Research on Positive Effects of “Modified” German Volume Training

There are many types of training methods to choose from when it comes to strength training. Obviously, the training program ultimately chosen will depend on many factors. The best choice typically depends on what the desired goal or outcome is. When the training goals are muscle strength and hypertrophy, a key training variable is volume. Training volume is defined as “the total number of repetitions (repetitions x sets) together with the loads used for a given exercise.” German volume training has a long history of having positive effects on both strength and muscle hypertrophy.

German Volume Training

German volume training (GVT) was brought to light initially by strength coach Charles Poliquin. He developed a protocol, using 10 sets of 10 repetitions. It is a training system that employs a great deal of repetitions with minimal rest to increase muscle hypertrophy and create lean mass. Recovery between sets is typically only 60-90 seconds. The idea is to perform one exercise per body part for 10 sets of 10 repetitions using a sub-maximal weight. In terms of 1-RM, an experienced gym-goer would use 60 percent of their 1-RM for a given exercise.

In principle, it all sounds great but 100 repetitions per exercise can be overwhelming for some, not to mention, a lengthy workout. Can you get similar results using less volume? We found a 12-week research study that compared 5 sets versus 10 sets using a 3-day split program. This is basically a “modified” version of what is considered traditional German volume training.

12-Week Research Study: Program Design

The strength program, published in the Journal Sports, was a 3-day, split training system. The first training session focused on the chest and upper back muscles. The second training workout targeted the legs while the third workout worked shoulders and arms. See the actual, full 3-day plan below. A small group of males were randomly assigned to one of two training groups, using 5 sets or 10 sets. Each training group followed the exact same training plan that utilized 60-80 percent 1-RM.

Day 1: Chest/Back/Abs

  • Flat Bench Press/60/5×10
  • Lat Pulldown/60/5×10
  • Incline Bench/70/4×10
  • Seated Row/70/4×10
  • Crunch/3×20

Day 2: Legs

  • Leg Press/80/5×10
  • Dumbbell Lunges/70/5×10
  • Leg Extension/70/4×10
  • Leg Curl/70/4×10
  • Calf Raises/3×20

Day 3: Shoulders/Arms/Abs

  • Shoulder Press/60/5×10
  • Upright Row/60/5×10
  • Tricep Pushdown/70/4×10
  • Bicep Curl/70/4×10
  • Sit-ups w/ Twist/3×20

**Note: All exercises above are machine-based or require a barbell unless otherwise noted. As an example Flat Bench is a barbell bench press that uses 60% 1-RM for 5 sets of 10 repetitions.

Research Study Results

There was a decrease observed in lean leg mass within the 10-SET group between six and 12 weeks. An increase in 1-RM bench press was found within the 5-SET group at week 6 when compared to baseline. There were no increases in 1-RM leg press at any point in time within either group. No significant differences were found for 1-RM bench press and leg press between groups. The study findings suggest performing >5 sets per exercise does not promote greater gains in muscle strength and hypertrophy. Future research should aim to substantiate these preliminary findings in a larger sample size.

Results of this study showed no greater increases in muscular hypertrophy for the 10-SET compared to 5-SET group. Jefit has created a 3-day, intermediate strength training program – found here – that uses the exact training program from the study, using 5 sets for a few of the exercises as cited in the study.

Reference

Hackett DA, Amirthalingam T, Mitchell L, Mavros Y, Wilson GC, Halaki M. Effects of a 12-Week Modified German Volume Training Program on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy-A Pilot Study. Sports (Basel). 2018;6(1):7. doi:10.3390/sports6010007

Stay Stronger Together with Jefit

Jefit, named best strength app by Men’s Health, Greatest, Forbes Health, Men’s Journal and many others, has a community responsible for 92,000,000 workouts to date! The app, which recently passed 10 million downloads, comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. The app has ability to track data, offer audio coaching cues, and can share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. #staystrongertogether

Michael Wood, CSCS

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