How to Increase Muscle Size With German Volume Training

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!