German Volume Training Explained
To a lot of intermediate/more experienced lifters, German Volume Training is certainly the way to go when looking to pile on muscle mass and break through a long term plateau.
German volume training should not be used by beginners who have very little lifting experience. Build up a base first and focus on getting bigger and stronger on all the key lifts before you even think about this routine. A year’s worth of solid training (at least) should be performed before jumping into German volume training.
German volume training is tough and will leave you sore. However, it is not uncommon for lifters to pile on 5-10lbs of solid muscle mass in as little as 6-12 weeks! Even though it is hard, this routine works! Let me show you how:
German Volume Training – The Routine
German volume training requires you to workout only 3 times a week. Do not regard this routine as easy however. You will be needing those recovery days. The 3 workouts are set out as follows:
Monday – Chest and Back
Wednesday – Legs, Calves and Abs
Friday – Shoulders and Arms
During your workouts you are expected to complete 10 sets of 10 exercises for each muscle group. Use only one exercise per muscle group. You also have the option to perform accessory work. For additional accessory work you should perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps of another exercise. This is usually for the smaller muscle groups such as calves, biceps and triceps. Let me run through the basics of this workout quickly:
One main exercise for each muscle group. E.g. For your chest and back workout you may choose to perform 10 sets of 10 reps for Barbell bench press (chest exercise) and then 10 sets of 10 reps for barbell rows (back exercise). If you feel like adding another exercise into the routine then that’s fine. If you choose to do this pick one additional exercise for each muscle group and perform only 3 sets of 10-12 reps. Generally this is only done on the chest and back workout due to the high volume of this routine.
So taking the above chest and back workout example, once you have completed your 10 sets of 10 reps for the bench press and barbell row you can then add another exercise into the routine such as dumbbell flyes (for chest) and dumbbell rows (for back). Perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps and then finish your workout. Your chest and back workout would look something like this:
- Flat Barbell Bench Press 10×10
- Barbell Row 10×10
- Dumbbell Flyes 3×10-12
- Dumbbell Row 3×10-12
If your starting this routine for the first time it wouldn’t hurt to just focus on performing your 10 sets of 10 reps for your two major muscle groups. So to begin with your chest and back routine could look as small as this:
- Flat Barbell Bench Press 10×10
- Barbell Row 10×10
Find out how the 10 sets of 10 reps feel before adding more volume to this routine and let your body gradually adapt. Once the 10 sets of 10 reps feels less tiring throw in another accessory exercise for 3 sets of 8-12.
German Volume Training – Guidelines
Which exercises? The exercises you use for this routine on your 10 sets of 10 reps need to be compound exercises such as the bench press, squat, deadlifts, barbell row, and overhead press. For your 3 sets of 8-12 reps (should you wish to use them) you can then use more direct isolation exercises such as dumbbell flyes, barbell curls, tricep extensions e.t.c.
Rest Intervals. Rest intervals between sets should be between 60 and 90 seconds. For really taxing movements such as the squat, a full 90 seconds of rest is recommended.
Weight Used. The amount of weight you use for your main sets of 10×10 should be roughly 60% of your 1 rep max in order to give you a chance of performing all 10 sets of 10 reps. If you have trouble calculating this then purposely start low and work your way up in weight. It’s always better to start off too light than too heavy. Once you can hit all 10 sets for 10 reps then its time to add weight to the bar. Add roughly 4-5% more weight.
Rep Speed. Rep speed is in the format of 4-0-2. The first number represents the number of seconds for the negative part of the lift. This is the lowering phase. Taking the bench press as an example, you would take roughly 4 seconds to lower the bar down to your chest.
The next number (which is 0) takes into account any pause we have at the very bottom of the lift before we explode the weight back up. This is set to zero as we do not use a pause at the bottom of any lift for this routine. The last number is the positive part of the lift. The part where we actually lift the weight. This is set to 2 seconds. There is no pausing at the top or the bottom of an exercise. Keep the movement constant.
German Volume Training – An Example
Here is a simple German volume training routine that a beginner can use for their first time on the program:
Monday [Chest + Back]
Flat Barbell Bench Press 10×10
Barbell Row 10×10
Dumbbell Flyes 3×10-12 (optional)
Lat Pulldowns 3×10-12 (optional)
Wednesday [Legs + Abs + Calves]
Leg Curl 10×10
Ab Crunch 3×10-20
Standing Calf Raises 3×10-20
Friday [Shoulders + Arms]
Close Grip Bench Press 10×10
Incline Hammer Curls 10×10
Overhead Press 3×10
Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises 3×10-12
A few notes on the above routine. You have probably noticed that Wednesday’s leg day has you performing 10 sets of leg curls after your squats. This is optional but may as well be used in the routine to really hit those hamstrings.
Since abs and calves are smaller muscle groups they are only being hit for 3 sets so there is room for one more 10×10 exercise. Leg curls are therefore added. Another slight difference in the above template is that on Friday, overhead presses are only being performed for 3 sets.
The reason behind this is that you have already performed 2 exercises for 10 sets of 10 reps so the volume used for shoulders is lowered slightly. This can be swapped around to accommodate another muscle group if need be.
For example, swap the order of overhead presses and close grip bench press in the above routine to focus more on your shoulders. Triceps are also worked indirectly when performing an overhead press so it can make sense to use less volume on your tricep exercise should you wish to do so.