Building High-Performance Muscle™

OVT: Optimized Volume Training

Before: 230 pounds, 18% bodyfat.
After: 204 pounds, 5% bodyfat. The pics were taken 14 weeks apart. Oh yeah, and I got a little haircut along the way!

 
Around 1995, the bodybuilding world was introduced to a new form of hypertrophy training: German Volume Training. That article was written by an up-and-coming star in the strength and conditioning community (Charles Poliquin) and it really changed the way people trained to gain mass. The premise was relatively simple: pick a few exercises and do ten sets of ten reps. It was simple and effective.

However, the program had some weaknesses, some of which were pointed out in TC's "German Volume Training 2000" article here at T-mag. A few of those weaknesses were:

Not enough emphasis on some muscles and some muscle functions. With GVT you couldn't use many exercises because the sheer volume would be too much! As a result, muscle imbalances could develop.

This final problem is new: GVT neglects strength. In fact, I've known several athletes who actually got weaker on GVT, even if they gained a lot of mass. The reason is that super high volume coupled with low intensity causes mostly non-functional hypertrophy and doesn't require an intense neuromotor involvement.

It was this last weakness that got me thinking, experimenting and tinkering. That's how I came up with a variation of volume training that will increase strength and functional hypertrophy alike. Enter Optimized Volume Training!


The Overview

For OVT, I kept the basic premise of doing 100 total reps per muscle group. This is a time-proven approach. However, the distribution of those reps is vastly different from the original GVT program.

First difference: Every set is in fact a superset of two exercises working the same muscle group. The first exercise in the superset is a big compound movement (e.g. bench press, squat, deadlift, row, even clean or snatch) and it's done for five reps using as much weight as possible. The second exercise in the superset is an isolation movement for the main muscle being worked in the first exercise. This second exercise is also done for five reps, but with a small load and a very slow tempo.

Second difference: While in GVT all ten sets were of the same exercise, we'll employ two different supersets per muscle, each superset being performed five times (50 total reps per superset). This will allow us to use four different exercises for a muscle group, which should take care of boredom and imbalances.

Third difference: In the original program, the prescribed rest interval is sixty seconds. Since we want to be able to lift a bit more weight we're going to take 120 seconds in OVT, but there's no rest between exercises in the same superset.

Fourth difference: Rather than perform all sets with the same weight, as is the case with GVT, you do use as much weight as possible and adjust the load after each set (plus or minus 5 to 10 pounds, depending on the ease/difficulty of the preceding set).

Don't worry if you don't grasp all of that right now. I'll provide a complete sample program below!


Training Split

Because of the high demands of the program, each body part is only worked once per week. The following split is to be used:

Day 2: Legs and abs

Day 4: Biceps and triceps

Day 6: Anterior/medial deltoid and rear deltoid

While exercise selection can vary according to your preferences, the following has been proven very effective:


Day 1: Chest and Back

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Tempo

Rest intervals

A1. Bench press

5

5

201

None

A2. Flat dumbbell flies

5

5

602

120 seconds

B1. Incline bench press

5

5

201

None

B2. Incline dumbbell flies

5

5

602

120 seconds

C1. Lat pulldown

5

5

201

None

C2. 1 arm rowing

5

5

602

120 seconds

D1. Bent-over barbell rowing

5

5

201

None

D2. Seated cable rowing

5

5

602

120 seconds


Day 2: Legs and Abs

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Tempo

Rest intervals

A1. Front squat

5

5

201

None

A2. Lunges

5

5

602

120 seconds

B1. 1-leg back extension

5

5

201

None

B2. Leg curl

5

5

602

120 seconds

C1. Sumo deadlift

5

5

201

None

C2. Romanian deadlift

5

5

602

120 seconds

Abs are done according to individual preferences. If you need some ideas, checkout my ab training article here.


Day 4: Biceps and Triceps

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Tempo

Rest intervals

A1. Barbell curl

5

5

201

None

A2. Dumbbell curl

5

5

602

120 seconds

B1. Preacher curl

5

5

201

None

B2. Hammer curl

5

5

602

120 seconds

C1. Weighted dips

5

5

201

None

C2. Decline triceps extension

5

5

602

120 seconds

D1. Lying triceps extension

5

5

201

None

D2. Cable pressdown

5

5

602

120 seconds

 

Day 6: Anterior/Medial Deltoid and Posterior Deltoid

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Tempo

Rest intervals

A1. Military press

5

5

201

None

A2. Incline lateral raise

5

5

602

120 seconds

B1. Alternate dumbbell shoulder press

5

5

201

None

B2. Cable front raise

5

5

602

120 seconds

C1. Seated cable row to neck

5

5

201

None

C2. Incline rear delt raise

5

5

602

120 seconds

Note: If you're unfamiliar with any of these exercises, just type the name of the movement into the search engine on the left and you'll find a description and probably a photo or two.


Changing the Exercises

Exercise variation is important. For OVT, I recommend using blocks of four weeks of training. Perform the same exercises for four weeks, then choose other exercises and complete another four week block. A complete cycle of OVT lasts eight week, after which you should engage in an easier form of training for one to two weeks to allow for the maximal delayed effect.

Here's the second four week block:


Day 1: Chest and Back

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Tempo

Rest intervals

A1. Low incline dumbbell press

5

5

201

None

A2. Low incline dumbbell flies

5

5

602

120 seconds

B1Weigthed dips

5

5

201

None

B2. Flat dumbbell flies

5

5

602

120 seconds

C1. Pullover

5

5

201

None

C2. 1 arm cable rowing

5

5

602

120 seconds

D1. T-bar rowing

5

5

201

None

D2. Seated cable rowing

5

5

602

120 seconds

 
Day 2: Legs and Abs

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Tempo

Rest intervals

A1. Front squat

5

5

201

None

A2. Step-ups

5

5

602

120 seconds

B1. Natural glute-ham raise

5

5

201

None

B2. Leg curl

5

5

602

120 seconds

C1. Deadlift

5

5

201

None

C2. 1-leg deadlift

5

5

602

120 seconds


Day 4: Biceps and Triceps

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Tempo

Rest intervals

A1. EZ bar curl

5

5

201

None

A2. Zottman curl

5

5

602

120 seconds

B1. Preacher curl

5

5

201

None

B2. 1 arm cable curl

5

5

602

120 seconds

C1. Overhead rope triceps extension

5

5

201

None

C2. 1-arm cable triceps pressdown

5

5

602

120 seconds

D1. Lying triceps extension

5

5

201

None

D2. Cable pressdown

5

5

602

120 seconds


Day 6: Anterior/Medial Deltoid and Posterior Deltoid

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Tempo

Rest intervals

A1. Push press

5

5

201

None

A2. 1-arm lateral raise

5

5

602

120 seconds

B1. Standing dumbbell shoulder press

5

5

201

None

B2. Barbell front raise

5

5

602

120 seconds

C1. Seated cable row to neck

5

5

201

None

C2. Incline rear delt raise

5

5

602

120 seconds


Load Progression

One of the keys to OVT's success is the constant drive to increase the load on the first exercise of all supersets from week to week. This will literally make or break the program! Strive to increase the load but not at the expense of proper form!

For the second exercise of each superset, load progression isn't as important. Its role is mostly to increase training volume and total time under tension (TUT). If you can increase the load in this exercise, great! But as long as you're progressing on the heavy exercise you'll be fine. The important thing is to go as heavy as possible for the first exercise of a superset while using a light, controllable load for the second one.


Conclusion

I firmly believe that a new door has been opened as far as gaining size is concerned. Not only will OVT give you a lot of new muscle, but that new muscle will be functional and you'll have the strength to go with your size!


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