GVT – the toughest training in the world?

GVT is a German training program, known as "German Volume Training" or the "Ten Sets Method", which was created in the 1970s. It was popularized by bodybuilding coach Charles Poliquin in 1996. This system was used by German competitors to effectively build muscle during the off-season. It was so effective that athletes used it regularly during 12-week mesocycles.

Average gain in muscle mass of about 4.5 kg in 6 weeks is not uncommon, even in advanced athletes. The GVT program allows you to build lean muscle mass by overloading motor units (motor neurons with all the muscle fibers that innervate it) thanks to the large training volume. A similar training regimen was promoted in the USA by Vincent Gironda in the 1950s and 1960s.

What is GVT training?

The principle of German Volume Training (GVT) in its original and basic assumptions consists of 10 sets of 10 repetitions within one exercise, performed with the same load. An example following the above guidelines is 10 sets of Flat Bench Barbell Press with 10 repetitions in each set.

A single unit of GVT training usually only consists of three or four exercises, but that is more than enough. After performing 10 sets with the correct technique and established assumptions, you should increase the weight by 4-5% for a given muscle part every training.

In the GVT method, the key factor determining its effectiveness is the repeatability of a given effort in a short time. When done correctly, the nerve signal is so strong that the body has no choice other than muscle adaptation. There are, however, a few fundamental rules that must be followed in order to make progress as fast as possible.

Split development

The following division into muscle parts will provide a good base:

  • Day 1: Chest + Back
  • Day 2: Legs + ABS
  • Day 3: Rest
  • Day 4: Arms + Shoulders
  • Day 5: Rest
  • Day 6: Day 1, start the training cycle from the beginning in the given sequence

Use the optimal weights

First of all, you should start with lighter weights than you would normally use, because further sets in German Volume Training will be a really big challenge. It is better to avoid reducing the weight during the exercise, so it is better to start from a lower level and gradually increase the weight. This approach will guarantee that the signal sent to the central nervous system (CNS) will enable an effective development of muscle mass.

Due to the fact that the weight you use should be constant, it is assumed that sets should be done with 60% of your rep max. In other words, use a weight that you can do 20 reps with before muscle failure occurs. The first sets will seem light and it will seem to you that you have a lot of strength in reserve. However, due to the short breaks between sets, your exercise capacity will drop. After about 5-6 sets you may even be close to a muscle failure, i.e. the inability to make another move.

Monitor your progress closely

When using the GVT method, it is essential to record results and monitor progress. With so many sets and repetitions, it's easy to lose track. Training goals must be clearly defined, and not set blindly.

Observe rest times

People who come into contact with GVT for the first time are surprised that the weight chosen according to the guidelines seems too light. However, by abiding all the rules, in particular short rests and slow repetitions, this training will give you a hard time and also cause incredible fatigue after the end of the training unit. Rests should be 60 seconds for single exercises and 90-120 seconds for supersets.

Slow tempo for big gains

All reps in the German Volume Training should always be done very slowly. Use a 4-0-2-0 tempo for longer, multi-jointed movements such as Squats, Push-Ups, or Cable Lat Pulldown. This means that the eccentric phase (lowering the weight) should last 4 seconds and the concentric phase (lifting the weight) 2 seconds. Zeros in the pace notation indicate that the transitions between phases should be smooth and the movement shouldn’t be stopped at its end or at the beginning. For movements such as Bicep Curls and Triceps Extensions, use a 3-0-2-0 pace, where 3 seconds is the duration of the eccentric phase and 2 seconds is the duration of the concentric phase.

Number of exercises for a given muscle part

You should only do one exercise per specific muscle part. For this very reason, it is best to choose exercises that involve as many muscle fibers as possible. So Triceps Kickback or Leg Extension are not a good choice.

And so, basic multi-joint exercises such as Squats, Deadlifts or Bench Presses are great. Accessory exercises with isolated work for a given muscle group can be performed in 3 sets of 10-20 repetitions.

The frequency of the training units

Due to the degree of difficulty of the German Volume Training and the longer regeneration associated with it, you should perform trainings to stimulate a given muscle part every 4-5 days.

Don’t train until muscle failure in the initial sets

The idea behind an effective GVT program is certainly not to achieve muscle failure in all of the 10 sets. The most important thing is to perform the planned 10 repetitions in at least 7 sets. If you manage to complete 10 sets of 10 repetitions with a given weight, it is a sign that during the next training session you should raise the bar higher and increase the weight.

If during the initial sets you feel that you won't be able to make it even to 7 sets, reduce the weight enough to make it possible and don't give up.

While advanced training intensification techniques such as cheat and forced reps, drop sets and others don’t have a place in the German Volume Training, you shouldn’t see it as a facilitation. If you want to learn more about drop sets, see the article on this topic.

When to reduce the number of repetitions?

If you're an advanced lifter, it is worth trying to reduce the target number of reps from 10 to, for example, 8 or even 6. Doing 10 sets this way will make the intensity much greater than when you perform 10 sets of 10 reps, because you’ll have to use more weight to fit into the GVT system.  

Apply exercise rotation

The 6-week cycle of GVT training is about 80 sets of the same exercise performed in 42 days. It is a huge number of repetitions of the same exercise within a given movement pattern, which can cause repeated soft tissue injuries. For this reason, an interesting idea to consider is rotating your main exercises.

For example, chest training in the first week could be based on Flat Bench Press, and the culminating point of the next training session would be Incline Dumbbell Bench Press. The most important thing is to maintain a given movement pattern in the adaptation process. The exercises can be modified according to the adopted strategy.

Consider your choice of exercises

Don't fall into the trap of choosing your favorite exercise for GVT training. You have to consider fatigue and the type of movement in the exercises you are combining. Remember that the Ten Series Method is most effective when combining antagonistic muscle groups. Opt for bilateral work instead of unilateral (single-sided) work, e.g. it is better to choose Barbell Squats instead of Bulgarian Split Squats. It is worth focusing on multi-joint exercises and doing them before isolated exercises.


German Volume Training is one of the most demanding plans ever devised by a human being. The harder it will be for you to get through it the less you are used to using such a large volume in your training units. Make sure that your diet is spot on and the recovery time is well planned and used.

If you are looking for a way to break the plateau or want to climb to a higher training level in the shortest possible time, you should try GVT training.

Charles Poliquin has certainly helped many athletes by systematizing this training program, and it is certain that you too will be successful, as long as you do it diligently.


  1. Poliquin, CR (2018, October 8). " German Volume Training: The Revolutionary, Proven Way To Build Muscle Fast ", Poliquin Group.
  2. Poliquin, CR (2021, February 24). "German Volume Training". Bodybuilding.com.
  3. Thibaudeau, C. (2006, June 8). The Gironda System. T-Nation.
  4. Poliquin, CR "German Volume Training: A New Look at an Old Way to Build Mass and Strength". Simplyshredded.com