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The overcompensation model

In order to understand a bit more what is the overcompensation model or supercompensation model, we should explain before what the

principle of biological adaptation means (cf.Grosser, Starischka, Zimmermann, 2004).


Principle of biological adaptation


Our organism is constantly adapting to balance itself (homoeostasis). Through regulating mechanisms and receptors, our organism's balance is continuously being monitored. For instance, if there is any weak point in our body, our system will respond to it by setting up all necessary measures to ensure that this weak point will be strengthened.

On the other hand, any planned or unplanned high stress that reaches the organism in the form of exceeding a critical stimulus threshold is a disturbance of its balance and leads to a reduction of the performance level.

During the following regeneration phase, the organism does not simply react by restoring itself to the old state but it "overcompensates" (=overcompensation) to be better prepared for the next stress. This leads to a higher functional state in order to be better equipped in case another event with the same amount of stress occurs.


What does overcompensation mean in training context?


After an intense 30-min jogging for instance, the glycogen stocks of the used muscles decrease. In order to compensate, the organism will fill up its stocks during the recovery phase, not only to the old state but beyond the initial level. In order to take advantage of the overcompensation and get some results, you should neither have a too long recovery time nor a too short one between two training sessions.


Fatigue and recovery type


To allow our organism to generate biological adaptations, we should give it adapted time for recovery otherwise excessive level of stress will lead to fatigue.


Signs of fatigue can be:

  • less performance

  • problem of coordination

  • slower time of reaction

  • loss of motivation and drive


Hence the importance of allocating oneself recovery phases after stress phases with accompanying fatigue. Recovery could be active or passive.

  • Active recovery involves exercising different muscles as the ones trained during the last workout. For example, after an upper body session at the gym, train your lower body by riding your bike or do some easy mobility exercises.

  • Passive recovery means just enjoying a bath, a massage as well as some good sleep.

Combining both recovery types is actually optimal.


Nevertheless, it is difficult to really know when the recovery time should end. It depends on the trained muscles and on the physical condition of the person. Usually, a recovery time of 24h to 48h for trained people and at least 48h for less trained people is recommended.

If the next workout occurs during the recovery, overtraining may occur. In the contrary, if no further workout takes place, the fitness level will slowly decline back towards the initial level of fitness. Optimally, the next workout should occur during the overcompensation period so that the body will advance to a higher level of fitness.


Model of overcompensation
Model of overcompensation (cf. Boeckh-Behrens/Buskies, 2001). Chart: Coach Claire Fitness

Coach Claire

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