Get Big, Fast: The 20-Minute Strength-Training Hack

 Getty Images

If your aim is to get big, fast, your workouts don't have to be long — they just have to be tough. That's the philosophy behind German Volume Training, in which you perform 100 reps of a given movement, with 1 minute of rest between sets.

To get to 100, you’ll do 10 sets of 10 reps, keeping the weight at just 60 to 70 percent of your one-rep maximum. Budget about a minute for each set of 10. Sets will feel easy in the beginning — but increasingly tough toward the end. (The math: 10 minutes of work, 10 minutes of rest, for a total of 20 minutes per movement.) A few additional ground rules:

Do compound movements .
Though German Volume Training works fine for single-joint isolation exercises like biceps and hamstring curls, it’s most effective with multi-joint movements that engage several large muscle groups like squats, overhead presses, bench presses, pullups, and rows. The one exception: Deadlifts. The amount of volume makes it tough to keep perfect form, which can lead to strain on the lower back. The risk/reward just isn’t worth it.


Don’t shortchange reps.
The key to GVT is keeping volume high. If you get to a point where you can no longer perform 10 reps, lower the weight by 5 percent on subsequent sets.

Only focus on one or two exercises.
GVT fully exhausts your muscles, so you shouldn’t do 10x10s for more than two exercises per workout — and in the beginning, it’s better to focus on only one exercise. You can, however, follow up a 10×10 with two or three more exercises that incorporate different muscles and are performed for 4 sets of 12, with as much rest as needed. Example: Standing Press 10×10, then Dumbbell Lateral Raise 4×12 and High Pulls 4×12.

The Payoff 
People underestimate GVT, because they think the weight they're lifting is too negligible to elicit muscle-building gains. The truth? When it comes to bulking up, you can see huge gains through a high cumulative volume and going to complete muscle exhaustion. Consider a standard power-lifting workout for the bench press that calls for 8 sets of 3 reps at 90 percent of your max effort. For argument's sake, let's say the weight on the bar is 300 pounds. Cumulatively, you'll have lifted 7,200 pounds by the end of that workout. For GVT, even if you did 10 sets of 10 with only 100 pounds, you'll notch 10,000 pounds. Your muscles will have put in more work, been more effectively broken down, which means you’ll get stronger, faster. Plus, the low rest intervals keep your heart rate high, increasing the calorie burn during and after the workout. Not bad for 20 minutes of effort.

One caveat: You’ll be cutting your workout time, but you'll still need to train frequently. Get to the gym four days per week and use this system for workouts focused on the legs and butt, back, chest, and shoulders. And because you’re using more complex, compound movements, working with a partner or a spotter is a great idea for a safe and efficient workout.