Five Tips To Make Charles Poliquin’s German Volume Training (GVT) More Effective & Practical

The German Volume Training (GVT) principle of 10 sets of 10 reps of one particular exercise was popularised by Strength Coach Charles Poliquin many years ago. Since that time it has been bastardised (standard GVT being once turned into “Optimal German Volume Training” – no, if you turn an apple into an orange it is no lo longer an apple and doesn’t do the same thing!), plagiarised, and like all things related to Charles Poliquin both canonised and vilified.

Long story short, German Volume Training works because of The Law Of Repeated Effort. You do so much of exactly the same thing that your body has no choice but to respond. And respond massively it does…if you do it right!! I’ve used German Volume Training many times in both my own training career and as a personal trainer and can vouch for its efficacy. However, there are a few rules that if adhered to can make your life a lot easier and progress a lot faster.

Showing off the results of German Volume Training with Charles Poliquin

German Volume Training – Points To Remember:

1. Keep a Record and Keep Time!

I am not alone in finding GVT both boring and uniquely fatiguing. “Uniquely” fatiguing meaning it is a different sort of deep-seated tiredness, not something that is exceptionally tiring when compared to any other training protocol. Whilst keeping training records is supremely important for all serious trainees it becomes critical during a GVT session. Why? Because if you don’t you will lose track of what set you are up to!

Keeping time is also vitally important. If you don’t, what happens is that you go too quickly at the beginning (when it feels purposefully “too easy”) and then you rest too long between sets – as you hit the 6th-8th sets and weariness sets in.

2. Do Not train To Failure In The Early Sets

The idea of effective GVT isn’t to smash and trash every muscle fibre at every set. If ten is your target repetition goal then pick a weight that ensures you hit ten reps (i.e. not going to failure) for at least 7 sets. If somehow you hit 10×10 perfectly then by all means increase the weight next time around (a bit more on this below).

If you find yourself hitting failure in the early sets, then lighten the weight enough so that you hit the reps and don’t keep on failing.

Whilst forced reps, drop sets and other intensity techniques are out of the equation with German Volume Training, you shouldn’t see this as a free pass to cruise. By the 7th set you should be ripping your spleen to hit all your reps.

3. Lower the Repetition Goal if Advanced

I find that more experienced trainees need to go heavier than a 10×10 protocol will allow so don’t be frightened to try a system such as 10×8 at one workout and then 10×7, 10×6 and so on as you progress. This has the added benefit of pushing the adaptive response a bit harder whilst also keeping the overall stimulus the same and is my preferred option for German Volume Training.

4. Cycle Exercise Selection

A 6 week GVT cycle done the traditional way could see you do 80 sets of the same exercise over 42 days! This is assuming you’re using the generally correct training frequency of training each body part every 5 days. I’ve found that this level of repetition can cause repetitive strain soft tissue injuries so my preferred option is to alternate between two different exercises. For example, one workout for chest may be 10×8 on the bench press and the next session 10×7 on incline press, then 10×6 on bench press.

5. Choose Exercises Wisely

Don’t fall into the trap of picking your favourite exercise for GVT training. You need to factor in fatigue and what other movement you are pairing it with (GVT goes best with agonist/antagonist training). For example, if training thighs a really bad combination would be squats and Romanian deadlifts as your lower back would end up fried. Bulgarian split squats, or any type of single limbed work, is also less than optimal for GVT just because of the sheer number of sets involved. Be sensible and opt for “bang for your buck” movements that allow maximum weight and range of motion, such as dips over triceps pushdowns and squats over leg extensions.

If you want to learn the very basics of German Volume Training then here’s a link to Charles Poliquin’s website. I didn’t want to give you an exact “how to” guide when you can get it directly from the source but bear these tips in mind and watch your gains from GVT blossom in front of your eyes!

Finally, if these tips have proved useful then you might want to subscribe to my newsletter because over the course of the next few months we will be releasing information on a brand new, economical, online subscription model to follow my own training programs in a planned, specific to your goals, and periodised manner.

Wait until you see what we have in store…it’s going to blow you away!