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Are You An “Overreacher?”

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Are You An “Overreacher?”

A stressful day at our job, being stuck in the house on a rainy day, or entertaining children all day because it’s Spring Break and school/daycare is closed, can lead us to a mental state of “going crazy.”  We often find ourselves feeling the need to fill a void and let off some steam, and we chose exercise as our means to do this.  While we consider hitting the bar (barbell) vs hitting the bar (happy hour at the local brewery), a much healthier option to decompress, we need to be aware of the physical effects of all of our training.

Nonfunctional Overreaching:
“The continuous application of training stress, minus the adequate recovery needed to perpetuate restitution.”  If you are not mindful of your body and the stress you incur on it, adequate recovery WILL NOT allow your fitness to surpass your previous level of fitness before training is reintroduced.  Also, you will find that you’ve reached a peak level of fitness, yet continued to apply a hefty dose of training without allowing adequate recovery, and the end result: a gradual decline in fitness and lack of ability to perform.  This is where the slogan, “less is more,” comes to light.  Large changes in resting heart-rate, extreme fatigue and/or apathy for the sport are all indications of non-functional overreaching, which is a sign to take it easy.

Preparedness is continually driven down due to unrelenting training stress. The period of compensation in recovery is cut short, creating no opportunity for supercompensation effects. (Zatiorsky & Kraemer 2006)


We want results and we want them fast. So how do we get them? The body is always seeking to maintain a state of homeostasis (stable equilibrium) so it will constantly adapt to the stress from its environment. Training is simply the manipulation of the application of stress and the body’s subsequent adaptation to that stress to maintain homeostasis.  Our bodies can achieve the desired metabolic and muscular response of increased aerobic capabilities and strength, and the methodology and actual training adaptation that gets you there is supercompensation.

The Four-Step Process of Supercompensation:
Internationally recognized training and conditioning expert Vern Gambetta breaks down the process for us…

Training:  The first step is the application of a training or loading stress and the body’s subsequent reaction to this training stress, which is fatigue or tiring. There is a predictable drop-off in performance because of that stress.

Recovery: Step 2 is the recovery phase. This can be a lighter training session, a recovery session, or active rest. As a result of the recovery period, the energy stores and performance will return to the baseline (state of homeostasis) represented by the point of the application of the original training stress.

Supercompensation: The third step is the supercompensation phase. This is the adaptive rebound above the baseline; it is described as a rebound response because the body is essentially rebounding from the low point of greatest fatigue. This supercompensation effect is not only a physiological response but also a psychological and technical response.

Decline of fitness (preparedness): The last step in the process is the loss of the supercompensation effect. This decline is a natural result of the application of a new training stress, which should occur at the peak of supercompensation. If no training stress is applied, there will also be a decline.



Level of preparedness becomes depleted by training stress, only to be restored as time moves on through recovery. According to the model, you leave compensation through recovery, and surpass earlier preparedness opening a window to reintroduce training stress. (Zatiorsky & Kraemer 2006)


In supercompensation the athlete can handle the same training load or a greater load with ease in the subsequent workouts IF recovery is adequate and the new stress is timed properly.  If the training load is adequate and the timing of the application of the training stress is correct, then a supercompensation effect will occur.  To ensure supercompensation, the athlete must be healthy. The training volume, intensity, and frequency must be appropriate for the particular athlete.

Frequencies to consider:

“Too intense” training:

  • Athletes will struggle to get back to baseline, and no supercompensation will occur.

“Too easy” training:

  • Very little adaptive response.

“Extremely easy” training:

  • If cycled for too long, then the principle of reversibility will take effect…“use it or lose it.”

The effects of supercompensation are crucial for training improvement, but they need to be practiced carefully.  The best way to do this is to ensure you’re following a properly structured training plan.  Also, keep a lookout for signs of overdoing it.  Pushing the limits of the super-compensatory mechanism too far can result in nonfunctional overreaching, which in turn can lead to over-training.

In the End…
To confirm you’re “doing it right,” find a gym comprised of knowledgeable coaches, who carefully and insight-fully plan a program which fully encompasses the needs and expectations for the well-being of ALL of its athletes.  Don’t be negligent to your successes…work smarter, not harder!!


Contributing Resources:
“The Science of Supercompensation and How it Makes You Fast”
by Nick Kanwetz
” Defining Supercompensation Training”
by Vernon Gambetta

For more information and research on your own, check out one of  Vern Gambetta’s books…