Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Notes on German Volume Training (GVT)

For more than six months now, I've been trying out the German Volume Training system in order to give my body a break from the straight sets and pyramiding which have constituted the mainstay of my workouts. Originally, I just wanted to try it out for like six weeks after coming off the Milos Sarcev high-intensity schedule, but I liked GVT so much that I've stayed with it.

In the very likely event that you don't have any idea what GVT is, here are the basics (consult the link for more info): GVT is also referred to as the 10x10 system, wherein you pick one main exercise for each bodypart (bodypart splits can be kept up as for a straight set program), and perform ten sets of ten reps with the same weight/resistance. The idea is that you're supposed to reach positive failure on the tenth rep of the last set, and that you're keeping the rest periods between sets short (no more than 90 seconds in an ideal world). As a general guideline, Charles Poliquin recommends starting out with 60% of your one-rep max, which for me turned out to be complete and utter fiction. 40% of my 1RM was closer to what I could get away with for 10x10, but I guess that's gonna vary quite a lot between individuals, due to differences in type I/type II muscle fibers, and blah blah blah. Whatever. As always, the principle of progressive resistance is utilized, so that the weight is increased gradually. This is mixed up with some 8x8 and even 6x6 days for variety. Each bodypart session is rounded off with two or three sets of a complementary exercise.

The knock on GVT is traditionally that you're working with relatively light weights, which apparently is a huge blow to the egos of many gymgoers. Luckily, I don't really care how much I lift as long as I'm lifting progressively heavier weight, so that has not been a problem for me. Moreover, despite the first few sets being easy to complete, the last two or three sets really need some digging down, as you're pushing your endurance. Try 10x10 barbell squats with a minimal rest period for yourself if you think this sounds wussy. A pleasant side-effect of GVT is that I've had little or no injuries since I started with this system. Straight sets were much more taxing on tendons and ligaments in my case.

This is all good and well, but seeing as how money talks and bullshit walks, I wanted to find out if my 1RM had increased much for bench press today. As I worked my way up a triplet, double and single pyramid to get to my new expected 1RM, it became quite obvious that in terms of max poundage, my strength has not increased much from these months of GVT. However, following a failed attempt at a new 1RM personal record, I was able to rep out with 15 reps of a much higher weight than I've been able to get before - even as a first working set. So; to quote the great Benny Urquidez, "the way you train is the way you react", and in my case, that has translated into improved muscular endurance and a shifted type I/type II fiber ratio. Together with some added mass, I'm sure.

Which means that I'm at a crossroad now - either I've got to work to improve my absolute strength, or keep the reps in the medium range in the search for more mass. Decisions, decisions.


Anders said...

it became quite obvious that in terms of max poundage, my strength has not increased much from these months of GVT.

It's the inches, not the pounds that are important. :-D

Wilhelm said...

..gotten much taller from your chosen training program have you?


Anders said...

..gotten much taller from your chosen training program have you?

No, I haven't. But my BMI says that I'm slightly on the short side so I need to gain a couple of inches. I should start to eat more, I guess.

Anwyay, I saw a diet program, and they recommend checking the inches and not the pounds. And that was on Oprah, so it must be true.

Wilhelm said...

..I'm not even gonna mention what my BMI is. Still; I'll pause to say that with the exception of extremely overweight and unfit people, the BMI is a gargantuan waste of time. The BMI doesn't distinguish between kilos of fat and kilos of muscle, for example.

On the plus side, it's kewl to hear that the recommended checking inches rather than pounds on Oprah. Most diet and excercise combos put the clients on some sort of resistance-training regimen, and if the clients have been total couch potatoes and embark on such a program, they're bound to gain some new muscle quite rapidly. Being that muscles weigh more than fat, the advocates of following bodyweight only are totally setting their clients up for failure, as their bodyweight is bound to plateau or even increase after the initial loss.

And don't get me started on how totally unhealthy and messed up it is to focus on loss in body mass with respect to time-dependent fluctuations, potentially losing muscle and keeping on to the fat, and how the combination of natural weight fluctuations during the day and a low precision of many bathroom scales can totally screw with your mind.

Back when I used to PT in Bergen, I would always tell people to throw out the bathroom scale and focus on the mirror and how the clothes fit instead. As spot reduction is science fiction, the reduction of body fat is most likely going to affect regions of lower deposited fat first anyways, like how visible your cheekbones are.

Anders said...

BMI a decent measurment on how fit a large population is (e.g. a country), since it's easy data to obtain, fat/muscle distribution will average out, and gender is about 50-50. As you said, it doesn't work very well on individuals. In fact, I'm willing to bet that on a indivual basis, most people would eyeball if a person is underweight/normal/overweight better then the BMI.

As spot reduction is science fiction

True, true. How many TV shop ads have you seen that talks about weight loss in spesific areas (could be bum, tummy, arms, tighs or whatever), all with the help of some annoyingly stupid device that is suitable for "all fitness levels"? Most often then not, Chuck Norris can vouch for the product. :-D

Wilhelm said...

Hey now! Are ya calling Chuck Norris a liar? 'Cause you know what they say - don't f*ck with Chuck...