Artist: Ridofranz

Supercompensation - principle of optimal design of load and recovery.

by john harris

If you want to make your workouts more effective, you should follow some general training principles. One of these is the principle of an optimal relationship between load and recovery. After all, you can't train non-stop!

Muscles need breaks between training phases in which they can grow. This applies not only to the time between two training sessions, but also to the time during the training itself. Because even during training you need to take short breaks to recharge your batteries. There are countless scientific studies on how long the optimal break between two sets or the individual exercises should be, but it is still easiest to orient yourself to empirical values if you want to optimize your training. These empirical values are summarized in the principle of the optimal ratio of load and recovery.

Depending on the type of strength training, the recommendations range from one to six minutes of rest between exercises or sets. However, when strength training, it is important to listen to your own feeling as to when you can start the next set or exercise. To shorten the total duration of strength training, you can also combine several exercises. This way, you don't have to stand around during the break between two sets, but can, for example, train another muscle group or the opposite muscle. While one muscle group is loaded, the other can recover.

Training & recovery phases

The basis for the principle of optimal design of load and recovery are 3 central aspects.

Artist: Ridofranz

1. load

Load is defined as the stimuli that act on your body during the training process. Load is characterized by the load normatives (stimulus intensity, stimulus duration, stimulus frequency and stimulus density).

Different types of load:

  • physical load
  • physiological load
  • sensory load
  • psychological load

2. stress

Strain, also referred to as internal stress, is understood as the body's response to stress. Thus, the load leads to the stress. It results from the load normatives and the individual load capacity. Thus, load and stress are connected via the individual load capacity. Note: The same load leads to different stress at different performance levels.

The body reacts to the load with strain. Basically, the higher the load, the greater the strain.

3. fatigue

Fatigue is very closely related to strain.

Characteristics of fatigue:

  • Strain characteristic (fatigue is always the result of a previous strain).
  •  Insufficiency characteristic (fatigue reduces the current performance capacity)
  •  Reversibility characteristic (fatigue is time-limited and is reduced by recovery).

Fatigue can be divided into several subtypes:

  • sensory fatigue (stimulus reception and processing)
  •  mental fatigue (ability to concentrate)
  •  emotional fatigue (willpower)
  •  physical fatigue (mostly muscular fatigue)
Artist: miniseries

Recovery process

Immediately after the stress and related strain, the recovery phase begins. This is divided into:

1. ongoing recovery

2. immediate recovery

3. post-stress recovery

4. stress recovery


Recovery processes in practice are distinguished between active recovery and passive recovery. By active recovery we mean slow endurance runs, coasting, loose muscular load. Passive means measures without physical activity, such as sauna, massage, etc.


Restorative means are distinguished into:

  • - pedagogical restorative means
  • - medical pedagogical restoratives
  • - psychological restoratives

What is the optimal ratio of load and recovery?

After an effective training load, a certain period of recovery is necessary for your body to be able to perform a new load of the same type. In a sense, load and recovery should be considered as a unit. The basis for this is the phenomenon of overcompensation (supercompensation), according to which, after a correspondingly strong load stimulus, there is not only recovery (= compensation) of the initial level, but also supercompensation (= increased recovery).

However, this increased level does not stay after a one-time load, but regresses again. The level curve oscillates around the line of the initial level. The optimal new load must necessarily take into account the peak of the supercompensation phase in terms of training timing and intensity. Supercompensation leading to a higher level of performance is much faster in beginners than in athletes who have been training for years.



Artist: bruce mars

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