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The 10 x 10 Routine: A Myth In Many Forms

by Mark Cammack, MS    August 1, 2021

Forms of the 10 x 10: German Volume Training 10 x 10, Italian Volume Training 10 x 10, Vince's Gym

Forms of the 10 x 10: The mythical German Volume Training is an off-season Olympic weightlifting program with a hidden past. Italian Volume Training is an appropriate term for the 10 x 10 bodybuilding routine created by Vince Gironda.

The 10 x 10 Routine, ten sets of ten repetitions method, has been called German Volume Training or GVT. It may not be what you have been told. There are multiple forms of the 10 x 10 from different places. To understand what happened, we turn first not to gym lore, but rather to how ideas are transmitted.

Have you ever played the childhood game Gossip? Depending on where you are located, it may have been called Chinese Whispers, Russian Scandal, Grapevine, or Secret Message. I remember it from elementary school when an educator wanted to prove a point. Our class was seated at their desks. The teacher began at one corner of the room by whispering a message to the first student. They were to repeat what they heard to the next pupil and so on. The information slowly circulated through the room. The last child finally received the message and loudly announced it. The original idea had changed completely! There was a lot of finger-pointing regarding who said what.

An example might go like this:

This is whispered: Larry Scott is in a gray tank top doing curls with 40 pound dumbbells. After being repeated by 20 or more persons, the statement becomes: Paul Anderson wears a blue lifting suit and presses a 400 pound barbell! The message is altered by adding or deleting words and information.

When people refer to the origins of the GVT 10 x 10, the unsure statements "thought to have" and "believed to be" are common. Some persons are publishing pure nonsense and promising absurd muscle size gains. What can actually happen is a loss. These claims are largely targeted toward gullible inexperienced bodybuilders, and not weightlifters or powerlifters. The powerlifters especially know better.

Let's get to the facts after much research and contacting people nationally and internationally. References to legitimate secret documents are included.

Vince Gironda is attributed with the 10 x 10 for bodybuilding. It is beyond question that he instructed in this method. Vince wrote and spoke of it many times, and others experienced it. That variant is for the advanced bodybuilder, contest entrant, or person who can tolerate the stress and recuperate from it. It is not a routine to do all the time. Vince's favorite routine was the 8 x 8.

I talked with world class powerlifter and sports psychologist Dr. Judd Biasiotto quite a bit during the 1990's. We discussed lifting techniques, injury rehabilitation, psychology, and training programs. We were at a gym promotion where Judd was hired to demonstrate exercises and answer questions. He turned some inquiries over to me regarding nutrition. Judd mentioned using a 10 repetition method when preparing for a powerlifting contest. The program would start with 10 repetitions 10 weeks before the event. He dropped one repetition in training per week until he was ready to do a single maximum in competition. That powerlifting method did not mean an ongoing 10 x 10 of one exercise. It meant 10 repetitions the 10th week out.

At about the same time period, World's Strongest Man competitor Cleve Dean told me many helpful things. He was not endorsing a 10 x 10 for power but rather a few exercises with heavier weights. Cleve thought that doing too many movements and pumping with excessive sets was counterproductive for strength.

I asked an old acquaintance and world champion powerlifter Rickey Dale Crain about the 10 x 10. Here is his reply:

"I remember the 10 x 10 and it was an old Olympic lifting routine...lots of powerlifters were talking Oly lifting routines and trying to transfer them over to powerlifting...really did not work well as Oly lifting cycles are shorter..."

The NSCA, National Strength And Conditioning Association, points out that a 5 x 10 is recommended over the 10 x 10 based on exercise research. No kidding.

What is going on here? Why is there so much disinformation regarding what is called German Volume Training?

A man named Charles Poliquin called the 10 x 10 style German Volume Training after stating he had visited the country. For the sake of protecting privacy, I am not publishing the names of specific living persons in Germany.

The research databases reveal varied 10 x 10 approaches but the term German Volume Training is rare. It seems to have been picked up more recently especially from 2017 to present. What is apparent is that 4 to 6 quality sets of a single exercise often fare better than 10 sets. I have seen the 10 x 10 resulting in a loss of gains, especially after two weeks of training. The 6 x 10 and 8 x 8, both in the 60 rep range, usually do well consistently. A properly performed 4 x 10 is nothing to belittle, either. A person with a completely supportive environment might tolerate more. Energy is placed in muscle stimulation, recuperation and building. Too much of the first leads to less of the rest.

I contacted the BVDG (Bundesverband Deutscher Gewichtheber - German Weightlifting Federation) and the GNBF (German Natural Bodybuilding Federation). I asked them what they knew about the origins of the GVT 10 x 10 Routine. The GNBF was friendly but had no reply other than to keep researching it. They hinted that I should have the skills to find the answer. I communicated with a person that works with the GNBF, who suggested speaking with them as an individual and not as a spokesperson. We were both somewhat puzzled. I am still waiting to hear from the BVDG after three contact attempts.

Normally, honest questions receive direct answers. A law enforcement officer who worked out at my gym had a saying,"When people clam up, that tells me there's something behind it. We know we're on to something." I inadvertently stumbled onto something when asking about the 10 x 10 with others except the GNBF. But what and why?

According to written reports, Mr. Poliquin went in the 1970's to what was East Germany, the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik), or DDR. What he brought back was a DDR 10 x 10 Routine. It was part of a periodization program. It was not affiliated with all of Germany at that time as West Germany, the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland), was not involved. This is important.

Take a look at the following chart. Can you guess the answer to our mystery?

10 x 10 Routines Summary Chart

Vince's approach uses cholesterol, fat, lecithin, and protein from eggs along with natural supplements including glandulars for muscle building. The DDR GVT method uses artificial steroids.

What Mr. Poliquin created was a name for an East German elite drug enhanced athlete's routine. What Vince developed was an egg augmented natural bodybuilding method for special use.

I had inadvertently run smack into the doping scandal. A significant number of male and female athletes were given what was claimed to be vitamins in the DDR. In reality the substances were artificial hormones. There were adverse health effects. East Germany, the German Democratic Republic, existed from 1949 until 1990. That is where German Volume Training began. In a report published in Clinical Chemistry, Franke and Berendonk (a former athlete) obtained secret documents that had been controlled by the Staatssicherheitsdienst (SSD) or Stasi. They were the Ministry for State Security in East Germany. The result was ample evidence regarding anabolic drugs being tested on athletes including young females and children. Medical sport directors were ultimately in court for the damage done to the athletes without their consent.

The DDR GVT 10 x 10 is linked to Olympic Weightlifting and hence to the scandal. German Volume Training comes from a proving ground using harmful substances on athletes to win competitions. We were not told all this before, were we?

There are sport scientists testing the 10 x 10 and reporting results in journals. It is unlikely they will arrive at the science they seek without knowing the full history and what the routine is.

A negative perception exists regarding the odious events to this day. This causes the weightlifting organizations to be reluctant to talk. I had inquired about the history of a lifting routine and instead encountered a world many of us cannot relate to. The documentation of the system regarding damage to life and health has already been done. There is no need to go into detail about it here. To my knowledge, the true origin of German Volume Training has not been presented to this degree until now.

When Vince used his version of the program it was for advanced bodybuilders with the constitution, nutrition (lots of eggs), and personality to benefit from it for a limited time period. It is usually for pre-contest use. The DDR GVT is an off-season Olympic style weightlifting routine.

The positive aspect is that it is possible to do well naturally. Between four and six sets of ten to twelve reps with sound nutrition and real vitamins can work fine. In this way, a healthy life is possible. This is what the Turnverein, or original athletic clubs of Germany encouraged. Competing against others was not the idea. Helping each other to become quality human beings was important. The goal was and is to develop mentally, physically, morally, and socially while building good communities.

When Vince was asked about being so outspoken, he responded that he couldn't help it and declared,"I'm Italian!" He was using a version of the 10 x 10 before we heard of it from elsewhere. Perhaps we should call the natural bodybuilding method either Vince's 10 x 10 or Italian Volume Training!

Works Consulted

Amirthalingam T, Mavros Y, Wilson GC, Clarke JL, Mitchell L, Hackett DA. "Effects of a Modified German Volume Training Program on Muscular Hypertrophy and Strength." J Strength Cond Res. 31(11):3109-3119. Nov. 2017.

Chappell, Andrew J et al. “Citrulline malate supplementation does not improve German Volume Training performance or reduce muscle soreness in moderately trained males and females.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. vol. 15,1 42. 10 Aug. 2018.

Der Spiegel. "GEWICHTHEBEN: Beste Hocke." 1987.

Die Spiele. "Olympic Report Munich: Volume I The Organization." München, Germany: pro Sport. 1972.

Gironda, Vince. Definition. Self-published, 1972-1973?, p. 1.

Gironda, Vince. "Forgotton Routine: What ever happened to that wonderful 10 set of 10 exercises for 10 reps routine?" Vince's Corner. Self-published, 1970's?, p. 7.

Hackett, Daniel A et al. “Effects of a 12-Week Modified German Volume Training Program on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy-A Pilot Study.” Sports (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 6,1 7. 29 Jan. 2018.

Singler, Andreas and Treutlein, Gerhard. Doping im Spitzensport. Aachen, Deutschland: Meyer & Meyer Verlag. 2000. Auflage 2012.

SWR. "Anti-Doping-Kämpferin: Berendonk wird 75." Südwestrundfunk, 2017,

The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts. Episode 91: Charles Poliquin, 21 July 2015,

Von Niklas Maurer und Carsten Upadek. "Anti-Doping-Pionierin Berendonk wird 75. Züchten wir Monstren?“ Deutschlandfunk, 5 Feb. 2017,

Werner W. Franke, Brigitte Berendonk. "Hormonal doping and androgenization of athletes: a secret program of the German Democratic Republic government." Clinical Chemistry. July 1997.

Organizations Contacted

Bundesverband Deutscher Gewichtheber e.V.
Badener Platz 6
69181 Leimen

German Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness Federation e.V. (GNBF)
Wientapperweg 26a
22589 Hamburg


Forms of the 10 x 10 and 10 x 10 Routines Chart © Copyright 2021 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2021 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved.