Super-Size Me: The Search for the Secret of SuperCompensation

You want to get bigger and stronger. The important thing about choosing a training program is finding one that takes into consideration the theory of supercompensation.


The goal of your body is not one of supercompensation.  The body’s goal is to continue its survival by staying in a state of homeostasis (balance).  Your goal as the “driver” of the body, who wants to constantly physically improve,  is not to be balanced or to remain the same.  As a weight trainer, you always want to be getting stronger.  Many iron lovers regularly work themselves into intensity well past fatigue and into a state of neuromuscular exhaustion two to six days every week.

You wish the end result of your labor in the gym to be an increase in your adaptation to stress.  You want the ultimate super compensation effect otherwise known as a Continuously Positive Anabolic Response.  You want to get bigger and stronger.  The important thing about choosing a training program is finding one that takes into consideration the theory of supercompensation.  If you do too much, however, you may end up in a state of overtraining in which you get no benefits at all.

Introducing the Pre-beginning of Supercompensation

The main part of your leg workout routine may be to work up to performing a heavy 4 to 6 rep set of back squats.  It is not wise to lift heavy right away when your muscles are cold because of a risk of injury so you start out with a light weight and do anywhere between 3 to 10 reps, rest a couple minutes then add a little more weight on and repeat.  After 3 to 5 warm-up sets the blood is flowing better through your knees, hips and lower back and you’re ready to lift heavy with a weight that is about 5 to 10 pounds heavier than the last time you performed the same lift.  You pull the bar off the rack and do 5 reps, re-rack and then happily record the number in your logbook.  Ironically, the warm-ups culminating in the success of that heavy set did not, in itself, make you any stronger.  In fact, at this point in time you are weaker; the muscle cells in your legs have begun to break down and your immune system has just taken an enormous hit.

Supercompensation and The Process of Adaptation

Let’s take that heavy 4 to 6 set of squats as an example.  After a proper warm-up you put 300 lbs. on the bar and do a maximum of 5 reps.  After that you may do a drop set with less poundage to failure or you might even try a couple singles or doubles with 90% of your one rep max.  Whatever you do, those maximum 5 reps you do represent what we may call your fitness baseline and training weight.  If you did your best, then not only was that set a present test of your fitness baseline strength but it was also like a type of stress trigger that sends signals to the appropriate parts of your physiology to adapt.

A harder workout will start chemical processes that begin to happen in the blink of an eye.  The initial stress is catabolic.  There is an affront to your neuromuscular and central nervous system and not just on a cellular level.  Whenever there is a physiological release or expenditure of energy, building blocks of molecules such as polysaccharides, lipids, nucleic acids and proteins break down into smaller units.  Proteins, for instance are broken down into amino acids.  Part of the energy release is used to generate the creation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate).  As your muscles contract, ATP loses a phosphate molecule and becomes ADP (adenosine diphosphate).  It is at this stage of the energy chain release that anabolic processes (such as protein synthesis) are triggered with instructions to start building up molecules from the smaller units.

Overtraining vs. Recovery in the Supercompensation Process

The language of physiology is the language of adaptation.   When you train very hard you open your body up to a greater possibility to infection.  Among many other things, your cortisol levels rise and the glycogen and blood glucose levels plummet as do your red and white blood cell counts.   Here is the good news:  After a period of adequate rest and nutrition, not only do your muscles get bigger and stronger or “supersized,” your immune system becomes better fortified.  If your train hard again before you are recovered, however, you risk being overtrained.  In the case of overtraining, anabolic processes are triggered to build, build, build but there are inadequate resources to accomplish this.   There is some discussion, however, as to the differences between what is called overtraining and what is known as simply overreaching.  Overtraining, which is actually a rare condition, is when the possibility of recovery is slim to none.  In other words, it’s back to the drawing board for you.  In overreaching, there is still quite a good chance of recovery and is part of Dual Factor Theory.

Supercompensation and Training Programs

Always keep the theory of supercompensation in mind when researching a training program or routine.  In order to continue seeing gains in terms of size and strength, you usually have to change your program every month or two.  Also, after recovery, the supercompensation period when your fitness baseline strength has increased does not last forever; it is a window of time during which you must train that supercompensated part again or else there will be decompensation.  Here’s one tip:  Doing foam roller exercises in between workouts may help you muscles recover a little faster by relaxing them and increasing blood flow.

There are no cookie cutter routines out there that are equally effective for everyone and to make things even more complicated, each one of your muscle groups can have different types of muscle fibers requiring different rep schemes and recovery times.  Sometimes when following a split routine, it may be necessary to skip a certain exercise until the next time or conversely, a body part may require shorter rest intervals.  Knowing how to work your body for optimum supercompensation requires sound judgement, trial and error and an open mind.

Send to Kindle
More from Recovery
Back to Top