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German volume training for crossfit

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Jun 7, 2015 6:01:00 AM


German Volume Training for crossfitters

I am currently in my second of four weeks for a German Volume Training cycle. After doing a 10x3 lifting program it is a nice change of pace and here you can read what I think of it so far and how it works.

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What is German Volume Training ?

German Volume training works with a 10 x 10 repetition template for each exercise that you are doing. It is said to have originated in the German speaking sector in the 70's and was made popular by Rolf Feser. Other lifters known to have used it are Jaques Demers and Bev Francis. 

German Volume Training is known to be a very challenging program which leaves people limping and going into hypertrophy to gain muscle. Weightlifters use it in off season, when they want to go up a weight class. In my judo days we used this template when we couldn't make our weight any more  and had to bump up accompanied by adding creatine in our diet. 

How do you do it ?

The programs differ and it depends on what your goals are. However you will do only three workouts per week and split in to Chest & Back, Legs & Abs and Arms and shoulders. For the exercise you pick you will do a warm up getting yourself ready to proceed to a 10x10 of the core exercise for the day. 

Between each set you will have 60 seconds of rest. You will be tempted to have more than that but don't. This is a key for the program to work as it pushes you into hypertrophy through accumulation of fatigue. The focus of your execution is on perfect form while using 60% of your one rep max. Given you do follow the program gains of 10 pounds in lean muscle mass in six weeks are not unheard of.

So my personal program looks like this:

10 x 10 Flat Bench Press + Accessory work on Mondays

10 x 10 Squats + Accessory work on Wednesdays

10 x 10 Deadlifts on Saturday + Accessory work on Saturdays

In the videos you will see that I am not able to complete the 10 x 10 repetitions as this was the first week of the program and I went with the recommended 60% of 1 rep max. To me it was too much and I adjusted back to 50% in week 2 where I am still struggling to get all of the repetitions in. 

For this cycle I chose to do normal over under grip deadlifts as I had done Trap bar deadlifts for the first time in the 6 week cycle before that. I might go into Sumo Deadlifts on the next cycle as I have not tried them yet.

For my squat I am currently especially paying attention to my set up before I start to squat. For each repetition I take a big breath in, hold my breath for the full rep and hiss when I am back to full extension. This fixed my lower abdominal pain when squatting which I described in earlier posts. For unracking the weight I also adopted Layne Norton's tip on how to unrack the bar. It works better for me to go paralell under the bar and then just move my hips forward compared to what I did before. I used Mehdi's instructions from Stronglifts 5x5 which emphasize getting under the bar strong and lock in the bar on top at the shoulders, but he did not give too much instructions about foot positioning. Combining the two thought processes of getting under the bar with force and tension while getting the feet paralell to just pop the bar out of the racked position with my hips works very good for me.

On the deadlift same apllies. Before each rep I take care to straighten my back again and tighten my hip flexors again after watching some tips of Mr. Candito. Really helped to prevent my form from breaking down in the second week of the program after messing it up in the first week.

For the bench press I am looking into improving my bridge. My 135kg PR in the gym was with a "shooting hip", which means my bum left the bench while pressing up. While this creates more force it is considered bad form and in a powerlift meet this would have been a no rep. So now I am working on form which you can see in the video above for benching to get into the proper bridge position and bench away from there. The tips I got from supertraining06 in the following video:


If you think 10 x 10 is for babies and easy to do, do not fool yourself like I did messing around with the deadlift holds first time I ever tried German Volume. The first three sets will be easy but than this beast will kick you like a mule. After set five you are in bits and you will want to try to lengthen the rest between sets, don't.

What I did in week 2 was to remember Muhamad Ali and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ali only started to count his reps when it hurt and Arnold says the difference between a champion and average are the three more reps that really burn deep in the tissue. Have a sip of that mojo right here:


 German Volume Training for crossfitters

I personally think that this program can fit crossfitters quite well as many of the workouts of the day have a high rep count on them. Especially the crossfit open Wod's ask for increasing amount of reps over a certain period of time and German Volume training will prepare you for the mental struggle to push through when everything burns.

It is also a good program to practice movement patterns as long as you have learnt them correctly. The high amount of repetitions (100 per workout) will help to ingrain it into your brain and nervous system. Only work this way if your form is already good, as technique work is best done in the 1 - 4 repetition range with very low load to have maximum concentration of the brain on the movement pattern.

The benefits for you are building up some muscle and knowing how to handle the burn. The downsides are overloading and practicing sub optimal movement patterns when you do not pay attention to form on every rep, as you are doing so many in this program.

Further reading


Topics: Can marathoners be good crossfitters?