Do you ever find yourself walking into the gym on a random day thinking “I just want to totally smash every muscle in my body today”?
Maybe it’s after a long weekend spent indulging in some drinks and bad food or after an unintended absence from the gym.
Or maybe you just happen to feel overly energetic and want to test the limits of your ambition.
Whatever the reason, when one of those days that has you thirsty for a total body beat down appears, I have the perfect routine for you.
Total Body German Volume Training
For this version of the Total Body Beat Down, I have dusted off one of my favorite methods from my bodybuilding days - German Volume Training (GVT). GVT was a high volume (obviously) method utilized by German lifters (bet you could have guessed that) and was popularized by American golden era bodybuilders of the 1970s and 80s. I use the term “popularized” loosely.
This method is so taxing that few lifters have the mental and physical fortitude to grind through the large number of sets and reps on a regular basis. The structure is very simple. Complete 10 sets of 10 reps. Typically, this method was and is used when performing one of the major compound lifts.
You may see a bench lover hogging a barbell on chest day when performing his 10 sets of barbell bench presses. However, the real gut-wrenchers employ this technique in the squat rack.
Personally, I normally use the first set as a warm up, then on the second set try to go as heavy as possible for 10 reps. As the sets wear on, you want to keep the weight heavy, but typically you may need to lower the weight in order to complete the sets. There’s no shame in it. This method is grueling and you must make sure to complete every rep with perfect form.
So, 10 sets of 10. 100 reps. Sounds simple, right? Well here’s the catch. For this particular workout, we are going to utilize GVT on three big compound movements in a circuit fashion, each one utilizing a different area of the body. Doing so provides a killer full body workout.
There is a squat for the lower body, incline bench to work the “pushing” muscles of the chest, triceps and delts, and a rowing movement to work the “pulling” muscles of the back, biceps, and forearms. As you can imagine, this not only gives you an extreme full body pump, it also will put your cardio and conditioning to the test. Needless to say, this isn’t for the faint of heart.
The Total Body Beat Down
|1a. Back Squat||10||10|
|1b. Incline Barbell Bench Press||10||10|
|1c. T-Bar Row||10||10|
Start with a set of 10 on barbell back squat. Remember to keep your weight light for a warm up on the first round. Immediately transition to an incline bench for 10 barbell presses. If you don’t have a spotter, you may substitute incline dumbbell presses. Rack the bar then immediately hit a T-bar or seated row for 10 reps.
Rest briefly, change the bar weights to a WMR10 (weight for max reps 10) and begin the second round. As the sets progress, lower the weight as necessary to ensure that you complete all 10 reps (with perfect form).
If you fail in the middle or towards the end of a set, rack the weight, rest for a brief 10-20 seconds, then complete the remaining reps. Just to give you an idea of what the weights for this workout may look like:
Seated Row: 120/200/200/200/190/190/180/180/170/170
If you notice in the above example, the weights begin to lower later in the workout due to fatigue. In classic GVT, the goal is to keep the same WMR10 for the entire 10 x 10, but I have found that when doing this method in a full body superset fashion, that goal becomes close to impossible.
Again, the above weights are just an example, you will need to choose your starting weight appropriately and go from there based on how you feel. It’s a good idea to keep track of the weights you use, so the next time you attempt this killer, you can try to increase weight on a few sets. This is necessary so that you lift a higher overall poundage during the course of the workout.
Needless to say, if you are trying to build muscle, you’ve got to progress in the weight you use when performing this or any workout. That does not necessarily mean you have to start at a heavier weight. Your starting squat (2nd set) may still be 255, but maybe rather than ending with sets of 175 and 165, you keep 185 on the bar for the last few sets.
Another variable you can look at is time. Set a timer and see how long it takes you to complete the entire 30 set circuit. Next time you attempt the workout, keep your weights the same but finish the workout in a shorter amount of time by taking shorter breaks. It’s always a good idea to keep a puke bucket close at hand.
Another version of this workout is to utilize all body weight movements - body squats or jump squats in place of the back squat, incline bench gets swapped out for dips or pushups, and pull ups replaces rows.
In theory this is a lot easier, but also great for when your time in the gym or access to equipment is limited. To really challenge yourself, run 1 mile as soon as you complete the 10th round. Time the entire workout including the run.
Full Body Weight German Volume Training
|1a. Body Squat or Jump Squat||10||10|
|1b. Dips or Pushups||10||10|
This entire program can be used in several different ways. You can save it for the random workout where you really feel like it is necessary to get a full body workout in, but really need to kill each muscle group.
OR, you could perform this circuit three times a week. Just make sure you have an adequate amount of rest in between each session so you recover fully. (hint, that means typically means 48 hours in between workouts. Grant it, some of you out there may recovery faster or slower).
Well there you have it - a full body and conditioning twist on one of my favorite old school bodybuilding methods. Give this one a try next time you need a full body workout or simply want to take yourself to deep water. Stay tuned to Muscle & Strength for more of my unique takes on classic routines.