Workout Routines

Bulk Up Your Legs With German Volume Training

This harcore training approach will hammer your lower extremeties for a brutal, muscle-building leg workout.

josh bryant thumbnail by CSCS, MFS, PES
Duration 45 min
Exercises 4
Equipment Yes

Except for a few fringe HIT holdovers, the lab coats and those in the trenches unanimously agree; higher volume training protocols build greater amounts of muscle. It’s a dose-dependent relationship up until a point; no one knows exactly where that point of no return is.

Generally, trainees with this mindset, when training the legs, start off with a heavy squatting variation, then a heavy supplementary movement like a leg press and then on to multiple sets of isolation movements to beat the legs into submission and make them grow.

The goal with this type of workout is to reap the benefits of a core movement and then to hit as many muscle fibers as possible by attacking the muscle from a variety of angles with a variety of movements. This approach has built many a championship physiques, it works!

But there is an alternative—which also works! It’s called German Volume Training. I recommend using it one to two times per year performed in blocks of three to six weeks, performing this workout once a week.

The GVT Alternative

German Volume Training was popularized by legendary strength coach, Charles Poliquin.  Poliquin learned this protocol from Eastern German weightlifters whom used a similar approach to bulk up to the next weight class when needed. 

Furthermore, bodybuilding guru, the late Vince Gironda, used a similar approach training bodybuilders and to beef up Hollywood hunks.  Iron game immortals ranging from Bill Kazmaier to Bev Francis have trained with German Volume Training.

How Does It Work?

German Volume Training is a protocol of 10 sets of 10 repetitions of a compound movement, using a 20-repetition max, or approximately 60 percent of the athlete’s one-rep max. Rest periods of 60 seconds up to three minutes have been advocated; however, rest depends on the movement being performed, the load used, and the anaerobic capacity of the athlete.

In the event of not being able to complete all of the repetitions, reduce the load by 2.5–5 percent; so if you were using 200 pounds and did not complete the final rep on the seventh set, use 190–195 pounds on the following set.

While this reduction is quite minor, we want to keep the intensity as high as possible for maximum muscle growth. If you attempt to keep the weight the same and continually miss reps because of fatigue, you won’t reap the intended benefits of GVT.

Performing only five reps on your last set, even if you had made every rep until that point, you have reduced the total volume of that set by 50 percent! Done over multiple sets, the protocol has been significantly compromised, which destroys the intended training effect. German Volume Training is 10 sets of 10 repetitions.

High Volume for Maximum Growth

Because of the high volume training load, short rest intervals, and moderate load, this method produces a very anabolic natural growth hormone response.

The idea, as Poliquin has written, is to attack the same muscle fibers over and over with the same movement for extremely high volume, and this will force the muscle fibers to experience major growth.

Final Thoughts

In world of eight-minute abs and shake weights, German Volume Training sounds draconian---this old school, blood and guts staple is one of the most successful mass-building programs of all-time.  Nothing cute, nothing fancy, just results oriented!

Do this workout once a week, for three to six weeks, and after you achieve the prescribed weight, add five to 10 pounds the next week. Even if you have limited time, this workout very easily can be accomplished in an hour; the path has been laid out, time for you to blaze it.

The GVT Leg Workout

Exercise 1

Barbell Squat You'll need: Barbell How to
Man Barbell Squat thumbnail
10 sets
10 reps
90-120 sec rest

Exercise 2A

Lying Leg Curl How to
Lying Hamstring Curl thumbnail
2 sets
6 reps
60 sec rest

Exercise 2B

2 sets
15 reps
60 sec rest

Exercise 3

Romanian Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Romanian Deadlift thumbnail
2 sets
15 reps
75 sec rest