German Volume Training (10 x 10): For Strength or Muscle Mass?

heavy dumbbell press

One of the coolest sounding workouts I had ever come across was ‘German Volume Training.’ Although I immediately researched it because of the name, I also found it to be extremely effective! 

In short, German Volume Techniques (GVT) was initially used for strength gains. It’s also often referred to as 10 x 10.  I’ll give you an in-depth definition of GVT below. 

But what about gaining size and muscle mass, such as for bodybuilding? In this post, I’m going to share how you can use German Volume Training for both strength and mass gains (and I’ll also give you a beginner’s GVT program). 

What is German Volume Training?

As you may have guessed, the German Volume Training method is based on volume (volume meaning overall sets and reps, and volume also means blasting metal music while you workout – my personal favorite!). 

The technique was made known by the famous strength coach Charles Poliquin. He had noticed the German weightlifters were a bit more advanced than their peers.

So he studied their workouts and started promoting this volume-based training philosophy.

GVT is based on 10 sets. In fact, it’s probably more known for 10 x 10 (1o sets of 10 reps), though there are some further variations to complete the program. And we’ll get to those. 

Now if you take a look at both modern bodybuilders and powerlifters, volume is a key to both size and strength gains.

In other words, you can’t just show up at the gym and pump out a couple sets and call it a day. You’re pretty much guaranteed NOT to grow!

Beginner’s German Volume Workout

german volume training 10 x 10 workout

Let’s start out with the typical beginner’s 10 x 10 workout based on German Volume Training. Here’s how it works:

  • Take 60% of your max (a weight you can do about 20 times)
  • Perform all 10 sets of 10 reps the that same weight
  • Rest about 90 seconds between sets

There are 3 basic workouts for the beginner’s program. You could do something like this:

  • Monday: Workout 1
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Workout 2
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Workout 3
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

 Or if you want to do 2 days on, 1 day off, that may work (and maybe take 2 days off here and there). 

*I will also provide 2 resources where you can learn more about GVT from Charles himself. 

Workout 1: Chest and Back

Exercise Sets x Reps
Bench Press 10 x 10
Barbell Rows 10 x 10
Dumbbell Flyes 3 x 10
Lat Pulldowns 3 x 10

Workout 2: Legs

Exercise Sets x Reps
Squats 10 x 10
Stiff-leg Deadlifts or Leg Curls 10 x 10
Calve Raises 3 x 10
Hanging Leg Raises 3 x 10

Workout 3: Arms and Shoulders

Exercise Sets x Reps
Close-Grip Bench 10 x 10
Barbell Curls 10 x 10
Seated Overhead Press 3 x 10
Lateral Raises 3 x 10

Advanced GVT Workouts

The more advanced type of German Volume Training workouts are similar, but the reps are lower because you’ll lifting heavier weights.

This is going to allow you to get the volume doing 10 sets. The added benefit will be more strength gains.

  • You’ll do your 10 sets with a weight you can normally do 12 times
  • Stick with that weight through all 10 reps
  • Rest 90 seconds between sets
  • You can alternate the 2 exercises each set for even better gains (in my opinion)

Here’s an example of chest and back day:

Exercise Sets x Reps
Bench Press 10 x 6
Barbell Rows 10 x 6
Dumbbell Flyes 3 x 10
Lat Pulldowns 3 x 10

Your heavy sets of 6 reps are on the core exercises. I personally think it’s best to keep your secondary exercises at 3 x 10. 

In addition, for those core compound exercises requiring 10 sets, you would increase the weight each week by 5-10 pounds, and decrease the reps by 1.  

Your program would look something like this (using 225 as an example for bench press): 

  • Week 1: 10 x 6 with 225
  • Week 2: 10 x 5 with 235
  • Week 3: 10 x 4 with 245

After this cycle, you could repeat again but starting the new ‘week 1’ with the same weight you did for week 2 in the last cycle – 235 in this case. So it would look like the below: 

  • Week 4: 10 x 6 with 235
  • Week 5: 10 x 5 with 245
  • Week 6: 10 x 4 with 255

GVT Resources

The beginner German Volume Training workout is what Charles Poliquin suggests. This same workout is listed on countless other strength training and bodybuilding websites and magazines. You can read more from the below resources:

Does German Volume Training Build Strength or Muscle Mass? 

So what’s the verdict of GVT? Is it best suited for getting stronger, or gaining more muscle mass? 

I’m going to say BOTH, and here’s why…

heavy dumbbells

How to GVT Makes You Stronger: The point of German Volume Training for strength gains is to get your muscles used to lifting that amount of weight. This is why 10 sets is essential.

Now, I”m referring to the advanced style of GVT with lower reps. If you’re new, start with 10×10 then progress into 10×6. 

How GVT Helps You Build More Size and Mass: Building muscle mass requires more volume, period. If you don’t do enough sets and reps, you simply won’t grow.

And doing 10 sets of anything is going to pump more blood into your muscles, making them expand. 

More Modified GVT Workouts for Muscle Mass and Strength

german volume training

Now I’m going to give you 2 more workouts that’s based on the GVT 10-set method. In fact, this is one of my personal workout program (and I love this one!).

Before jumping into this, realize that these workouts are meant for those who are at least at an intermediate weight training level. Make sure you’re eating good (bro) and well-rested! 

10 x 10 Bodybuilding Workout for Mass

Below is a 4-day a week bodybuilding workout. Your goal here to is gain size and mass. This is a program I’ve used several times throughout my many years of lifting. 

I must warn you, this is a higher volume than the workouts you read above earlier. 

Here’s a typical schedule:

  • Monday: Workout 1
  • Tuesday: Workout 2
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Workout 3
  • Friday: Workout 4
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

Workout 1 – Back and Chest

I’m having you start with back. Look, you’re back is way bigger than your chest, so it makes sense to focus more on defining and shaping your back muscles

back and chest workout 10x10
Exercise Sets x Reps
Barbell Rows 10 x 10
Incline Bench Press 10 x 10
Dumbbell Rows 3 x 8
Dumbbell Press 3 x 8
Seated Rows 3 x 10
Cable Flyes 3 x 10

Workout 2 – Legs

Now it’s time to blast your quads, and this is the workout to do it. It’s simple, and after 10 x 10 squats, you may indeed puke. Don’t forget your BCAAs for this!

10 x 10 leg workout squats
Exercise Sets x Reps
Squats 10 x 10
Lying Leg Curls 10 x 10
Leg Extensions 3 x 8
Calve Raises 7 x 15

Workout 3 – Back and Shoulders

Wait a minute…didn’t you just train back a few days ago this week? Yes, you did! But remember, you’re back is your largest upper body muscle. It makes sense to train it more often, and you’ll be hitting it from different angles. 

back and shoulders workout 10 x 10
Exercise Sets x Reps
Reverse Grip Barbell Rows 10 x 10
Seated Dumbbell Press 10 x 10
Lat Pulldowns 3 x 8
Lateral Raises 3 x 8
Cable Pullovers 3 x 10
Dumbbell Shrugs 3 x 10

Workout 4 – Legs and Arms

Like back, I prefer to always train legs twice a week. Most , especially men, do not pay enough attention to their legs! This program ensures that you do.

deadlifts legs and arms 10 x 10
Exercise Sets x Reps
Deadlifts 10 x 10
Leg Curls 10 x 10
Dumbbell Hammer Curls 3 x 8
Skull Crushers 3 x 8
EZ Bar Curls 3 x 10
Rope Pressdowns 3 x 10

German Volume Workout for Strength Gains

This is a program strictly for gaining strength. There’s not much for hypertrophy here, although 10 sets of anything is going to ultimately lead to some mass gains.

These are going to seem like shorter workouts. But you’re going to be moving some heavy loads, so your muscles are going to fatigue faster. 

It’s a 3-day workout schedule and here’s an example of how you can run this strength gaining program below: 

  • Monday: Workout 1
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Workout 2
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Workout 3
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

Workout 1 – Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps

This workout is based on ‘push’ efforts. So you’ll hit some chest for shoulder presses for your main lifts. You’ll end with a supporting exercise for triceps. 

chst shoulders and triceps push workout 10 x 6
Exercise Sets x Reps
Bench Press 10 x 6
Standing Overhead Press 10 x 6
Weighted Dips 3 x 8

Workout 2 – Back and Biceps

You will indeed build a super strong back with this workout. You’ll essentially be doing 20 sets of rows! Lastly, follow it with a little biceps as a supporting exercise. 

back and biceps workout 10 x 6
Exercise Sets x Reps
Barbell Rows 10 x 6
T-Bar Rows 10 x 6
Barbell Curls 3 x 8

Workout 3 – Legs

Today is all about lower body strength. As with a powerlifting meet, you’ll be squatting first followed by some deadlifts. You will more than likely be done after this, but if you want to hit a few sets for calves, feel free. 

leg workout 10 x 6
Exercise Sets x Reps
Squats 10 x 6
Deadlifts 10 x 6
Calve Raises 3 x 12

If you want more strength training workouts, check out my 5 x 5 method here: Advanced 5 x 5 Workouts

What to Eat on German Volume Training Program? 

vegan burgers
Beyond Beef Plant-Based Burgers

Whether you’re doing 10 x 10 or 10 x 6 (or 10 sets of anything!), food is going to be essential for strength and muscle mass gains. And you can’t get by with the latest trendy diet fad going around. 

Simply put, you need to eat plenty of high-quality protein, carbs, and fats. 

Here’s a sample 1-day meal plan for GVT workouts:

  • Meal 1: 3-4 whole eggs, oatmeal, grits, bagel
  • Meal 2: Protein shake with whey, banana, frozen blueberries, peanut butter
  • Meal 3: Protein source, pasta, garlic bread 
  • Meal 4: Greek yogurt, almonds, banana 
  • Meal 5: Protein source, rice, a cup of green veggies
  • Meal 6: Whey protein with peanut butter

If you need help with meal planning, defintely check out the post below that caters to your goals:

Meal Plans for Mass Gains
Meal Plans for Getting Shredded

What About Supplements? 

supplements for mass with testofuel

I definitely recommend certain supplements for mass and strength gains. Of all the stuff you could take, I’m going to help you by keeping it to a minimum. 

Stick with these basics and you’ll be fine…

  • Whey protein – especially for post-workout
  • Creatine monohydrate – pre and post-workout
  • Pre-workout – 4 Gauge
  • Optional Test BoosterTestoFuel

Final Thoughts on German Volume Training

I actually cater much of my workouts to the German Volume Training philosophy. I may not always do 10 sets. But it’s not uncommon for my first compound exercises to be 6-7 sets.

The downfall of GVT is that you’re limited to the number of exercises you can do. And for bodybuilding, you need to train your muscles from different angles. And I don’t know if that’s possible with 10 x 10 (or 10 sets of anything). 

So that leads me to believe German Volume Training to be best for strength gains. And in that case, I would recommend the advanced versions, starting with 10 x 6.

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Train with Passion,

Jason