5-Step Cycle of Optimizing Strength and Performance

By Brandon Richey

As a general rule of thumb, your body is always working to be efficient and to reach a state of balance. This balance, or homeostasis is something that is constantly occurring during your body changing and adapting to the environment that it’s exposed to.

When it comes to the process of training, you are creating the environmental stress for your body to give back to you a desired adaptive outcome.

Today I want to talk about how the process of supercompensationwhich I’ve broken down into four steps—can give you that desired outcome concerning your strength and fitness.

Step #1: Introducing Training Stress

This stage involves what it sounds like—the stress you place on your body during the process of training.

In this stage, there is going to be an obvious reaction from your body in response to the training stress which is the obvious response of fatigue or tiring. Because of this there is going to be a predictable drop off in performance because of the training stress.

In short, you’re going to be challenged and therefore you will fatigue. This is the normal expectation.

Step #2: Recovery Stage

In this stage, your body is going to work to return back to the original baseline prior to the introduction to the training stress, or workout that you introduced for your training.

Energy stores and your performance will return back to the baseline.

During this stage you might involve an active recovery, or lighter training session to introduce some light movement to your body and to allow your body to maintain a level of heightened mobility and function as it repairs from the more intense stress of training from the previous workout.

So when you look at your original baseline of fitness for a given task, or movement this stage involves the adaptive rebound above that original baseline.

It is the rebound from the lowest point at which you previously fatigued yourself the most.

So in other words, if you had an intense training session with sprints a couple days prior and found yourself starting to fatigue out at sprint number 5 in a 10 sprint workout, once supercompensation has hit you wouldn’t start fatiguing at the same rate.

You should be able to make it beyond the 5th run before the same level of fatigue starts to settle in.

Step #3: Adaptation

You’re now experienced with the workout and are aware and better adapted for what’s coming during the training session. The previously-challenging workout now feels easy. Some students have said it feels more like a warm-up than a workout.

This automatically changes the level of stress involved with the workout because now you’re better able to deal with because you’re more familiar with what’s happening.

This is a sign you’ve plateaued and have two choices: (1) Stay at this level and maintain or (2) Generate new momentum and therefore more gains.

Step #4: Create a Loss of Adaptation

Losing your adaptation means creating a dip in performance somehow, then working until that level becomes a baseline.

This is the last stage, and it’s during this part a new stress should be added to challenge your adaption. It’s actually when you return to Step #1. Ideally, this new stress should be added at the peak of the adaptation phase (the previous phase).

There are a variety of ways you can do this. If you want to stay with your current workout, you can create new stress by increasing the number of reps and/or increasing the number of sets, and/or wearing a weight vest. When those variations become easy, it’s time to load on more stress/weight.

Step #5: Return to Step 1 and Start Over

When you hit a skill level for the workout you’re happy with, you can move on to a new workout and practice this same cycle, or increase the stress of the same workout and progress to a new goal.

Make sure that when you do, it’s a higher level of stress than the previous step where you’re only creating a relatively small dip in adaptation.

But also make sure you’re not adding so much new stress you create injury or an overly-long needed period of recovery.

The Takeaway

If this concept sounds complicated—keep in mind the 4 steps are simply:

1. Introduce a workout
2. Recover effectively from it
3. Add more stress
4. Repeat the process

At the end of the day, if you expect to get fitter and stronger you’ve got understand how to create and apply stress to your training in order to achieve optimal results. If your program is not progressive in nature then you’re going to hit plateaus and stall out on your gains.

Progressive overload is the key to getting optimal results.

Are you currently following a strength and conditioning program to progress your performance and fitness?

What strategies do you use to progress your fitness in order to keep getting better in your training?

Post up and share with us here in the comments below.



SEALgrinderPT coach Brandon Richey is a certified strength and conditioning coach, author, and founder of Brandon Richey Fitness.

He has worked with thousands of athletes over his 17 years of experience, developing fitness training programs for beginners to professional and D-1 level collegiate athletes at the University of Georgia.

He also trains MMA and Muay Thai athletes, both professional and amateur.


QUESTION: Coach, my hands get real tired when I’m working out and feel weak. What can I do about this?

ANSWER: Check out this article—10 Tips to Increase Grip Strength.

QUESTION: I recently began a strength training and conditioning program. and I can tell I’m way out of my comfort zone. I’ve been a couch potato most of my life. My mind starts yelling at me it’s too hard and stuff like that and I’m struggling. I really want to stay with this. Can you give me some ways to stop my mind from being so negative?

ANSWER: Yes; here’s an article with some awesome tips: Mental Conditioning Inside a Tough Workout.



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