Tuesday, May 27th 2016

General Adaptation Syndrome

The concept of General Adaptation Syndrome, a premise that was first brought to light by Dr. Hans Selye in 1936, is one of the most fundamental and critical principles at the heart of strength training and exercise.  This is at a time where the physical mechanism of skeletal muscle contraction was not understood and the science of human metabolism was foggy at best.  But as time progressed, and as we reached further understanding of the physiologic mechanisms that take place on a cellular level, this theory has held true due to its sound reasoning and has contributed to countless athletes improving their performance.

Physical training and exercise is predicated on the process of applying physical stress, recovering from that stress, and thereby adapting to the stress so that life may continue under conditions that include that applied stress.  This is so fundamental a concept, not just in exercise, but in biology, that the ability to adapt to stress is one of the key criteria for defining life itself.  An organism that is subjected to a physical stress will adapt to that stress over time so that it is able to survive in the environment that induced that stress.  This is why there are so many different types of plants, animals, and bacteria that survive in such a wide variety of environmental conditions around the world.

There are 3 stages to General Adaptation Syndrome: Alarm, Adaptation (or Resistance), and Exhaustion.

Alarm Stage:  The immediate response to the onset of stress.  This is the initial response when a stressor is first recognized.  Fight or flight response kicks in, following a very quick hormonal response that helps us survive the stress at hand. 

Adaptation or Resistance Stage:  If the stress continues or is reoccurring, the body makes adjustments it its structures and/or enzyme levels to give it the added protection against the specific type of stress.  Rest must occur in order for recovery and rebuilding to take place.

Exhaustion Stage: Occurs when the long term application is not removed and no recovery periods are allowed.  Performance will decrease, and a toll will be taken on the body physically but also emotionally and mentally.  This is an example of overtraining.


The gym is an example of one of these environments that induces a stress response.  When weight is applied to the bar and you perform a certain number of reps, the soreness that is felt the next day is your bodies response to the stress of that exercise.  But the adaptation that takes place over the next few days as you recover, is the process through which you become stronger and fitter.  This is why the first time you may have ever performed a full range squat, just performing them with bodyweight alone might have been enough work load to make you so sore that you had trouble walking around the next day (Alarm Stage).  But through the course of consistent exposure to that squatting movement pattern, your muscles have adapted to be able to hold significant amounts of weight on the barbell and perform the same movement (Adaptation or Resistance Stage).  But if you were to come to the gym 5 days in a row and do squats every one of those days, your body would not be able to adequately adapt to the stress put on your legs and your performance would deteriorate or even worse, cause an injury (Exhaustion Stage).

This theory illustrates the core concept of our Linear Progression program we have just embarked upon.  Through the constant application of small increases in load to our lifts, allowing adequate recovery time between sessions, will allow our bodies to adapt to the increased load over time and thus improve our overall strength.  We may barely perceive the small increases in weight from session to session, but the results will be apparent and obvious by the time 7-8 weeks have passed as our increased strength will show itself by being able to move a load that would have buried us in the past.  This concept can be applied to all the different definitions of fitness, from mobility (flexibility) training all the way to aerobic endurance. 

We will expand on this concept in detail in the future as we delve deeper into the mechanisms that take place on a cellular level due to our training in the gym.  In the meantime, keep hitting your lifts hard and remain patient with the small increases we will be making each week, as they will add up over time.



Run 800m at Easy Pace


Movement Prep:

Foam Roll Snow Angels – 2:00

Prone PVC Pass Throughs – 3 x 10

Prone YTWL – 15 Seconds in each position

Bench Thoracic Extension – 2 x 10

Jefferson Curl – 3 x 5



11 Rounds For Fastest Time:

5 x Ball Slams

10 x Push-Ups

15 x KB Swings – 24kg/16kg