It’s Time to Stop Talking About “Supercompensation” | Sullivan & Rippetoe

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Thread: It’s Time to Stop Talking About “Supercompensation” | Sullivan & Rippetoe

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2009

    Default It’s Time to Stop Talking About “Supercompensation” | Sullivan & Rippetoe

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    by Jonathon Sullivan and Mark Rippetoe

    The term “supercompensation” appears in the biomedical literature in the early twentieth century, not in the context of physiology, but in the context of philosophy and psychoanalytic theory – and that, right away, should raise a red flag. In any event, the term was first appropriated in English by physiologists in 1950, to describe changes in muscle glycogen content during recovery from different workloads.

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Garage of GainzZz


    In this context, I understand the thesis of the article as an argument against the use of the prefix "super-" as a quantitative descriptor as opposed to a qualitative descriptor, correct?

    Most importantly, we are to take away the notion that the adaptive response occurs over a continuum and is dictated by many different factors and not just the load placed on the bar every workout.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2013


    I've always looked at supercompensation closely related to 'super performing' and , like reaching a point in a training cycle where performing a 1 RM in a super compensated state would result in better performance. You would achieve a super compensated state through an increase in training volume and recovery before accumulated fatigue sets in, allowing you to perform at a level that would immediately after the performance cause a stress overload and subsequent de-training.

  4. #4


    I can't tell if this is a test to see who can follow instructions about not talking about "Supercompensation" on the forums or if it's actually trying to encourage discussion on the topic. Is this now the first and second rule of Starting Strength?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2016


    I hope you enjoyed the beef and booze (who doesnt?), because actually there is no need to get rid off the "super" in supercompensation.


    1) although the article seems to suggest that "super" always means "of a different quality", like superman has qualities that no ordinary man has, or the cells acquire new mechanisms after experiencing stress; the Latin "super" also can simply mean: (quantitatively) more (of the same quality).

    2) And as you wrote yourself that our body doesnt only compensate for the stress induced by the past resistance, but prepares itself by providing a little more, a little surplus (which of course can be currently diminished by other factors and thus fluctuates) - it super-compensates.

    So its completely ok to speak of "Supercompensation" - the physiologists havent been that dumb for more than half a century after all.

    More interesting imo is a possible discussion about which model describes the adaption process best - and there have been newer suggestions than Selyess original one like the 2-factor-model, but still no ultimate satisfying one.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Portola Valley, CA


    Words do matter. I complement you both on improving the preciseness of the language we use in our corner of the human discussion.

    I do have an argument in support of the use of the "super" qualifier in this context. When I was a teen I worked at manual jobs summers and holidays. This work was physically repetitive. Always the first few days of the job left me exhausted, but by the end of the first week my body had adapted and compensated to the work level and at at the end of each day I was no longer exhausted. (Ah! The recovery power of the young!) My body "compensated" to the new load. It also "super-compensated" to the new load in that I would need a much higher level of work intensity to bring me to exhaustion. I suppose you could argue that these are both features of "compensation," but they are two different features and thus could support two different words. That way you could speak separately about the compensation effect and the super-compensation effect and be clear.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2018


    Whenever i read or hear the word “supercompensation” i always thought it was refering to a “peaking” effect. Like if you were doing high volume for a while then suddenly cut way down on the volume, it seems like this produces a peaking effect or “supercompensation” for a week or two.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2020


    starting strength coach development program
    This reminds me of my dad bitching when people used the term “over-exaggerating “. You’re either exaggerating or you aren’t. Can you “over-bullshit”?


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