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October 10, 2012


When athletes train intensely and properly, their body goes through several stages before it adapts to a higher level of performance. The final stage of physical training is where the actual gains take place.

The stage is rightfully referred to as supercompensation, which is a theory that encompasses the fourth stage of fitness training. It is preceded by initial fitness, training, and recovery. During the period of supercompensation, an individual will experience higher levels of performance capabilities in comparison to their previous cycle of training.

four stages of fitness training

To reach this period of supercompensation, or increase in performance, the trainee must complete their recovery period. Not doing so can result in overtraining, and hinder the positive effects of supercompensation.

Maximizing recovery can be complicated, primarily because different muscle groups have different periods of recovery. With that said, different muscles also require different lengths to optimize supercompensation, and then the return to base fitness. Other various lurking variables exist, such as the fitness levels of the individual, thus a blanket method cannot be applied to all trainees.

In practice, micro-cycles and macro-cycles are utilized to leverage the benefits of supercompensation. With a micro-cycle, the recovery time is identical to that which is required to attain a supercompensation phase. A micro-cycle is only beneficial when the developed areas are not interrelated. A macro-cycle is a long-term system, which focuses on more complex goals like muscle development and strength.

Guidelines for Effective Supercompensation

Aside from the different types of cycles that can be used to generate a healthy stage of supercompensation, one must make sure they adhere to the following guidelines when attempting to achieve the phase:

  • Maintain an optimal level of health This includes adequate nutrition, caloric intake, and rest.
  • Make sure the intensity, volume, and frequency of your training are ideal for your individual needs.
  • Easy training leads to a minimal adaptive response. Too much exercise can hinder your muscle response.
  • Want to make sure you have the energy to fuel your intense sessions? Then take a look at these tips:
  • Maximize your glycogen stores since they will be depleted during a heavy session. This means you need to eat enough carbohydrates. Scientific studies show that there is no necessity to differentiate between High and Low GI carbohydrates. This was demonstrated by Professor Stephen Wong on November 14, 2007, in an issue of the “Journal of International Sports Medicine.”
  • Caffeine is a great performance enhancer which helps in allowing an individual to realize their training limit but do not rely on the caffeine for your training sessions.

A huge mistake lifters make is taking caffeine every training session which can lead to adrenal fatigue as described in the book Herbal Defense by Ralph T. Golan, MD.

“Caffeine forces your glands to secrete when they don’t have much left to give, and they have to keep digging deeper and deeper, making you more and more tired over time. And over the years, it takes more and more coffee to get the same result. Some people reach the point of drinking half a dozen or more cups of coffee to get the same result and it’s barely keeping them awake. That’s severe adrenal depletion.”

The same rule applies to caffeine in any form as well as pre-workout supplements. Always be sure not to abuse these substances and use them sparingly.

graph showing the dangers of popular drugs

Contrary to popular belief, creatine can actually negatively impact supercompensation, as it makes a person add weight, which adds dead weight to their resistance work; however, these effects are preceded by the fact that creatine helps turn ADP back into ATP which gives your muscles more fuel during exercise.

If you are to take away anything from this discussion of supercompensation, it should be to feed yourself adequately, rest well, and train at a reasonable level of intensity. Always remember that each individual has a different set of tolerances for training, rest, and caloric consumption.


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