You’re muscles are burning, you’re gasping for air and you still have 3 more sets!

German Volume Training (GVT) is a bitch. If you’ve tried it you’ll know those feelings.

For those who haven’t tried it here’s a quick breakdown. GVT is a training style popularised by Charles Poliquin and reputedly developed by an old school German weightlifting coach Rolf Fesser to make his guys put on lean muscle. It basically works but exhausting the muscles, using a giant total time under tension and short rest periods.

GVT: Made for guys like this!
GVT: Made for guys like this!

It’s a tried and tested program, it works, you put on size for sure, you can get stronger using it but is it good for rugby players?

Here’s a quick overview of the programming for you:

The original programming recommend 10 sets of 10 repetitions at 60% of your max or what could be equated to a 20 rep max. Then with 3 exercises (preferably compound) you repeat them in a circuit. Each circuit starting every 3 minutes until all 10 rounds are complete (thus taking half and hour).

Coach Poliquin slightly altered the original program by recommending that we use agonist-antagonistic pairing (a front/back or push/pull pairing if that makes it easier to understand) on the first two exercises and an abdominal exercise as the third. So for example it could be a bench press, a barbell row and leg raises forming a complex or overhead press, pull up and a reverse curl up. You get the idea.

Obviously with such little rest and such a high volume it’s going to be hard to keep knocking out sets of 10. That’s cool bud. Take a knock to the ego if you have to. If you can’t hit 10 reps on an exercise on the next set take 2.5 kg to 5 kg off the next set. You might see some people taking a few reps off the set rather than dropping the weight. That’s just ego, ego can’t come ahead of smart training. If you start knocking reps off then you’re massively reducing the volume of work you’re doing. That’s pretty much just butt-fucking the point of the program.

Last thing about this program is that if done properly you’re going to get a great cardio boost. In a study done with professional rugby league players in Australia (also known as the best rugby league environment in the world) using this program and during the sessions the average heart rate reached 160 beats per minute and from set 7 never dropped below 120 beats a minute. That’s the good kind of interval training, the kind where you get big.

But again, is a good choice for rugby players?

I personally am a fan of this program just for it’s effectiveness and simplicity. But please don’t take that to mean it’s ideal for rugby players. All it means is I like simple stuff. Here’s a pro’s and con’s deal.

Negatives first:

  • Holy shitballs are you going to get sore. I’m talking not being able to walk sore.

  • You’re going to be tired. This is a hard program and you’ve got rugby training as well!

  • You won’t be adding a lot of weight to the bar quickly.

Positives

  • You’re going to put on muscle

  • You’re going to drop some fat

  • You’re going to get increase your lactic threshold

  • You’re going to learn some mental toughness

So more positives than negatives here. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy choice. You got to decide if those great positives are worth the negatives and that’s something I can’t tell you. If you’re number one goal is to put 100% into your rugby then you probably can’t afford to be tired and sore. If your number one goal is pure strength then there is better ways to add plates to the bar.

If though, you want to look great, get bigger and take some time to lay a really solid foundation then this might be for you.

So if you decide you want to give it a bash here’s the plan:

Day 1: Horizontal Press/Horizontal Pull

Exercise

Set

Rep

Weight

Rest (seconds)

1A

Bench Press

10

10

60% Max

20 – 30

1B

Barbell Row

10

10

20RM

20 – 30

1C

Back Extensions

10

10

20RM

20 – 30

Every 3 minutes start the next round

Day 2: Knee Dominant

Exercise

Set

Rep

Weight

Rest (seconds)

1A

Front Squat

10

10

60% Max

20 – 30

1B

RDL

10

10

60% Max

20 – 30

1C

No exercise

Every 3 minutes start the next round

Day 3: Vertical Press/Vertical Pull

Exercise

Set

Rep

Weight

Rest (seconds)

1A

Military Press

10

10

60% Max

20 – 30

1B

Pull Up

10

10

20RM

20 – 30

1C

Ab Roll out

10

10

Bodyweight

20 – 30

Every 3 minutes start the next round

Day 4: Knee Dominant

Exercise

Set

Rep

Weight

Rest (seconds)

1A

Deadlift

10

10

60% Max

20 – 30

1B

Lunge

10

10

60% Max

20 – 30

1C

No exercise

Every 3 minutes start the next round

If you manage to hit 10 sets of 10 on any exercise then you can add 2.5 kilo to the upper body lifts (250kg extra volume) or 5kg to the lower body lifts (500kg of extra volume).

Give it 8 to 12 weeks and you’ll see an amazing difference.

Get on it bro!

Alex