When humans train intensely and properly, their body goes through a number of 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 human fitness training. It is preceded by initial fitness, training, recovery, and finally supercompensation. During this period an individual will experience higher levels of performance capabilities in comparison to their previous cycle of training.


In order 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 complex,primarily due to the fact that different muscle groups have different periods of recovery. With that said, different muscles also require periods of 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 longer term system, which focuses on more complex goals like muscle development and strength 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 healthily 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 is ideal for your individual needs.

-Easy training leads to minimal adaptive response. Too much training can hinder your muscle response.

Want to make sure you have energy to fuel your intense sessions? Than take a look at these tips:

-Maximize your glycogen stores since they will be depleted during a heavy session. This means 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 in 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. Here is a quote

“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 taking caffeine in any form and pre-workout supplements, always be sure not abuse these substances and use them sparingly.

caffeine dependence is almost as much as alcohol

-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. You can learn more about creatine here.

If you are to take away anything from this discussion of supercompensation, it should certainly 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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4 thoughts on “Supercompensation”

  1. The supercompensation diagram doesn’t make sense. Does the downward slope (labeled “supercompensation”) repressent muscle decompensation tending back to the baseline, or a lessening of the effect of supercompensation while the muscles are still growing in size and/or strength at a lesser rate than at the peak of supercompensation? Is it still called supercompensation because the muscles are still growing at this stage, or are the muscles atrophying but still at a supercompensated state above the baseline fitness level? Also, since there are no exact numbers given for time or “fitness” (however that is measured), it doesn’t tell us how much recovery time is necessary or optimal.

    1. Supercompensation is practically pseudoscience. What is “fitness”? How can it be empirically measured? Does everyone’s “fitness” “supercompensate” at the same level?

      We know that there are substances in the body that do “supercompensate,” the problem is they do so at different intervals, and no one knows which one to plan their training around!

      Do yourself a favor and pick up “The Science and Practice of Strength Training” by V. Zatsiorsky. Goes in decent enough depth about why the supercompensation model does not make sense to use.

    2. Supercompensation is a temporary effect following training. It is difficult to say how long it takes or lasts because it depends on a lot of factors. How long or intense was the workout, how much did you deplete glycogen stores, and how many muscles were affected. Bicep curls will have a different tupe of curve than deadlifts for example.

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