CrossFit and German Volume Training


Frederik Ægidius from CrossFit Butcher’s Lab (Copenhagen, Denmark) shares his thoughts on CrossFit and German Volume Training.

In my opinion you need to be strong to be a good crossfitter. That said you don’t need a 500 pound squat, 600 pound deadlift and 400 pound clean to be able to succeed in the gym or at competitions – but it helps!
In crossfit you need to find a balance between all aspects of fitness – cardiovascular/respiratory endurance,  stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and  accuracy.

It’s pretty obvious that these are not all components of standard strength program so in order to improve as a crossfitter you need to work on the aspects which are not in focus in strength training. As goes for any other sport, you need to periodize to improve performance. In my point of view German Volume Training (GVT) beats “Starting Strength” or “Strength Bias” any day!

Did Jason Khalipa look like the avarage crossfitter? No! He smoked everybody in the final event because of his impressive strength, but he only made it all the way to the final WOD by also mastering other aspects of fitness besides power and strength. But without these he wouldn’t have won nor even qualified for the final event. Jason Khalipa used to play college football and is no stranger to heavy weights. 4 years of high level college football means countless hours in the gym, squating, deadlifting, pushing, pulling, throwing and jumping creating the perfect foundation for a multisport athlete.

CrossFit emphasizes on not specializing but without strength you will not get very far. My advice, start buliding strength no matter where you want to go with crossfit – if it’s just to loose a pound or two or if you want to compete at the CrossFit Games –  strength is an important aspect.

GVT dates back to the mid 90’ies in it’s most used form. In general what the program aims for is a massive increase in muscle mass. This is accomplished by doing 10 sets of an excersise with a predetermined pause in between sets.  The orginal program divides the body into three workout sessions; Chest/upper back, Legs and arms. You go through 6 workouts in 10 days, which means you work each muscle group every 5 days. If you eat well and get your sleep this should allow your body to fully recover for the next session.

There a numorous variants of GVT, but the one most widely used is the 10×10 method. This means 10 sets of 10 reps with 60-65% of your 1RM in the excersise you have chosen. The pause in between sets in this model is 60 seconds, which after 4-5 sets will result in severe muscle “burn” as your muscle stamina decreases. This event triggers an increased hormone secretion leading to muscle gain.  The problem with this model is the risk of your 1RM to stagnate or even decrease when doing the program. Working with a lighter load for higher reps is aimed at hypertrophy rather than strength increase. BUT if you want to get strong, increasing muscle mass is a good way to start. Some say that doing antagonistic excersises in the same workout decreases the musclegain due to bloodshunting from one muscle group to the other, but this is only relevant for the serious BB if at all. The two “large” antagonistic excersises are accompanied by 2-3 auxillary excersises. The main pupose of these are to squeeze the last juice out of your muscles.

For the more sport oriented athlete, these 2-3 excersises can be substituted for balancework and core strengthening. Doing both 2-3 auxillary excersises AND balance/core work is also a solution, but results in quite time consuming workouts.

A typical workout could look like this:

Day 1: chest/upper back

  • 10×10 bench press
  • 10×10 weighted pull ups
  • 3×8 incline bench
  • 3×8 bent over rows
  • Balance/core: balance board, bridge, leg raises, ball crunches etc.

This workout will take around1h-1h 15min if you don’t stand around talking too much in between excersises!

There is another very popular form of GVT using 10×5, 10×4 and 10×3 reps. Let me explain. The program is planned for 2 months ahead based on your numbers for the first cycle. These numbers are hard to set by percentage as the muscle stamina varies between indi vidual atletes. I recommend you experiment with different weight until you find the proper range. When this is done, the next two months of lifting is set.

Each cycle takes 10 days to complete (if you follow the schedule).

Cycle 1

  • Day 1: chest/upper back
  • Day 2: legs
  • Day 3: rest
  • Day 4: Arms
  • Day 5: rest
  • Day 6: chest/upper back
  • Day 7: legs
  • Day 8: rest
  • Day 9: Arms
  • Day 10: rest

In Cycle 1 you do 10×5 reps of the two main excersises and 3×8 of the auxillary lifts. When moving into cycle 2, your increase the weight by 6-7% dropping down to 10×4 reps. Cycle 3 you go up 8-9% form your weights in cycle 1.

  • Cycle 1: 10×5, 3×8, @ 100%*                                                  
  • Cycle 2: 10×4, 3×7 @ 106-7%
  • Cycle 3: 10×3, 3×6 @ 108-109%
  • Cycle 4: 10×5, 3×8 @ 106-107%
  • Cycle 5: 10×4, 3×7 @ 114-115%
  • Cycle 6: 10×3, 3×6 @ 116-117%

*100% being the weight you can lift 10×5 without failing a considerable number of reps.

The main difference between the 10×10 and 10×5 is their perspective on maximum strength. While 10×10 is focused on hypetrophy the 10×5 gives you a tool to increase your strength(1RM).  This also show in the additional rest in between sets in the 10×5 as 100sec are allowed while 10×10 allows 60sec of rest. The 100 sec gives your body time to replenish ATP and avoid lactic acid build up in the muscle (to a certain extend).

Common for these two types of GVT is that you need to eat ALOT to make sure your body is in excess of nutrients to rebuild the body you destroy on a regular basis. If you don’t eat enough and don’t get your sleep, you will not be able to complete the program.


9 thoughts on “CrossFit and German Volume Training

  1. How does your weekly schedule look like? Is it based on the GVT method?

    • Doing a lot of wods on the side is not a good idea. what I usually do is perform a short metcon (8-10min) at the end of the training session to maintain a descent level of endurance/stamina. GVT puts a lot of pressure on your body’s ability to recover and you need to let it rest on the days you are supposed to lay off training.

  2. How do you program GVT with crossfit training ?

  3. Erggh!! crazy..I need trainer to guide me

  4. Great article!


  5. Very well written article, great work.

    My question to you is to find out what your weekly schedule looks like and how do you mix Crossfit with GVT?

    Look forward to reading more of your articles.

  6. Hey Æ
    Cool article!
    how often would you recommend to do this each year(as I would take a qualified guess, that you are only doing this in the football offseason, and when you start a cycle towards a competetion in x-fit)

    I myself has just started 2 months ago to be real serious about my crossfit training(started crossfit at fitness world in october, and changed to the church of pain 1 of january), and my ambition is to give you a run 4 the money next year at DCO ;P

    best regard

  7. Pingback: Tingeling trener 5-4-3 reps x 10 sett (GPB)

  8. Pingback: Wed. Front Squat | EMOTM | Edgewater CrossFit | Chicago

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s