The Training Principle Of Stimulus & Response

The Training Principle Of Stimulus & Response, also known as The Supercompensation Principle is a fundamental principle of training, that you need to understand if you want to make progress in your training.

It basically busts the myth of ‘less is more’, as well as the myth of ‘more is better’.

Training Principle Of Stimulus & Response busts the myth of ‘less is more’, as well as the myth of ‘more is better’.

In this article, you’ll learn

What is the basic premise of the Stimulus & Response Training Principle

Very simply, training sets a stimulus, and during the recovery period, the adaptation occurs. I have outlined the simplified adaptive process before, in the article A Different Approach To Training Principles

Training Adaptation Supercompensation How Does The Body Adapt To Training

The Adaptive Process Simplified: Training Stimulus followed by a recovery from a training stimulus followed by an adaptation to this stimulus

where the body is in homeostasis, the inner milieu is in balance, training puts us out of this balance, that is called the heterostasis and then the body has the ability to adapt to a new baseline where the body is in balance again.

However, in order to elicit an adaptation, the stimulus needs to be optimal.

Remember I outlined the ‘graded response rule’ from Roux, in the article The Training Principle Of An Optimal Stimulus

Graded Response Rule Of Training Adaptations

Graded Response Rule Of Training Adaptations (from Wilhelm Roux)

which describes an optimal stimulus invokes a positive adaptation, a too low stimulus invokes no adaptation or even de-adaptation, and a too high stimulus invokes a negative or impaired adaptation.

What is the biological basis for the Principle Of Stimulus & Response and why is it sometimes called the supercompensation principle

Nikolai Yakovlev, a Russian scientist was the first to describe the so-called supercompensation model, that is why this principle is often called the supercompensation principle.

However, the supercompensation model has been criticised and comparative models have been developed.

The main criticism against the supercompensation model is, that it is a one-factor theory, whilst Zatsiorsky has developed a two-factor theory called the ‘Fitness Fatigue model’

Other comparative models include the General Adaptation Syndrome from Hans Selye.

But essentially, they all say the same thing.

What do they say?

You set the stimulus, you need to recover from that stimulus, you adapt to that stimulus, and the cycle repeats.

Whether you want to call it ‘Supercompensation Model’, ‘Fitness-Fatigue Model’, or ‘General Adaptation Syndrome, they all say the same thing. You set the stimulus, you need to recover from that stimulus, you adapt to that stimulus, and the cycle repeats.

The ‘adaptive process simplified’ in action.

That is also the reason why some people call this principle of training the Principle of stimulus, recovery, and adaptation, or SRA Principle.

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The practical application of the principle of training stimulus and response

What is the practical application of that principle of stimulus and response?

The supercompensation model from Yakovlev describes 3 different phases.

Supercompensation Model The Stimulus Recovery Adaptation Cycle

The ‘Supercompensation Model’ describes the cycle of Stimulus – Recovery – Adaptation

Phase 1 after you have set a stimulus through training you go through a period of fatigue, where performance levels are lower than before.

Phase 2, the recovery phase, where you recover from the induced fatigue, and your performance levels go back to baseline.

And in phase 3, there is a so-called overshooting reaction, also called supercompensation, where your performance levels are higher than previously.

That’s why it is also called the Supercompensation Principle, because of that overshooting reaction or supercompensation.

Why different forms of training have different time-courses of recovery and adaptation

One very important concept to understand is the so-called ‘heterochronicity of adaptations’, which means that different structures need different time-courses to go through that cycle. And it also means that different training stimuli need different times to adapt.

Heterochronicicity of adaptation Different Time Courses of Adaptation Supercompensation Principle

Heterochronicicity of adaptation describes different time courses of adaptation through the supercompensation cycle

For example, the recovery from extensive aerobic training goes to a quicker stimulus recovery adaptation cycle, than the recovery of intensive anaerobic training or sprint training, or intensive strength training.

Next to the different time-courses of recovery for the different adaptations, there is also different levels of recovery, meaning a complete recovery vs an incomplete recovery, which is important to understand for the practitioner.

Rounding-up The Training Principle Of Stimulus And Response 

In essence the principle of stimulus and response describes that you set a stimulus through training and in response to the training, you recover from that stimulus, and then there is a so-called overshooting reaction, the supercompensation, where the human body adapts to a higher performance level.

In simple words, depending on the stimulus, you get stronger, you get bigger, you get faster or endure longer.

The biological basis for this principle is the supercompensation model, or any comparable model, and practically applied, it is important to understand, that different training stimuli have different time courses of adaptation.