German Volume Training Explained

Q: What is German Volume Training, and is it any good?

A: German Volume Training is a weight lifting method that was popularized by Charles Poliquin in the nineties, when he used to write for the now (sadly defunct) magazine Muscle Media 2000. If I recall correctly, the method was pretty much introduced to the world at large in an edition of that magazine, which was one of Bill Phillips’ ventures. It is also known as the “ten sets method.” According to Poliquin, it probably originated in Germany in the mid seventies. Some credit Vince Gironda with introducing German Volume Training to the West, but he may have just invented a similar method himself (after all, it is not unlikely that more than one person independently managed to come up with a 10×10 system).

German Volume Training is aptly named: It’s high volume training, and also a particularly good training method for gaining muscle volume. Some people gain a lot of mass in a fairly short period of time with this training method. For others, it can simply be too much. It IS pretty simple stuff, though (simple, but not easy: it’s brutally hard training): Basically, GVT is 10 sets of 10 reps for the big lifts like bench presses, squats, standing presses etc. You use the same weight for each set, which means that your first set will be fairly easy to perform – at least compared to set 9 and 10! You’ll be using a weight that you could do roughly twice as many reps with if you only did one set to failure (or about 60% of 1RM). Rest periods should be kept short: rest for only 60 seconds or so. You perform only one exercise per body part. Training frequency for each body part should probably be reduced (depending, of course, on what you’re doing right now) to once every 5 days, or even once a week, and you can obviously forget about doing a full body routine with this stuff; 60 sets per workout is a tad over the line for most of us.

Watch this space for a more in depth explanation and a proper how-to guide with a few programs. We should have that up shortly. In the meantime, go to the source, so to speak: look up what Charles Poliquin says about GVT.

This training method has worked wonders for many. Give it a try, you may positively be blown away by the results!

Is creatine dangerous?

Q: People tell me the creatine supplements I’m taking could be dangerous, and that some people have even died from taking creatine. I don’t want to risk kidney failure or whatever it is that did these guys in. Should I stop taking creatine, and if so, what alternatives to you recommend?

A: Remember the obligatory medical disclaimer we have to use on this site: we are not doctors, and we do not give medical advice. That said, from our point of view as fitness professionals and enthusiasts: as long as you’re healthy and have a common sense approach to your creatine supplementation, I see no reason why you should quit using this fantastic supplement at all. Obviously, as most manufacturers of the product would recommend, limit your dosages (5-20 grams daily) and do take small breaks (some argue that 8 weeks on, 4 weeks off is a good schedule), and if you do that creatine really does not seem like a dangerous supplement to use at all – in fact, it is quite safe. And certainly very effective to boot – there are few types of nutritional supplements aimed at bodybuilders and other athletes that are backed by more science than creatine. It works – very well in fact. And not only may it help you gain more muscle mass, lift more weight and perform better in sports, research also shows that creatine can make you smarter – at least if you’re a vegetarian (vegetarians don’t get much creatine from their food – creatine happnes to be found mostly in meat and, well, creatine supplements).

There are some side effects that affect quite a few creatine users (bloated stomach, diarrhea, loose stools, muscle cramps etc) but very few experience what would be termed serious side effects of any kind. If you have a health problem you might want to consult with your doctor, however – diabetics are among those who are advised to exercise caution when it comes to creatine supplementation, as are people who take drugs, herbs or supplements that may affect blood sugar.

As for me, creatine is a mainstay of my supplement regimen (although, as stated earlier, I do take breaks from the stuff). Don’t believe the people who tell you “it doesn’t do anything” – because for most people it does, more so than almost any other legal supplement out there. And yes, if you’re healthy and use common sense (using between 5 and 20 grams per day) then creatine seems very, very safe to use.

When to Take Whey Protein

Regular reader Patrik sent us this question today (thanks, Patrik):

Q: I’ve been training for about 7 months now and I’m seeing some results. I’ve decided to start taking whey protein, so I’ve ordered a product you reviewed on your site recently. My questions is this: when should I take whey protein for best results, and how much do I need to take per day?

A: Simply put: when to take whey protein isn’t nearly as important as getting enough protein every day – whether that comes from whey protein products or from other quality sources like milk, meat, eggs or fish. As a matter of fact, much of the reason why I use a whey protein powder every day is the fact that it’s so convenient: I can have it practically whenever I want; to mix up a protein drink with a shaker or a spoon and a glass of milk doesn’t even take me five minutes! And because I’m a fairly busy guy, I’d definitely get less protein every day if it wasn’t for the convenience of easy to make (or RTD) protein drinks.

That said, your question of when to have your protein drinks is definitely valid. And here’s a couple of pointers:

  • Have a large whey protein drink mixed with carbs right after your workout. If you’re only consuming one protein drink a day, you should have it within an hour or so of your workout for that day. This is the time when a fast acting protein like whey protein is most needed. My post workout shake usually consists of some skim milk, 40 grams of whey protein powder, 5 grams of creatine, with anywhere from 40-100 grams of added carbs to replenish glycogen stores etc. I also add in some other stuff from time to time, like Eas’ Betagen for example.
  • If you’re having two protein drinks a day, you may want to have a small one right before your workout. This can have a muscle sparing effect, partly due to the branched chain amino acids that whey protein contains. If it’s not convenient to have a protein drink at this time for whatever reason, you can use a branched chain amino acid supplement in tablet form instead – many do, and it serves the same purpose.
  • I often have a protein drink for breakfast, especially if I’m looking to lose some body fat. A protein drink mixed with a little milk and water using a high quality protein powder gives me a high protein, low carb meal that keeps me satiated for a long time even though the calories consumed are low. This has really helped med shed off those extra pounds when I’ve needed to.
  • If you for any reason want to use a protein supplement at night before you go to bed, consider using a more slow acting protein like casein instead of whey. Casein is fantastic for muscle growth, and probably a better alternative when you’ve got eight or nine hours of quality sleep ahead of you and you want to maximize your muscle growth during the fast that this long sleep period actually is.

You should not need more than three whey protein drinks per day. Remember: the majority of your protein needs should come from whole food sources – supplements are just that: supplements.

I hope this helps you out, Patrik, and feel free to send us a question again at any time!