Author: Dr. Aniket Jadhav, Content Advisor at INFS

General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) was 1st described by Hans Selye in 1930. It describes a generalized pattern of how body responds and adapts to a variety of stress and restores itself to balance, or homeostasis, in response to the stress. The GAS outlines a series of stages through which the body passes
In order to successfully adapt or the stages that lead to a failure to adapt


While Selye focused on how hormones responded to the non-athletic stress, Russian sports training theorists in the 1960 used this same idea, and explained how an athlete’s performance improved with the correct application of training stress. One doesn’t need to understand every minute scientific detail in order to get results from training, I do believe they can benefit by understanding a practical three stage model that explains how human beings adapt to physiological stress. Hans Selye, back in the 1930s, called it The General Adaptation Syndrome.


STAGE1: Alarm Reaction

The initial reaction to stress. Resistance training creates stress as increases amounts of force on the musculoskeletal and the nervous system. During the initial few days/ weeks, there is a lot of stress on the body due to resistance training which acts as a shock for our body. That is why in the initial phase of the training there is a lot of soreness of muscles post training and DOMS.

STAGE2: Adaptation (Or Resistance Development Stage)

When the body is continuously exposed to the same stress it eventually increases its ability to respond to the stress. This is actually where the body increases its functional capacity to adapt to the stressor. It means the body has adapted from the initial overload and now the body can handle more training, and with progressive overloading, you can work towards your goal. The adaptability depends on some factors like the work tolerance of an individual, recovery capabilities, total calories intake; a person on surplus may find recovery and adaptation a bit better.

E.g. Assuming that you were able to do 5 reps with 40lbs and after a while, you can push it to 6 or 7 this is your body adapting to the stress.

STAGE 3: Exhaustion Stage

When the body is exposed to the same stress over and over again for too long it will enter the Exhaustion Stage. This prolonged stress overloads the system. This is a stage of a plateau which causes the strength to become stagnant. During this stage, one can continue to the train and over-reach (this is different from overtraining) but will have to taper down to avoid overtraining. This can lead to decrease in performance and even lead to injuries.

To avoiding crossing over into the exhaustion stage, it is essential to vary the volume and intensity of training by using different training cycles which is also as called Periodization. Different forms of periodization can be used depending on one’s training goal; the most important takeaway point is the necessity of periodically varying your training stress. This can be manipulated both from volume and intensity standpoint.

It is also important to note that even if you have mapped out the training program it is also important to listen to your body on any given training day and recognize and respect the signs it is sending so you know when to back down and when to ramp things up.

More discussion on Exercise Training and its Principles in the INFS Course: Exercise Science Specialist and the ESS workshops in your city.

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