Monday, January 3, 2022

Advanced German Volume Training -- Charles Poliquin


Serge Reding

When German Volume Training was introduced in Muscle Media 2000 magazine, it was the most popular article they had ever published. 


Since then, it has been reprinted, translated, copied, attacked, "modified" or "improved," pirated
 . . . you name it. 

Why? Because it works; because it works  very well. 

The most common question about German Volume Training is how it might be adapted for an advanced trainee -- someone with a good five-years training experience. Before getting into that, let's recap the most important points regarding GVT: 

1) You do 10 sets of a single "most bang for your buck" exercise.

2) You strive to do a predetermined number of reps on each set, i.e., 10 sets of 10 reps.

3) You preferably alternate with the antagonist "most band for your buck" exercise. 

4) You only increase the weight once all 10 sets are completed with their predetermined starting weight. The load used is submaximal, you do not try to reach failure on all sets, but only the last three should be hard. Basically you get the training effect from the law of repeated efforts. 

A typical workout might look like this: 

A. Bench Press (the goal is to do 10 sets of 10 with 200 pounds): 

Set 1: 10 reps
Set 2: 10 reps
Set 3: 10 reps
Set 4: 10 reps
Set 5: 9 reps
Set 6: 7 reps
Set 7: 7 reps
Set 8: 8 reps
Set 9: 7 reps
Set 10: 6 reps

B. Barbell Row (the goal is to do 10 sets of 10 with 200 pounds): 

Set 1: 10 reps
Set 2: 10 reps
Set 3: 10 reps
Set 4: 9 reps
Set 5: 8 reps
Set 6: 7 reps
Set 7: 7 reps
Set 8: 7 reps
Set 9: 6 reps
Set 10: 6 reps

A lot of people claim to have improved the German Volume Training, but failed miserably because they did not understand the physiology behind it. Let's say that GVT is the best apple pie recipe. One author might say you should use bananas instead of apples for an apple pie. And he would argue that the crust ruins it, and that it should instead be made into a loaf, or a mousse, or whatever. Unfortunately, it is not apple pie anymore.

For example, performing 5 sets of 2 exercises done to failure does not equal the training effect of 10 sets of a single exercise using a load that causes fatigue on the later sets. The volume-intensity equations are completely different for the two different training systems.

Goals and Guidelines for the Advanced Trainee

Training Frequency: Because this is such a demanding program, it will take you longer to recover. As such, work each body part every 5 days, but only performing the same exercise every 10 days. The routine outlined later will make things clearer.

The exercises done in the two different workouts for the same body part should be similar, yet different enough to tap into a different motor unit pool. 

Reps: For the advanced trainee, doing more than 5 reps is a waste of time, as the average intensity will be too low. The reps should vary for each one of the six workouts (GVT, like any other training, is only effective for so long.). Reps are the loading parameter to which one adapts the quickest. Therefore, for an advanced trainee, one should apply a 6-9% increase in load with each successive rep reduction as outlined in the example below. In other words, each week, you'll do fewer reps per set, but increase the weight.

Workout 1:

The goal of the Advanced GVT method is to complete 10 sets of 5 reps with the same weight for each exercise. You want to begin with a weight you could lift for 10 reps to failure (10RM), if you had to push it. For most people, on most exercises, that would represent 75% of their 1RM load. Therefore, if you can bench press 300 pounds for one rep, you would use 225 pounds for this exercise. 

So your workout may look like this: 

225 x 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, 4, 3, 3

When using this -- or for that matter, any program -- you should keep a detailed journal of the exact sets/reps, load, and rest intervals performed, and only count the reps completed in strict form. Additional tips will follow after the description of the remaining workouts. 

Workout 2
Increase the weight by 6-7% and strive to do 10 sets of 4 reps with that weight. So workout 2 would look like this: 

235 x 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4

Note: It is not uncommon on the second workout to be able to complete all sets of 4, as your work capacity will have improved from the first GVT workout. 

Workout 3
Increase the weight of Workout 1 by 8-9% and strive to do 10 sets of 3 reps with that weight. Yes, you are reading it correctly -- 8-9%, not 6-7%.

So Workout 3 might look like this: 
255 x 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3

Note: During sets     6-7-8, you want to quit, but stick with it as sets 9 and 10 will be the easiest.

Workout 4
Use the weights you used in Workout 2 and go for 10 sets of 5, which you should do easily.

Workout 5
Use the weights in Workout 3 and go for 10 sets of 4, which again you should do easily. 

Workout 6:
By now you should be able to do 10 sets of 3 at 275 pounds -- no problem.

Rest Intervals

When trainees start with this method, they often question its value during the first several sets simply because the weight will not feel heavy. However, there is minimal rest between sets (about 90 seconds when performed in sequence and 90-120 seconds when performed as a superset), which gives you a process of cumulative fatigue. Because of the importance of the rest intervals, you should use a stopwatch to keep the rest intervals constant. This is very important, as it becomes tempting to lengthen the rest time as you fatigue.


For long range movements such as squats, dips, and chins, use a 40X0 tempo; this means you would lower the weight in four seconds and immediately change direction and lift explosively for the concentric portion. For movements such as curls and triceps extensions, use a 30X0 tempo. Advanced trainees, because of their enhanced neurological efficiency, should only use explosive concentric tempos.

Number of Exercises

One, and only one, exercise per body part should be performed. Therefore, select exercises that recruit a lot of muscle mass. Triceps kickbacks and leg extensions are definitely out -- squats and bench presses are definitely in. For supplementary work for individual body parts (such as triceps and biceps), you can do 3 sets of 6-8 reps.

Overload Mechanism

Once you are able to do 10 sets of x reps with constant rest intervals, increase the weight on the bar by the percentage outlined in the article and repeat the process. Refrain from using forced reps, negatives, or burns, as the volume of the work will take care of the hypertrophy. Expect to have some deep muscle soreness without having to resort to set prolongation techniques.

Following are some sample routines: 

Day 1: Chest and Back

A1. Incline Barbell Press, 10 x 5 reps, 40X0, rest 100 seconds
A2. Lean-away Chinup, 10 x 5 reps, 40X0, rest 100 seconds

B1. Dips, 3 x 6-8, 40X0. rest 90 seconds
B2. One Arm Arc Dumbbell Row, 3 sets of 6-8, 40X0, rest 90 seconds

Day 2: Legs
A1. Back Squat, 10 x 5, 40X0, rest 100 seconds
A2. Lying Leg Curl, feet pointing away, 40X0, rest 100 seconds 
B1. Dumbbell Lunge, 3 x 6-8, 30X0, rest 90 seconds
B2. Romanian Deadlift, 3 x 6-8, 40X0, rest 90 seconds

Day 3: Off

Day 4: Arms
A1. Incline Off-Set DB Curl, 10 x 5, 30X0, rest 100 seconds
A2. Close Grip Bench Press, 10 x 5, 30X0, rest 100 seconds
B1. Thick Bar Reverse Curl, 3 x 6-8, 30X0, rest 90 seconds
B2. Seated EZ Bar French Press, 3 x 6-8, 30X0, rest 90 seconds

Day 5: Off

Day 6: Chest and Back  
A1. 30-degree Incline BB Press, 10 x 5, 40X0, rest 100 seconds
A2. Close Grip Parallel Grip Chinup, 10 x 5, 40X0, rest 100 seconds
B1. Flat DB Press, 3 x 6-8, 40X0, rest 90 seconds\
B2. One Arm Elbowing Row, 3 x 6-8, 30X0, rest 90 seconds

Day 7: Legs
A1. Heels Elevated Front Squat, 10 x 5, 40X0, rest 100 seconds
A2. Lying Leg Curl, feet inward, 10 x 5, 30X0, rest 100 seconds
B2. Farmer's Walk, 3 x 50 yards, rest 90 seconds
B2. Glute Ham Raise, 3 x 6-8, 40X0, rest 90 seconds

Day 8: Off

Day 9: Arms
A1. Seated Zottman Curls, 10 x 5, 30X0, rest 100 seconds
A2. Low Decline, Close Grip Bench Press, 10 x 5,30X0, rest 100 seconds
B1. Close Grip Preacher Reverse Curl, 3 x 6-8, 30X0, rest 90 seconds
B2. Low Pulley French Press, 3 x 6-8, 30X0, rest 90 seconds

Day 10: Off

Day 11: Do the Day 1 routine using Workout 2 pattern.

Continue for 55 days, making the rep adjustments as outlined.

As you can see, there is no direct work for many of the smaller muscle groups -- just straight, hard, rewarding work.

For those of you who have access to bands or bungee cords, please feel free to add them to the squatting and pressing exercises for increased overload, They are not a must, so don't think you are missing out if you do not have access to them. The program will still have impressive anabolic properties without them.

It will take you 60 days to go through the cycle, but men could gain as much as 8-10 pounds of lean tissue by the end of those two months. It is not a program for the feint of heart, but it is a very rewarding program (in size and strength) if one has the motivation to complete it. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!  



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