Sports Medicine

, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 787–797 | Cite as

The General Adaptation Syndrome: A Foundation for the Concept of Periodization

  • Aaron J. CunananEmail author
  • Brad H. DeWeese
  • John P. Wagle
  • Kevin M. Carroll
  • Robert Sausaman
  • W. Guy HornsbyIII
  • G. Gregory Haff
  • N. Travis Triplett
  • Kyle C. Pierce
  • Michael H. Stone
Review Article


Recent reviews have attempted to refute the efficacy of applying Selye’s general adaptation syndrome (GAS) as a conceptual framework for the training process. Furthermore, the criticisms involved are regularly used as the basis for arguments against the periodization of training. However, these perspectives fail to consider the entirety of Selye’s work, the evolution of his model, and the broad applications he proposed. While it is reasonable to critically evaluate any paradigm, critics of the GAS have yet to dismantle the link between stress and adaptation. Disturbance to the state of an organism is the driving force for biological adaptation, which is the central thesis of the GAS model and the primary basis for its application to the athlete’s training process. Despite its imprecisions, the GAS has proven to be an instructive framework for understanding the mechanistic process of providing a training stimulus to induce specific adaptations that result in functional enhancements. Pioneers of modern periodization have used the GAS as a framework for the management of stress and fatigue to direct adaptation during sports training. Updates to the periodization concept have retained its founding constructs while explicitly calling for scientifically based, evidence-driven practice suited to the individual. Thus, the purpose of this review is to provide greater clarity on how the GAS serves as an appropriate mechanistic model to conceptualize the periodization of training.


Compliance with Ethical Standards


No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflict of interest

Aaron Cunanan, Brad DeWeese, John Wagle, Kevin Carroll, Robert Sausaman, W. Guy Hornsby III, G. Gregory Haff, N. Travis Triplett, Kyle Pierce, and Michael Stone declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aaron J. Cunanan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Brad H. DeWeese
    • 1
  • John P. Wagle
    • 1
  • Kevin M. Carroll
    • 1
  • Robert Sausaman
    • 1
  • W. Guy HornsbyIII
    • 2
  • G. Gregory Haff
    • 3
  • N. Travis Triplett
    • 4
  • Kyle C. Pierce
    • 5
  • Michael H. Stone
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sport, Exercise, Recreation, and Kinesiology, Center of Excellence for Sport Science and Coach EducationEast Tennessee State UniversityJohnson CityUSA
  2. 2.College of Physical Activity and Sport SciencesWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA
  3. 3.Centre for Exercise and Sport Sciences ResearchEdith Cowan UniversityJoondalupAustralia
  4. 4.Department of Health and Exercise ScienceAppalachian State UniversityBooneUSA
  5. 5.Department of Kinesiology and Health ScienceLouisiana State University ShreveportShreveportUSA

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