Put plain and simply, is the theory of supercompensation true to reality?

Has it been put to the test?


The term ‘super-compensation’ is generally attributed to Russian biochemist Nikolai Yakovlev (1911–1992) who was the first to investigate rigorously the biochemical changes associated with exercise and recovery. He published his first paper on the topic in 1955. The term originally described the augmentation of muscle and liver glycogen and muscle phosphocreatine, in response to training and during post-exercise recovery.

Now, however, it more broadly describes any or all of the physiological mechanisms associated with exercise and recovery, including, but not limited to the adaptation of skeletal, smooth, and cardiac muscle tissue, osseous (bone) tissue, and nerve tissue. And it therefore encompasses the early theories of contributors such as Henry Gassett Davis and Julius Wolff, as well as their modern counterparts such as Howard Frost.

Whilst there still exists some debate over the nomenclature, our modern usage of the term is certainly supported by a plethora of scientific literature spanning numerous disciplines and sub-disciplines.

It is important to understand that the super-compensation cycle is a conceptual model of our physiological response to the application of a training stimulus, as characterised by that literature. It describes how we exercise, fatigue, recover, strengthen, and languish. And it highlights one of the most important and overlooked truths of training: that we do not improve with exercise, but rather with recovery. Exercise is only the catalyst to our development.

It is recognised, of course, that there are countless distinct processes at play, both microscopic (biochemical) and macroscopic (functional), and that their super-compensation does not coincide perfectly. Thus, the theory is understood to be descriptive rather than prescriptive—and in that regard, its validity is undeniable.

I hope that answers your question.

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