How to Increase Muscle Size With German Volume Training

Steve Shaw
Written By: Steve Shaw
August 11th, 2020
Updated: March 18th, 2021
756.9K 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
joe
Posted on: Fri, 02/14/2014 - 19:58

hey Steve, I'm currently on my 3rd week of gvt, your opinions on adding walking cardio in the morning on an empty stomach to try to lean out and bring my bodyfat percentage down a bit? A few months ago I finished the Smolov squat routine and was really focusing on strength. I saw great strength results but was eating way too much so I ended up putting on some fat. I am 6'2 at 215lbs roughly between 15-20% body fat. You're opinion would be greatly appreciated.. Thanks man!

Paulie
Posted on: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 06:09

I have been using GVT for a while and it's very hard to start with so start with a much lighter weight than you havde in your head, I've been training for the best part of 25 years and have a 1 rep max bench of 196kg , gladly I'm naturally strong so I thought I'd go with 10X10 with 100kg for the bench press on a slight decline ( I prefer decline as its easier on the shoulders) by set 7 I was done and had to admit defeat and dropped the weight to 80kg, I reccomend going real light for the first few times and get used to the feel and then add weight accordingly to what you think will suffice (don't knock your pipe out on the first few sets) I do the 10X10 for bi's and tri's and it's superb, just get your weight right and by the endof your workout they will be on fire. If you want a good fat burner, on shoulder day, do 10X10 hanging clean & press, it throws in some excellent cardio to the workout , I do these seperately on a Saturday (rest day) they will have you sweating like a fat bird in a disco. Keeping it real throughout the years!!

Woodstock
Posted on: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 21:22

I tried GVT on Sunday, starting with squats, and now two days later I'm wondering if I should be worried about Rhadbo. I have the most intense case of DOMS that I've ever experienced. Does anyone else have experience with this extreme pain after GVT?

Paulie
Posted on: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 06:31

@Woodstock, Hi , regarding your Rhadbo, I think you need to get to your G.P. and get checked, if you haven't trained for a while and are starting back after a lay off or just starting, maybe GVT may be a bit much and you should start with something less demanding. In any case you should get a kidney function and a blood test sorted, the results will determine your next route, make sure you are drinking plenty of fresh water to keep your kidneys fushed, you also need to keep your electrolytes in balance. Remember Rome wasn't built in a day, take your time start light and progress at your own rate. Trying to keep up with people who have been training for years will do nothing but cripple you. Your pace is the right pace. Hope everything turns out OK :)

ParraHarrd
Posted on: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 17:27

Hi Steve,

Im on a 3 month break from triathlon training due to a achilles injury. Im taking this as a chance to push some weights. What type of workout would you suggest after a 6 week block of this?

Simon
Posted on: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 21:18

Hey Steve
Just wanted to know if i pick one exercise for each musclegroup and then stick with that exercise for the 4-6 week period, or can i choose another exercise each weak? Ex. Benchpress one week and incline db press another week?

mark
Posted on: Sat, 01/04/2014 - 19:55

I think it's best to stick with the same exercises, so you can accurately gauge the correct weights to lift and to help monitor your progress.

Val
Posted on: Sun, 12/29/2013 - 22:41

Hi @steve! Is this supposed to be done in a superset manner like Poliquin's version.
Let's say...
Day 1:
A1 Flat bench press
A2 DB Military Press
A3 CG Bench Press

Thank you in advance for enlightening me. :)

Reiley
Posted on: Sun, 12/29/2013 - 17:32

How can you do as many reps as possible if youre only doing 10 reps each set for 10 sets..thats only 100 reps, not as many as you can do? or is it 10+ whatever else you can do for each set?

Paulie
Posted on: Tue, 03/11/2014 - 08:36

@Reiley. If you can do more than 10 reps per exercise easily then you should be adding weight so by the time you reach sets 7 - 8 - 9 and 10, 10 reps is an all out effort or you may only get 8 or 9 reps in those sets but next time you train that bodypart use the same weight till you can do 10X10 with it, when you can, add 2.5kg to the bar next time you work that bodypart and so on for all the exercises. I did this with the exception of squats to which I added 5kg per week . Hope this helps.

B.C
Posted on: Sun, 12/29/2013 - 00:16

3

B.C
Posted on: Sun, 12/29/2013 - 00:10

just to clarify, is it only one workout per muscle per day? for example, chest day only do bench?

ParraHarrd
Posted on: Thu, 11/21/2013 - 01:31

What type of workout would you suggest after completing 4-6 weeks of this?

chad
Posted on: Mon, 11/11/2013 - 20:18

If I can bench 135 for 10x10 and I'm 14 is that good?

Paulie
Posted on: Tue, 02/25/2014 - 10:45

Your 14 FFS don't train heavy your going to damage your health, stick to bodyweight exercises and playing sports or climbing tree's, please don't tell me you take supplements that are made for mature adults too ? :(

Adam
Posted on: Sun, 11/10/2013 - 09:05

I have been reading a lot on gvt and a lot articles go on about superset the 2 exercises is this correct?

Afshin
Posted on: Wed, 11/06/2013 - 02:49

german volume training is very crazy. 100 reps is impossible.

Terry
Posted on: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 23:40

god dam this 10 x 10 is a killer!!! i was holding myself back on trying this out but after a month of wieght train i get bored of doing the same old things and i decided to give 10 x 10 a try.

got my shoulder up to 10 x 10 and on the 9 and 10 set i almost get failure on the 9 and last rep (=_=II)

but as for my biceps i cant get up to 10 set i fail at 8 and hardly do the number 9 set =( (should i redure weight for this?)

i find the most killing time on this workout is the limit time of rest!! 60sec with a time watch on hand hahaha

ami
Posted on: Tue, 10/15/2013 - 10:56

I'm 40YO 6'2 and 176 pounds. I've been training for a couple of years now and I'm happy with my results, but I've definitely hit a plato on my muscle growth. I always do: chest/triceps, back/biceps, legs, shoulders, that's it, 4 workouts a week and different exercises each time, for example 3 exercises for chest 3 sets of 10 reps each. Do you think a GVT will shock my muscles even if I keep doing push, pull and legs as you suggest? Should I try back/chest, arms, legs? Your comments are highly appreciated.

nate
Posted on: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 03:47

I do it every now and then, sometimes I reduce the weight to make the 10 sets of 10 reps with good form. Then each time I do the workout I am able to keep the weight constant for an extra set or two. It takes m about 4 weeks to be able to keep the whole 10 sets of 10 reps at the same weight. It definitely helps wit my overall big picture, big performance gains.

Hank
Posted on: Fri, 09/27/2013 - 03:22

Steve, I've come across a similar routine doing 10 sets of 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 reps consecutively. Is this a decent modified version of GVT?

Detlev
Posted on: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 03:48

Hi Steve,

Can't wait to start on this one! One question though:

In the workout it says:
"One Exercise. You perform one exercise per body part. That’s it."

Should you change this every week? Because after this you say:
Chest. Bench press, weighted chest dip, decline dumbbell press, etc.

Can you please explain?

Thanks!

Joseph
Posted on: Mon, 06/24/2013 - 16:25

Hi Steve, I've been doing this routine for 2 weeks and i'm still getting my bearings with it. I've been focusing mostly on compound movements to build overall mass, and could use your expertise on it.

I've tweaked the routine a little bit, it looks like this;

Day 1 - Chest
10 x 10 - Flat Bench Press (90 Seconds Rest)
5 x 10 - Incline Dumbbell Press (60 Seconds Rest)

Day 2 - Back
10 x 10 - Barbel Row (90 Seconds Rest)
5 x 10 - Lat Pull Down Wide Grip (60 Seconds Rest)

Day 3 - Rest

Day 4 - Shoulders
10 x 10 - Seated Barbell Shoulder Press (90 Seconds Rest)
3 x 10 - Upright Dumbbell Row (60 Seconds Rest)
3 x 10 - Rear Delt Dumbbell Row (60 Seconds Rest)

Day 5 - Rest

Paulie
Posted on: Tue, 03/11/2014 - 08:42

@Joseph. Where's leg day Dude ? Dont concentrate on the show mucles or you'll look silly when you get to the beach/pool and have bits of string hanging from your shorts. It's a big mistake I see a lot especially young men who want big arms and a t-shirt ripping chest. Want a true answer ? Easy. SQUAT !!!

Sam
Posted on: Fri, 06/21/2013 - 02:22

Steve, would GVT apply for secondary muscles such as Lats and traps or would you treat them like abs and calves? Thanks.

Jake
Posted on: Tue, 06/18/2013 - 17:29

Hi Steve,

I was wondering, do I stick with the same exercises for the duration of the program or do I change up the exercise each week? For example..
Week 1 Chest- Flat DB bench press
Week 2 Chest- Incline DB bench press

Billy
Posted on: Sun, 06/09/2013 - 14:22

Hi Steve,

I plan to start my GVT routine this month. This will be the first time that I'll be doing GVT ever. I've heard so many good things about it as well as been reading up on it. What do you think of this routine for it:

Day 1-Chest & Back

Bench press (10x10)

Reverse grip bench press (3x10)

Barbell row (10x10)

Seated row (3x10)

Day 2-Legs&Abs

Squat (back squat) (10x10)

Romanian dead lift or lying leg curls or deadlifts (3x10)

Sit ups (10x10)

Day 3-Arms&Shoulders

Barbell curls (10x10)

Hammer curls (3x10)

Overhead press (10x10)

Rear delt raises (3x10)

Many thanks,

Billy

Billy
Posted on: Wed, 06/05/2013 - 05:16

Hi Steve,

I plan to start my GVT routine this month. This will be the first time that I'll be doing GVT ever. I've heard so many good things about it as well as been reading up on it. What do you think of this routine for it:

Day 1-Chest & Back

Bench press (10x10)

Reverse grip bench press (3x10)

Barbell row (10x10)

Seated row (3x10)

Day 2-Legs&Abs

Squat (back squat) (10x10)

Romanian dead lift or lying leg curls or deadlifts (3x10)

Sit ups (10x10)

Day 3-Arms&Shoulders

Barbell curls (10x10)

Hammer curls (3x10)

Overhead press (10x10)

Rear delt raises (3x10)

Chalie M
Posted on: Sat, 05/25/2013 - 08:40

Great workout, my shoulders are my weakest area, I'm concerned by front shoulders are going to get all the work (i'm performing incline for chest, smith machine for shoulder press & skull crushers for tri's) can I switch up after 4weeks and subsitute side laterals for shouilders to end in the6th. week of this 10x10

Rhandy
Posted on: Thu, 05/23/2013 - 10:39

Hello Steve,

This is a new form GVT for me the one i know, in that one There are super sets.
can you make a simple routine sample,

greetings from the Netherlands

Thor
Posted on: Sat, 05/18/2013 - 12:54

Our gym uses a variation of this called 'Viking Volume Training' - In which it's not just 10x10, it's 100 reps total, with the goal of being 10 set of 10. Basically, you crank out the sets of ten until you start failing (around set 5 for most people), then grind out the remaining 50+ reps until you hit 100.

We occasionally make it even more brutal by warming up to a 5 rep max prior to actually going for the 100 reps.

I HIGHLY recommend this if you're looking to improve your strength and stamina while going for hypertrophy.

Mario Diaz
Posted on: Mon, 05/13/2013 - 13:05

What's the tempo I should take on this program?
Thank you.

Cele Sardes
Posted on: Thu, 05/02/2013 - 02:39

Hi how and when do I incorporate deadlifts using gvt?
Of all the gvt article I read I never saw deadlifts as one of the back exercise
Thanks. Pls enlighten me.

Karol K
Posted on: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 01:17

Hi , I am currently studying my diploma in fitness and we went through GVT the other day in class and then did an example , I smashed out 10x10 bench DB press using 7.5kg.......I could of gone 8kg each side as I couldn't even feel it...... I am in love with this training.. and want to build muscle while burning fat. I just have a question, as a female I want to sculpt my body , burn fat and what weights should I be using with this training? Also do I just do for example one exercise for each set chest , triceps & shoulders? or more than one fro each muscle group? I want to start tomorrow , I would love to get an answer on this.

Timo
Posted on: Sat, 10/04/2014 - 18:08

Even as a female... 7.5 kg? ... :-| ... That's why you could "smash out 10x10"

There's literally no point to doing this, you're not doing anything, not losing fat, not building muscle

Figure out your ~1RM or approximate by e.g. finding your 10RM (do this by finding a weight you lift 10 times so 8th, 9th, 10th are hard and 11th you push as hard as you can but your arms can't do it - then for GVT use 60% of your 1RM or 75% of your 10RM. As a total guess by what you say I'd try 14kg or 16kg for 10RM if I was you

Zane
Posted on: Tue, 04/09/2013 - 16:47

So I'm really looking to build up my chest, arms, shoulders, back, and strengthen/tone up my legs(because my legs are bigger on a scale to the rest of my body. and attempting to cut my stomach fat down. How should I be going about this type of workout scheme as far as calorie intake and the workout itself as far as adding in a 2nd lift per muscle group and what not?
ANY advice that would help me the most would be appreciated

Rich
Posted on: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 15:10

Hi.... Great workout... Is it good for cutting ???
Thanks
Richoz

Anand vaid
Posted on: Wed, 04/03/2013 - 19:41

This work out has been around since the 60's!!!

Lee
Posted on: Tue, 03/19/2013 - 15:24

I'm a hardcore ectomorph, been lifting for years and have finally been able to build a solid physique. I've recently plateaued in strength in almost all exercises so I gave this a try. AMAZING results. Not to mention I'm only at the gym for like an hour. Adding some serious size and looking forward to more.

Anand vaid
Posted on: Wed, 04/03/2013 - 19:42

Old old old !!!

Nik
Posted on: Thu, 03/14/2013 - 10:35

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your help - I find it very useful reading your comments on various questions.
I started this programme last week - did chest, shoulders and triceps on Monday and then back and biceps on Wednesday. On Friday I did only abs, as I have my knees injured and cannot do any leg exercises for now....The issue I have is that I dont feel any pain/soreness/tiredeness the next day after working out my biceps, although I do 10x10 and the weight I am working out with is good, as I can hardly finish my last 2 sets. So I thought maybe its a good idea to have another session for biceps on Friday (I would then do chest, shoulders and triceps on Monday, back and biceps on Wednesday, and abs with biceps on Friday), as I am not doing legs at the moment...What would you suggest?

Thanks a lot in advance

M&S Team Badge
Joey
Posted on: Thu, 03/14/2013 - 16:26

I'd say to stick to the program, and trust that it works. Muscle soreness is not a good indication of whether or not a workout was effective.

Elias
Posted on: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 14:53

Hey,
looking forward to try this :)

@Shawn: Will GVT just increase Volume or is there also a gain in pure strength?
In other words, will my muscles just look big or will there be enough juice behind them ;) ?

Amy
Posted on: Sat, 02/23/2013 - 07:10

Hi Steve,
Your program on GVT makes the most sense to me. I've switched around the puch and pull days but other than that, I think it's spot on. Here's my question. I just finished my first week and was planning to take the weekend off since I'm following your schedule. However, I've been reading and it seems everybody says train the bodyparts once every 5 days. Have you tried it at tboth ferquencies? If so, which did you prefer? I'm a natural bodybuilder and one one hand can't recover as fast as someone with pharmacutical help, but also I read that if your natural you need more frequency. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Zac
Posted on: Tue, 02/12/2013 - 13:23

Hey Steve, Idk if this has been asked yet, but what about olympic lifts? I know they would fill the compound category well but I feel like if I wanted to Hang Cleans, Idk if it what day I would do it on or if It would be enough to be the only workout for the targeted muscle group? Hang Cleans really help my trap strength on a regular 4 set routine, but what would you think it would do for legs on a 10 x 10?

shawn
Posted on: Sun, 02/10/2013 - 22:57

Hey Steve!
I've been doing supersets for the past while, and like working out 4 days a week. I'm going to do this after this coming week and would like to know if I could do a 4 day cycle instead of 3. If so, how would you recomend that I split up the muscle categories?

Bob McCloud
Posted on: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 01:06

Now 67 and retired, been using 10 x 10 now for two months. Increased in size with a lot
less time in my basement gym. Monday: seated military press, weighted bench dips.
Wednesday: stepper. Friday: inclined pushups, dumbbell rowing. Also do three sets of
standing ez-curls 10-12 reps on Mondays and Fridays. Been lifting since 1974,,, sorry I
didn't know about this great workout 25 years ago,,,

ivan
Posted on: Fri, 12/28/2012 - 08:40

would this thing really work for me? 3x8 didint work been doing it for year

Mike
Posted on: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 17:41

Is decline chest press okay for the chest exercise or would you recommend the regular chest press?
Also - how is the normal amount of reps in the sets? You say that if you can do 10x10 you have to add. How many reps do can I count on I'm doing in e.g. Set 7?

Nick Cacciatore
Posted on: Tue, 12/11/2012 - 23:47

If I do this gvt program can you point me in the right direction of a meal plan and can I do 30 mins of hiit training daily to stay lean or is this going to give me a bloated look ?