Advanced Weightlifting: Overreaching and Supercompensation
When he started lifting weights, he saw almost immediate results and was able to build muscle quickly, assuming he knew what to do or had a personal trainer to guide him. His muscles had never been subjected to the physical strain and full range of motion involved in proper weightlifting form, so his body reacted by giving him rapid muscle growth.
For natural bodybuilders and weightlifters, that is, those who do not use steroids or other drugs, this is usually the period of greatest muscle growth in a limited amount of time. But there is another way that many athletes can enjoy similar gains at various times as they go.
Known as “overreach” and “supercompensation,” these are extreme workouts best left to advanced intermediates and expert lifters, for three reasons. First of all, this form of training is very intense, so it is best used only by those who have already conditioned their muscles, ligaments, tendons, and central nervous system to lift heavy weights.
Second, you need enough advanced weightlifting or bodybuilding experience to be able to execute your exercises with perfect form for every rep to help ensure you don’t seriously injure yourself. The third reason is that you need a well-developed mind-muscle connection to know how far you can go and when to back off a bit.
Assuming you already meet all 3 criteria, this is the concept involved. For a very limited period, you will greatly overtrain your muscles, say for two or three weeks. This doesn’t mean using weights that are too heavy for you and ruining your form, nor does it mean using lighter weights for higher reps or more sets. You’ll be using the heaviest weights you can safely move through the full range of motion while maintaining perfect form on every rep.
After the warm-up sets, you’ll do 3-5 work sets for each exercise, performing 3-4 exercises per body part and doing a full-body workout in each session, three times per week. Since you’ve spent years in the weight room or home gym, you already know how intense it will be, leaving you exhausted and breathless.
You should also know by now that doing this exercise for a month or two would leave you in an overtrained state, with your body unable to sufficiently repair itself between workouts. His energy level would plummet, he wouldn’t be motivated to exercise, and, in fact, he would be losing muscle mass as a result of the damage these workouts would do.
So after doing these extreme workouts for 2-3 weeks, then switch to a much lighter workout for a week; let’s say half the exercises using 50% of the weight and doing a 4×10 workout instead. For your body, this is almost like a week’s vacation, as it can quickly recover from each session.
This also gives your body time to heal all the damage from your excessive workouts and build muscle quickly in case you fall victim to more extreme workouts. This increased strength and muscle growth is known as supercompensation, as your body is overcompensating for sudden extreme workouts and the damage they caused.
If you’re currently an advanced, intermediate, or expert bodybuilder or weightlifter, take a self-inventory to see if your body is ready for these extreme workouts, and if so, give it a try – you’ll love the results! Just be sure to get more sleep and higher protein intake during the weeks of overexertion and overcompensation, as your body will need all the help it can get.
Limit your sessions with this system to once or twice a year, especially if your muscle or strength gains plateau with your normal workouts. Any more frequent use of these techniques will risk pushing you into overtraining and may lessen your results by allowing your body to get used to the strain.
If you’re a new bodybuilder or powerlifter or you’re not sure you can perform each rep strictly, save this information until you’re ready for extreme workouts and other advanced weightlifting techniques. When that time comes, you’ll be so glad you did!