Learn more about the principle of supercompensation

Supercompensation is one of the basic principles of sports training, since it is what allows athletes to progressively evolve in any discipline. However, the concept of supercompensation can be a bit tricky to understand, both for beginners and professionals.

The astro-Hungarian physician and physiologist Hans Selye in the 1950s laid the foundations for what we know today as supercompensation. In his research on stress, Selye discovered that the human body seems to be programmed for balance, therefore, any change that occurs will require an adjustment to the new circumstances, in other words, the organism will try in different ways to restore balance. . This is what is known as Selye’s law, after the researcher.

What is supercompensation?

Human beings carry out daily activities to which our bodies are accustomed, regardless of the profession and the amount of physical and psychological effort we make. For example, if we compare an accountant who spends several hours a day in front of the computer and a farmer who works the land for long hours, we can say that both keep their bodies in a state of hormonal, metabolic, temperature balance, etc. This property of the organism is known as homeostasis .

In this order of ideas, if in daily life we ​​carry out activities on a routine basis, our body will maintain this balance. On the contrary, if we add a different task to our habits, the organism will look for a way to achieve again the stability for which it is programmed. Taking the previous example as a reference, if we ask the farmer to make a balance sheet and we ask the accountant to drive the plow, we would be drastically changing their activities, therefore, their bodies would have to find stability again. This is the basis of supercompensation and for this reason it is one of the principles of sports training.

Functioning of supercompensation in sport

To easily understand the principle of sports supercompensation, we can think of a person who goes to a gym for the first time. Before starting to train, your body is in a state of balance, since you come from home or work, where you have only carried out the activities of daily life, therefore, we can say that it is at a stable level in terms of to their energy and physical capacity. However, by subjecting your body to the stress of a high-intensity stimulus, such as an exercise routine, a loss of performance capacity occurs.

At the end of the training, this person’s body reacts to stress, trying to balance the metabolism, hormones, temperature, etc., to return to the previous state, as when he left his home or office. Sports performance will largely depend on what happens in the rest phase . Let’s see what the 2 main options are.


This is definitely what we all look for when doing an exercise routine. Adaptation occurs when, once physical exhaustion occurs, the rest period is used mainly to sleep and eat quality food.

In this case, the objective is to replenish energy , allowing the body to achieve the necessary balance again, but not at the point where it was before the first training, but at a slightly higher level, which means that performance has improved.. This is why adaptation is part of the basic principles of training.


This is the least desired option by bodybuilders and athletes in general. Exhaustion can have different reasons, one of them is a precarious rest phase, for example, too little sleep, but it can also occur due to an inadequate diet, such as the exaggerated elimination of carbohydrates and calories. Another possible reason is overtraining , which occurs when the athlete does not respect the rest phase, but returns to training, which leads to overtraining.

In these cases, the body cannot find the balance at a higher point for adaptation to occur, in fact, it is not even able to return to the previous point, as when the person went to train the first time, but goes back, producing what is known as detraining, that is, the athlete has taken a step backwards in their performance.

This is directly related to some of the fundamental principles of training, such as continuity and progression, since if the rest period is too short, the body ends up exhausting itself. If, on the other hand, the rest phase is very long, then no improvement in performance occurs. For this reason, each variable must be in its proper measure.

Basics of supercompensation

You may have heard sports professionals talk about training load, frequency and duration. These three concepts are essential to understand the principle of supercompensation; load refers to the amount of work the athlete does in each session, this includes intensity, volume, speed, and number of repetitions . For its part, the frequency is about the number of training sessions we have per week, per month or per year. As for the duration, it is the period of time that the exercise routine lasts, since training for 20 minutes is not the same as exercising for 60 minutes.

For these reasons, although there are currently electrostimulators, virtual reality games and other new ways to perform physical activity, we must not forget the laws of training, such as the principle of supercompensation, which despite the passage of time and technological progress little has changed, as it is still the most efficient and safest way to achieve results.

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