Super-Compensation – The Principle of Optimal Load and Recovery Design
BY JOHN HARRIS FITNESS
If you want to make your training more effective, there are some fundamental training principles you should adhere to. One of these is the principle of optimal balance between load and recovery. After all, you can't train incessantly!
Muscles need breaks between training sessions to grow. This applies not only to the time between two training sessions but also during the training itself. Even though there are numerous scientific studies that determine the ideal rest period between sets or exercises, it is often simpler to rely on empirical values when optimizing your training. These empirical values are summarized in the principle of optimal balance between load and recovery.
Depending on the type of strength training, recommendations for breaks between exercises and sets vary between one and six minutes. Nevertheless, it's important to listen to your subjective feeling to decide when to proceed with the next set or exercise. To shorten the overall duration of the training, you can also combine different exercises. This way, during breaks between sets, you can train a different muscle group or the antagonist muscle. While one muscle group is being loaded, the other has time to recover.
Training & Recovery Phases
The principle of optimal balance between load and recovery is based on three central aspects:
Load: Load refers to the stimuli that affect your body during training. Load is characterized by load norms such as intensity, duration, frequency, and density.
Strain: Strain, also known as internal load, represents your body's response to the load. It results from the load norms and individual capacity. Note: The same load results in different strain depending on performance.
Fatigue: Fatigue is closely linked to strain. It's the consequence of strain and leads to a temporary reduction in performance. Fatigue can be divided into sensory, mental, emotional, and physical fatigue.
After load and the resulting strain, the recovery phase begins, which is divided into ongoing, immediate, subsequent, and stress recovery.
Restoration encompasses both active recovery (light running, cooldown, gentle muscle warm-up) and passive recovery (sauna, massage, etc.).
Optimal Balance Between Load and Recovery
After effective training load, your body needs a certain period of recovery to handle a similar load again. Load and recovery form a unit. The phenomenon of super-compensation states that after a strong load stimulus, not only compensation of the initial level occurs but also increased recovery (super-compensation).
However, this increased performance level doesn't persist permanently but fluctuates around the initial level. The optimal new load must consider the peak of the super-compensation phase, both in terms of timing and intensity.
In beginners, the implementation of super-compensation into a higher performance level occurs faster than in experienced athletes.