Is German Volume Training 'Hypertrophy Specific'?

GVT, though specific to increasing short-term endurance, can produce some hypertrophy in as much as it adheres to any of the known principles of hypertrophy. Let's go over some hypertrophy-specific principles and see how GVT stacks up.

A lot of people ask me, "If HST is the best way to train, why do guys claim they made gains using other routines?" I tell them that any routine that incorporates some principle(s) that is known to be necessary for hypertrophy is going to produce some level of change to their muscle. This is common sense. The same goes for a routine that I hear mentioned now and again called German Volume Training (GVT).

GVT is a high-volume light-weight training system that focuses mainly on "strength-endurance" or fatigue. GVT, though specific to increasing short-term endurance, can produce some hypertrophy in as much as it adheres to any of the known principles of hypertrophy.

Let's go over some hypertrophy-specific principles and see how GVT stacks up.

For simplicity, I am going to quote Charles Poliquin. He did not invent GVT, so I don't want to give the impression that I am in any way critiquing Charles. I'm only critiquing the method. I'm just quoting Charles because he did a good job summarizing the method. His comments will appear in quoutes (" ").

The Goal Of GVT

As to people's question about whether GVT is hypertrophy-specific, we must take a look at the goal of GVT. The clearly stated goal of GVT is to complete 10 sets of 10 reps without reducing the weight.

So right from the beginning we see that the goal of anyone using GVT is not hypertrophy, but endurance of strength in the 10 rep range.

The Principle Of Specificity

IF GVT adheres to the principle of "Specificity", GVT will have to stick with high volume and significantly light weights in order to condition your body to be able to perform 10 sets of 10 reps without reducing the weight load. And this is in fact what GVT does. "You want to begin with a weight you could lift for 20 reps to failure if you had to. For most people, on most exercises, that would represent 60% of their 1RM load."

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So rather than using "load" or "muscle tension" which is a principle specific to hypertrophy, GVT uses fatigue to increase the "difficulty" of lifting a light weight, thereby making it "feel" heavy. Inducing fatigue is a principle specific to endurance.

The Principle Of Progressive Load

GVT does use the principle of progressive load however. According to Poliquin, "Once you're able to do 10 sets of 10 with constant rest intervals, increase the weight on the bar by 4% to 5%, and repeat the process." So although GVT does not incorporate heavy weights, it does increase the light weights from time to time.

Unfortunately, because of the use of fatigue as GVT's primary stimulus, the muscle is at the mercy of the nervous system. Unless you get stronger, which is a known neurological mechanism, the muscle will never be subjected to an increase in tension, and thus will not experience a hypertrophy-specific stimulus.

The Principle Of Training Frequency

Due to the significant demands placed on the central nervous system (CNS) a GVT workout can't be completed but every 5 days. "Because this is such an intense program, it'll take you longer to recover. One training session every four to five days per body part is plenty."

Now the consequences of too infrequent training are not all or none. It is a matter of degrees. Sure, it's not ideal for hypertrophy to train once every 5 days. But it works just fine for CNS recovery, and considering the goal of GVT, which is strength-endurance, it makes perfect sense.

The Principle Of Adaptation
(Resistance to the stimulus)

GVT training in its pure form does not take this factor into consideration. Nor has any training routine until the time of HST. Without Strategic Deconditioning, continued gains in size come glacially slow, or stop all together. After all, adaptation is the body's way of preventing any externally applied stimulus or environment from affecting the body.

"Because this is such an intense program, it'll take you longer to recover."

Homeostasis must be maintained if the body is to survive. So, over time, any stimulus grows weaker and weaker until it no longer elicits a response from the body unless that stimulus is increased in magnitude, or it is removed for a time to allow the body to "un-adapt" and become sensitive to that stimulus once again.

Topic: Which workout is best? Max OT or HST? Click HERE to see what other people have said and post your opinions!


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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 Comments

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  • rep this user

Thanks for this, I am doing GVT and finding it brilliant, this has helped me understand at least a little bit more

Article Rated:
Jan 10, 2013 4:07am | report
  • rep this user

I've been using my Saturdays as low-weight, high-rep day.

Regular training program Monday through Thursday.

Sep 25, 2013 4:16am | report
  • rep this user

I hurt my wrist and it hurts if I train heavy with barbell. my question is: can I do gvt workout ONLY with dumbbells ? for example: instead of barbell bench press i do dumbbell bench press, instead of barbell rows i do dumbbell rows so on... Thanks

Jan 5, 2014 1:18pm | report
Showing 1 - 3 of 3 Comments

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