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Super-compensation and Over-training

Over-training may be described as a stage when an athlete’s performance remains the same or decreases, in spite of consistently trying to increase the volume and/or intensity of the training. This may be due to the training load exceeding the recovery capacity of the athlete. The athlete’s training hits a plateau or ceases to make any progress, and the athlete may even begin to lose already achieved strength or fitness levels.

Super-compensation may be described as a stage when an athlete’s performance increases due to the training load being lower than the recovery capacity of the athlete. With adequate rest periods in-between training, the athlete experiences super-compensation, the performance increases, and the athlete progresses.


Baseline: The level of training of an athlete.

For example, let us assume three athletes namely X, Y and Z. X can run 1 mile in 15 minutes, Y can run 2 miles in 15 minutes, and Z can run 3 miles in 15 minutes. Then the baseline  for X is 1 mile, for Y it is 2 miles, and for Z it is 3 miles with respect to the time of 15 minutes.

Reach: The performance shown on the existing baseline.

For example, the reach of X is 1 mile in 15 minutes, the reach of Y is 1 mile in 7.5 minutes, and the reach of Z is 1 mile in 5 minutes.

Over-reaching: Increase in the volume and/or the intensity of the reach . This is necessary to progress.

For example, X over-reaches by running 1.5 miles instead of 1 mile (increase in volume). Alternatively, X over-reaches by running 1 mile in less than 15 minutes (increase in intensity). Or else, X might over-reach by running 1.5 miles in less than 15 minutes (increase in volume and intensity).

Recovery: The time taken for the body to normalise its bodily functions after over-reaching.

For example, after over-reaching, X takes 1 or 2 days as rest days, and during these days does not run at all. With the absence of running, the body gets the time to repair and heal itself.

Super-Compensation: A marked increase in the baseline of an athlete. This is what every athlete desires.

For example, after recovery, X can now run for 1.5 miles in less than 15 minutes. Thus, the baseline of X has increased and X has progressed. In this manner, an athlete can make progress by slowly increasing the baseline. Thus, Over-Reaching + Recovery = Super-Compensation.

Over-training: A marked decrease in the baseline of  an athlete. This is what every athlete avoids.

For example, X over-reaches by increasing the volume and the intensity, by running 1.5 miles in less than 15 minutes. Thereafter, X takes no rest day and gives no time for the body to recover. The recovery phase is absent. Thus, Over-Reaching + No Recovery = Over-Training. In over-training, the performance is reduced and the baseline instead of increasing goes on decreasing. Thus, the more X trains, the more worse is the performance.

Over-training syndrome: A condition of the body when a person suffers from over-training.

For example, X may exhibit symptoms and signs of over-training syndrome like upper respiratory tract infection (URTI),  lack of sleep or disturbed sleep,  loss of appetite, increased sweating, generally feeling tired and fatigued, volatile mood swings, uneasiness, and decreased performance with increased training.

To get a better understanding, let us see some videos.

PictureFit video “What is Overtraining? (Is Overtraining Even Real?)” :


Dr Garry Palmer video “Signs and symptoms of overtraining”:


Dr Leon Creaney video “The Overtraining Syndrome”:


Over-training can be most effectively avoided by giving adequate resting days in between. Therefore, all martial arts schools have three or four classes per week, so that students get enough rest days in-between.

So for Taekwondo, should you train daily, few days a week or once a month? To find your answer, give this article a read: How many days a week should you train for Taekwondo?



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