• Alex Parry

German Volume Training Review: The Pros and The Cons

German volume training is a popular method for building size and strength, but is it actually any good? This review is going to look at the pros and cons of german volume training, as well as offer practical recommendations for your hypertrophy training. We'll cover:



Let's jump right in.


German Volume Training Review

What is German Volume Training?


German Volume Training or GVT for short, is a popular muscle and strength training approach that very likely originated in Germany in the mid-’70’s under German National Weightlifting Coach Rolf Feser. It was then popularized in the US by Charles Poliquin.


Now, if you don't know much about the olympic weightlifting scene in the '70s, you should probably be aware that a brute force approach to training was common, as was the widespread and massive use of performance-enhancing drugs. This context is key.


Enter german volume training, a.k.a. 10x10.


German volume training calls for lifters to choose a multi-joint compound exercise (such as squats or bench press) and perform 10 sets of 10 reps at approximately 60% of their 1 rep max. This can be done for 1 or 2 exercises, and then followed up with accessory work if desired.


Rest times between sets are recommended as around 90 seconds.



German Volume Training Plan (Template)


Day 1:


Compound Lift A: 10x10 @ 60% 1rm

Compound Lift B: 10x10 @ 60% 1rm

Accessory Lift A: 3-5 sets of 10



Day 2:


Compound Lift A: 10x10 @ 60% 1rm

Compound Lift B: 10x10 @ 60% 1rm

Accessory Lift A: 3-5 sets of 10



Day 3:


Compound Lift A: 10x10 @ 60% 1rm

Compound Lift B: 10x10 @ 60% 1rm

Accessory Lift A: 3-5 sets of 10



German Volume Training Programs


German Volume Training is more like an approach or method than it is a program, so what I've done here is put together a few sample workouts based on what I've read and seen online. These workouts are intended to offer a general description of how german volume training is programmed, and NOT as anything that I recommend you follow (more on that later)



3 Day Full Body German Volume Training


This 3 day per week programme challenges multiple muscle groups in each session


German Volume Training Workout 1 / Day 1:

Exercise

Sets, Reps and Intensity

Back Squat

10 x 10 @ 60% 1rm

Bench Press

10 x 10 @ 60% 1rm

Dumbbell Flyes

3 x 10 By feel


German Volume Training Workout 2 / Day 2:

Exercise

Sets, Reps and Intensity

Barbell Row

10 x 10 @ 60% 1rm

Split Squats

10 x 10 @ 60% 1rm

Lat Pull-downs

3 x 10 By feel


German Volume Training Workout 3 / Day 3:

Exercise

Sets, Reps and Intensity

Romanian Deadlift

10 x 10 @ 60% 1rm

Overhead Press

10 x 10 @ 60% 1rm

Leg Extensions

3 x 10 By feel


German Volume Training 4-day Split


This 4-day german volume training split has an upper-lower split and body part focus for each workout. Upper body workouts include both chest/shoulders and back.


German Volume Training Workout 1 / Day 1:

Exercise

Sets, Reps and Intensity

Back Squat

10 x 10 @ 60% 1rm

Split Squat

10 x 10 @ 60% 1rm

Leg Extensions

3 x 10 By feel


German Volume Training Workout 2 / Day 2:

Exercise

Sets, Reps and Intensity

Bench Press

10 x 10 @ 60% 1rm

Barbell Row

10 x 10 @ 60% 1rm

Dumbbell Flyes

3 x 10 By feel


German Volume Training Workout 3 / Day 3:

Exercise

Sets, Reps and Intensity

Romanian Deadlift

10 x 10 @ 60% 1rm

Glute Bridge

10 x 10 @ 60% 1rm


German Volume Training Workout 4 / Day 4:

Exercise

Sets, Reps and Intensity

Overhead Press

10 x 10 @ 60% 1rm

Pull-Ups

10 x 10 @ 60% 1rm

Dumbbell Lateral Raises

3 x 10 By feel


German Volume Training Review: The Pros


  • Definitely enough volume for muscle growth


With 10 sets of 10 reps there's certainly no arguing that there is enough total training volume to stimulate muscle growth, especially if you're doing this for multiple exercises. Now whether you can survive that volume is another question altogether.



  • German volume training is simple


Since you really just need to pick 1 or 2 compound exercises, GVT workouts are incredibly simple to follow. If you're doing legs, you just find a squat rack and set up camp.



German Volume Training Review: The Cons


  • The volume is needlessly high (and may be detrimental)


10 sets of 10 reps is a LOT of volume. Now, usually with training, more work tends to equal better results, especially for hypertrophy and muscle growth. However, there comes a point of diminishing returns, where each extra set only offers marginally better results but comes at the cost of massive extra fatigue and injury risk.


A 2017 study compared GVT 10x10 against 5x10 training, and found that both programs performed similarly, with some slightly better strength and size outcomes going to the 5x10 group. In short...


"the 10x10 group did double the work for the same or worse results."


  • Recommended rest times are way too short


90 seconds of rest between sets of 10 reps for squats or deadlifts is just scientifically (and practically) stupid. I think we all know that after a hard set of squats your breathing and heart rate are likely to be elevated for multiple minutes. If you go for your next set before you're fully recovered, it's going to be your heart and lungs that are limiting your performance rather than your leg muscles. This is a pretty terrible idea for hypertrophy and strength.



  • GVT workouts are unsustainably hard


Doing 10 sets of 10 reps on the bicep curl or tricep pushdown is tough, but doing 10 sets of 10 on the squat or Romanian deadlift is just brutal. The levels of physical and mental exhaustion are huge, and you might manage it for a few weeks, but will you be able to manage it for a few months?


Worse still, the bigger and stronger you are, the harder the workouts become. 10 sets of squats when you're only squatting 60kg (130lb) is one thing, but 10 sets of squats when you're squatting 120kg (265lb) is a completely different training stimulus.



  • Lack of variety reduces progress and increases injury risk


The human body is an adaptive organism, and if you present the same stimulus (same exercises, sets and reps) it will eventually reduce and even stop adapting to them. This is principle 4: variation, in my scientific principles series.


This means that german volume training becomes stale quite fast. Moreover, doing the exact same repetitive movements over and over again increases injury risk.



German Volume Training Review: Summary and Recommendations


German Volume Training is a poor choice for hypertrophy (muscle building) and for strength. The volume is needlessly high, the workouts are unsustainably hard and there's not enough variation to prevent it from getting stale really quickly.


Yes, it's simple, and yes, it can work for some people. But those people could have gotten the same or better results doing literally half the work! So if you're looking for a way to waste your time and increase your injury risk, GVT 10x10 is the approach for you.



What Do I Recommend Instead?


A SIGNIFICANTLY better approach would be to learn more about hypertrophy mechanisms, as well as hypertrophy set and rep guidelines, and follow programmes that are based around these.


If you're looking for something top of the range, I have a 4-day per week upper-lower split hypertrophy program available. It's 17-weeks long and is divided into 3 phases (mesocycles) with varying exercises, sets, reps and intensities.


Or, if you're looking for some other recommendations, 3DMJ, Jeff Nippard and Renaissance Periodization are all great sources for training programs.






German Volume Training Frequently Asked Questions


Does german volume training work?


For the people who can survive it, yes, but those people would get equal or better results doing less total work. In fact, if you go to google and type in...


- "german volume training results"

- "german volume training reddit"


You'll find plenty of posts saying the same thing.



German volume training for fat loss?


German volume training is very likely far too much training volume during a diet phase, and will very likely cause fatigue to skyrocket. Since fat loss can be accomplished whilst following any training or exercise programme, a lower volume programme would be better. Lastly, the majority of fat loss comes through diet and nutrition and achieving a calorie deficit for multiple weeks, so there's really no need for insanely hard training.



Will German Volume Training build mass?


As I've mentioned above, yes it will, but you could build just as much if not more mass by following a lower volume programme that does 3 to 5 sets instead of 10.



German volume training for arms?


Arm exercises are not often used in GVT type workouts. However, since they're a small muscle group, 10 sets for biceps or triceps might be quite achievable, and within most people's recovery abilities (provided that overall pushing and pulling volume isn't too high)



German volume training legs?


GVT for legs is just flat out a terrible idea. 10x10 squats, split squats or RDL's is unnecessarily brutal for no extra benefit. The total fatigue will be huge, and it will quickly become unsustainable.



German volume training deadlift?


Using GVT for deadlifts is without a doubt the dumbest idea I've heard in a long time. For most people, 2-6 sets of deadlifts per WEEK is the most they can properly recover from, so it makes no sense whatsoever to perform 10 sets in a single workout.



Can beginners do German Volume Training?


No, beginners should certainly not use german volume training. Beginners need very little volume in order to make progress. In fact, many beginners can make solid progress using only 1-3 sets per exercise. 10 sets would be total overkill and would very likely just create insane muscle soreness for no extra benefit.



Next Steps

Alright, that's enough reading for today, time to put what you've learned into action...

1) Forget about GVT, and start researching evidence-based hypertrophy recommendations as I've linked above.


2) If you want a solid programme that you can use to start adding size right away (and to give you a few weeks of time to research) then I really do recommend you check out my 4-day per week upper-lower split hypertrophy program

3) Lastly, if you want more training tips, workouts and programmes, feel free to join my mailing list.

'Til Next Time


Alex



Alex Parry, MSc, BA


Alex is the Head content writer and Coach at Character Strength & Conditioning, as well as an Assistant Lecturer and PhD Researcher at the University of Hull.

His experience includes 7+ years within professional strength and conditioning, as well as working as a tutor & educator for British Weightlifting.

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