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Kettlebell Workouts: German Volume Training

GVT: German Volume Training for Size and Strength

German Volume Training is a program for developing size and strength. In David Whitley's eBook, 101 Kettlebell Workouts , this is the second half of his Size and Strength section. The plan is simple and similar to Escalating Density Training, where you work opposing muscle groups in the same workout and gradually increase the volume over time.

The basic protocol with GVT is to eventually work yourself up to 10 sets of 10 repetitions with the same weight.

Originally, I first read about this in Muscle Media 2000, back in the mid to late 90's. GVT dates back the 70's and was popular in Europe. At the time it was used by off season body builders to pack on mass. The resurgence of German Volume Training came from popular strength coach, Charles Poliquin, who penned the Muscle Media article I read way back when.

How nice it was to see it pop up in 101 Kettlebell Workouts! David Whitley laid down four workouts to choose from and if you're just starting out, these are great workouts for developing form while increasing strength and then packing on a few pounds as well. When you get your copy over at, make sure to give all four a try as they are a precise routine that will help you add muscle if that is your goal and assuming you eat right. Which means eat a lot. Easy on the junk food, heavy on quality protein and low glycemic carbs.

My goals right now are more about strength than size. And no, the two don't always have to go hand in hand. If you don't believe me, read Power to the People by Pavel Tsatsouline and get back to me.

My goals are raw strength and proper movement. I'd like to press my 88 pound Kettlebell this year and perform a One Legged Squat (otherwise known as a Pistol), so given that, as well as my commitment to write an article for all of David Whitley's 101 Kettlebell Workouts, here's the next six weeks of my life.

The Four Workouts

These 4 workouts will rotate. I will train to train every other day and will do each workout here once. For example, I'll practice Workout One on Tuesday and Workout 2 on Thursday, Friday I'll get Workout 3, and Sunday I'll do Workout 4. This'll fit well with my work (real job) schedule and allow me enough time to recover.

I will also most likely perform some Qi Gong drills, Super Joints and Club Swinging on the off days for a little "active recovery"

I am training for strength. Strength is a skill. If I wind up putting on a couple pounds of lean muscle, that's OK, but strength is the focus and we will run our training sessions as practice sessions. There is a difference between working out and practicing. Practicing is better because not only do you work at perfecting your skill in a given movement or lift, but you develop your body as a consequence. A gymnast practices their routine, gets stronger and looks the part. A weightlifter/powerlifter does the same. The guy at the gym who weighs 145 pounds wearing cut off jeans, Reebocks with the socks pushed down, a Hulk-a-mania tank-top, hat on backwards, tightening up his weight belt to bench 135 after adjusting his sunglasses (indoors), is working out.

See the difference?


Workout One: Double Front Squats and Renegade Rows

The Front Squat has been my nemesis Kettlebell drill. In fact Squatting in general has been something of a... well, it's not my favorite exercise, let me just say that. First, it's hard. Second, I struggle with this drill mentally. Meaning it's under my skin like some bully kid that used to drive you nuts on the playground. I got or had chicken legs. Consequently, I have felt like my legs have been a weak area for me. More often than not, I've skipped squatting in favor of deadlifts. At the RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge) in February 09, I watched some seasoned RKCs do perfect Front Squats and realized I was missing a link in my armor and a tool from my toolbox. Has this drill mastered me? Maybe it's time to master the drill! Enough with what my Ego and Id are doing in the recesses of my mind, let us ignore all the mental chatter and create a whole body of strength.

Coupling this drill with the Renegade Row for a full body assault and some serious core action.

In doing Escalating Density Training for the last 6 weeks, I've worked on my Front Squat technique and am ready to increase the volume.

I will work towards 10 sets of 5. Five Front Squats immediately followed by 5 Renegade Rows and then a 2-3 minute rest.

The main goal for me with this will be to have the 10th set be performed as well as the first.

Box Pistol

Box Pistol

Workout Two: 1 Arm Bottoms Up Clean & Press and Box Squat Pistols.

This will be a pure strength session. I'm going to do singles. Lots and lots of singles. I'm also going to plan this workout on a day I don't have to go to my "real job" so I can grease the groove all the live long day, should I decide to.

The first drill will be The Bottoms Up Press. No, this is not some kind of trick you see in a bar, it is gripping the Kettlebell by the horn and holding it, bottoms up and pressing it from there. This is a great drill for working your grip and your lats as well as developing residual strength to press a heavier Kettlebell.

Pistols or a one legged squat is on my list of things to get handled this year so I'm going to work on it and then work on it some more. At the moment we're doing Box Pistols using a High Step.

The High Step has 5 tiers or rungs. Every time I hit a certain number of reps in perfect form, I'll drop a tier lower. This is what I've been doing with the Escalating Density Training and it seems to be working. Sooner rather than later, I'll be going rock bottom.


Three: Hindu Squats and Double Snatches

It is time to continue to challenge myself and purge the weak links and chinks in the armor. As previously mentioned, squatting has not been my forte.

Another little nemesis of mine is the Hindu Squat. The Hindu Squat is a real challenging drill that will work on strength, conditioning and flexibility.

It is time to resurrect the Hindu Squat/Double Kettlebell Snatch nightmare of suffering and pain...

10 sets of 10 each will be the goal with minimal rest. I'll record the starting numbers and rest period and work at reducing the rest. I'll maintain the same volume but in less time.

Perfect form is the only way to practice.


Workout Four: 1 Arm Cleans and Two Handed Swings with the Bulldog.

The Bulldog is an 88 pound Kettlebell. My goal is to press this bad boy, so taming it with Cleans and Swings is as good a place as any to to begin.

I'll start out with no real time limit on rest and simply alternate between the two drills. For this though, I think a reasonable 6 week goal will be 10 sets of 5 cleans and per side and 10 sets of 15 Swings.

I will track my progress and probably start out at 10 sets of singles for the clean and sets of 5 for the Swings and then use that introductory session to gauge the next 6 weeks.

Conclusion for Now

So, we're off and running. Swinging actually. And pressing. And squatting. And, well, you get the point!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


David R Bradley (author) from The Active Side of Infinity on February 11, 2011:

Troy, that's great. Keep us posted as to the results you see!

Troy on February 10, 2011:

Great to see another post on GVT. I'm working through a 4 week kettlebell GVT program now.

David R Bradley (author) from The Active Side of Infinity on June 24, 2010:

Jamie, I'll be happy to help you in your quest for good equipment and good form. Feel free to check out my website: and email me with any questions

Jamie on June 24, 2010:

Good info. I am interested in finding the best equipment and learning all bout the best training. Many trainers are not sufficiently trained in the proper form. Thks


Ben Guinter from Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 28, 2010:

This looks a great workout! Combining a new-ish tool with an older method!

My uncle loves german volume training and if you know anything about kettlebells then you know that it can really help you develop power and strength.

You've listed some great exercises, pistols are always challenging!

Katie McMurray from Ohio on March 09, 2010:

I weight train and have often wondered about this...Thanks :) Peace :)