T Nation

GVT and Exercise Selection ?


Hey all, Coach Poliquin just re-posted his GVT article and I was wondering as a 7 year powerlifting noob why you would NOT build your GVT training around the Big three ? Then use the next best excercises based on their EMG activation ?

Thanks Coach and all others that respond to this question...



I have not seen his article.

Personally I'm not fond of GVT. I'm not saying that it doesn't work, but I PERSONALLY do not like this style of training. So I never researched it fully.

GVT calls for 10 sets of 10 reps with 60 seconds of rest, using a (if I remember correctly) 302 tempo. I personally would have a hard time mentally doing ONE set of squat or deadlift with these parameters, let alone 10!

As for the best exercise via EMG studies... the issue is that EMG is not perfect. I've seen plenty of exercises that "in theory" had the greatest EMG reading for a muscle group not "work well" for me personally or for clients. Many individual factors can come into play when it comes to which exercise works best for someone.


Wow, Thanks so much Coach T for the prompt reply !
I can appreciate how busy your days are, much less on a Sat !!

If any other T-Nation Breatheren read this please feel free to give me All the positive/negative feedback you have expirienced
with this style of training !

Thanks All.


Charles likes to write an article about GVT at least 2-3 times every year. He obviously sees it as a major achievement in his career and he lets us know. He has changed it a few times over the years and this latest one which you are referring to looks like his best yet.

As for your suggestions I would say no. As for doing 10 sets of 10 with conventional deadlift don't even think about it.

When choosing the exercises choose exercises that are least likely to cause injury.
For me this was the biggest factor in doing GVT.
10 sets of 10 is hard. Not on the first day but after a few weeks of doing that on the same exercise of say Barbbell Bench Press my anterior shoulder was in agony. A better alternative is rotating incline bench with DB flat bench. Don't stick to the exact same exercise.

Also you need to plan the whole week. I was doing Squats, Romanian Deadlifts and Barbbell Bent Over Rows. All great exercises but when doing 10 sets of each leaves your lower back feeling annihilated .

The original GVT used antagonist pairings. After each set of an exercise you wait 90 seconds then perform the next antagonist set. This to me was by far the best way of doing it. Doing straight sets with GVT just wont work in the same way.

The original tempo was 4020. I wouldn't worry about that too much. Just lower under control and get the weight up anyway you can. Why you would want to lift in a 2 second concentric when doing this program is a mystery. It's hard enough getting the weight up as it is without counting the freaking time it takes.

The biggest problem most people have with GVT is they either burn out or they get injured. I have done both. Burn out by thinking doing the big 3 would work and injured by failing to realise that by doing so many sets you need to factor in stabilising muscles such as lower back when doing squats or bent over rows etc.....

Actually my best ever pairing is Wide Grip Pullups with Overhead Press Machine. I believe I had the best results from this as the OHP Machine requires no stabilistion from lower back or rotator cuff and I didn't get injured in the process.

Ideally this type of program should only last around 6 weeks and you might be lucky if you can go that long.


I've used GVT before and don't hate it. The problem is that I play rugby so I can't afford to be that sore from training all the time. I used Wendlers 531 GVT template, so the days went as follows:
1) bench/ rows
2) squat/ abs
3) press/ pull-ups
4) deadlift/ abs

The difference I made was rather than do 10x10 I chose two exercises and did 5x10 each. So on bench day I would do 531 reps on bench press and then do 5x10 each on inclines and dips. Followed by 5x10 each on two kinds of rows. So the volume was the same but you added in variety.

But if your goal is what CT calls high performance mass, I've found nothing better than the Layer system. It works for casual meatheads and athletes. And if your goal is absolute strength, ala powerlifting I'd do either Layers or 531. Not too many power lifters out there doing 10x10 IMO.