German Volume Training Is It Worth the Effort

Are you serious about getting strong?

Hollywood has shown us some very enticing montages of our favorite actors running up stairs and grunting as they push a heavy barbell off their chest to get shredded, but that highlight reel is far from the real deal.

In reality, strength training takes time. In fact, I would argue that the length of time you are willing to commit to your fitness program is one of the biggest factors in determining whether or not you get results (sorry readers, no “rock hard abs in two weeks” promises to be found here). 

So, if you are ready to commit to an effective training program, and put in the time that it takes to build muscle and improve your strength, you are likely on the hunt for a program that suits your goals.

There are a wide variety of programs that different bloggers will swear by and convince you to commit to, but as I said, I am not here to make false promises. 

Rather, today I am going to talk about just one popular strength training method called German Volume Training, give you the facts on this workout routine, and let you decide if this is the best program to put your strength to the test and crush your personal goals.

So, without further ado, here is my German Volume Training review. 

How Does German Volume Training Work?

How exactly does the German Volume Training plan work?

Charles Poloquin, the Canadian coach who popularized German Volume Training, once said, “one of the reasons people don’t get strong is because they simply don’t do enough sets”. 

Do you believe that? In many ways, I do.

As I said early, time commitment is a big variable when it comes to muscle gain, and more time under the bar does create more muscle building opportunities.

In the spirit of achieving “enough sets" in Poloquin’s words, the German Volume Training plan is an intense, structured, and high volume workout.

 And in the world of strength training, high volume essentially means a lot of reps and sets.

So, you might be less surprised when I tell you that the German Volume Training program core training structure follows a 10x10 program for your core lifts, meaning that you perform 10 reps for 10 sets.

This heavy volume training program is a big step up from the standard 5x5 method that many strength athletes, particularly beginners, adhere to.

On top of that, rest is also highly structured in the German Volume Training workout routine. If you are training one main lift, you maintain a 60 second rest window between each set. For a superset, you are allotted 90 seconds between sets.

If you are not already intimidated by reading that, get this: the German Volume Training plan additionally adds in tempo training.

Tempo training is essentially slowing down and increasing your control during your exercise movement to focus on form (and of course, challenge your muscle performance under extended time and resistance). 

For lifts that feature full body movements (let us say a deadlift, squat, or pull up) you follow a 4-0-2-0 tempo. For example, in a squat, this would be a 4 second descent, no pause at the bottom, and a 2 second accent. 

For exercises that have a more limited range of motion (think leg extensions or bicep curls) you maintain a temp pattern of 3-0-2-0.

So, for a curl, that would look like counting to 3 on your curl upward with the dumbbell, taking no pause at the time, and bringing your arm back down for a count of 2 seconds (while really feeling the burn). 

In general, the German Volume Training workout routine is performed over a 30 day period. During one 30 day, you train for three days over a period of 5 days, and repeat that 6 times over. 

Who Benefits from German Volume Training?

The German Volume Training workout routine is a hypertrophy program. It focuses on helping athletes grow their muscle size and volume.

People who aspire to bodybuilding competitions, or want that similarly shredding physique, will often train for hypertrophy.

Who should give the German Volume Training plan a try?

Note that this is different from raw strength training. Traditional strength training, that helps athletes move heavier and heavier weights, does require training with less volume. 

Think about it: if you are looking to hit a squat PR and train by performing reps at 80% of your max lift, there is no way you are hitting that for a set of 10x10.

Therefore, athletes who train for strength, like powerlifters, might opt for the German Volume Training as offseason training to increase their strength endurance and conditioning, since regular strength training programs rarely push athletes above 5 set workouts.   

So, I would mainly suggest the German Volume Training for people who want to train “bodybuilder style” and increase their muscle size.

German Volume Training Sample Plan:

Curious about the German Volume Training and want to see it in action? Here is a 5 day exercise routine to get you started.

Take in account that the German Volume Training plan has you perform exercises in supersets (rotating back and forth between each movement).

Each day you will do 4 exercises in total, performing the first two as a superset, and then the next 2 as a superset. 

Monday: Chest and Back

Phase

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Tempo

Rest

(between sets)

Superset 1

A) Decline Dumbbell bench press

10

10

4-0-2-0

90 seconds

Superset 1

B) Pull-ups

10

10

4-0-2-0

90 seconds

Superset 2

A) Incline dumbbell flyes

3

10-12

3-0-2-0

60 seconds

Superset 2

B) Single arm dumbbell row

3

10-12

3-0-2-0

60 seconds

Tuesday: Legs and Abs

Phase

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Tempo

Rest

(between sets)

Superset 1

A) Barbell Back Squat

10

10

4-0-2-0

90 seconds

Superset 1

B) Lying leg curl

10

10

4-0-2-0

90 seconds

Superset 2

A) Low cable pull-in

3

10-12

3-0-2-0

60 seconds

Superset 2

B) Weighted calf raises

3

10-12

3-0-2-0

60 seconds

Wednesday: Rest Day

Thursday: Arms and Shoulders

Phase

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Tempo

Superset 1

A) Parallel bar dips

10

10

4-0-2-0

Superset 1

B) Incline hammer curls

10

10

4-0-2-0

Superset 2

A) Bent over dumbbell lateral raises

3

10-12

3-0-2-0

Superset 2

B) Chest supported reverse flies

3

10-12

3-0-2-0

Friday: Rest Day 

Saturday: Repeat Routine 


Tips for the German Volume Training Program:

1. Know How to Calculate Your Starting Weight

Know how to calculate your starting weight

Since the German Volume Training plan is so volume intense, you want to make sure that you are not over exerting yourself by using too heavy barbells or dumbbells.

If you are working to failure, this workout will not be sustainable for you. 

Achieve the optimal dumbbell or barbell weight for German Volume Training this by starting your first week of workouts by moving only 60% of your one-rep max. 

Make sure that along with this, you are following the method of progressive overload, meaning that you are either striving to increase the weight you are lifting by 4 to 5 percent each workout.

This will ensure that you are challenging your muscles enough to see results. 

2. Don’t Skip rest Days

Oftentimes, beginner lifters will choose to skip rest days and just move on to the next workout day on their program, and I get the mentality behind this: you are feeling motivated, determined, and you want to push your limits to see results fast.

However, skipping rest days is not the way to do this!

In the world of strength training and muscle growth, rest days are just as important as workout days. Time off is essential in order to let your muscles repair themselves.

Otherwise, you are training without allowing your body to recover, and thus putting yourself at a higher risk of a training related injury, that will end up setting you back a lot more than one day of rest will.

Keep in mind as well that rest days don’t need to become “couch days” that often come with other less healthy habits like indulging in sweet and salty snacks.

Learn to practice active rest on your days off: take time to stretch and foam roll, or schedule a hike or bike ride to keep moving. 

3. Time Your Rest Intervals

Time your rest intervals

With the German Volume Training plan, you will want to keep your eye on the clock. One of the key parts of this program is being rigorous with the amount of rest you take.

Personally, I use my smartphone clock to follow the rest period properly.

Pay attention to whether the superset requires a 60 or 90 second rest, and resist the urge to chat with your gym buddies and lose track of time.

4. Eating Right is as Important as Working Out

As the saying goes, abs are made in the kitchen. Especially with such a high intensity program as the German Volume Training workout routine, you want to make sure that what you eat is helping you achieve your fitness goals. 

You will want to eat whole foods, and track your protein intake to make sure that you are consuming enough to support muscle growth and repair.

Keep in mind as well during your German Volume Training, you likely do not want to be cutting calories.

Since you are training so frequently with high volume sets, you want to ensure you have enough energy from food to safely power you through these workouts. 

My Experience with German Volume Training

I was looking to change up my strength training program, so I gave the German Volume Training workout routine a try for one cycle (30 days). 

Now, here is the question you are probably all wanting to ask me: did it work? Did I see results?

The answer, in short, is yes. I did notice muscle growth.

The strict requirements of the German Volume Training plan kept my training performance at the gym very structured, consistent, and had me pushing the limits of my strength each time I trained, which is the recipe for successful training.

I was also careful to plan my meals and ensure I was eating enough nutrient rich foods each day to support my training, which I am sure helped as well. 

I will impart you with this knowledge: the German Volume Training program will make you sore. Really sore.

And while soreness is a good thing, because it means that your muscles have to repair themselves (read: grow), you will need to keep up with your foam rolling and stretching during this training or else you are going to come out of this cycle very stiff and at risk of injuring yourself.

I recommend putting on your favorite TV show or podcast at home, rolling out the yoga mat, and making that foam roller your best friend.

As well, because of its high intensity and volume, the German Volume Training program is not something I would attempt more than once or twice a year.

Use it sparingly to advance and challenge your muscle gain; anything more than that is not sustainable. 

On that note, do not forget to warm up and cool down during your gym sessions. I am used to shorter set and rep programs, so the 10x10 requirements of the German Volume Training routine did at times make my gym sessions feel longer.

This made me tempted to shorten my warm up or skip my cool down all together, but please resist that temptation.

Properly preparing your body to perform high intensity movements, and stretching afterward, is essential to the longevity of your fitness journey and overall safety while training. 

My Final German Volume Training Review: the Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Helps athletes achieve hypertrophy build muscle mass
  • Idea for bodybuilder style training
  • High-volume challenge that other programs don’t offer
  • Only four exercises each day
  • Effective 30-day program to change up your routine

Cons

  • Not recommended for hitting one rep maxes
  • Not sustainable as a long term workout plan

In conclusion, the German Volume Training plan is worth the effort for people who want to experiment with a new form of training that is geared toward building muscle and improving your overall physique.  

Denver Matheson
 

I spend a lot of time at the gym and even more time in the kitchen giving my body what it needs to repair itself and grow stronger. The third most important place for any athlete is their research zone. That's exactly why this site exists, to help me share all of the information I've learned throughout the years just like people did for me in the first place!

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