What do we want? RESULTS!!
When do we want them? YESTERDAY!!
How do we get them? CAUSING SYSTEMATIC CONTROLLED STRESSES TO THE BODY WHILE FACILITATING AN ENVIRONMENT OF OPTIMUM SUPERCOMPENSATION AND RECOVERY!!
Simple, right? Not so much.
Supercompensation is simply the response to an extreme overload stimulus, targeted for a specific result. In small doses, it is how all training works because stimulus leads to adaptation. Controlled doses of extreme over-stimulus will result in supercompensation when programmed correctly. All of the great weightlifters and strongmen in history have used some form of systematic supercompensation, from Milo of Croton carrying his baby cow everyday to Paul Anderson and his steel drums. Whatever method you choose to use, there is a simple formula to get the most from your supercompensation program: overload a training or dietary stimulus quantitatively, or train with a high level of sophistication and strategy.
Supercompensation makes the most significant impacts when you’re working to strengthen specific weak spots. The Russians often use it in this way, when focusing on all-around conditioning. The most difficult part of developing the supercompensation program that’s right for you may lie in your honest answer to this question: how well do you know yourself? Let’s skip the philosophy and just say you and that meat sack you use to move yourself around are not as familiar as you would like to think you are. One of the most overlooked portions of personal programming is getting as clear a picture of your personal recovery capabilities as possible. Budget and time constraints and whatnot often limit athletes’ understanding of their own bodies to no more than reviewing training logs and doing what “feels” right. But if you’re serious, you need more than just feelings. Without going to extraordinary lengths, you can get results from a wide variety of procedures that will provide a more complete illustration of what your body is and what it responds to best: blood work, muscle biopsies, blood sugar meters, urine tests using ketosis sticks and nitrogen sticks. Online resources abound to help you come up with a science-based program. When you have attuned yourself to your recovery capacities, then you can use the supercompensation strategy to peak for competition days as well. Think extreme for performance.
What I’m offering here are not so much suggestions as examples of the mindset necessary. I prefer to hand out some seeds and then let you grow them yourselves. Athletes know what they themselves are capable of better than I do—you should be providing the bulk of the input and then challenging yourself accordingly in the formulation of your unique supercompensation programs. My work is just to pull the maximum potential out of you. Because of popular demand, though, I will give a couple examples of supercompensation programs.
- No matter what your sport of choice is, strongman movements are always great for supercompensation. The Russians have long advocated lockouts and walkouts in powerlifting movements. If you want to increase your arm strength for armwrestling, you can do Farmer’s Walk holds with fat grips, followed by isometric weighted chins. Pick a weight to start with and time yourself for a few rounds of each. Once you’re able to achieve 60-second holds for both with 90 seconds of rest for 5 rounds, test yourself. You’ll see that you’re much, much stronger in overall output.
- If you have a revolving or rotating deadlift handle, like a Rolling Thunder or a Country Crush, you can do low row holds alternating with high rep pulldowns, or vice versa. When you can hold 300 lbs to your belly for over 30 seconds with the Country Crush, you’ll be on your way. Add in a burnout set of 50-100 reps in the vertical pulldown—you’ll be feeling it for awhile. After a few workouts, you can alternate angles.
- For squats, there are always overweight holds, which everyone knows I’m a huge fan of. When I came back to powerlifting after a ten-year hiatus, I did not do a full squat (or even a half squat) for over three months. Instead, I did lockouts, gradually working up to as much as the barbell could hold. After that, I lowered the bar one pin per workout until I was completing full squats. In less than six months, I was able to squat 600 lbs with no knee wraps when I competed at my first meet back.
- The treacherous part of a deadlift is the transition past the knees—humans are simply at a biological disadvantage in this motion. If you have some form of genetic advantage, such as long arms in relation to your body or a long torso with a decent range of motion, then this hazardous area can be safer for you than most. However, I believe it’s best to avoid the danger zone altogether. Rather than taking the risk, I raise the plates and do partials, I drop the bar from the knees, I do lockouts… I do anything and everything I can in order to avoid the transition past the knees so that I can focus on them leg biceps. I’ve never had a miss at the knees in competition, and I’ve never had a hammy issue either.
- Sprint uphill a few times. If you can build a decent capacity while sprinting, you will see tremendous results. If you are a superheavyweight, all the better—you’ll get twice the results of a beginner or a lighter person with a faster metabolism, in a third of the time. And you could even prevent that first heart attack for awhile.
- Americans are notorious for their weak rear delts, upper backs, and hamstrings because we tend to default to bench and bis everyday. These spots respond well to supercompensation, especially through plyometrics and heavy overload training. Find a place with a big trampoline—you will be amazed at what just a couple of bouts at a time will do.
You can also use mental techniques to supercompensate. Practice drawing or writing while listening to whatever turned up loud. Try motions—like a version of your regular workout modified for safety, or a little obstacle course, or even folding your laundry—blindfolded. There is a guy on YouTube called “Instructor Zero” who does extreme performance shooting drills, while wearing a plastic bag over his head or after leaving his hands in ice for extended periods of time. As with all things in life, you are your only real limitation. So get extreme! Get creative! But don’t be aimless. Supercompensation should be as systematic as possible. The goal is for you to overdo whatever you’re doing in a controlled manner.
Leave any comment, question, or suggestion here on the blog or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to continue this discussion or pursue my online coaching. I would love to hear from you.
“Challenge yourself beyond your perceived capabilities and be amazed at what you are capable of.”—General Stanley A. McChrystal