Simple Fitness, Food and Health Hacks

Hey, I'm Julien. Each week I share a newsletter designed to make you fitter. It's short, smart and actionable16k read it, I'd love you to join too. It's free.

German Volume Training: Embrace the Pain, Reap the Muscle-Building Rewards

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

We may receive a commission from our affiliate links at no additional cost to you. See disclosures page.

Are you ready for explosive muscle growth?

The German Volume Training plan is a legendary method known for its rapid results. Get ready to push your limits with a high-volume, no-nonsense approach.

A man about to deadlift using german volume training plan
  • Save

If you’re an intermediate lifter craving a challenge, this program could be your ticket to serious gains. But beware, this isn’t for beginners.

Let’s dive into the details!

What Is a German Volume Training Plan?

German volume training is considered one of the best and most famous methods for gaining muscle mass fast. This challenging program utilizes a 10-set method to target a specific muscle group exposing it to a high training volume of repeated sets of a single exercise. In other words, you should perform one compound exercise per muscle group.

To say the German method adds muscle fast is probably an understatement. Your body will adapt to the extraordinary stress by hypertrophy of the targeted fibers. Noticeable lean mass gains in six short weeks should be expected even for experienced lifters.

Can a Beginner Do German Volume Training?

German volume training is an intermediate-style workout program. We don’t recommend beginners use it. Because they don’t need advanced programs like this. Beginners can make great gains just by focusing on progressive overload.

Now with that said if you are an intermediate lifter, you’re experienced with building muscle, you know how to eat properly, and you want something fun or torturous to do for 6-12 weeks, you might want to give German volume training a shot.

A strong man doing deadlifts during his German volume training plan
  • Save

The History of the German Volume Training Plan

German volume training was popularized by Rolf Feser during the 1970s. He was a German National Weight Lifting coach. He would utilize German volume training during the offseason for two reasons. The first one was to help build muscle mass. And the second one was to help German weightlifters burn off unwanted calories.

A funny thing happened during the usage of this intensive program. They were finding that over the course of an 8-12 week cycle, these lifters were moving up a weight class. German volume training was such an effective muscle builder that the Olympic lifters were adding a lot of muscle in a short period of time and moving up a weight class.

In 1996, the German volume training program was made popular by coach Charles Poliquin. He published an article on German volume training in the magazine Muscle Media 2000. In that magazine, he outlined the basics of the German volume training program. It was basically:

  • Day 1 – chest and back;
  • Day 2 – legs and abs;
  • Day 3 – off;
  • Day 4 – arms and shoulders;
  • Day 5 – off.

So, it was a five-day cycle. For the big ten sets by ten reps, they rested 90 seconds between sets. For the assistance work, which came after these big sets, it was generally 3 sets by 10-15 reps and they rest about 60 seconds between sets.

A coach and a woman preparing a German volume training plan
  • Save

How to Perform a German Volume Training Plan

We want to express that the single most important goal for performing this training method correctly is ensuring you perform the 10 sets of 10 reps with the same weight. You want to pick the correct weight load that you can perform 10 good-form repetitions without hitting failure until your last couple of sets.

So, choose a weight that is about 50-60% of your one-rep max. For example, if you can squat 400 pounds for your one-rep maximum load, then you are looking at using 200-240 pounds as your set weight for this specific exercise. You should be hitting your failure during your last 2 to 3 working sets. Take a full week to rest after a total of 6 weeks.

Full-Body German Volume Training Plan to Build Muscle

Here is a complete 6-week German volume training plan.

Training Splits and Training Frequency

According to the German volume training plan, you should be training four workouts per week. Although, there isn’t a lot of exercise variation. And on paper, the body training sessions may look short and easy. In fact, this is an intense program. You’ll need only 3 rest days a week.

Exercise Selection

You’ll notice most of the 10 by 10 exercises are compound movements using free weights like squats, deadlifts, and bench. You’re free to change your exercises in your program if you need to. But if you do, swap in comparable compound movements. Don’t replace a squat with the barbell lunge or a deadlift with a lat pull-down.

Charles Poliquin talked about working antagonistic muscle groups. That means muscle groups that were opposed to one another like chest and back, biceps and triceps, quads and hams, or overhead presses and lat pull-downs. That was a part of German volume training. It can be utilized but you rarely see it in common German volume training templates.

After completing your 10 by 10 compound lifts, you should be focusing on accessory movements that isolate single muscle groups and perform utilizing super sets.

A muscular man working out during his German volume training plan
  • Save

Rest Periods

Rest 90 seconds between your 10X10 sets and 60 seconds with your accessory work. What you’ll notice is that your first few sets feel pretty easy. But by the time you get to the 7-8th set, you’ll be gasping for air and the barbell is going to feel extra heavy.

We highly recommend using the stopwatch on your phone between sets as 90 seconds can easily turn into 3 minutes if you’re not careful. No talking to your buddies between sets, just get in and get the work done.


Charles Poliquin says it’s the least important of German volume training. You may use a 4-second eccentric and 2-second concentric tempo with no pausing at the top or the bottom of the movement. If you’re a more advanced lifter, try using explosions and acceleration during the concentric motion of the lift.

Weight Additions and Progression

You use one weight for the entire 10-set scheme. And generally, you start about 60% of your 1RM load. The only time you add weight during the German volume training plan is when you’re able to hit 10 reps by 10 sets with one weight using correct form.

So, if you can complete more than 10 reps on your final set with the weight you’ve selected, add more weight to the barbell when you train that movement next. 5% is a good place to start.

Refrain from performing forced reps or negatives. A large amount of volume you’re performing is already enough.

A woman powerlifting during her German volume training plan
  • Save

Things to Consider Before Trying the German Volume Training Plan

Here are 2 things we want you to consider before you dive in and make the jump to German volume training.

1. Can you handle the boredom of German volume training?

10 sets of 10 reps using the same exercise make it a little tedious. And a lot of people don’t stick with it. There are other ways you can do it 10 by 10 that don’t involve just doing the same exercise like squats or bench presses for example.

2. Are you strong enough?

Are you a seasoned lifter? Do you have a track record of building muscle already? Have you built a reasonable strength base? If you have not, then you have no business doing German volume training. Because German volume training is an aggressive method of muscle building.

It requires you to progressively overload. And if you can’t progressively overload or don’t have a history of progressive overload or sticking to it with easier programs, then you won’t stick with it in German volume training and you’re just going to waste your time.

German volume training has a limited rest between sets. It’s rest-pause style training. If you are in a bad shape and don’t perform even some form of cardio, then you might want to take some time and bring up your conditioning before you attack German volume training.

Tips to Use a German Volume Training Plan Correctly

Here are our helpful training tips to increase muscle mass with a German volume training plan.

1. Diet

If you want to get optimal results from this program, you need to make sure that your diet is optimal as well. You can’t expect optimal results with a suboptimal diet without plenty of protein.

2. Follow Progressive Overload

If you want to maximize strength and muscle gains, you need to make sure that you follow progressive overload. If you are able to complete all of the sets and repetitions using proper form, the following workout you want to go up in weight. It doesn’t matter how hard you were struggling on that final repetition.

A man at the gym preparing his German volume training plan
  • Save

How Effective Is the German Volume Training Plan?

In the last few years, there have been some studies published evaluating GVT.

One study found that the 5-set group reached a higher result in strength gains than the 10-set group. For the muscle hypertrophy measures, increases in lean mass gains were also greater for the 5-set group.

Here is another study that investigated the effects of a German volume training plan for 12 weeks. It found that one-rep max remarkably increased in the 5-set group, not in the 10-set group. So, a 10-sets method compared to 5 sets per resistance exercise over 12 weeks is no more effective.

It seems German volume training works only for advanced lifters who can recover enough following the plan.

Disadvantages of the German Volume Training Plan

1. Impractical

It may be genuinely impractical for you to be doing that in a gym where people need to share the equipment responsibly.

2. Boring

Because of low intensity and monotony, GVT may seem boring. And the lower intensity may not be suitable for certain people, especially advanced lifters who do absolutely need a greater intensity even with all the other tools that are put in play to stress the muscle.

Two men at the gym deadlifting during their German volume training plan
  • Save

The German Volume Training Plan: FAQs

How long should you do German Volume Training?

We recommend that you follow the German volume training plan for at least 8 weeks to achieve a spectacular level of hypertrophy.

How many times a week should you do German Volume Training?

The original frequency is working a muscle every four to five days. It’s enough to perform 3-4 workouts per week.

Does German Volume Training really work?

If you’re a beginner, German Volume Training is a poor choice for increasing strength and building muscle mass. Because an extensive volume is needless for beginners.

However, if you’re a pro or an average bodybuilder, GVT is an effective and brutal training method to boost muscle growth. But don’t do your German Volume Training plan for long periods of time. It’s enough to follow it for 4-6 weeks to make tremendous gains.


Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

Share via
Copy link