This post may come across as a little bit nerdy, but that’s how I am so I don’t mind. What I wanted to talk about here is Compensation, which occurs at the end of periodised training programme. I had an idea of relating this principle to the ‘Zenkai’ technique in the animé series Dragonball Z, so you can see where it’s going to get nerdy. If you’re a fan of Dragonball Z, then great, if you’re a fan of fitness, great. If you’re a fan of both then I think you’ll love this. Otherwise, I’ll do my best to explain it all without boring you.
Quick Summary of Dragonball Z
Dragonball, and Dragon ball Z (let’s not mention GT…) is a popular animé/manga series that originated in the 1980s in Japan. A number of its main protagonists are part of an alien race called the Saiyans, who are a savage warrior race. The Saiyans were famed for being able to take all kinds of damage, recover and then come back even stronger, this is known in the story as ‘zenkai.’ At one point in the series, the main protagonist, the ridiculously benevolent Goku (who until his 20s believed himself to be human), trains himself into the ground then takes a ‘senzu bean’ (a bean which is able to fully restore all health and strength) and then train again, and he does this repeatedly. However, while doing this he is unknowingly taking full advantage of the Saiyans’ Zenkai ability and increasing his power and fitness exponentially.
You’re probably wondering why this is featuring on my personal training blog right now. The answer is that with a well periodised plan you can recover in a similar way to how these guys did in the show, although you won’t have to go to near death for it and the results won’t be quite as dramatic. It’s known as compensation or peaking.
What Compensation is –
A temporary state of training when physical and psychological efficiency are maximised and where levels of technical and tactical preparation are optimal. – Tudor Bompa (1983)
When your body becomes used to a particular amount of training volume it begins to recover to that amount. If some of this volume is removed then, for a short time, your body will still recover by the same amount as before. Meaning that if the body is used to being broken down to 70% and then recovering up to 100%, you could all of a sudden train so that you are only dropping to 75% and your body will still recover by the previous 30%, putting you, for a short time, at roughly 105%. This, however, will only last for a short time as your body yearns for homeostasis and will then start to recover to your regular 100%.
This is why ‘over reaching’ is utilised in sports such as powerlifting. The athlete will be trained to a point close to over training in order to take advantage of the compensation effect (just like Goku’s Zenkai). Meaning that, if planned correctly, a powerlifter could turn up on meet day at something resembling 105%.
There are obvious issues with this, as it is difficult to monitor a person or athlete to a point where they are just hovering over the point of over training. Rest and recovery need to be perfect, unfortunately we don’t have access to Goku’s senzu beans in the real world. However, this post aims to look at how you can get close to this effect in a safe way. This state of optimal awesomeness can only be maintained for around 7-10 days and it should be quickly followed by a phase of rest and then back into training.
In this state you would be functioning as close to perfectly as possible, your functional capacities, mental arousal, as well as your neuro-muscular coordination would be perfect. Training to reach a level where you can fully accommodate all of your functions and movements sounds very inviting, but it makes sense to aim for this state after increasing these capacities as greatly as you can over a span of training. In other words, before attempting to reach this stage of training you should possess a good foundation of training, i.e – a high level of physical preparation, as well as all the biomotor abilities required for your particular area. The higher your level of training before embarking on this, the higher your effectiveness will be in this training state.
In the Dragon Ball universe this state would preferably fall in line with a World Tournament or massive duel with a ferocious enemy. In real life this is likely to be before an event or competition that you train for.
Periodisation and its stages –
Periodisation is where you put yourself, or your athlete/clients, through a variety of training phases geared towards reaching the goal of Super Saiyan…I mean compensation. The different training phases involve an increasing and decreasing of both the volume and intensity. As the volume in your routine goes up, the intensity should go down, and vice versa.
Volume is the amount of work done throughout a workout or programme, it covers –
-the time or duration of a workout
-the loads used or distance covered
- the repetitions of an exercise performed.
Intensity is the difficulty of the work, it is the qualitative aspect of a routine as opposed to the quantitative volume. A high intensity workout might involve lifting weights of 85% or more of your one repetition maximum or practising a particularly advanced and difficult skill.
The way in which you would periodise your own routine depends upon your goals and sport. I am from a powerlifting background so for someone like myself it is likely to follow a high volume phase at first, including some heavy work. This might only be heavy singles or doubles. Throughout this initial phase the volume is likely to slowly increase until a point just below overtraining. At this point I would take a deload week where I still train the movements but the volume is drastically cut down, and the intensity is kept moderate. Following this would be a strength phase, which would focus more upon the heavy weights and less upon the volume in the previous phase. This would be done in line with a competition phase, where I would likely take the week before the competition easy. By this point I will have acquired the essential training benefits, such as the improved functional capacities and neuro muscular coordination, and they would be difficult to improve further in a week’s time. So this energy would be saved for competition day.
How to best use this –
Compensation is best utilised at the end of a well periodised routine which would be geared towards a specific event or competition. It is something that should be worked towards, after a long phase of training. This is due to the fact that involves getting to a tired state and then taking advantage of your increased recovery cycle, as well as the fact that it works best when your neurological skill patterns and attributes (strength, speed, endurance, etc) are at a high. This state of optimum functioning only lasts for roughly 7 days also, so time and use it well.
In Conclusion –
You won’t turn Super Saiyan, nor will you improve at the amazing rate some of the characters in the series do, but you will find that you outperform your expectations. Use it wisely.