?, 10 sets of 10?, how hard can it be?...bang em out...see for yourself brotha...Big Rob out..
Thanks to the o.p....you know your sh%t.

Gerardo Marquez
Posted on: Sun, 01/18/2015 - 21:59

What about traps?

Raj
Posted on: Sun, 12/21/2014 - 15:03

Same exercise every week?
Or should alter it?
Like first week benc press and next week dumble press?

Raj
Posted on: Sun, 12/21/2014 - 14:56

Steve Steve Steve...
I m little confused about schedule
Suppose i do decline dumbbell press & chin up on day 1
Then should i repeat it again on next chest & back day?
for 6 week cycle same exercise?decline db press after every 5 day or alter it with normal bench press etc. ?

charles
Posted on: Tue, 10/28/2014 - 22:09

well I'm on my 3rd week of GVT and feel like I'm losing my gains instead of gaining......and by the way, I don't feel this training really tough....but I'm gonna finish it either way....if you guys have something to say just say it..

James Smith
Posted on: Mon, 05/16/2016 - 16:53

Charles. I am feeling the same as you. I have lost weight and size and I also don't find gvt as brutal as people say. And yes I am doing it correctly. I am 46 and have always wanted 16 inch arms ( currently 14.5) and I have not gained a bit In 3 weeks.

Devin Hamblet
Posted on: Sun, 10/12/2014 - 21:49

Started in earnest today, and it kicked my behind. my legs are going to feel this in the morning, in fact, I'm starting to feel some of it now.

Timo
Posted on: Sat, 10/04/2014 - 17:55

I just tried it and - I don't know - it seemed easy - not sure why everyone's going on about it being so 'brutal' and 'intense' - it's lifting a weight you can easily manage a lot of times - Obviously have to wait tomorrow and see how muscles feel etc. but first impression is this isn't actually difficult - I exert more in a 3x10

Bench dropped to 9 and 7 on the 9th and 10th
Shoulder press I did 10 sets then had to add 5kg and do another 10 to get at least some failure
Squats I must have misjudged because could hit all 10 @80kg and only very last rep felt even 'hard'

JDub
Posted on: Wed, 09/17/2014 - 15:38

What is the preferred tempo for this program?

Timo
Posted on: Sat, 10/04/2014 - 21:08

I've heard 4020 and 4010 quoted

Loanshark
Posted on: Tue, 05/17/2016 - 01:56

The tempo is 4-0-2-0 in general and 3-0-2-0 for arms.

Bilal
Posted on: Thu, 09/11/2014 - 08:22

Hi! i am from Pakistan and in here we workout 6 days a week with only sunday off. i am training for almost 9 months but it is not effecting. So, i wanted tos tart GVT and i am not sure how to implement on my 6 day routine and i also dont know which exercises i should do....we train here like chest one day shoulder or wings the other day, we just train biceps and triceps together...can any one please help me with this..i want GVT program of 6 days. oar 5 days atleast.

Timo
Posted on: Sat, 10/04/2014 - 21:06

From UK, If you're not gaining :-

1. Are you writing down what you lift each time with a date? You should - then you KNOW objectively if you're improving
2. Are you pushing yourself to failure for at least 3 sets per exercise? So if you aim for 10reps, you push as hard as you can but 11th is impossible - If you can do more, you need to add weight, if less less you need to remove weight
3. Are you eating more (a lot more) protein for 24-48 hours after every workout? You should be

If after all this you don't improve in 9 months, give up - but I'll bet that you are not pushing to failure - i.e. can do no more. Do these things and I guarantee you will improve ALOT in 2 months and in 9 you'll be strong

tony
Posted on: Wed, 09/03/2014 - 18:27

hey steve,
give or take how much calories should I consume during this routine im 5'10 177..ooo and im constantly active at my job for 8-10 hrs a day, I know that plays a role in burning cal as well,thanks for any help you can give

Callam
Posted on: Fri, 08/29/2014 - 04:50

Hi Steve I've been going gym for a few month now not long really . would I be able to start this routine on a small wieght or is it not for beginners ?

Jeremiah
Posted on: Sat, 06/21/2014 - 15:07

What workout would you suggest after completing 6weeks of this?

daz_sutton
Posted on: Fri, 06/13/2014 - 09:42

Brutal. Just finished Phase 1 (10X 10) and Phase 2 (10 x 6) over 12 weeks. Put on 6lbs in weight, 2" on my chest and 1" on my arms. Shoulders look big and ripped. Legs are a killer though. Recommended.

Nic
Posted on: Mon, 06/02/2014 - 13:17

I just started this today and did flat DB presses, seated DB military presses and scull crushers. I done super sets with the flat presses and military presses, then did the scull crunchers by themselves. Is this this right structure to do this by?

Timo
Posted on: Sat, 10/04/2014 - 18:59

Antagonist superset movements are recommended by Charles Poliquin -
i.e. Bench immediately followed by Rows or
Bench immediately followed by Lat.Pull-Downs / pull-ups

marc
Posted on: Mon, 05/05/2014 - 21:02

Do you jus do one exercise per muscle group?

Sarah Miller
Posted on: Wed, 04/30/2014 - 23:00

HI, I have been doing some research on this method of training. I am just wondering as to why there are so many rest days? I usually train 6 days per week and no cardio at this stage. I am competing towards the end of this year and i am wanting to maximise my muscle growths as much as possible. are you able to give me more info regarding the rest days? As i will need to add in more cardio in the next few weeks (would i benfit more doing the cardio on the rest days or after the training sessions)..
your reply is much appreciated :)

vikas
Posted on: Sun, 04/06/2014 - 00:09

what about guys who cannot do pullups,chinups and dips.try doing 1x10x10 or take some other exercise.

Timo
Posted on: Sat, 10/04/2014 - 21:08

If you can't do pull-ups do lat.pull-downs until you can lift more than your body weight then you can do pull-ups

Jake
Posted on: Wed, 03/19/2014 - 21:54

I'm 22 and have done a lot of workout programs. Candito, Somolov, just to name a few and this, as far as bulk goes, is one of the better ones. Remember its a "bulking" program, which don't emphasis the strength portion as much. But anyway YES this will work, give it time and you see inches added to your muscles.

Ben
Posted on: Mon, 03/17/2014 - 18:01

Hey got two weeks left of this routine! It's destroying me... In a good way!
Was just wondering what would be a good programme to follow this to continue gaining or would just a simple hypotrophy programme be fine?

Rod
Posted on: Sun, 03/16/2014 - 13:33

GVT is simply the best program I've tried. I first did it last year, started the first week of April 2013 and ended around the last week of May. You will be extremely sore, but my wife and I noticed the difference in tone. I noticed the difference in my total lifts when I switched back to my regaular workout routine in June 2013.

I've started back on GVT as of last Thursday. So, the hope is to get more toned. Once thing I'm doing different ly is adding more abdominal exercises in the rotuine.

Good luck everyone!

Paulie
Posted on: Tue, 03/11/2014 - 08:30

Finished a 6 week GVT prog last Fri (7/03/14) and I'm 8lbs heavier and I look a lot leaner, I've gone from 202lbs to 210lbs, my scales ate telling me 16% bodyfat. I have always been quite strong due to doing some gymnastics (horse & rings mainly), football and boxing in my youth. To be honest I never expected this from GVT, I added 2.5kg to every exercise every week except squats to which I would add 5kg every week, went through a 5kg tub of total 90+ protein, tons of eggs and water. I was also taking Creatine, extra Arginine and added supergreens powder to 2 protein shakes a day. I think I can attribute the leaning out part to the 10 X 10 sets on hanging clean & presses that I was doing on a, supposed rest day, they had me sweating buckets.
Thanks for the article Steve, gonna take a week off now, I think I deserve it :)

Paulie
Posted on: Tue, 02/25/2014 - 10:42

@Ali. Defining your abs is all about reducing fat in the midsection to show the muscles, spot reducing fat is impossible, reducing bodyfat is an all over thing and usually the last place it'll go from is the midsection. I'd advise that while doing GVT concentrate on the workout, try to increase your poundages every workout and eat like a horse (healthily mind) a good trick I use is to boil a couple of boxes of eggs and keep them in the fridge and when you need a quick protein fix eat a couple, yes yolks too. get big and powerful first then after your 5-6 weeks of GVT you could maybe go on a cutting phase and try to lean out some.

Ali
Posted on: Mon, 02/17/2014 - 16:14

I get that the lifting part of this workout is insane, but what about your abs? Is this going to define my abs... Assuming that I eat healthy and follow this to a T.

Timo
Posted on: Sat, 10/04/2014 - 18:10

Deadlifts will help abs, but really it's not that natural a muscle to have - situps are easily the best way to get them - and lose as much fat as possible.

AdamK
Posted on: Sun, 02/16/2014 - 06:09

I ve recently started Jim Stopanni's GVT and HIITs 100 combined. I think its brilliant. This is an intense and long workout. You do see results and feel the tear. However, this is not for beginners. To minimize fatigue and shock impact, I would highly recommend having rest days and eating well as Steve suggests. It can taxing on your body with too much lactic acid if you don't follow a healthy regime.

Hope all goes well -

Happy lifting

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