German Volume Training isn’t for the faint-hearted, says personal trainer Russell Lee from leading Sydney personal trainers – Ultimate Performance.
But this fantastic protocol, popularised by legendary strength coach Charles Poliquin, is a fantastic way to get you out of a rut with your training and elicit some serious hypertrophy.
Often called ‘The 10 Sets Method’, it works on the Law of Repeated Effort—doing rep after rep to force the body to respond, adapt and grow.
It’s helped Olympic weightlifters pack on lean mass out of season and it’s something bodybuilders and strength athletes turn to time and time again to make impressive gains in a short space of time.
The premise of GVT is simple but brutally effective for getting you growing and getting stronger—you hit 10×10 on your primary lifts.
Yes, you read that correctly a total of 100 reps over 10 sets on squat, bench and deadlift at a submaximal weight (somewhere around 50-60% of your one-rep max).
Six weeks of following this training protocol to the letter will bring you massive results.
But there are five key tips that you should remember when starting GVT to maximise your efforts.
1. Record Everything
If you’re a dedicated trainer, you will probably be recording every single rep you do, every time you increase the weight on an exercise and time every single second of your rest periods.
It’s this kind of consistency that elicits results and ensures that you’re not cheating yourself and you’re getting stronger and progressing.
This process of recording your reps and your rest becomes even more critical where GVT is concerned. Why? Because you will inevitably lose track rep to rep and set to set and not get the optimum benefit.
If you’re not ensuring your rest periods are uniform, and you remain strict with them, you’ll go too quickly through the early sets when it feels (purposely) too ‘easy’ and then you’ll need to rest too long in the later sets when the sheer volume of reps begin to take their toll and the fatigue sets in.
2. Don’t go to Failure Early
Going to failure and trashing every last muscle fibre might be the raison d’etre of other training protocols and intensity techniques, but that’s not the goal of GVT.
You don’t want to be lifting a weight which leaves every fibre burning two sets into your 10-set session.
Pick a weight that you can comfortably lift for 10 reps for at least seven sets (you should be straining every muscle and sinew to push out the last three sets).
If you’re dying after one or two sets, then you’ve probably gone too heavy. Drop the weight. Once you’re nailing 10×10 without hitting failure, then you can bump up the weight on the bar.
3. When to go Lower Rep
Beginners and intermediate trainees will get great results lifting a medium weight for 10×10.
But we often find that people who are more advanced in the gym need to use a heavier weight than is possible with the 10×10 rep scheme of GVT.
This is where we can adapt the protocol by upping the weight and cutting the number of reps, starting with perhaps 10×8 and then as you progress hitting 10×7 and 10×6.
You can push your body’s adaptive response harder while keeping the stimulus the same.
4. Change up Your Exercises
GVT can be punishing on your body if you’re doing a six-week cycle.
If you’re hitting the same body part every five days, you could find yourself completing 80 sets of the same movement in that short time-span.
That’s a lot of reps and you have to be careful with this degree of repetition doesn’t cause repetitive strain soft tissue damage.
This is where you need to change up the movements you’re doing and cycle your exercises, alternating between two different ones. So one week you might perform GVT with a bench press and the next, switching it up and doing incline press.
5. Be Smart With Exercise Selection
Don’t just pick your favourite exercise to do 10×10 on. You need to think how you’re going to pair the exercise up and factor in fatigue. So if you’re training legs, you would probably end up blitzing your lower back with a poor combination like squat and Romanian deadlifts.
Any unilateral movement like split squats probably isn’t going to be optimal with GVT either just because of the sheer amount of work involved.
Pick the movements that are going to elicit the maximum benefit and allow you to achieve the most range of motion with the most weight.
This would mean picking dips over triceps push downs or squats instead of leg extensions.