Supercompensation

When training the primary goal for most people is to improve on a certain area of performance or aesthetics. When training for performance there are a number of factors that will affect that improvement. These factors include things like diet, rest, quality of training and training intensity. As well as uncontrollable factors like genetics.

 

The theory of supercompensation basically explains a reason as to why we improve through training and the basics of how and when it happens. The human body has basic survival instincts. Back when man was a hunter gatherer if you were not fast enough to catch your prey then you died. This meant that by chasing prey you had to get faster and faster to catch it. Your body naturally adapted in order to allow survival. This theory is still present in modern day man and those natural adaptations still occur. The difference is now we are tricking our bodies into thinking it needs to adapt when survival is not an issue. If you lift a weight to the point of failure over a period of time, your body will believe that it needs to be able to lift it to survive so it adapts. The muscles are repaired bigger and stronger, your fitness levels will improve and you will find tasks easier. This progression is what leads to success in training. If you are training with light weights and never reaching failure in exercise then your body sees no reason to be bigger or stronger. Supercompensation determines how long it takes for your body to go from the recovery phase after a workout into a period of heightened performance. After your muscles have recovered your body will naturally adapt to improve performance for the next time you need it. This is the period of supercompensation. However timing is of the essence. If you train too soon you will still be in the recovery stage and you will not make progress. This is often referred to as overtraining. If you leave it too long then atrophy may occur as your body feels the need for improved performance is no longer present and the adaptation is wasted. See the graph below as a basic example

 

The period of supercompensation will be determined by a number of factors and is usually individual to the person. It is unknown exactly how long this period will last and how soon after training it will occur. This will be a case of trial and error for anyone wanting to improve performance. I usually train each body part once every 7 days and have noticed good gains over a period of time in performance and muscle growth. However my greatest strength gains came when I was training each body part once every 4 days. This was on a very high calorie diet and I was getting lots of rest. I believe with proper diet and rest you can cut the recovery time down and therefore make much faster gains by being in the supercompensation period more often.  I feel training a body part every 7 days meant I was missing much of my supercompensation period.

 

So in conclusion if you are wanting to make improvements in performance then I recommend you search for your window of opportunity and plan your training routine around that. Don’t just train a body part once per week because that’s what everyone else does.  You may see benefit from more regular training and reap the rewards of your period of supercompensation.

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Comments

  • stevegardener
    September 2, 2011 stevegardener

    I've used a version myself in run up to competitions. I more or less deliberately over train (2x a day sessions) in the last few training sessions. It can and does lead to a small drop off from baseline. But then a 4 day rest and feed... by the end of which I am getting itchy at wanting to be back in the gym and come competition day I'm good to go.

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