German Volume Training – Old School Approach to Bodybuilding

Man performing a Preacher Curl.The current fashion in bodybuilding and weight training is to workout with heavier weights and to do fewer repetitions, generally in the range of 5-10 reps per set with around 15 reps for each exercise (usually 5 sets of 5 reps or 2 sets of 8 reps). Arnold Schwarzenegger was famous for his high volume bodybuilding methods, which although have been discredited by many people today, they certainly resulted in excellent results for him.

However, some people are starting to give the old high volume training another look. German volume training involves super-setting two exercises together to work the muscles to exhaustion in both directions.


Typical volume training would involve combining dumbbell curls with triceps extensions. These are very popular exercises for men as they help to quickly build upper arm muscle which are the ones that are most easily displayed – remember that the triceps are the larger muscle group in the arms, so for bigger arms you need to work the triceps more than the biceps! Although squats and bench press do build much bigger muscles, they are rarely on display to be showed off. Big biceps are often the first sign that a guy works out.

The theory behind volume training is that performing more reps increases lactic acid build up and hormones in the muscles which aids muscular hypertrophy. So how is it done?

One way is to perform 2 different exercises into one “super-set”. This means that you do not rest in between each type of exercise. So for example. you perform 10 standing bicep curls, and then immediately follow it with 10 triceps extensions. Then rest after the super-set is complete, and then repeat it. You can also super-set bench press and flyes, or presses with rows, but these muscles do not always respond to well to the volume training approach.

You cannot really take this approach to all of your weight training, because you will quickly start over training (probably). With volume training you need more rest and more nutrition to repair the muscles. It is generally recommended that you do not train each body part more than once every 4 days with volume training. Below is a five day workout plan that should avoid overtraining.

One way to make volume training easier is to use the same weight for each exercise. For example, if you have a combi-bar then you can perform 20kg curls and 20kg tricep extension on the same bar. This makes working out much easier as you can quickly transition between exercises.

If you want to bulk up your biceps and triceps quickly, then this form of training is excellent. It will not make you the most athletic person, but it will make your muscles bigger and more defined.

German Volume Training workout plan

This is the plan that Charles Poliquin suggested in 2002. It is a 5 day plan with three work days and two rest days. Five day plans are trickier to maintain unfortunately, unless you take a weekend break. You would generally do this plan for around six cycles before moving on to a more advanced volume training workout.

Each day you do two super-sets. The first super-set consists of 10 sets of 10 reps for each exercise, so 200 reps total. The second super-set consists of 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps.

Day 1: Chest and Back

First super-set:

  • Decline Dumbbell Presses: 10 Sets, 10 Reps, 4 0 2 0 Tempo, 90 sec Rest Interval
  • Chin-Ups: 10 Sets, 10 Reps, 4 0 2 0 Tempo, 90 sec Rest Interval

Second super-set:

  • Incline Dumbbell Flyes:  3 Sets, 10-12 Reps, 3 0 2 0 Tempo, 60 sec Rest Interval
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Row: 3 Sets, 10-12 Reps, 3 0 2 0 Tempo, 60 sec Rest Interval

Day 2: Legs & Abs

First super-set:

  • A-1 Barbell Squat: 10 Sets, 10 Reps, 4 0 2 0 Tempo, 90 sec Rest Interval
  • A-2 Lying Leg Curls: 10 Sets, 10 Reps, 4 0 2 0 Tempo, 90 sec Rest Interval

Second super-set:

  • B-1 Leg Pull-In: 3 Sets, 15-20 Reps, 2 0 2 0 Tempo, 60 sec Rest Interval
  • B-2 Seated Calf Raise: 3 Sets, 15-20 Reps, 2 0 2 0 Tempo, 60 sec Rest Interval

Day 3: Off

Day 4: Arms & Shoulders

First super-set:

  • Parallel Bar Dips: 10 Sets, 10 Reps, 4 0 2 0 Tempo, 90 sec Rest Interval
  • Incline Hammer Curls: 10 Sets, 10 Reps, 4 0 2 0 Tempo, 90 sec Rest Interval

Second super-set:

  • Dumbbell Lying Rear Lateral Raise: 3 Sets, 10-12 Reps, 2 0 x 0 Tempo, 60 sec Rest Interval
  • Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raises: 3 Sets, 10-12 Reps, 2 0 x 0 Tempo, 60 sec Rest Interval

Day 5: Off

This workouts will shock your muscles into growth, and leave you exhausted. It is probably not like any form of training you have done before, so expect to be suffering from some serious DOMS. Don’t let this stop you from moving to the next body part day though!

Because this is so exhausting, especially for those new to weight training, it may be a good idea to give yourself an extra two days rest at the end of the five day cycle. Working out Monday, Tuesday and Thursday with Friday and the weekend off is one option. Or do it continuously as planned, ie:

  • 1st: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday
  • 2nd: Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday
  • 3rd: Thursday, Friday, Sunday
  • 4th: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday
  • 5th: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday
  • 6th: Friday, Saturday, Monday
  • 7th: Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday
  • 8th: Monday start again.

Vince Gironda was also an advocate of volume training although he modified the workouts to produce his own system.

More like this in the Strength Training section

  2 comments for “German Volume Training – Old School Approach to Bodybuilding

  1. chris
    April 12, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    The 10 x 10 german volume training rep scheme is a killer but well worth following the program for around 4-6 weeks as great gains can be made.

  2. Akshay tyagi
    August 2, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    ho can i loose my stomach fat fastly

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