TLDR: In this GVT chest day workout guide, I’m going to suggest a personal favourite style of training that helps me transition from putting on mass and developing strength in the winter, to getting ready for cutting up in the Summer. This is the kind of workout that takes you away from a period of 5 x 5s into one that you may even consider cardio! I know, crazy right? Seriously though, if you need to shock your pecs with something different, are short on time to train or in a period of deloading, I made this for you.
Highlights: This GVT chest day workout is based on the author’s own weightlifting experiences
Highlights: This German Volume Training Chest workout is for breaking through training plateaus
Table of Contents
Intro – GVT Chest Day Training
Without repeating (too much) what I have written a few times already on this site about German Volume Training, also known as GVT; it’s a workout technique favoured by German Olympians of the 70s/80s and made famous by Charles Poliquin the professional bodybuilder from Canada. It involves performing 10 sets of 10 reps for a single exercise, with a short rest period in between each set. For me that usually means 2/3 – 66% of my 1 RM and a rest period of 60 seconds between sets.
I have toyed with a high intensity version of 10 x 10 in 10 minutes, but I feel I get the quality of rep, with the right amount of time under tension by challenging the rest periods and not the working sets. Eg: I don’t rush the lifts, I rush the rest.
Sometimes I mix up my GVT chest sessions with back as well, but if you’re on a bro split or a PPL regime, you’ll possibly have a chest dominant day and so this pectoral plan will work great as a standalone training routine.
What are the benefits of trying GVT Chest Workouts?
The benefits of using our GVT chest workout include:
- Variety: If you have been training 5 x 5s (like I do in the Winter) then workouts will tend to max out, even in the medium term. Those strength gains you were seeing during Movember with your CBum moustache will show a diminishing rate of return as your muscle adapt to these heavier workouts and peak out. At this point it’s a great move to ‘deload’ and shock your body with a new format of workout. The sheer continual volume of a GVT chest set brings that DOMs feeling back into your life.
In short, that change of workout can keep you mentally engaged.
- Time Efficient: Personal experience here, and some of you will have had this too – a shorter workout is not necessarily a worse one. We have all had those sessions where you have spent 90 minutes in the gym and left feeling like you could carry on. This is your body saying, you are not training hard enough.
Flip the script and you’ve probably had a workout done in 40 minutes and left feeling slammed.
The beauty of this German Volume Training chest plan for me, is that I can be done in 30 minutes and still have time left to hop on the spinning bike and knock out some cardio too. A day or 2 go by and I’m definitely feeling like my chest got a workout, so I love the time saving aspect of this kind of workout.
- Muscle Endurance: One of the beauties of GVT in general, is it pushes you to handle more volume of load. This helps develop your slow twitch fibres (the detail makers) but also your overall muscular endurance. If Summer is around the corner, it’s likely that cardio is going to start to feature in your life and improving your overall conditioning won’t do you any harm. How are you going to do the caterpillar on the floor of Amnesia if your pec muscle endurance is shabby?
- Muscular Hypertrophy: Studies have been done on a 10×10 and an abbreviated 5×10 german volume training program and shown to elicit strength and muscle growth over a 12 week period. So, what we have here people – is science backed training….nice1
- Calorie Burning: As I mentioned earlier, I tend to move from a 5×5 mass training state in the Winter into higher reps and cardio as I approach the Summer. My GVT chest workout means I am doing a lot of intense work in a short period of time, you can’t help but perspire more than you would with half the reps. Superset this and it becomes a real calorie killer.
Personal GVT Chest Training Experience
So why should you be listening to me? Lots of websites have their own workouts, written by all manner of ghostwriters masquerading as IFBB Pros, and this GVT chest day plan is just another in the mix. But this is why you should consider this approach – it works for normal people.
My office is a 9 minute walk from the gym. I walk (quickly) to the gym and back and now my 60 minute lunch break is 42 minutes. Account for all the other micro procrastinations we do and you don’t have a lot of time to have a workout that makes a difference. But the German Volume Training Chest day gets you in that fast in, fast out mindset.
I smashed my chest today, as hard as any leisurely 70 minute workout of old, and as long as I make notes of the weight I move and aim for progression next time around, my body is adapting. Feed the muscles, record the lifts, rest and repeat – that’s what it takes, not 30 sets of junk volume.
I can’t bring myself to move from a period of 5 x 5s, straight to 4 – 5 sets of 15 and high intensity cardio, and the 10×10 approach bridges that gap nicely. It’s my Springtime approach. Give it 6 weeks and I’ll be doing a lot more cardio and probably crossfit style workouts to work off those easter eggs. But for now for me, it’s perfect.
For context around weights lifted, here’s my own breakdown.
Writer’s 1RM Bench Press: 122.5kg (Recently failed at 130kg 08/03/2023)
Current Lift for 10 reps Bench Press: 100kg
GVT Chest Load for 10 reps Bench Press: 80kg (66% of 1RM)
Goal Load: 90kg
First Up – Best GVT Chest Day Exercise
When it comes to the chest exercises you will use for your GVT chest workout, it’s going to be variations of a chest press. Eg: Barbell bench press, incline/decline or flat, push ups, or dumbbell bench press.
- Winning Move – Barbell Bench Press
Why these? They are the moves that elicit the most horizontal force and carry the heaviest load, appearing to foster the highest neuromuscular stimulation.
Ultimately a move like a pec flye puts more pressure on the shoulder joint and can lead to injury with overuse or damage through shoulder flexion.
How many of you have woken up after sleeping in a weird position and are feeling pain in your shoulder for days after? I speak from personal experience but I have suffered more injuries to my shoulder from sleeping funny, than injuries to my chest and tricep from heavy bench press.
Take my opinions out of the debate – what does the science say? A study published in 2020 by the Journal of Sport Science, found that the bench press (barbell) activates the pectorals to a greater extent than dumbbell flyes. So whether it’s injury avoidance like me, or training like a scientist instead, it seems that the barbell bench press is the best GVT chest day exercise.
NB: Incline bench press as above, is also an entirely valid move to use for a GVT chest plan.
My GVT Chest Day Training Plan
So, what do I do, and what could you do. This workout should take 40 minutes tops to complete
Warming up before this chest session
So before I begin my main core lifts, I start with what you may have seen me refer to before as a ‘Burn up’. It’s like a warm up with rage. How does that look? A bit like this:
- Find a resistance machine that is easy to reach the pinstack on. Eg: you can change the weight while remaining seated.
- Ideally a chest press machine works well here.
- Set the weight at the lowest level and perform 6 reps
- Immediately increase the pin setting by 1. Perform 6 reps.
- Keep doing this until you can’t do 6 complete reps.
- Burn up complete – your chest is ready to lift real volume.
The GVT chest workout proper
- 1 set of Barbell Barbell Bench Press @ 66% of 1RM x 10 Reps
- Repeat 9 more times – Avoid spending more than 60 seconds in between exercises on a 10 x 10 set.
- Once completed move to chest finisher stage.
Pec Flye – 4 Sets – Sets 1 to 3 @ 12 Reps | Set 4 @ 25 Reps (USING 12 REP WEIGHT)
Tricep Superset – Over / Under
Find a cable column (Even hotel gyms have these)
Set the bar handle to an attachment that can be used for overhand or underhand tricep extension.
Perform 12 reps overhand tricep extension / Superset with / 12 reps underhand tricep extension
Rest 60-90 seconds
Now increase the weight and do this for 14 reps.
Rest 60-90 seconds
Then, increase the weight and do this for 16 reps.
You’re thinking, “how does that work?” – we are going to use the rest pause method. This means we stop where needed and then pump out additional reps as we can.
Increase the efficiency of your time spent in the day by jogging on the spot in your rest periods, start with 100 jog steps on the spot, working up to jogging on the spot for the entire rest period of the 10 x 10 Chest Sets.
Perform 45 second planks in between the finishing moves.
The beauty of a workout like this is that it really requires only a few workout stations and makes it an ideal travel workout too. So if you need to bust out a chest day in a limited hotel gym, if they have a chest press machine to alternate in for the bench press, and some dumbbells for flye, plus a cable column (the general standard) you are pretty golden. In fact if they have a cable column (better if they have two) you can do crossovers instead of flyes.
Yes it sucks doing them one at a time, but it does help with core stabilisation too, so it’s not all bad.
Trying to cable cross (zero ‘over’ happening) with one arm, is a lot like doing single arm shoulder presses which are surprisingly worthwhile. Every cloud and all.
Outro // The Wrap Up
That’s it. A GVT chest day plan you can even try on holiday. I look back on how many wasted hours I have committed to the gym in my life and I’m sure there was a lot that was unproductive, that’s time I could have spent at day parties, seeing old buildings or just annoying the wife less. Lee and I have sacked off tons of fun day events in our commitment to the gym and as I get older, I realise it’s not necessarily a good thing. This training approach is part of how I find a better balance. The German volume method is the antithesis of time spent poorly. It’s hyper focused, it’s pure German efficiency.