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Optimal Training Design for Progress & How to Avoid Overtraining

In order to make progress in our strength training, we want to have a program that is designed to make us stronger or help our muscles grow. However, on the other side, we want to avoid overtraining and be able to recover properly. In this article, you will learn the training principles you need to know and how to recover appropriately from your workouts.

For In-depth knowledge for your new & fit self:


training

The Principle of Supercompensation

The principle of supercompensation refers to a training method, or rather a result of the training performed. 


"Super" stands for "above" and "compensation" for "balance".

In short, the aim of training is to achieve compensation of the organism, so that it is "better" or more adapted to a stimulus than before training. 


This improvement can affect:

  • muscle strength

  • muscle hypertrophy (growth)

  • muscle endurance

  • the cardiovascular system

  • as well as the autonomic and central nervous systems


Through the right training load and the right duration of rest, the body achieves a state of "overcompensation" – an overadaptation. Our body adapts to the stress, becomes more resilient, and improves its function and composition.


Visualization of the Supercompensation Process
Visualization of the Supercompensation Process

"You can achieve supercompensation only if the training is done with enough intensity and rest periods are managed properly."

Now, let's discuss how you can utilize the principle of supercompensation in your training to get the most out of your workouts.


Training and Recovery

After each training session and every exercise we perform, there are fatigue processes happening in our body. 


These include:

  • slower reflexes

  • reduced performance

  • loss of motivation

  • poorer coordination


On a physiological level, this can be recognized by:

  • muscle acidification due to higher lactate levels

  • the accumulation of metabolic by-products

  • depleted energy reserves


During training, our muscles become weaker and less efficient due to exertion. We cannot train for hours on end because our muscles would resist.


However, after some time, our fatigued muscles regenerate after a workout, and ideally, their structure and strength improve, making us more capable in the next training session to perform more repetitions, more sets, lift heavier weights or have a better form.


If this is the case, then supercompensation has occurred. The performance of your muscles has increased above your baseline level after a training session and subsequent recovery phase.



Visualization of the Supercompensation Process
Visualization of the Supercompensation Process Over Several Training Sessions


The ultimate goal is to increase performance through proper training load and rest periods. If successful, overcompensation has occurred.


Training must first consider individual components, including individual goals, resilience, disposition, and training status.



Training Design

According to the definition, training is the sum of all measures aimed at increasing physical performance. To actually increase performance, it is important to adjust the training intensity to the individual's training status.


Ideally, before starting training, some form of performance test should be conducted to determine the current state. Only then can the optimal training intensity for starting training be determined. After a few weeks, the first adjustments to the training can be made.

Adjustments should then be made continuously and steadily to avoid a performance plateau.


As a rule of thumb, remember the following:

  • Training should be moderately strenuous

  • Intensity should be gradually increased each time, for example, by using heavier weights or more sets or repetitions

  • Rest periods can be shortened each time but should be adjusted to the training goal (hypertrophy or strength increase)

  • Exercises should be varied

  • Movement speed should vary


training

How does progressive overload look like in practice?

  • You lift a Heavier weight

  • You do more repetitions (e.g., one more repetition per set or one more set)

  • You increase training sessions per week per muscle

  • Better technique for a higher ROM (Range of Motion)

  • Shorter breaks between sets


Best Case: A combination of the mentioned points!


Of course, it is not possible to generalize here, as individual goals and the type of training, such as endurance or strength training, must also be considered. If you are interested in further information and support in training, feel free to book your free call for my tailored 1:1 coaching.


progressive overload conclusion


Optimal Rest Periods Design to Avoid Overtraining

The proper spacing of training stimuli and rest periods is significant when aiming for improvement. 


If the new training stimulus is introduced too soon and the body has not had sufficient recovery, it may lead to a decline in performance and the body entering a state of "overtraining."


However, if the new training stimulus is delayed too long, there may be no performance improvement, and the performance level may simply remain at the baseline.


"The goal should be to determine how long it takes for your body to fully recover after a (demanding) training session and be ready to perform the next training session."

For this, it's best to listen to your body signals. If you experience the following symptoms, it's a sign that you are in a state of overtraining, and a break is necessary.


Signs that your rest periods are too short between training sessions:

  • Feeling drained and exhausted

  • Performance is worse than in the previous training session

  • Sleep disturbances and extreme daytime fatigue

  • Weak immune system and frequent illness

  • Restlessness, irritability, nervousness, and concentration problems

  • Increased susceptibility to injuries

  • Headaches

  • Muscle loss and/or weight gain

  • Hormonal imbalance

  • Extreme muscle soreness and muscle cramps or even pain


Overtraining should for sure be avoided. It's not healthy for our bodies to be in such a state, and our performance can even decrease or stagnate as a result.


Guidelines for Rest Periods Between Training Sessions

Performance Level

Time Between Training Sessions

Training Sessions per Week

Additional Notes

Beginner (first 3-6 months after starting training)

48 - 72 hours

2 - 3 times per week


Intermediate (individuals training for longer than 6 months)


24 - 48 hours

3 - 5 times per week

Regular deload week

Elite and high-performance athletes competing in competitions

12 - 24 hours

6 - 20 times per week

Training periodization is advisable (competition phases, etc.)


Tool: Deloads or Deload Weeks

Since most of us fall into the category of advanced individuals, I want to discuss the concept of a deload week.


"The deload week is a tool that you can use when you feel like you're hitting a plateau."

During a deload week, training volume and intensity are significantly reduced for about one week. Ideally, you would engage in short, less intense sessions, such as yoga, light running, stretching, or low-intensity full-body workouts.


The goal is to allow your body to regenerate during this week so that it can perform better afterward. For highly ambitious athletes, it can be challenging to implement such a week because feelings of guilt may arise, and there may be a fear of losing muscle mass.


However, it will benefit your training success because your body will be better prepared for further adaptations and will be more capable after the rest period.


You can incorporate a deload week into your routine whenever you start to notice early signs of overtraining. If you train intensely on a regular basis, say 4-6 times a week, you can schedule a deload week into your plan every 5, 6, or 7 weeks.


It is important to include rest-days in your training routine to achieve the best results!


Achieve your fitness goals now through personalized guidance from your online nutritional and fitness coach.




Yours,

signature Vanessa Gaber



 

Sources of Information:

  • Plotkin D, Coleman M, Van Every D, Maldonado J, Oberlin D, Israetel M, Feather J, Alto A, Vigotsky AD, Schoenfeld BJ. Progressive overload without progressing load? The effects of load or repetition progression on muscular adaptations. PeerJ. 2022 Sep 30;10:e14142. doi: 10.7717/peerj.14142. PMID: 36199287; PMCID: PMC9528903.

  • Issurin VB. Generalized training effects induced by athletic preparation. A review. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2009 Dec;49(4):333-45. PMID: 20087292.

  • Chaves TS, Scarpelli MC, Bergamasco JGA, Silva DGD, Medalha Junior RA, Dias NF, Bittencourt D, Carello Filho PC, Angleri V, Nóbrega SR, Roberts MD, Ugrinowitsch C, Libardi CA. Effects of resistance training overload progression protocols on strength and muscle mass. Int J Sports Med. 2024 Jan 29. doi: 10.1055/a-2256-5857. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 38286426.

  • Ruple BA, Plotkin DL, Smith MA, Godwin JS, Sexton CL, McIntosh MC, Kontos NJ, Beausejour JP, Pagan JI, Rodriguez JP, Sheldon D, Knowles KS, Libardi CA, Young KC, Stock MS, Roberts MD. The effects of resistance training to near failure on strength, hypertrophy, and motor unit adaptations in previously trained adults. Physiol Rep. 2023 May;11(9):e15679. doi: 10.14814/phy2.15679. PMID: 37144554; PMCID: PMC10161210.

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