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How stress, recovery, and the supercompensation curve affects your results

The most ignored truth in fitness is that you don’t get better from training, you get better from recovering FROM training.

Think about that for a second… Sometimes it’s a bit to digest.

This is because training is a stress. It basically breaks down the body and the body responds initially by becoming weaker after the workout and then adapting and/or “supercompensating” to the stimulus of training and getting stronger in a small window a few days after the workout.

Take a look at this image which shows the supercompensation curve which begins at the end of a training session.
– Improved performance is the y axis in the image above.
– Time is the x axis.
Notice that if you come back too early or the workout is too hard for you, you won’t get the adaptation resulting in improved performance by training when your body is in the optimum time frame.

Also notice that the higher the curve after the workout, the better the performance you will have in a subsequent workout.

Are you always walking into workouts sore and beat up in the target muscle of the day?

You probably aren’t recovering enough (factors like lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and stress play a huge role in this).

The solution is you need to work on recovering more!
I wrote about the importance of recovery and the training effect here.

The harder and longer the training session, the deeper and longer the recovery curve will be and thus the longer time you’ll need for recovery. That’s why we program our workouts for 50 mins!

As I’ve said in the past, frequency is more important than intensity for results – especially when it pertains to fat loss. Also with a shorter workout it balances hormones better because testosterone decreases at about an hour after your workout, cortisol increases the more you train, and let’s not forget your rushed for time, so the more efficient the better!

So part of our goal as your fitness coach is to move that supercompensation curve up (better response or improved performance) and to the left which would equate to a faster recovery time.

Please note from the image below that if you wait too long between training that you’ll notice the curve will start lowering indicating a de-training effect. Makes sense right! You can’t keep your strength or conditioning up if you are taking 2 week breaks between workouts…


Here a few methods by which we take this science into account for your training:

  • We program lower body on Monday-Wednesday-Friday
  • We program upper body on Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday

But if we did squats on all those lower body days we would just be over training and under recovering and never making improvement in terms of our performance. (Performance could mean many things… It could mean increased lean muscle, increased strength, increased mobility, decreased joint stiffness).

This is why we train non-competing muscle groups on subsequent days within the context of the month.

In February this month, we train quad dominant exercises on Monday and Friday – that’s 72 hours to recover from your workout! We also train strength on Mondays giving you lots of time to recover before Friday. When we hit legs again on Wednesday, we actually hit the opposing muscle group in the legs, which can increase recovery as when those muscles contract it actually stretches out the opposing muscle group. Think about it when we contract our hamstrings on Wednesdays and our quads are being stretched during those exercises. We also program more of a recovery day on Wednesdays where it’s higher reps to increase blood flow and build your aerobic base. When we’re back to legs on Friday, we do more of a traditional bodybuilding workout (blended with conditioning for sweat of course) where we are working on time under tension and good mind-muscle connection. A necessity for everyone regardless of your fitness goal!

This process repeats itself in the same manner for upper body with Tuesday being a strength piece focussed on back muscles, Thursday a high rep recovery piece with pushing exercises like pushups (why I stress the pushups need to be easy for you that day in this blog post) and Saturday being a blend of all upper body muscles with tempo training.

***Next level tip – it’s always best to take it easier the last week of the month or come 1-2 times less as when you go into the next month’s workouts you are fresher and not overworking muscle groups*** Also as we change up the muscle groups each month, you may get less rest going from a Wednesday working hamstrings in February to a Friday working hamstrings in March***

Recapping monthly programming
Monday-Tuesday – low rep strength training
Wednesday-Thursday – high rep muscular endurance and recovery
Friday-Saturday – mid rep tempo training and muscular hypertrophy

Please note that more training will be beneficial for fat loss, but if you notice your strength not improving, under recovery can be one of the reasons…

And of course there’s always the things that you know you should do like:

  • 8 hours of sleep/night
  • hydration (3 litres/day of water)
  • stretching/mobility work (what we do in the daily workout is the bare minimum)
  • protein intake (see below)
  • overall food intake (are you starving yourself to lose weight?)

These are still extremely important and even with your fat loss goals you need to be adequately fueling and not depriving your body. (I can’t tell you how many people are under-eating protein.. its a lot!!)

And I wrote a blog about this years ago on this the number 1 reason you cant lose weight.

One more thing…

While we can all agree that adequate rest is important, and at least 1 full day off per week from training makes a lot of sense (why we are closed Sundays to force you to rest), there does come a time when total inactivity or rest isn’t just fast enough for your goals!

Imagine doing a hard lower body squat day on Monday and then spending the entire day Tuesday sitting at your desk… Trying to move on Wednesday will feel even worse! This is why movement is the key piece to all of this. The human body is a moving machine. The more you move the less sore you will be. As always, the trick is you have to listen to your body. Go on more walks, do a light bike ride, hold a downward dog for 2 minutes, do exercise that leaves you feeling better not worse!

Our workouts are a fluid organism and since everyone is not on the same schedule I have to be providing an effective training stimulus for people who didn’t come Thursday but making sure it works for those individuals who have trained everyday that week so far.

More training is only better if you can recover from more training in that same time frame.

Listen to your body, go easy on the days where you feel too sore and as always let us know if something doesn’t feel right when you are in the gym with us. We are there to not only keep you accountability to your regular workouts, we’re there to guide you with your decisions amidst the structure of these sessions best for your body, your stress levels, and your life!

Committed to your success,
Josh Saunders, BS, CSCS
BEFIT | LVFIT

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