German Volume Training

Introduction to the German Volume Training

The German Volume Training (GVT) has been the most successful article of my career.

No matter where I go around the World, people still comment on it

People often reported it was the most productive workout they had ever done. In one instance, for example, I was in Boston, and was about to pay the drop in fee at the local gym. The clerk recognized my name… this was before the Internet… and waived the fee after he told me that he couldn’t charge the guy who wrote the routine that brought him the most gains in his life.

GVT, also known as the 10 sets methods, dates back to mid-70’s and originates from Germany. Because of this, I decided to name my variant the German Volume Training. This method was, to the best of my knowledge, popularized by Rolf Feser, the German National Weightlifting Coach of that time, and was quite popular in weightlifting circles as a method to gain weight, often causing athletes to move up one full weight class in only 12 weeks.

Gains of 5 to 10 pounds, sometimes even more, are not uncommon, even in experienced lifters

It has been used by Canadian Olympic Weightlifing Coach Pierre Roy as the base for Los Angeles Olympic Silver Medalist Jacques Demers, who was known in weightlifting circles for his massive thighs. Demers gives credit to the German method for achieving such a spectacular level of hypertrophy.

Just to make a point clear, as it is a recurring question I get when talking about GVT: It won’t help an olympic weightlifter perform better in weightlifing. And, in the same vein, the GVT shouldn’t use olympic lifts in its exercise choice.

But it IS an excellent way of gaining lean mass for athletes. As such, German Volume Training was also popular in bodybuilding circles. Legendary trainer Vince Gironda had developed a similar protocol in the U.S., and Bev Francis used a method like this in her early days of bodybuilding to pack on muscle.

How to properly select the weight

  • In phase 1, take a weight you can do 20 reps to failure with for the A-1/A-2 pairing
  • Increase weight by 5% when 10 sets of 10 reps of the A-1/A-2 pairing can be completed
  • In phase 2, take a weight you can do 12 reps to failure with for the A-1/A-2 pairing
  • Increase weight by 5% when 10 sets of 6 reps of the A-1/A-2 pairing can be completed

Additional Notes

  • The best split for this program is 5 day split: 3 days on, 2 days off
  • So the split would look like this: day 1 – Chest and Back; Day 2 – Legs and Abs; Day 3 – Rest; Day 4 – Arms and Shoulders; Day 5 – Rest; Day 6 – Start over from day 1
  • It’s perfectly normal not to be able to complete the prescribed number of reps on sets 5-6, but to regain the capacity to do 8-9 reps on the last few sets of the GVT.

Phase 1 weeks 1-3 or 1-4

Day 1/5

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
A1 Flat DB Presses 10 10 4020 90
A2 Supinated Chin-ups 10 10 4020 90
B1 Incline Flies 3 10-12 2020 75
B2 Cable rows to neck 3 10-12 2020 75

 Day 2/5

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
A1 Back Squats 10 10 40X0 90
A2 Lying Leg curls feet outward 10 8 40X0 90
B1 Low Cable Pull-ins 3 10 2020 75
B2 Seated Calf Raise 3 10-12 2020 75

 Day 3/5 OFF (Rest)

Day 4/5

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
A1 Close grip bench press 10 10 40X0 90
A2 Incline DB Curls 10 10 40X0 90
B1 Seated Lateral Raises 3 10-12 2011 75
B2 Reverse Curls 3 10-12 40X0 75

 Day 5/5 OFF (Rest)


Phase 2 weeks 4-6 or 5-8

After six 5-day cycles of the phase 1 program, I recommend a three-week program using 6-to-8 reps per sets for 4-to-6 sets total per body part. You can still use the same 5-day cycle, or you can use another split that suits your recovery pattern and life routine

After this 3-week block, you go back for phase 2 of the German Volume Training method, with the following modifications: you now do ten sets of six reps per exercise instead of 10 sets of 10 reps. In this phase, use a load you’d normally be able to do 12 repetitions with. The goal in this phase is to do ten sets of six with that load.

Day 1/5

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
A1 Incline Barbell Press 10 6 5010 120
A2 Wide grip pull-ups 10 6 5010 120
B1 Decline Flyes 3 8-10 2020 75
B2 Incline Sit ups 3 8-10 2020 75

Day 2/5

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
A1 Front Squat 10 6 31X0 120
A2 Lying Leg Curls feet inward 10 6 30X0 120
B1 Back Extensions 3 8-10 2012 75
B2 Standing Calf Raise 3 8-10 22X0 75

 Day 3/5 OFF (Rest)

Day 4/5

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
A1 Dips 10 6 31X0 100
A2 Hammer Curls 10 6 30X0 100
B1 Bent Over Lateral Raise 3 8-10 2-0-1-2 75
B2 Wrist Curls 3 10-12 2020 75


Day 5/5 OFF (Rest)

To sum up, you should do the phase 1 program for six splits (six 5-day cycles, so 30 days), then do three weeks of a lower volume program that uses 6 to 8 reps, which will let your body recover, and then proceed to phase 2.

The simplicity of this program is what makes it efficient and elegant. And that’s what the Germans do best. Just ask any Mercedes Benz or BMW owner.

Stay strong,

Coach Charles R. Poliquin