Is the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) affecting your training results?

Building upon our discussion of essential exercise science in program design, let’s take a quick look at the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), termed by the medical researcher Hans Salye in the 1930’s. Essentially looking at three phases that the body goes through during this response to a perceived threat or stimulus. In the world of Exercise Science we can think of that threat being your exercise program – the training that you’re doing.


In the Alarm Phase, we can see that the stimulus (new training program) is introduced to the body and it’s ability to cope skyrockets. We see physiological changes take place chemically and at a tissue level.

During the Resistance Phase, we see the body’s ability to fight against the stimulus continues and again, we would be seeing physiological changes in the body, tissues making adaptations, performances and other outcome measures improving.

If the stimulus pesists beyond the body’s ability to cope, then it would enter the Exhaustion Phase and you can see in the diagram that the black line plummets, illustrating the body no longer being able to keep fighting against the resistance and starting to lay down its defences.

The Exhaustion Phase may be illustrated by the signs of dimishing returns, where you’re not quite getting the results from your training program that you were at the start. You might start losing interest in your program and have an onset of mental fatigue. Physical fatigue sets in too, and that’s where this philosophy can become really important behind program design. Most importantly, timing the progressive overload throughout the program, and taking an active recovery week between programs.

Here’s to smart planning and training. Feel free to comment with your experiences!

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