In the golden age of bodybuilding, magazines were keen to report on the training programs of the most acclaimed champions. Idols such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, and Dave Draper often had their success attributed to their exceedingly high training volume. Arnold himself attested that during his peak, he trained twice a day, spanning 70 to 80 total working sets. While the magazines at the time were infamous for fabricating and exaggerating the routines of these bodybuilding godfathers, there is one factor that cannot be argued: high-volume training builds muscle.
This concept of volume has sometimes been called training “density.” A high-density program being one in which volume is pushed to the absolute limit. There are several ways to do this. The first is supersetting agonist and antagonists. This was a favorite of Arnold. While one muscle rests, the opposing muscle works, and a higher volume of work can be performed in the same period of time. The second is called Escalating Density Training. In EDT, the time period in which reps can be per- formed is fixed, thus demanding as much work as possible for volume to be achieved. The last, and most traditional, is conventional high-repetition training. Higher-rep ranges are proven to build muscle and have been utilized by bodybuilders for decades.
While there are various methods that use the concept of density specifically, there is one that has been proven to be more effective than others.
German Volume Training has existed in various forms since the 1960s. In Olympic lifting, it came to prominence during the 1970s when it was popularized by Rolf Feser, the German National Weightlifting coach who incorporated it into his athletes’ supplemental exercises in order to move them up a weight class. It became well recognized for putting 10 pounds of muscle or more on a lifter in a relatively short period of time.
Later on it was used by Canadian Olympic coach Pierre Roy and his most accomplished athlete, silver medalist Jacques Demer, who was well known for his exceptional muscularity. Other notable proponents of GVT include Vince Gironda, considered the first bodybuilding guru. Bev Francis, who
competed and placed in the top three at the Ms. Olympia in the 1980s and early 190s, also used GVT in her transition from powerlifting to bodybuilding.
GVT in The Gym
What makes GVT so effective? For one, it combines all of the hypertrophic factors (metabolic damage, time under tension, and progressive overload) into one straightforward program. Second, it is relatively simple. Each workout has two primary compound movements. These movements are performed for 10 working sets of 10 reps, performed with 50 percent of your one-rep max. These movements are supersetted for increased metabolic demand and oxygen debt. The next two to three exercises are for structural hypertrophic balance and are also supersetted for increased oxygen debt and performed heavier and for moderate reps.
Sound too simple? Perhaps, but simplicity equals efficacy. When GVT is implemented and executed appropriately, the combination of metabolic, mechanical, and accumulative stress that is placed upon the muscles demands a “do or die” growth response.
Macrocycle 1 (Weeks 1 -4)
The most efficacious split for GVT is two days on, one day off, one day on, one day off. Use your 20-rep maximum for A1 and A2 sets. This is a weight you can fully perform 20 repetitions with. If 10 sets of 10 can be performed without a very high level of perceived exertion, increase the weight by five percent. If you find yourself struggling to finish the sets from five on, the load is too heavy and you need to lighten it. Typically sets six and seven will be the hardest, while many lifters often enjoy a secondary burst of energy for sets eight through 10. Be sure to accurately track all sets. You do not want to do too little or too much work. For exercises B1 and B2, use a load that is approximately your 10-rep maximum.
Macrocycle 2 (Weeks 5 -6)
Following Macrocycle 1, you will then take two weeks to “reload” by performing a lower volume of work with similar but different movements. This reload phase will consist of three five-day microcycles, for a total of 15 days. The purpose is to relieve the body of any repetitive stress that you may have built up during the first four weeks. The movements performed will be similar but will target different aspects of the muscles. This change in stimulus will have a positive effect on hypertrophy as well as secondary strength gains.
Use a load that is approximately 60 percent of your estimated 1RM. Bodyweight movements are to be done only for the prescribed repetitions. Increase the weight by five percent when six sets of 10 reps of the A1/A2 pairing can be completed.
Macrocycle 3 (Weeks 7 -10)
The program for this cycle is identical to Macrocycle 1, except all weights shall be increased five percent. If this results in an odd weight amount, round up to the nearest increment of five (141 pounds becomes 145 pounds, 256 pounds becomes 260 pounds, etc.)