Supercompensation - Why breaks are more important than training

A lot does not always help a lot, breaks are an important part of training! Training and regeneration are part of the so-called supercompensation. You can read what this is all about and why it is important in this article.

What is supercompensation?

I'm sure everyone's heard of it before: "Muscles grow during sleep." The principle behind this is called supercompensation. After a training stimulus, the performance level of the muscles is reduced, the energy stores are emptied and the structures are damaged. In the course of recovery (regeneration) our body restores the performance level above the original level. This increased level can be maintained over a period of time. (Diagram 1)

Diagram 1: Principle of supercompensation

Recovery times

Our body possesses different structures, which recover at different speeds depending on the training stimulus. For example, the local energy stores (creatine phosphate) regenerate within a few minutes (1 to 3 minutes) during muscle mass training, whereas the muscle fibres need 48 to 72 hours. Therefrom the breaks between the sets are between 1 to 3 minutes and between workout sessions 2 to 3 days. These regeneration times are chosen in such a way that a new training stimulus is set at the optimal time for supercompensation. (Diagram 2)

Diagram 2: Supercompensation with optimal training time

The perfect timing

After complete regeneration (2 to 3 days), an increased performance level is maintained for up to 4 days. Within this time frame the performance level can be increased with a renewed training stimulus. The optimal time for the next training stimulus, after a muscle mass training, is after 2 to 3 days. Then the highest point of supercompensation is reached.

Breaks are more important than training

If the training stimulus is set too early and regeneration is not yet complete, even a loss of performance can occur (overtraining). (Diagram 3)

Diagram 3: Supercompensation with too short breaks

If the training stimulus is set too late, it is no longer possible to benefit from the increased performance level. In this case, the training does not lead to an increase in performance. (Diagram 4)

Diagram 4: Supercompensation with too long breaks


Marc Neuhoff (CEO)

Marc graduated from the DSHS Cologne and the KIT with a master's degree in sports science. His personal trainer background and more than 14 years of training experience contribute to his expertise.