In the coming weeks leading to The Seminar we will highlight each presentation and presenter to give you a sneak peak into what to expect.  We will lead off this series with Dr. Natalia Verkhoshanky’s summary of her presnetation “GENERAL ADAPTATION SYNDROME AND ITS APPLICATIONS IN THE SPORT TRAINING”.   We are super excited to have Dr. Verkhosansky on campus presenting, and this summary amplifies that exponentially.


The General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) is a concept formulated in 1938 by the Austro-Hungarian physiologist Hans Selye. GAS was proposed as universal mechanism of the organism’s adaptation to the external environment changes.

This concept was elaborated on the basis of H.Selye’s discovery of stress syndrome – the non-specific organism’s reaction to the influence of diverse damaging factors, such as: intoxications with sub lethal doses of drugs, surgical injury, exposure to cold and excessive muscular exercise.

H. Selye conceptualized the stress syndrome as General Adaptation Syndrome asserting: “stress is the common denominator of all adaptive reactions of the body”.

Selye’s GAS concept attracted great interest in the scientific field of physiology and medicine, where it helped to clarify the nature of illnesses related to the psycho-somatic diseases provoked by the “stress of life”.

In the field of sport science, the General Adaptation Syndrome became the basic theoretical framework of training process periodization. According to a common opinion, to reach the best training effect, the training loads must “stress” the athlete’s body. But with this approach a problem has to be solved: how to avoid the overtraining. Often, the sport scientists search the way to solve this problem referring to the theories of Selye.

Notwithstanding the great popularity of Selye’s theories, many physiologists considered his GAS concept vague and incomplete. The crucial argument of their criticisms was that the stress, the pathological organism’s reaction on the influence of very strong, damaging stimuli, cannot be a common pattern (common denominator) also for the adaptive reactions on mild stimuli.

In 1975, a group of Russian scientists, headed by professor L. Garkavi, confirmed the legitimacy of such criticism.

Garkavi’s group replicated the experiments of Selye in order to verify the organism’s reactions on the influence of external stimuli having different “magnitudes”.

The results of their experiments showed that:

the stress syndrome, with its classical Alarm, Resistance and Exhausting phases, develops only under an external influences having high magnitude;

mild stimuli provokes other than stress typologies of non-specific reactions. Garkavi termed them as “anti-stress reactions”, because, in contrast with stress syndrome, they don’t bring to exhaustion, but to revitalize the defense mechanisms and to help the organism to survive under the following influence of strong damaging factors.

The results of these researches brought Garkavi to formulate a new and more complete version of the GAS concept. On this basis she elaborated a new method of medical treatment, called Activation Therapy. This method was based on applying low doses of different stimuli (drugs, electric discharges, physical exercises, etc.) in order to provoke the anti-stress reactions and to activate, in such way, the body defense mechanisms. The magnitudes of stimuli were verified in relation to the typologies of anti-stress reactions, which they provoke in a given patient: each of these reactions can be defined using the Garkavi’s markers, based on the corresponding hemogramms of white blood cells counts.


Unfortunately, the main part of Russian sport physiologists didn’t give a great importance to Garkavyi’s works or completely ignored them. As consequence, her discoveries and theoretical conclusions remain unknown in the West.

For these reasons, the common approach to apply the GAS in the field of sport training is usually based on the early version of this concept, formulated by Selye. According to this approach, the training process is viewed as multiple “bouts” of training loads on the athlete’s body, resulting in multiple flights of alarm and resistance stages of stress syndrome. This leads to the opinion that the stress reaction plays determining role in increasing the athlete’s performance.

Some years ago, this opinion was putted in doubt by the results of a research in which Garkavy’s markers were used to verify the typologies of athlete’s body non-specific reactions under the influence of training loads.

The results of this research showed that the symptoms of stress syndrome are very rare in the preparation period and appear only during the competitions.

So, the stress syndrome is not a usual body reaction on the influence of training loads and it doesn’t play a determining role in increasing the athlete’s performance.

The application of Garkavi’s GAS concept on the process of body adaptation during the sport training is a challenge to the traditional opinions about the correct training loading and it allows elaborating new methods for managing the training process.

As we know, during the training process, the athlete’s progress in physical performance is assured by repetitive training workouts, which activate specific mechanisms of the body’s adaptation. These mechanisms assure the growth of specific proteins of the working organs, which lead at increasing their functional capacity.

GAS concerns the functions of non-specific adaptation mechanisms, which control the quantitative aspects of specific adaptation process. The non specific mechanisms regulate the body ability in giving specific adaptive answer to the training work in relation to its amount: the magnitude of training load’s impact on the athlete’s body, perceived as the level of homeostasis disturbance.

According to the new GAS concept, the non-specific reaction of the athlete’s body to the influence of multiple impacts of training loads depends on the typology of non-specific reaction, which they provoke.

If the magnitude of training loads impact provokes an anti-stress reaction, the athlete’s body will be able to respond to their influences with the activation of specific adaptation process (increasing the protein synthesis in the tissues of organs, involved in the training work).

Greater will be the magnitude of training loads impact, greater will be their specific training effect. However, if this magnitude reaches the level of the stress reaction, the body adaptability to the training stimuli will decrease.

For this reason, a correct training loading should not reach the level of stress, because, in this case, the training loads impact overcomes the “threshold” of body adaptability and brings at a decrease in their training effect.

The “threshold” of body adaptability is related to the current status of the body defense system activity. This status could be valuated using Garkavi’s markers of non-specific reactions, because each of the non-specific body reactions has a definite effect on the body adaptability.

A common procedure of medicine diagnostic could be used to control what kind of non-specific reaction is developing in the athlete’s body, in order to definite the current adaptability status, and to regulate, in relation to this status, the training loads level.

The control of the body’s adaptability status is very important for high level athletes, especially in the use of Block Training System (BTS).

This training system is based on the phenomena of Long-term Delay Training Effect of concentrated strength loads. The BTS could be interpreted as a process of “overloading-overreaching” which influences specific mechanisms of adaptation.

For obtaining the overreaching effect, the level of strength loads should be great enough for provoking the overloading of specific adaptation mechanisms, but it should not bring to overloading of non-specific mechanisms, because, in this case, the specific adaptation process will be inhibited by the development of stress syndrome.

The aim of the presentation is:

to provide useful information on the GAS concept and its role in the process of body adaptation during sport training

to outline the new ways in applying this concept on the training practice.

This is one the the best presentations we have had at The Seminar. Click here for my FlashBack Friday review of the talk.

We are hoping to provide the best possible content for strength coaches with each of our shows. If feel this could provide value for anyone else in the strength and conditioning field please feel free to share.

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      1. Jason,

        I think I actually sent that to Sam. If you contact him directly he may be able to get you the information that I passed on to him from Natalia.


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