If you have worked out on a regular basis at any point in your life, you have experienced the effects of Supercompensation. Let’s take for example you going to the gym and doing a total body workout. At the beginning of the workout, you are feeling all fresh and strong, but near the end… not so much. Once you’re done, you shower and head home and take next day off to recover. One day later, you get back to the gym and you are suddenly able to lift as much as you could at the beginning on Monday’s workout and even more!
That’s a process of adaptation called Supercompensation. It’s the theory that explains how your base level of fitness will increase over time when periods of physical stress (conditionning) are followed by an appropriate rest period before training again.
Let’s say your base level of fitness is 0 (the blue line on the graph). You decide to start exercising, therefore stressing your muscles (red area). That stress reduces your performance over time (remember how at the end of a set you can barely lift that dumbbell while it was relatively easy at the beginning on that same set?).
In reality, what happens is that by repeatedly using certain muscles in your workout and overloading them, they end up with micro tears. But don’t worry, that’s a good thing. Your muscles are then weakened and at that point, you are at -2 in terms of performance.
You then follow your trainer’s orders and recover for a day. That’s an extremely important part of your training program because that’s the part in the cycle when your body repairs damaged muscle tissues. When you allow enough time for recovery, your body senses the micro tears and creates scar tissue around them (blue area in the graph) making your muscles bigger and stronger.
Now that your body is expecting physical stress, it augments your base level of fitness to better deal with it. That’s when you suddenly feel invincible, going faster, lifting heavier weights, jumping higher, etc (green area in the graph).
That period will eventually wear off and you won’t be feeling as sharp and strong anymore. That’s when a lot of people start blaming themselves, feeling like they are doing something wrong or they shouldn’t be feeling this way. But if you look closely at the blue line of the graph, your base level of fitness is indeed decreasing – and that’s normal.
Cue Rocky Music… That’s when you need to keep going and working out. You will feel like you are getting worse and weaker. But the key here is that you are building your base level of fitness block by block. Think of it as 2 steps forward, 1 step back. You will end up moving forward in the long run.
In order to keep improving and gaining strength, power, speed, agility, you need to increase the physical stress load on your body progressively. This way, you continue building on last week and last month’s gains over and over. Your baseline fitness (blue line) will undoubtedly go up.
You probably now understand better now why you should adhere to a program and stick with it for a certain duration before moving on to another one (or another fitness app). Constantly changing your program everyday will not give you the optimal results you are looking for because you won’t be building onto your current fitness level.
It’s like trying to make a wall or a castle out of legos. Imagine you have a bucket with 100 blocks in it. Instead of piling them on top of the other, you make four or five different piles at the same time. This process will take you significantly longer than if you start by building one tower or one part of the wall at a time. You will plateau!
Get a professional to design the right kind of program for you and stick to it long enough to see results. If the results are too slow or not coming at all, then you should make one or two changes to your program. You will be able to track the results after that and know exactly what works best for you.