Friday, December 16, 2016

GVT -- Too Much Volume!? Only Trunk / Legs, and Triceps, not Pecs, Biceps or Back Benefit from Doing 10 vs. 5 Sets

Bad news, bros. The biceps suffers when you increase your volume. Your legs, however, need extra hammering.
German Volume Training (GVT), or the "10 sets method", has been used for decades by weightlifters to increase muscle mass. I've used it before and I guess many of you will have tried this allegedly tried and proven method, as well.

"Allegedly proven"? Yes, you read me right. In spite of the fact that it has been around for decades, Amirthalingam et al., the authors of a soon-to-be-published paper in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research claim that, "to date, no study has directly examined the training adaptations following GVT" (Amirthalingam. 2016). The purpose of Amirthalingam's latest study was thus to investigate the effect of a modified GVT intervention on muscular hypertrophy and strength.
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Nineteen healthy males were randomly assigned to 6 weeks of 10 or 5 sets of 10 repetitions (or as many reps as possible before failing) for specific compound resistance exercises included in a split-routine performed 3 times per week (workout details in Table 1):
Table 1: Overview of the two workout programs (Amirthalingam. 2016).
Mind the fact that, as it is in the original GVT protocol, only the primary movers, the bench press, lat pulldown, leg press, dumbbell lunge, shoulder press and upright row were performed for 10, the auxiliary exercises for 4x10 reps. Before and after the training program, total and regional lean body mass, muscle thickness, and muscle strength were measured by DEXA and ultrasound, as well as standardized strength tests. 
Figure 1: Changes in body composition and body-part specific (individual) gains in percent increase from baseline; the p-values indicate that only the inter-group difference for the trunk mass (green) was stat. sign. (Amirthalingam. 2016).
As you can see in Figure 1, there were significant increases in lean body mass measures across the groups. However, a significantly greater increases in trunk (p = 0.043; ES = -0.21) and arm (p = 0.083; ES = -0.25) lean body mass favored the 5-SET and thus the lower volume group.
Figure 2: Relative changes in muscle thickness and strength (Amirthalingam. 2016).
Similar results were observed for muscular strength, with greater increases in the 5-SET group for bench press (p = 0.014; ES = -0.43) and lat pull-down (p = 0.003; ES = -0.54). That's surprising - at least in view of the results of the latest reviews of the effects training volume on muscle and strength gains - reviews that suggest that volume is the key to your gains.
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So, doing only 5 sets it is, then!? Since no increases and even a non-significant decrease was found for the subjects' leg lean body mass, another modification of the program in the form of doing 10 sets only for body parts that benefit (legs, triceps) and only 5 sets for the upper body could be the key to maximal gains... and it could be something to investigate in a future study, which may then provide a less generalizing conclusion than the study at hand: "GVT program is no more effective than performing 5 sets per exercise for increasing muscle hypertrophy and strength. To maximize hypertrophic training effects it is recommended that 4-6 sets per exercise be performed, as it appears gains will plateau beyond this set range and may even regress due to overtraining" (Behringer. 2016) | Comment!
  • Amirthalingam, et al. "Effects of a Modified German Volume Training Program on Muscular Hypertrophy and Strength." Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: Post Acceptance: November 25, 2016 | doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001747.