by Tudor Bompa and Fred Koch (1992)
Positive adaptation is the result of constantly alternating between work and compensation. This work, in the form of training, followed by time for regeneration, is the heart of the overcompensation cycle. The overcompensation principle serves as the biological foundation for good adaptation and constant training gains. Planning workouts around this cycle is an extremely important aspect of training.
In any strength-development training program the bottom line for improvement is based on the body’s ability to adapt to training stress. The key to making constant gains is to plan, record, retest and evaluate the stress you put on your body. This four-step process is the only rational way to keep you from burning out. Constant evaluation as applied to the overcompensation cycle is an important element that has long been missing from bodybuilding training.
Overcompensation is based on the fact that during daily activities your body operates in a normal biological state of balance known as homeostasis. It constantly seeks out this state of balance between energy and consumption – in the form of food – and the normal energy output for your working day. When you go to the gym for a workout, you disturb this balance by burning extra calories. When you’re finished training, you experience fatigue, which temporarily reduces your body’s capacity and throws your whole system of homeostasis out of balance.
Following training and between training sessions there is a phase of compensation during which your body replenishes its energy sources. This is the time you relax psychologically and regenerate. Replenishing energy loss is a slow process and requires several hours at least.
You must plan, test and monitor your workouts according to your training capacity and your recorded strength levels. If you add to this monitoring proper rest and a good diet plan, you not only replace the energy, but you may even exceed your initial level. “Overcompensation” is defined as the additional reserves built up by the body as it rebounds past the initial strength level. You reflect this positive state by increasing your training efficiency; in other words, you demonstrate good adaptation by your ability to lift greater loads. This extremely positive overcompensation effect is the foundation for improving your performance in training.
Lack of planning can cause you to fail to adapt to a weight load, which will result in stagnation. Sooner or later you’ll experience a high level of fatigue and energy drain due to this lack of adaptation, and overtraining is sure to follow. Many bodybuilders quit the sport, at least temporarily, until the signs and symptoms of overtraining are gone and regeneration is accomplished. Bodybuilders often use mental visualization to overcome the onset of overtraining, and this may help initially, but sooner or later the body burns out.
This cycle of overtraining will begin again as soon as the trainee starts using the same training methods that caused him or her to quit, because the system just doesn’t work in the long run.
Overcompensation may occur approximately 24 hours after a lifting session that is planned to your specific training capacity. If the intensity of training is too great and exhausts every drop of your energy and mental toughness, then you may require a minimum of 6 hours or even longer to experience overcompensation.
Certainly a highly motivated bodybuilder/athlete can train daily; however, problems can arise as long as the athlete works to complete exhaustion at every session. Unfortunately, this is still the philosophy of most bodybuilding training systems. The idea that if you do not reach exhaustion you won’t make gains is one of the great myths of progressive-resistance training. Under this complete-exhaustion cycle overcompensation does not occur, improvement fades away and you are left overtrained and exhausted.
Bodybuilding is one sport where the need to adapt to training stress is extremely important. You have to follow a well-planned, systematic program. The threat of overtraining is great in a sport where “do as much as you can all the time” is the norm. Much has been written about overtraining, but a clear picture of the condition has never been established simply because up till now there has been no systematic means of analyzing training records – if training records were actually kept.
There are many visible anatomical and physiological changes that occur if you correctly employ several exercises with varying loads and repetition schemes over a given period of time. When these gains in development and increases in performance occur, you have adapted to a given training load.
The neuromuscular system illustrates one important positive adaptation that occurs from a well-structured periodization training program. This is the system responsible for the impulses that are sent between your nerves and muscles. By employing either submaximal percentages – 80 to 90 percent of your one-rep max – your muscle increases its fibers’ cross-sectional area. Because of this increase in muscle fiber the muscle can receive more nerve impulses.
When we plan for this increased muscle fiber in one phase of training, it prepares the muscle for hypertrophy, or growth, in another phase. This increase of muscle fiber can also be accompanied by an increase in the protein content of the muscle during proper adaptation.
You can accomplish these gains, as well as many others, in bodybuilding training only as long as your body can adapt to the training load and the stress put on it. We cannot emphasize enough the need for bodybuilders to understand this basic principle of training. If the load is too high and you extend the level of work for too long without allowing for regeneration, then overcompensation and adaptation cannot occur, and overtraining results. That’s a simple fact.
If you train with an understanding of the overcompensation cycle and allow for complete adaptation, you will feel no exhaustion, no complete drain of energy, and you will see recordable gains.
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