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WHAT IS GERMAN VOLUME TRAINING?

German Volume Training: This is a training routine originally used by German weightlifters in the off-season to gain lean muscle mass. It consists of 10 sets of 10 reps with the same weight for each exercise. You want to begin with a weight you could lift for 20 reps to failure if you had to.

Generally, a high-volume protocol of multiple sets of six to fifteen repetitions performed at 55%–85% 1 RM is prescribed to stimulate maximum muscle hypertrophy.

Volume is defined as reps x sets x poundage lifted.

My in-the-trenches experience would confirm that generally higher volume produces better muscular gains, as opposed to the same sets and repetitions using lighter weights. That’s why compound movements are the method of choice for building muscle mass.

Let’s look at an example in which our primary emphasis is the quadriceps using the front squat and the leg extension.

If four sets of 10 repetitions are performed on the front squat with 300 pounds, the total volume is 4 x 10 x 300 = 12,000 pounds. If we did the same workout with leg extensions using 60 pounds, the total amount of volume would be 4 x 10 x 60 = 2,400 pounds. Much more work is accomplished with the front squat, and this is the premise of German Volume Training.

Even though most educated coaches and athletes correctly use compound movements as their go-to choice to add muscle mass, generally, after the compound movement is performed, the goal is then to hit the muscle from all different angles.

This can be accomplished via supplementary core lifts (for example, performing a dumbbell military press after a standing military press) and, of course, multiple sets and repetitions of single-joint movements that more effectively isolate the muscle. As mentioned earlier, this technique is known as post-exhaust training or power building. The goal is to get the benefit of the core movement and also stimulate as many muscle fibers as possible by attacking the muscle from a variety of angles with a variety of movements.

What’s the alternative? Attack the same movement with multiple sets, much higher than typically recommended.

Limited studies on German Volume Training confirm its effectiveness for building muscles.

Originally, German Volume Training (the 10 Sets Method) was a protocol of 10 sets of 10 repetitions of a compound movement, using a 20-repetition max, or approximately 60% of the athlete’s 1-rep max. Rest periods of 60 seconds up to three minutes have been advocated; however, rest depends on the movement being performed, the load used, and the anaerobic capacity of the athlete. In the event of not being able to complete all the repetitions, reduce the load by 2.5%–5%. Thus, if you were using 200 pounds and did not complete the final rep on the seventh set, use 190–195 pounds on the following set.

Although this reduction is quite small, we want to keep the intensity as high as possible for maximum muscle growth. If you attempt to keep the weight the same and continually miss reps because of fatigue, you won’t reap GVT’s intended benefits.

If you are performing only 4 reps on your last set, even if you had made every rep until that point, you have reduced the total volume by 60%! If you do this over multiple sets, you have significantly deviated from the protocol, which will greatly alter the adaption to the program. German Volume Training is 10 sets of 10 repetitions. If you decide to use this method, stick to it!

HOW DOES GERMAN VOLUME TRAINING WORK?

Because of the high-volume training load, short rest intervals, and moderate load, this method produces an extremely anabolic natural growth hormone response.

The idea, as Poliquin has written, is to attack the same muscle fibers repeatedly with the same movement for extremely high volume, and this will force the muscle fibers to experience major growth.

This occurs by doing multiple sets: Your fatigued muscle fibers no longer are recruited; instead, new ones will be called to action, equating to more growth. The idea is that fast-twitch and growth-resistant slow-twitch fibers will both experience growth from this demanding regimen.

Powerlifters have used a similar approach with much lower reps with the same idea and have become neurologically efficient in the competition lifts.

Many strength coaches now advocate supersetting German Volume Training with an antagonist muscle movement, so for the bench press, this could be a dumbbell row, or for the overhead press, this could be a chin-up.

Australian strength coach Dan Barker recommends a three-minute recovery between each superset complex. For well-conditioned athletes, an abdominal exercise could be added into the complex, so a complex could be shoulder press– chin-up–leg raises (rest three minutes, repeat 9 more times).

Performing squats or deadlifts entails core involvement and massive loads, so it would not be wise to add an abdominal exercise. Because of the neuromuscular complexity, it is not recommended to use Olympic lifts or their variations for German Volume Training.

Besides causing muscle hypertrophy, German Volume Training can benefit the cardiovascular system. Daniel Barker and Robert Newton showed this to professional rugby players performing a German Volume Training bench press routine; by their last set, their heart rates had climbed to 160 beats per minute and never dropped below 120 during the recovery phase.

It would be interesting to see how high athletes’ heart rates would climb when these athletes perform a German Volume Training workout with a squat or deadlift emphasis. Because of the cardiovascular demands, athletes with poor conditioning will not be able to effectively benefit from a German Volume Training routine.

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My name is Steven Goldstein

With over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry, I have worked with clients of all ages and fitness levels. From professional athletes to individuals aiming to lose weight, I have helped countless people achieve their goals and improve their overall health through customized training and nutrition plans.

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Hundreds of clients of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities have put their health in our hands over the years and achieved truly remarkable results. 

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